The Simple Wardrobe Project


In my fantasies, my wardrobe looks like this picture. Well, not with all the pinks, purples, and blues. But swap it out with blacks, greys, and whites and it’s kind of dreamy. It looks so contained and tidy, manageable, like you could grab any combination of pieces from the rack and would look pulled together and polished.

My wardrobe is out of control. It’s insane. I knew that it had reached ridiculous proportions, but I didn’t know just how ridiculous until I conducted an inventory over the weekend. Paring down and bringing some sort of order to the sartorial chaos that reigns over my closet definitely has to be the first order of business in re-embracing minimalism.

I wasn’t sure how to go about setting a goal for a reasonable number of pieces of clothing, so I decided that the first step would simply be to write it all down. I included absolutely everything in order to get brutally honest with myself. None of this soft-soaping, by listing entire categories of things as one item (can ten pairs of socks really count as a single item?), and the final tally was that between tops, bottoms, underwear, socks, outerwear, shoes, hats, and bags, my wardrobe consists of 100 items. Oh. My. Heck.

Maybe even worse than the excessive quantity is the quality of its contents. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’ve got some really cute stuff that I love, but there are also a lot of things in my dresser drawers that I’m not in love with. There are also things that I like but never wear, because I have nothing to wear them with. Not much point in having a gorgeous sheer blouse if you don’t own a single cami to wear underneath. I’ve got way too many of some things (do I really need four blazers when I wear them approximately once every couple of months?) and am completely lacking in others (how the heck do I not own something as basic as a beige bra?).

I’ve seen a lot of eye-catching headlines for articles and videos about ten item wardrobes and the like, but after reading them, I quickly determined that one of two things were going on… either the author was a young, single, and quite likely unemployed vagabond, or once I started to read, I’d realize that ten items of clothing was actually pretty far from their reality. They’d go on to elaborate that the ten pieces only accounted for core staples like dresses, skirts, pants, and blouses, and did not include socks, underwear, shoes, jackets and coats, layering pieces like tank tops and camis, pajamas, or accessories. It’s amazing how large a ten piece wardrobe suddenly appears when all of those things are added into the mix.

I was trying to imagine what it would even look like for me to own a ten item wardrobe, and it was so ridiculous that I had to laugh. I live in Massachusetts, where we not only have seasons, we have schizophrenic seasons. Winter outerwear alone is at least five items: coat, scarf, hat, gloves, boots. I have no clue what a reasonable number would be, I just know that when I look in my closet and dresser, what I have right now is far from reasonable.

I’ve decided that I’m not setting a number goal. I’m setting functional goals. I want to get rid of everything I don’t love, doesn’t fit, is ratty and worn out, or that I own in excessive quantity. I’d like to get rid of enough stuff that what remains can be comfortably homed in my closet, so I can get rid of the dresser I hate, making room for a tiny wall desk, because I work from home and currently have to sit on my bed all day long, which isn’t the most comfortable or productive way to write for hours on end.

I also have a bit of shopping to do, because I have a chronic illness that caused excessive weight loss, and while I’m slowly gaining it back, I still weigh about twenty-five pounds less than I weighed at this time last year, so I don’t have much of anything for spring/summer that fits. I don’t want to buy anything I don’t love, and I don’t want to buy anything low quality just because it’s cheap. I’d rather save up to get something nicer that will last ten times as long.

But first things first, today I’m going to start sifting through what I’ve got, weeding out what doesn’t work, and dropping it off at the thrift store. What does a minimalist wardrobe mean to you? Do you have set numbers and rules that you work with, or do you decide what stays and what goes according to some other standard? I’d love to hear what’s working for you.


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