A Practical Guide to Owning Fewer Clothes

how-to-own-fewer-clothes

“Know, first, who you are; and then adorn yourself accordingly.” – Epictetus

Consider for just a moment how your life would look different if you owned fewer clothes:

  • You would have more disposable income.
  • You would have more time to live your life.
  • Mornings would feature less stress.
  • Your closets would be well-organized and uncluttered.
  • Packing for trips/vacations would take less time.
  • Laundry days would be easier (not necessarily less, but definitely easier).

Unfortunately, instead of enjoying the benefits of owning fewer clothes, most of us buy into the lie that more is better. And because we do, we accumulate more and more clothing each season. We are convinced that new clothes will make us more joyful, more fashionable, and more popular. Unfortunately, they just end up getting in the way.

Consider going a different route with your life. Try owning fewer clothes. You may be surprised at how much you enjoy the freedom that it brings.

Whether you are hoping to minimize your wardrobe to the absolute minimum or just trying to pare down some of the excess in your closet, you will find these 10 steps practical and applicable. They are the same steps that we have used in our home:

1. Admit that you own too much clothing. That’s all you really need to get started.

2. Wear fewer colors. Most of us already have a few favorite colors that we wear most often anyway – usually because we like the way we look in them. Choosing to intentionally wear fewer colors means less accessories (shoes, belts, jewelry, handbags, etc.). It also makes too much sense not to try.

3. Embrace the idea of one. When one can be enough, embrace it – one black dress, one swimsuit, one winter coat, one black belt, one pair of black shoes, one pair of sneakers, one handbag… insert your own based on your occupation, lifestyle, or climate.

4. Donate, sell, recycle, discard. Depending on the size of one’s existing wardrobe, an initial paring down won’t take long. Make a few piles – donate, sell, or recycle. Start with the clothes that you no longer wear. You’ll be surprised how much you can remove.

5. Donate, sell, discard some more. Removing the clothes you no longer wear is easy. Removing the clothes that you don’t really need can be a tougher choice. Turn around all the hangers in your closet. After the season, remove every article of clothing that wasn’t worn. That should help get you started on a second round of paring down.

6. Impose an arbitrary moratorium on shopping. For many, clothes shopping is just a habit – and habit always takes over for inattention. To begin breaking the cycle of purchasing and discarding (the average American throws away 68 lbs. of textiles each year), set a self-imposed buying freeze. I recommend 90 days. If given enough time, this simple exercise in self-discipline will change your view of your clothing and the stores that produce, market, and sell them.

7. Set a monthly spending limit. Pick a low number and stick to it.

8. Purchase quality over quantity. Only buy clothing that you truly love – even if it costs more. If you stock your closet full of things you love, you will have less desire to add to it.

9. Avoid the sale racks. Sales can (and should) be used to help you get a better price on something you need. Unfortunately, most sale racks are designed to convince us to purchase something we don’t.

10. Impress with your character, not your clothes. Lee Mildon once said, “People seldom notice old clothes if you wear a big smile.”

Joshua Becker

About Joshua Becker

Writer. Inspiring others to live more by owning less.
Bestselling author of Simplify & Clutterfree with Kids.

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Comments

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  2. says

    Given that I am a dressmaker & costumer & have very ecclectic style, culling clothes is a very hard process. However at the end of each season I go through my clothes & assess what hasn’t been worn, what is worn out & needs retiring, what doesn’t fit/is too young for me now. Then I donate, throw or attempt to sell. The old season goes in the trunk & I do the same with the new season. SO everything gets assessed at least twice a year. I have a stupid number of cardigans & coats that I cannot part with.
    This spring/summer I vowed not to buy any new clothes & only make clothes from fabric & patterns I already own. And I have been very successful, no new purchases & two blouses, a summer beach set, & a pair of pants that were created from what is in my workroom.
    I’m really proud of myself.

    • Susan says

      For over 20 years I have worked in an office. I bought black slacks and added blouses, sweaters, shoes, etc that goes with black. All my accessories (purses, blelts) go with black. Jewelry is many colored. What I realized is that it is easier for me to get dressed and requires less thought and work to maintain my wardrobe. I also noticed no one even notices if I wear the same outfit two times in a week. Half the time I can’t remember what I wore and I don’t know or care what my coworkers wear — meaning — don’t sweat wearing the same outfit — no one really notices. I am trying to keep my clothes to a minimum of things I really like and wear. When clothes gets worn out or no longer fits, then I get rid of them. I will throw away clothes catalogs as soon as I get them to prevent impulsive buying. I also don’t go shopping unless I need something. I’m trying to get my whole life to a managable level. I realized a long time ago, I didn’t need more storage space or boxes, I just needed less stuff.

  3. says

    This is something I am working on right now and trying to determine what is the best way to tackle this. We have a large family, thus large amounts of clothing. I think my major issue is wanting to hold on to something in case we need it. One idea I have had is to put everything in trash bags and put them somewhere out of the way. If I don’t go looking for them in a few months, I can donate them.

    • sara says

      one black dress? one pair of black shoes ? please. what if you need dressy black shoes, and black work shoes – or a black dress with short sleeves for summer, or long sleeves for winter ? if you live in a climate that has extremes of heat and cold, this article is completely ridiculous.

      • Arg says

        Then you would keep one dressy and one casual, or one long sleeve and one sleeveless, etc. – culling 15 LBDs down to 4 would still be a huge step. The article is meant to help you get started and focus, it’s not going to hold your hand and do the work for you.

  4. Andre says

    I agree with all of your comments except for #10.

    I believe that clothes do matter to a certain extent. That’s how people form their impressions of you because let’s face it, most people don’t have the time to get to know everyone in their life even if they wanted to. People use the clothes you wear to form that opinion of you.

    This is more so true in business.

    I work for a huge corporation and I can definitely say that the “dress for success” mantra holds true largely in the corporate environment.

    Other than that, very insightful and great post.

  5. says

    I’m not sure I like the idea of culling clothes. NGOs cannot cope with the amount donated already and as you mention, a huge amount ends up in landfill.
    I absolutely agree we should buy less, but instead of doing a purge of what we’ve got, how about hanging onto them and learning how to mend so that your wardrobe lasts longer. You could even put some away to wear or upcycle in future years.
    I’m moving towards a post-consumerist lifestyle and I’m going to see how long I can go without buying any new clothes, but I think would be a mistake by starting with clearing out my wardrobe… It just means I’ll be heading to the store sooner.

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