Planning a minimal wardrobe

How to have more to wear with fewer clothes

Staring at a closet loaded with clothes and nothing to wear? I’ve been there. I feel your pain! 

More is better, right? The more you have, the more choices you have, the more options you have, the more fun it is to get dressed! Right? Well, maybe for some, but this definitely hasn’t been my experience. I found standing in front of a wardrobe full of clothes I had bought on sale that kind of fit me and I sort of liked actually stressed me out. 

I’ve been living with a 40-50 hanger closet now for a number of years. I find it easier to wear clothes I feel good in and love, it’s easier to look after and keep the laundry process under control, and I waste less money and time shopping for clothes I don’t love and don’t need. 

If you love having loads of clothes and getting ready in the morning is a joyful experience for you, this post isn’t for you. If you find your wardrobe and laundry a bit overwhelming, read on!

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You can eliminate wardrobe stress and enjoy more to wear with fewer clothes when you follow this simple process. #declutter #clothes #minimalism #capsulewardrobe

How I planned my minimal wardrobe

First, there’s a planning stage. Take some time to think through what you’re up against and where you are heading. For me, decluttering is more of a mental game than a physical one. Take some time to plan and dream and get your head straight, ready to take some action.

1.    Notice

The first step is to be aware. Notice which clothes you reach for first, the ones that are comfortable, fit you well and make you feel good when you wear them. This will help you identify your personal style. 

Some people are dresses people. Some live in jeans and t-shirts. Identify your thing, the clothes that work for your personality and lifestyle. 

2.    Watch

Do some intentional people watching. Go to a busy shopping centre or mall, grab yourself a café table near a busy thoroughfare, and buy yourself a long coffee. Taking into consideration your body type, watch what people are wearing. What are you drawn to? What do you love? What looks great on people? 

I remember waiting in line at a theme park years ago. It was a long slow-moving line, but the kids were excited to ride the river rapids… There was a lady in line in front of us. I was just drawn to her. She looked lovely. Not too dressy (I’m not into dressy) but not sloppy casual either. So, I took note of the details of what she was actually wearing. She had on tailored beige shorts, a flowy white collared shirt and tan sandals. She had just a fine gold chain bracelet and a simple watch. So simple.

I actually went and bought a similar outfit, and all these years later I still have beige shorts that I wear with a white flowy top and tan sandals. 

3.    Plan

You know what you have that you love. You know what clothes make you look and feel good. 

You’ve had a good look around and have some ideas of outfits that inspire you, and the style that fits your personality and lifestyle. Now, do some dreaming and come up with a plan.

No one can tell you how many pair of pants you should own, or how many pairs of pyjamas to keep. You decide what’s right for you. 

A few things to keep in mind

  • Your climate. The number of warm coats you need to will depend on the weather where you live now. 

  • Your stage of life. A stay at home mum will need a different wardrobe to someone who works full-time in a corporate office. Be realistic about building a wardrobe that suits your life.

  • Your storage space. If you have a huge closet you can be less ruthless than if you have limited storage. 

  • Care instructions. Some clothes are beautiful and tick all the right boxes, but they are hard work to look after. They may need dry-cleaning or are difficult to iron. If you don’t have a lot of time, build a wardrobe of easy-care garments.

Write down your dream! Create a clear vision of your personal style.

Write down your dream! Create a clear vision of your personal style.

4.    Journal

Because I tend to attach emotions to belongings and I find it hard to get rid of perfectly good things, I find this next step to be really helpful. I write out my dream. This isn’t a list of clothes to keep and clothes to throw, this is a dream of what my life will be like in the future. I write down how I will feel confident when I go to work each day wearing clothes that are comfortable and classy. I write out how my laundry will be tidy, how I won’t have a secret stash of un-ironed clothes waiting for the laundry fairy to whisk them away one night. I write about what it will feel like to have my wardrobe under control. This convinces my heart that I’m on a good path, that the guilt of buying clothes I don’t really love will not hold me back. This step gives me courage!

Now, it’s time to move to action!

1.    Eliminate duplicates

One of the simplest ways to overcome wardrobe clutter is to eliminate the duplicates. #minimalism #declutter #capsulewardrobe

Now you have an understanding of the clothes you love and the style you’re going for, look at your wardrobe. One of the biggest eye-openers for me was recognising how many duplicate items I had, with lots of ‘just in case’ options. Even though I used to have five pairs of black pants or jeans, I always reached for the one favourite pair first. I had a big collection of patterned and coloured shirts to wear with jeans, but only a few that I wore regularly and felt good in. One of the easiest ways to make a big impact in the wardrobe clutter is to simply get rid of the duplicate clothes that are your back-ups and spares. They can go.

2.    Eliminate the misfits

Clothes that no longer fit? They can go. 

There can be exceptions to this. I some women who have medical conditions that cause their weight to fluctuate drastically. It takes time when you’re having babies for your body to find its new normal. Some people will keep a stash of pre-baby clothes that are favourites, or keep clothes in different sizes for good reason, but these are the exception rather than the rule. For the majority of us, if it doesn’t fit you well, it can go.

3.    Eliminate the sale guilt

Have clothes you bought on sale and after you brought them home you realised that you don’t really love them that much? If you have clothes that are perfectly good, but you don’t wear them regularly and love them when you do, it’s time to let go and move forward. Take hold of the vision and let them go.

4.    Mix & Match

Once you have gotten rid of all the duplicates, misfits and sale regrets, have a look at what is left.

This is the step that I often get the pen and paper out again. I list out all the tops on one side of the page, and all of the bottoms on the other, and draw lines linking things that I wear together.

Make sure that everything on your list has multiple matches. If you have one top or one skirt etc. that only goes with one other match, consider letting it go.

Don’t forget your shoes and accessories in this step. Make sure you have shoes and accessories that go with multiple outfits.

5.    Minimise

For me, 40 hangers of everyday clothes are a good number to work with. I have an extra 10 hangers for winter coats and formal clothes that I don’t wear regularly but I want to keep. This number gives me plenty of options to mix and match and fits easily in my closet space. It also is a manageable amount of laundry for me to take care of each week.

If you go through the process above and still have too many clothes for the dream you’re aiming for, you have a few options.

Ask a friend

You can bring in some moral support of someone who can help you make the choices about what to keep and what to let go. Sometimes a trusted friend who can tell which dress you look best in can be the encouragement you need. Choose your friend wisely! You need someone who will support your decluttering journey.

Out of sight

I've done this with things I'm undecided about. I'll box it up and get it out of sight and see if I miss it. Occasionally I find myself rummaging through to find a top that I really want to wear. Usually, a couple of months later I haven't missed anything in the box, and I can donate it without opening it again.

6.    Identify the gaps

You might do all of the above and find that you could really do with a good white shirt or black jacket or work dress with pockets (that’s usually mine). When the clutter is removed you can see how things work together more clearly. Take your time and shop for the extra items you need. Wait to find the piece that fits well, is easy to look after and meets all of the criteria before you rush out to the latest sale.

7.    Enjoy and maintain

Enjoy your minimised wardrobe! Enjoy how easy it is to get ready in the morning. Enjoy the extra space in your closet, the smaller amount of laundry you have to do on the weekend, and the feeling of wearing clothes that you love every single day.

Replace rather than accumulate. Only buy new clothes that are better than the ones you already own. When you add something new, get rid of something old.

Replace rather than accumulate. Only buy new clothes that are better than the ones you already own. When you add something new, get rid of something old.

To maintain your wonderful wardrobe, you have to change your shopping habits! Once you are free, you will never want to go back, but that doesn’t mean that you never get to buy new clothes. The trick is, to replace rather than accumulate.When you find something in a shop that you want to buy you have to think, what is this going to replace? The new has to be better than something you already own. If it is, awesome! Buy it and donate an item straight away. If it is not good enough to replace something already in your wardrobe, admire it and walk away. 

I hope that getting rid of the extra clutter gives you more peace and joy, and helps you be the very best version of yourself every day. Like many good things, this process isn’t easy, but it’s worth it. Let me know in the comments below how you go!