I do so love to shop for clothing. One of my favorite things to do when my mom and I get together is to visit thrift stores across the city…and Houston is a very big city! But even the costs of a thrift store wardrobe can quickly add up. Each year when I gather up my receipts for tax time, I am always shocked at how much I spend on clothing ($1,000 in 2012, $1,100 in 2013). In fact, the U.S. Department of Labor reports that the average American spends even more—$1,700 annually, or an estimated 2.7% of their annual income!

But rather than making me feel relieved that my spending is below the national average, this has just inspired me to do better—to clean out my closet, make a little cash if I can, and save my way towards the future. Here’s how I’m going to do it—join me if you like!

About my inspiration: Project 333

I recently heard about Project 333. The founder, Courtney Carver, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2006. After that, she decided to de-clutter not just her closet, but her life. She started with her closet, and founded Project 333 to give her inspiration. The goal is simple: choose 33 items from your closet to wear for the next 3 months.

Plus, de-cluttering helps you both save and earn:

  • Save money: If you shop like the average American, you can save up to $425 in the next 90 days by just not shopping for clothes!
  • Earn credits: You can earn tax credits by donating what may not be saleable.
  • Cash in: You can resell the rest and actually earn some money.

Step 1: De-clutter and sort

Experts recommend pulling everything out of your closet before you start sorting. Just get it all out.

Now, sort it all—clothing, accessories, shoes—into four piles:

  • Keep it (as-is, you love it, it fits).
  • Toss it (even a miracle wouldn't get you out of the house in it).
  • Mend it (and then put it in one of the other three piles).
  • Sell or donate it (try to sell it first, then donate whatever doesn't sell).

Step 2: Select your wardrobe

You will select these items from the "keep it" or "mend it" categories. You can select 25 items, or 50 items, or another number of items. But the discipline is to select a limited number of items to wear for the next 90 days, and to also abstain from new apparel purchases during this time.

  • Stay strong! When you have selected what stays, hang it, fold it, stack it—and close the door so you can't put anything else back in!

Step 3: Toss, sell, donate 

This part is fun! Whatever isn't in your "to keep or mend" pile represents a) a chance to earn cash, or b) a chance to earn a write-off at tax time.

  • Choose where to sell: This great KCL post lists some of our favorite options!
  • Choose where to donate: Red Cross, Goodwill, and the Salvation Army are nationwide options, or you may have a local cause you want to support with a donation of your used clothing, accessories and shoes.

Step 4: Shop to save 

Finally, experts recommend a few tips to help you keep your closet de-cluttered over the coming months.

  • Notice which items you actually wear: Turn all your hangers in one direction. When you have worn an item, turn that hanger to face the opposite direction. This will teach you more about your "personal style" to make future shopping trips more cost-effective.
  • As an item wears out, replace it with a like item: If you have worn a favorite item to death, replace that item with a like item—and this is key—even if it costs more than you might like. You have proof you will wear the heck out of it again, so buy what you really want instead of five items you just "sort of" like (that may also end up costing you more than that one item you really want).
  • Adopt a "free hanger" policy: This policy already helps me soooooo much both with space and budgeting! Before I let myself buy a new item, I now must first resell or donate an item—to "free up" a hanger in my closet.