5 Steps Toward a More Minimal Wardrobe

Americans typically own more than 300 articles of clothing and purchase, on average, 64 new clothing items each year (at a cost of about $1,700 per household). We also toss out about 65 pounds of clothing each year.

Fortunately, Angie and I are not big clothes shoppers. That being said, we still somehow manage to end up with more clothes than we can possibly wear. I attribute our overabundance to gifts and our uncanny knack for always going to baseball games on free t-shirt (or free hat) night. Regardless of the reason, this month we’re taking a look inside our closet (again).

A few months ago, we culled the closet, donating a couple of boxes of clothing to Goodwill. Not too long after that, my mom’s friend gave me several boxes of shirts. Though I passed most off to thrift, I did keep several sweaters, which I stuck in box in the closet to deal with later. Just knowing that those items were in the box and not where they should be (hanging in the closet or folded in the drawer) made me feel cluttered. On Memorial Day, I dug them out. I think I gave another 3 sweaters, 2 shirts, a belt, a vest and 2 hats to thrift that day. The box, I repurposed as a recycling bin. Today when I counted our clothing, here’s what we have:

Melody Angie
Short Sleeve Shirts 25 23
Long Sleeve Shirts/Sweaters 16 9
Hoodies or Sweatshirts 4 2
Jackets or Coats 3 2
Lounge Pants 3 3
Shorts 12 12
Jeans 4 4
Swimsuits 2 2
Hats 6 6
Shoes 7 5
Total Clothing 82 68

In comparison to the average American, we have a very modest wardrobe. In comparison to what we actually wear, we have a gigantic wardrobe.

For several years now we’ve been in the habit of wearing our clothes for multiple days, especially pants, and especially if we haven’t done anything more than hang out at home for the day. This habit drives my mom crazy. When we bring our laundry over on the weekend (no washer/dryer in our apartment), she always asks if we even changed clothes during the week. Of course we did but seriously, we might each only have 2 pair of pants, 3-4 shirts, and our under garments to wash. And usually they’re the same clothes each week! Of the 25 summer shirts that I own, I wear only 10 of them with any regularity.

While I ponder which items will make the cut this time, I wanted to share some of the ways we keep closet clutter to a minimum.

Pick a system that fits your lifestyle.

As I was researching minimalist wardrobes, I came across a number of different suggestions: The 40 Hanger Closet, Project 333, capsule wardrobes, and even a very inspiring 10 item wardrobe. Whether you follow one of these or design one for yourself, having a plan for your wardrobe will help keep you on track. We currently have 70 hangers (all of which have to fit on one side of the closet) and 4 drawers/cubbies of tees and shorts. If a new item comes in, an old item goes out.

Refuse to buy more hangers.

Limiting the number of hangers that you own is probably the single best way control clutter. Think of your closet as an apartment building and your hangers as apartments. If every apartment (hanger) is full, there’s no room for new tenants. Just like an actual building, you can’t add on new apartments on a whim. To bring in new items, old ones must move out.

Take stock of your closet every few months.

I know it may seem obsessive to declutter the closet quarterly but gifts from well-meaning grandmas and those too-good-to-pass-up sale items have a way of sneaking in and stealing your hangers. At the very least, take a walk around your wardrobe at least once every 6 months and remove anything you haven’t worn during that time.

Love it or leave it (to someone who will).

When it comes to clothing, love is all that really matters. I have a few nice shirts that other folks say look great on me but I can’t stand them. I hate the way they feel or the way they hang off my shoulders. As cute as they may be, I’ll never wear them so they just hang out in the closet. If you don’t love an article of clothing, pass it on to someone who will.

Stay out of the store or close your eyes when you walk past the sale racks!

Unless we absolutely need to purchase an article of clothing, we don’t go into clothing stores…not even to browse or kill time. In stores like Walmart and Target that sell clothing alongside necessities, I try not to even peek at the racks. Sure, it’s tempting when I see tee shirts for $3 but as Angie likes to say bargains aren’t really bargains if you don’t need them in the first place.

By the end of this month, I hope to have our wardrobe whittled down to just what we need and nothing more. How many items that will be, I’m not sure yet. What I do know is that I’ll be starting with those 73 shirts and sweaters.

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2 thoughts on “5 Steps Toward a More Minimal Wardrobe

  1. Enjoyed the post. Amazing and shocking that Americans own more than 300 articles of clothing. Such a waste of resources!

    After losing weight and vowing to never ever gain it back, I purged my closet of all my fat clothes. I also made a decision to limit to just the basics.

    Working at home sure helps. I can wear pretty much the same clothes every day.

    Liked by 1 person

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