5 Steps Toward a More Minimal Wardrobe [Updated]

As we were getting ready for Angie’s annual trip to Texas this weekend, I couldn’t help but notice that by the time we finished packing her bag, nearly 1/3 of the contents of our closet were gone! No, she didn’t over-pack (even though she will be gone two weeks). We just don’t have that many clothes. Which is kind of awesome if you’re into the whole minimalism thing 🙂

I recently read that the typical American owns more than 300 articles of clothing and purchases, on average, one new item each week (at a cost of about $1,800 per household per year). We also toss about 70 pounds of clothing (per person) into the landfill each year.

Fortunately, Angie and I are not big clothes shoppers (or clothes tossers). At last count, our whole wardrobe looked like this:

Me Angie
Short Sleeve Shirts 22 16
Long Sleeve Shirts/Sweaters 17 12
Hoodies or Sweatshirts 6 4
Jackets or Coats 3 3
Lounge Pants/Shirts 3/2 3/2
Shorts 10 8
Jeans/Pants 5 7
Swimsuits 2 1
Hats 8 4
Shoes 5 4
Total Clothing 83 64

Here are a few 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 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.

How large or small is your current wardrobe? What strategies do you use to keep clutter at bay?

A Sno-Ball’s Chance

Another Tuesday conference call. Another round of head shaking and vowing to make some serious life changes. Another day drawing to a close without any attempt at putting together a plan.

That was how my week was going. Heck, that was how my life was going!

We had spent days talking about what life would look like if I were to leave my job, alternating between excitement and immobilizing fear. We poured our heart and soul into doing the suggested exercises in Tanja Hester’s book, Work Optional. We even drew our graphics. See:

Our ideal post-retirement life

Then we looked at our budget to see what the daily cost of our current lifestyle (including all our living expenses, entertainment, travel, and savings goals) came out to be. It’s $75/day, by the way.

But something was off. Was it our calculations? Our ideal retirement scenario? Did we even want to retire? Or was the real goal to just do what we wanted to do with our time? Sketching out what we wanted our days to look like when work wasn’t a factor should have illuminated the path we needed to take to get there. Expect it didn’t. Something just wasn’t making sense.

So, we shelved our discussion (once again) and left to go to the garden, stopping by the produce stand on the way. The first thing I noticed was the sno-ball truck parked in the lot. It was 96 degrees and I was mentally exhausted. A cold, syrupy sno-ball sounded like the perfect remedy. Little did I know; it would be way more than that.

Sarah is an acquaintance. For a long time, she worked at the pharmacy where my mom got her prescriptions filled. Each time we would stop in to pick one up, Sarah would talk to us for a good bit. She was never in a hurry to get to the next customer. She was always happy. Both Angie and I looked forward to seeing her at the pick-up window; but then, one day she stopped being there and no one told us where she went.

As I studied the menu at the sno-ball truck, I heard a familiar voice call out to us. It was Sarah. She was standing in the window grinning from ear to ear, just like always. As we stood there and chatted, Sarah told us about how she had quit the pharmacy to follow her dream of opening a food truck. She had even entered our city’s version of “Shark Tank” and won! Best of all – she accomplished all of this on the cheap, spending just $2,000 for her truck and $600 for equipment. As she talked so passionately about the benefits of being frugal, doing what you love, and having more time with family (she has 5 kids!), I suddenly saw what was missing from our own plan.


I have a dozen ideas a day and at least that many unfinished projects. I’ve been working on an e-course to help small non-profits train their volunteers to write effective grant proposals for more than a year now. I’ve dabbled at writing a book. I’ve toyed with making videos. I sew produce bags and make useful stuff out of our recycling. And Angie…don’t even get me started on her passion projects. She has a shed full of woodworking projects and I don’t know how many handcrafted hemp necklaces just sitting in a box in the closet. Plus, there’s the small fact that she’s an amazing cook and baker.

In short, we have an unlimited number of things to do with our time – a lot of which could produce an income, if we would just commit to seeing one (or more) of them through.

The happiest day of our week is always Saturday. Why? Because it’s the day that we get to hang out at the Farmer’s Market. Over the past few years, we’ve made friends with almost everyone there. We know their families, their pets, their goals, and in some cases, even their favorite (and not-so-favorite) foods. One of the things that Sarah stressed in her dialogue with us was making use of venues like the Farmer’s Market. It’s a super cheap and easy way to try out some of the ideas we have.

So…here’s the big reveal (thank you for waiting so patiently):

  • We signed another year’s lease on our apartment. No homestead or tiny house for us this year, but don’t rule it out for late 2020.
  • I’ve set a quit date for leaving my job in early 2020. Sorry, I can’t divulge the exact date yet just in case my new boss is reading this. (Hi, Linda!)
  • I’ve given myself a deadline to finish the e-course and created a plan to market it. I’ve also decided to keep my current freelance contracts and source at least 2-3 more. I do enjoy grant writing.
  • We are going to get a booth at our community’s Christmas Craft Show this year and try selling some of our handmade zero-waste products (produce bags, reusable trash can liners, pot scrubbies, etc) and Angie’s jewelry. Our niche will be that all of our zero-waste products are made from items that would have actually gone to waste – like clothing we find in the dumpster, cloth remnants from other crafters, stuff by the side of the road, etc.).
  • If the craft show is successful, we’re going to get a booth at the Farmer’s Market next year. We also have plans to sell a few types of produce that are easy for us to grow in our space and are missing from the market (like garlic) and maybe a baked good or two.
  • I also have ideas for chronicling our journey on this blog and our social media accounts. Which, by the way, if you aren’t following us on Instagram, you’re really missing out. 😊

Will we make the equivalent of $75/day from these activities? Who knows! It may turn out that working a “real job” was holding us back from earning a “real income”. That would be nice! But if not, we’re still going to be okay. Life is an adventure. You can either dream about what your life should look like or you can go out and live it.

PS – for anyone wondering how our fishing trip went, we didn’t catch one single trout! We did, however, come home with half a bushel of free apples and a quart of wild blackberries. You can read all about it here: Meandering Around Murphy (NC)