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?
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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