13 Ways to Simplify Your Wardrobe

One of the easiest places to start downsizing your stuff is with non-sentimental, everyday items like clothing. We are usually quite familiar with our favourite items and know which ones we haven’t worn in ages. Having less clothing has so many advantages, such as simplifying decisions when getting dressed, cutting down on laundry and saving money. But how do you choose what to keep?

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If you’re familiar with the KonMari method, Marie Kondo suggests you keep only the things that “spark joy.” While I think this is a useful lens through which to edit your home, it really doesn’t work well for me as the only lens for making decisions. If I used this method to decide what clothing to keep I’d be left with 5 items: 2 dresses from Ace & Jig, a dress from Nico Nico, and a skirt and dress from Thief & Bandit (these are organic, small scale, north american made clothing lines). I don’t really like anything else that I own, in fact I feel guilt since the rest of it comes from big box stores, because that’s where I can afford to shop. I haven’t bothered counting the number of items in my wardrobe, there aren’t many. I know that I have one pair of jeans and one pair of shoes for each season. The rest isn’t much, but it’s definitely enough.

Putting the “sparks joy” method aside I have a few other techniques that can help you minimize your wardrobe and keep it that way:

1) Empty your closet and dresser completely: When you do this you will likely be overwhelmed by the volume and will be highly motivated to reduce your stock of clothing. This is a good technique if you have a lot of clothing, making a big mess of it you’ll surely want to part with a lot of it when you see the massive pile.

2) Follow the “plus 1” rule: You only need enough of a daily item, like socks, to go one week plus an extra day. Otherwise you will keep going through your 42 pairs of underwear and 37 pairs of socks until there are none left and then do the laundry (and spend way too much time trying to match up pairs of socks). You need 8 pairs at most. Sure, you might have special underwear and seasonal socks, but for those that are for daily use, limit yourself to 8.

3) Hang as much of your clothing as possible: Having clothes stare you in the face is a good way to remember what you have, and realize what you don’t wear, because it isn’t at the bottom of a pile feeling under appreciated. I don’t own a dresser or clothing rack. All my clothing is hung in my single closet, my socks and underwear hang from a basket in the closet too. Limiting yourself to just closet space forces you to minimize your clothing and frees up floor space in your room (bonus!). I have done the same with the children’s clothing, no dressers, just closets.

4) At the start of each season reverse your hangers: (Reverse: meaning to hang the hanger with the opening of the hook facing out of the closet, as opposed to the conventional manner of hanging of the hook opening toward the back of the closet). At the end of the season all the hangers that are still hanging backwards have items on them that you do not need. If it can be worn in the current season and you didn’t wear it, then donate it to someone who will.

5) Eliminate back-ups: Just because you have 6 white t-shirts and 8 blacks ones doesn’t mean you should. ‘Basic’ is not a blanket exception for keeping a stash of clothing. Unless a t-shirt and jeans is your daily uniform, get rid of those extra shirts. At most you need two of each. Adopt a similar approach for other notorious back up items in your wardrobe, like extra cardigans and jeans. By the time you NEED to wear them, you will have a new back up. Get rid of them now! (But don’t throw them in the garbage, donate them, someone out there does need them.)

6) Keep only items that you love to wear or wear every week: You don’t need occasional items, they are just making it easier for moths to move into your cozy over-stuffed closet. You might not love all your clothing, like office wear, but if it’s in regular rotation and making it into the laundry most weeks then you should keep it. If not, donate it!

7) Keep things that suit your lifestyle: If you don’t wear a suit to work, you probably don’t need it. Think about how much time you spend doing things and what clothing you need. Do you need 12 pairs of yoga pants, when the last time you went to yoga was 3 months ago? Even if it was last week, you probably need 2 or 3 pairs. The more pairs you have the bigger your pile of laundry gets…

8) Keep clothing that is versatile: The more places you can wear something, the smaller your wardrobe can be. That means less time picking your outfit, cleaning, folding, ironing, and hanging clothing. More time to enjoy life!

9) Don’t focus on how much something cost: If you aren’t wearing it, it’s not adding any value to your life. Let someone else enjoy it. Donate it or find a consignment shop to sell it through.

10) Keep things that fit: Don’t save something because it will fit you when you lose or gain weight. When you reach your goal weight you will probably be excited and buy yourself something new.

11) Keep things that are your current style: We all have things in our closets that are cool, stylish, or insert another adjective: trendy, artsy, dressy, but that aren’t really our own personal style, they may be an aspirational style, but they aren’t our style. Admit to this, and then donate those items.

12) Let go of nostalgia: Take a photo of items you are saving for memory’s sake, you don’t need the actual item to re-live the memory. (Think high school sports jerseys, bridesmaid dresses, etc).

13) One in, one out: When you get something new, get rid of something old. This will keep things in check, and will make you hesitate with spontaneous purchases, because you know you will have to give something up when you get home.

There are many easy ways to get rid of your unwanted clothing without the need to put it in the garbage. I find the easiest way is posting to Kijiji, a free online classifieds service. I post ads offering “free bag of women’s size small clothing” “free bag of infant linens” “free miscellaneous kitchen items”. You can also drop bags off at local charity bins, shelters, churches and municipal offices (usually). If your clothing is still in good shape and you’d like to earn some money you can search online for local consignment shops.

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19 thoughts on “13 Ways to Simplify Your Wardrobe

  1. Kizzy Bass (@KizzyBassLCJ) says:

    Some great tips and another area I really need to get to grips with. Its the kids clothes that seem to overflow as they are constantly growing and I forget to route out the clothes that are too small. Part of my goals this year is to keep on top of this as my washing pile is enormous!

    • :: danielle :: says:

      Decluttering clothing is so easy, you can do it! Something I do is after every wash I examine each piece of clothing and decide whether to keep it right then. Every single wash. What they don’t need it set aside in a donation basket and when it’s full I say goodbye to it. You don’t have to tackle everything at once and purge the whole closet at once, although a clean sweep like that is very effective. Good luck!

  2. Amanda says:

    Loving every word as usual. The Kon Marie method isn’t my favorite either as I have several “hoarder” type friends and they believe EVERY item sparks joy. In the end they aren’t living joyful lives but they have such an emotional attachment to their stuff it’s not a great approach for them. Anyways. Such good tips my friend! You’re an inspiration!

  3. Jette says:

    I totally agree with what you say – I’m afraid, however, that my closet looks much worse (aka overfilled) than yours… But I get much better at buying less clothes – and buying only stuff I really need AND like. No more compromising with things that are okay, but that I don’t enjoy wearing.
    I’ve got a question about your 8-pairs-of-socks-only rule: your rule implies that you do your laundry once a week. Since I wash our clothing separately (white, dark, coloured), we don’t collect enough dirty clothes to make up a full load of every category. So it makes much more sense to me to have enough socks to wear until the next laundry day… doesn’t it?

    • :: danielle :: says:

      Thanks for your comment, Jette. Minimizing is a process that really takes time, so don’t compare yourself to me or anyone. You are on the right path if you are limiting the acquisition of new things, and especially if you are trying your best to buy quality items that will last a long time.
      About the socks, we wash all of our laundry in cold water year round, so we just mix all the colours together. I used to wash load by colour for many years, and then realized there was no need if you use cold water. It really simplified it all for me. We haven’t had any issues with this. If you don’t want to use cold water, you could always just do a socks and towels load of laundry, or some other combination. I hope that is helpful. Thanks for reading the blog, Danielle

  4. Janice says:

    So glad to hear that someone else is not using a dresser. I have 2 shoe bags hanging on my closet walls. I use them for shoes, underwear, socks, scarves, etc. The dresser is now used for additional storage such as quilt fabric and supplies; photo albums (I have 2 large ones condensed from 22; + the 5 family history books that I have published; etc.).

  5. Hannah @ Nomaderhowfar says:

    Danielle, this is great. The ‘spark joy’ rule doesn’t really apply to that super comfy pair of never-seen-outside-the-house comfy yoga pants with bobbles and strains; function and versatility I believe are the key rules for a capsule wardrobe as you said.

    I thought I had considered every thought process in regards to wardrobe de-cluttering, but I never thought of the coat-hanger method! Although I have little chance to even own a coat-hanger on the road aha but I will definitely be applying the weekly rule; I certainly do not need extra clothing in my backpack if I consistently go a week without wearing some pieces.

    🙂

  6. Janice says:

    Outstanding article! I will use this information this week to declutter my closet! Would you mind sharing a photo of your closet? It would be great inspiration to see it! Thanks!

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