The Minimalist Wardrobe

bee and daisy
© 2013 Christy King

“Dressing with less and adopting a minimalist fashion philosophy can work anywhere for anyone.”

– Courtney Carver

Most of us have more clothing, shoes and accessories than we wear. I know I do, and I don’t even like shopping or have an interest in fashion.

Luckily, there are lots of good suggestions for how to declutter your clothing, so you’re bound to find a plan that fits your personality and lifestyle.

One that’s particularly good for beginning and gradual minimalists is Courtney Carver’s Project 333. You choose 33 items of clothing, accessories, jewelry, outerwear and shoes, and that’s what you wear for a 3-month period.

Don’t worry. Not everything counts as an item (underwear and PJs, for example, are outside the 33-item limit), and you don’t have to get rid of everything else – you just box it up.

 My Almost Minimalist Wardrobe

I’m cheap and lazy frugal and efficient, so I created my own gradual method of decluttering clothes. I don’t like big projects, so I try to deal with issues as they arise and just pay attention to the surrounding items when I grab something to wear.

The most important thing (once again) is to dramatically slow what comes in. I no longer buy things just because they’re on sale or “they’ll do.” As much as I hate shopping, I’ll go to a bunch of different stores to find something that fits well and is comfortable. Also, if I get something new (whether I buy it or it’s a gift), I make sure to get rid of one – or sometimes two – other items.

I’ve gotten rid of all the clothes that are too big – I don’t want those to fit in the future. I’ve also gotten rid of nearly all the clothes that are too small. There’s one pair of jeans I kept that sort of fit now and will fit perfectly if I lose those last few pounds I’m shooting for. I keep these only because I have a really hard time finding pants that fit.

I’ve created sort of a uniform for work. I wear all dark pants that go with my black shoes and black socks. I’m still wearing out a few older tops, but my goal is to have all my “work” shirts be 3/4-sleeve button-down shirts. They can be worn alone when it’s warm and with a cardigan when it’s cold.

This works a lot better for me than having separate summer and winter tops since I live in the Pacific Northwest where it’s likely to be cold in the morning and hot in the afternoon on the same day.

To learn more about developing a “uniform,” see Timoni West’s post, Why I Wear the Same Thing Every Day, and What I Wear.

When I’m not at work, I usually live in jeans and tees. Though I wear them year round (over or under long-sleeved shirts in winter), I have too many short-sleeved t-shirts. I donated a bunch that I didn’t really like, but I still have more than I really need.

Since I have room to keep them, instead of donating the extra shirts I liked, I decided to keep a reasonable number out to wear and put the others on a high shelf. Instead of needing to buy new shirts when the ones I’m wearing are old, I’ll be able to “shop” from what I already own. This saves money (and time shopping).

Since I’m frugal, work clothes that no longer look quite nice enough for work become casual clothes, and casual clothes that become stained or worn often become sleep shirts or painting/yardwork clothes. Of course, I can use only so many of those, so some items end up in the trash or cut into rags.

Clothes that need repairs don’t go back in the closet. If I can do the repairs, they go to the laundry room. If not, they stay on hangers placed on the closet doorknob. If they’re still sitting there several weeks later, it’s pretty safe to assume that I don’t care about these items enough to keep them.

As I mentioned in Pack Light, for trips, I like to pack old underwear and sleepwear that are ready to toss in the trash so I can just throw them away on the trip. I have a bag I keep in the closet with things I’m saving for travel.

“And then there is what you actually wear.”

– Jennifer Skinner

Just a few weeks ago I finally donated a coat I’d bought a few years ago on sale. A lightly insulated and attractive raincoat, it was perfect for our winter weather, which is rainy and not very cold.

The problem was, I didn’t like wearing it. I probably sound like a total dork, but the noise it made when I moved really irritated me. I tried to convince myself to wear it, but wearing it made me unhappy, so I always chose another jacket.

If you have clothes, shoes or accessories you hate, get rid of them. It doesn’t matter how much money you spent on them, how beautiful or soft they are, how well they fit or how wonderful you look wearing them. If you won’t wear them, there’s no reason to keep them.

Are You Obsessed with Shoes?

If you love shoes, clothes, jewelry or accessories, it’s okay to have more than 33 (or even 100) items.

As I mentioned in my Simplify the Kitchen post, I have 10 kinds of flour. While most people probably can’t even list 10 kinds of flour, much less think it sensible to own all of them, I don’t feel guilty about it. I enjoy baking and regularly use them all.

On the other hand, I have little interest in clothes, shoes, jewelry or accessories.

Remember that minimalism is about focusing on what you need and love, not what anybody else thinks you should own. Don’t get rid of items you use and love just because someone else thinks you have “too many.”

That being said, even if you’re a clotheshorse, you probably have some things you never wear because they don’t fit, they’re no longer in fashion, they’re stained or you just don’t like them. Make sure you declutter all those items.

And if your clothes, shoes, etc. don’t fit comfortably in the space you have to keep them in, you’ll need to make some compromises. Either keep only your favorite items or declutter enough of something else that you can take over that space for your clothes or shoes.

For help building a stylish minimalist wardrobe, see Pixel Perfect, Everyday Minimalistthe Uniform Project and Miss Minimalist.

“When a woman says, ‘I have nothing to wear!’ what she really means is, ‘There’s nothing here for who I’m supposed to be today.”

– Caitlin Moran

Through a post by Joshua Becker, I found a great series of posts by Jennifer Skinner at The Very Small Closet discussing emotional reasons we hold onto our clothes. If you’ve gone through all your clothes and find that you can’t let go of items you know you’ll never wear, I suggest you read these posts and try to figure out why you’re holding on to things you have no need for. You may also want to try having a close friend help you declutter.

Your Turn

Do you keep clothes, shoes, etc. that you never wear? If so, why? Please share in the comments.