Minimalism: the word has taken over our modern world. More and more people are turning to minimalist design, minimalist cooking, and even minimalist fashion. We’ve come a long way since the popularity of the capsule wardrobe in the 1970s, but the idea of owning less (and, by default, wearing less) has become wildly popular yet again.
Perhaps you’ve been inspired by Marie Kondo and want to declutter your life. Maybe you’re wanting to spend more time focusing on the important things in life. Or, you’ve quite possibly become aware of the many ills of fast fashion, and want to do your part to fix them. Whatever the reason, if you’ve been wondering how to have a minimalist wardrobe (without giving up your personal style), then we’ve got some easy tips for you.
How to Have a Minimalist Wardrobe: 8 Tips
1. There’s no right or wrong way to have a minimalist wardrobe.
Regardless if you’re cutting down your wardrobe to 36 or 15 pieces, or simply getting rid of a few pairs of shoes you never wear, you’re doing a good job. Taking steps to have a minimalist wardrobe is challenging. Saying goodbye to clothes that likely have embedded meaning and memories in them is no easy task.
It’s likely that throughout this journey (yes, consider it a never ending journey), you’ll feel frustrated, exhausted, and overwhelmed. So, be kind to yourself and be open to learning throughout the process. It will get easier over time—we promise!
2. Understand your “why” for owning fewer clothes.
To help yourself overcome the challenges that are sure to arise and the pangs of regret when you realize that you no longer have that perfect shirt (that you wear once every 18 months), get to know your reason for owning fewer clothes in the first place.
For a lot of us—and especially with the events of the past year—shopping has taken the place of concerts, dining out, and sporting events. In the US, impulse buying jumped as the pandemic began taking its toll.
In a survey, nearly 75% of people reported that impulsive shopping during the pandemic has positively boosted their mood and while this may be so, the short-term release of serotonin and dopamine is commonly replaced by feelings of guilt—and sometimes anger at the sight of a product that doesn’t make you happy once it arrives at your doorstep.
When it comes to having a minimalist wardrobe, many people use it as a way to avoid this cycle. It’s a good way to reduce the money and time investment of shopping, to instead focus on other things (exercise, family, reading, hobbies, etc.). It’s also better for the planet—especially for those of us who are quick to fall for BOGO sales and quickly evolving fast fashion seasons.
3. Clean your closet.
If you’re unsure of why a minimalist wardrobe appeals to you, the best thing you can do is take a good, hard look at the clothes you already own.
It’s very likely that you’ll come across a few things: some clothing duplicates, some clothes you never wear, and some clothes you realize you love and absolutely couldn’t part with. You’ll also probably come to one big conclusion: that you own too many clothes.
Even without any other reasons, this simple fact will get you through the following steps.
4. Get to know your colors and style.
When you evaluate the contents of your closet, dresser, and that mysterious bag or pile of clothes hidden under your bed, you’ll likely notice a trend—certain colors or styles that appear more often.
Whether we think so or not, most of us have certain colors that we wear often. If we can reduce that number (of colors, that is) even more, we can take our first big step towards minimizing our wardrobes.
When we have less colors, we have less colors we have to match with. If we pick a few colors that go well together, we’ll find it easier to minimize the shoes, handbags, coats, belts, etc. required to pair with our minimized wardrobe.
Similarly, picking out a consistent style that we feel good wearing will help in the same way.
5. Embrace the idea that one is enough.
While you narrow down your colors and style, keep this mantra in mind: one is enough. Sure, slightly different levels of distressed jeans look great when you have a pile of jeans in your closet, but how practical is it to wear all 14 pairs at one time?
That said, practicality is important here. It’s easy to get caught up in the notion of a constantly evolving look—with several options for each day/event/season—but in reality, less can be so much more.
If you really want to have a minimalist wardrobe, you’ll have to get comfortable with just one bathing suit, just one LBD, just one winter coat, just one brown belt, just one pair of strappy sandals… you get the picture.
6. Think of outfits.
Once you start putting things in a “yes,” “no,” or “maybe” pile, you can start visualizing outfits. Because here’s the thing with clothes: they’re meant to be worn. They’re not meant to be used as an item to trigger a memory of a first date, they shouldn’t simply be a dust catcher in the corner of your closet, and they shouldn’t be an ill-fitting garment that you’ve been saying “will fit one day”—but you’ve been saying it for years.
It’s okay to have goal items, but make sure they’re achievable goals and that you have a deadline (i.e. “if these jeans don’t fit by June, someone else might enjoy wearing them instead”).
It’s important to consider the utility of every item you end up keeping in your minimalist wardrobe. Does it only pair with one specific item? Have you worn it in the past year? Is it only suitable for a very specific event or at a certain point in the year? If your chances of wearing it as part of an outfit that can be worn most times of the year are slim, maybe it doesn’t have a place in your closet.
7. Sell, donate, recycle, discard.
Whew, now you’ve made it to the tough step—finally saying goodbye to some of your wardrobe. Fortunately, you have the option to send your much-loved clothes to a new home (where they can be worn by someone else!) or a charity for donation. If you can avoid it, try to keep clothes out of landfills (use as a cleaning rag at the very least).
If the idea of a minimalist wardrobe will take some warming up to, you can do as much or as little in your first round of step #7. No one is saying that you have to reduce the contents of your wardrobe to just a handful of items immediately!
If you want to start small, just say goodbye to a few items that you’re absolutely sure you won’t wear. Then, hang everything else back up in your closet. Use different color hangers or hang the hanger backwards until the garment is worn. Give yourself a few months and take a look at what remains. Then, with the realization that you’re probably not as likely to wear those 90s gaucho pants as you once thought, donate/sell them.
Essential Items in a Minimalist Wardrobe
1. Jeans—just two or three pairs that look good and feel great.
2. Two or three tank tops for layering (winter) and wearing (summer).
3. Long-sleeved shirts (three or four).
4. Two or three comfy sweaters.
5. One or two sets of loungewear or pajamas (perhaps one more if you’re working from home).
6. One or two business appropriate outfits (perhaps only one if you’re working from home).
7. Two or three exercise outfits.
8. One winter coat, one raincoat.
9. Two or three scarves (preferably of varying weights for seasonal changes).
10. A little black dress. Just one.
11. Four or five short-sleeved shirts.
12. One pair of shorts.
13. Two pairs of exercise shorts.
14. Two or three pairs of leggings.
15. Three casual skirts or dresses.
16. One pair of running shoes.
17. One pair of dressy shoes.
18. Two pairs of everyday sandals or boots.
19. Two to three good bras.
20. One or two swimsuits.
Who’s already cut down their wardrobe? We’d love to hear about your journey and any tips you have to share! Feel free to leave a comment!