“Know, first, who you are; and then adorn yourself accordingly.” – Epictetus
Have you ever asked yourself, “How many clothes do I need?” or “How many shirts should I own?”
If you’ve asked either of those questions before, consider just for a moment how your life would look if you owned a minimalist wardrobe of 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 a minimalist wardrobe, 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.
Whether you are hoping to minimize your wardrobe to the absolute minimum or just trying to pare down some of the excesses in your closet, you will find these 10 steps practical and applicable. They are the same steps that we have used in our home to create our own minimalist wardrobes.
How to Create a Minimalist Wardrobe and Closet
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 fewer 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 and just how close you are to owning a minimalist closet once you build momentum.
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 wearing an item, return the hanger facing the normal direction. 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. See this article for more creative tips on decluttering.
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 minimalist 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, which will make maintaining a minimalist closet a lot easier.
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.”
With those tips above, you should have no problem creating a more minimalist wardrobe and answering “How many clothes do I need?”
To see how owning less in other areas of life can bring even more life-giving benefits, check out my book: The More of Less: Finding the Life You Want Under Everything You Own