A Practical Guide to Owning 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.

Follow on TwitterLike on Facebook


  1. Keywest says

    This information is amazing. I have always been a purger although I will admit, since becoming a wife and mother (10 years ago), I have more “stuff” than I care to own up to. Lately I have been getting rid of things by the bundles but there is still so much :(
    My kids are on board (mainly because they don’t have a choice in this season) now if I could just convince my husband ;) anyway, thanks for this post…

  2. Tina says

    Years ago, I realized that if I picked 2 neutrals, black and navy blue, every year went through the same cycles, spring was pink, light green or pastels and yellow. Summer was either red, white and blue or coral and turquoise. Fall was browns, oranges, and reds with maybe some jade green. Winter was jewel tones and some metallic. So I worked in an office for years with a few pairs of slacks, 6-7 tops and 3 cardigans. Earrings or scarves or maybe a necklace. Write a chart of all the different outfits you can make out of what you have and unless an item goes with 3 other things don’t buy it. I’ve been retired for years and haven’t had to buy new clothes because my adult children give me the clothes they are tired of. Last month I got a jean jacket, 2 hooded sweatshirts, and a nice sweater. I gave Goodwill a zipper jacket, a coat, and a dressy shirt I hadn’t been wearing. I shop rummage sales and thrift shops for earrings and beads to restring into statement necklaces. No one cares what you wear unless it is truly an old fad, or a color combo like peach and purple in the middle of winter.

  3. Tina says

    Men can get away with 3 fall or winter weight sport coats and one dark suit. And maybe 1 summer weight sport coat and a blue classic blazer. My husband has a Harris tweed, a brown corduroy, a grey tweed, a dark suit, a blue blazer and a summer weight plaid. The oldest sport coat he has is at least 10 years old. Sport coats have to be in basic colors because they are expensive. Dress pants should be dark except maybe in summer. Color is expressed in ties. My husband buys a sport coat maybe every 2 or 3 years when we see one at a terrific bargain. He gets dressed up a lot. We live in the Midwest where people still get dressed up. If we lived in California or Arizona he wouldn’t need so many dressy clothes. Watch the people on news channels not the celebrities for guidance on how to dress.

  4. Velisa Takle says

    It is spring here in New Zealand. I could easily live with 2 pairs of under pants, 1 bra, 2 long tops and 2 pairs of tights/leggings… and my favourite kathmandu Jacket!

  5. Velisa Takle says

    It is spring here in New Zealand. I could easily live with 2 pairs of underpants, 1 bra, 2 long tops and 2 pairs of tights/leggings… and my favourite kathmandu Jacket!

Sites That Link to this Post

  1. Your relationship with clothes | August 31, 2011
  2. Closet Monster | My Closet Garden | November 13, 2012
  3. Netzfunde. | von allem zu viel. | October 10, 2013
  4. Less Clothes | Songs of Remorse | December 7, 2013
  5. Less Clothes | Relearning Human | December 7, 2013
  6. minimalism is not asceticism | September 29, 2014

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *