Your Minimalist Wardrobe Questions Answered

Your Minimalist Wardrobe Questions Answered

Yesterday I showed you inside my small (but well-formed!) wardrobe and while I’m sure that was interesting to some of you, there are many more who have questions about the process rather than the contents of my personal cupboard.

So I’ve compiled a list of the most common minimalist wardrobe questions in the hopes that it will help inspire you to try it yourself.

How do I get started?

Yesterday’s post is a good place to begin, but if you’re feeling completely overwhelmed I would suggest:

  1. Reading the 2015 Simple Living Handbook. It has a whole chapter devoted to simplifying your wardrobe, starting on page 25. Download a free copy here and use it to work through the contents of your wardrobe piece by piece. It doesn’t matter if this takes you a day, a week or even more, simply commit to removing everything that no longer fits, is never worn, is beyond repair or that you simply don’t like.
  2. Understand your requirements. If you work in a corporate environment, you need smart officewear. (It’s been a long time since I’ve worked in a corporate environment, so I won’t pretend to have the answers for this. Check out Light by Coco or Project333 for starters.) If you’re at home with young kids, you’re looking at a more casual wardrobe. You need to establish your requirements and balance the ratio of work/casual clothes based on this. In many cases (though not all) you can make items work for both work and casualwear.
  3. Understand your personal style. If you don’t think you have one, simply look at the styles you’ve been drawn to consistently, and find what it is about them you like. Spend some time on Pinterest, pinning the looks you like to a personal board, and ask yourself whether these work based on your requirements (see above). There’s no right and wrong here, but having a good understanding of what you like, what suits you and what works for your lifestyle means it will be easier to create a small, effective wardrobe.

Honestly, it’s been a gradual process for me to discover what I need, what I like, what I already had and what I wanted to add to my wardrobe. I didn’t have the time, money, headspace or energy to do this process quickly and I’m actually really glad. Don’t worry if the process feels slow. Sometimes that might mean you need to live with clothes you don’t love, or have fewer clothes than is strictly comfortable for a little while, but doing that helps clarify what you do and don’t want and, importantly, what you do and don’t need.

What about fancy events?

Like I said in yesterday’s post, my wardrobe has me covered for virtually all events, so I’d suggest a few separates that work well together, plus some good heels, a nice clutch, an interesting necklace and a jacket that works with a wide range of items (my black trench is a gem).

But for a proper cocktail event or a black tie function I typically hire a dress from a service like Glam Corner (Australia) or Rent The Runway (US). It’s a fun way to wear clothes I wouldn’t normally buy and most of the good companies offer a “try before you rent” deal.

How often do you need to do laundry?

I wash a load of clothes every day. This keeps it simple and I never (well, rarely) have to conquer Mt. Washmore. I find keeping on top of regular tasks like laundry makes it much simpler to maintain. While it might be a pain in the butt to do it daily (or every second day if you don’t have kids) I find it’s preferable to spending half my Saturday washing clothes.

I also don’t wash clothes unless they’re dirty. My almost year-old raw denim jeans have never been washed, I will happily wear a jumper or hoodie for more than one day, and an outfit worn for a few hours rarely needs laundering.

That being said, I wash gym gear, school uniforms, work clothes etc daily.

How do you account for seasonal changes?

Most of my wardrobe is transitional and much of it stays out year-round. Summer has shorts, singlets, dresses and sandals, where winter sees me bring out the boots, scarves and jackets. Aside from that, the shirts, tshirts, jeans, most dresses and shoes stay put.

I keep my out of season clothes in a plastic tub in the linen cupboard and once every six months (when the weather tells me it’s time) will pull it out and swap items over. If ever there is something I’m not quite sure about keeping, I will leave it in the box for six months and if I haven’t needed it in that time it gets donated at the next change-over.

Even though I live in an area with mild winters, my wardrobe also worked in the Canadian Rockies over winter. With the addition of our snowboarding gear and the following, there was plenty of options for a much colder winter:

  • down jacket
  • 2 pairs thermal pants
  • 2 thermal undershirts
  • 2 long tanks
  • 2 woollen hats
  • mittens
  • heavy duty snow boots
  • 4 pairs woollen socks

It really was a matter of layering, rather than having an entirely different wardrobe. And, as I said yesterday, I realise that holidaying for one month is different to living and working in that climate. I just want to show that even when you live in an area with four very distinct seasons, much of what you wear can work across a wide range of temperatures.

What if you love patterns and colours?

This is one I’m asked a lot, as I think people see minimalist wardrobes as needing to have a minimalist aesthetic. But I think there is plenty of room for pattern and colour in a small wardrobe.

I would suggest choosing one or two neutrals (these don’t need to be a traditional neutral either, it might be black, denim, white, tan, yellow or blue, for example) and having patterns and colours that work with those. Then you can wear neutral/plain bottoms with a patterned top, or a plain jacket with a brightly coloured dress.

I would suggest keeping your basics plain or neutral (jeans, pants, jackets, tshirts, shorts etc) as you can then pair those with brighter items. Particularly if you like changing it up often, it’s better to have good, solid foundation pieces and change your patterns with a new top or scarf.

Also? There’s no rules here. It’s just about dressing with fewer items of clothing so we can minimise stress, waste, clutter and the decision of what to wear when faced with an overflowing wardrobe.

What if I’m on a tight budget?

Even more reason to make sure you don’t buy cheap items that only last one or two washes! That being said, there are ways to make your money/clothes stretch further:

  • eBay for higher-priced items: One pair of jeans, my riding boots and a vintage skirt are all eBay specials in my wardrobe, and these cost well under retail. I had tried the jeans on in store so I knew the size and style were right, but keeping an eye on eBay when you need something specific is a good way to save money on good quality basics.
  • Thrift shops/op shops: I don’t go op-shopping or thrifting because I was born without the gene that helps me recognise a good buy from a frumpy acrylic option, and it can be difficult to remain minimalist when thrift shopping simply because items can be too cheap to pass up. Just keep in mind that unless they’re what you need and they fit well, even cheap second-hand items are a waste of space and money.
  • Reduce, re-use, repair: Look after what you have, get holes repaired, resole your shoes, follow the washing instructions, wash only when required, use laundry bags for your delicates. Taking care of the things you own is the best way to reduce the amount spent on clothes.
  • Buy quality where possible: While it might seem counter-intuitive to spend more when you’re on a budget, I suggest buying the best you can afford. I couldn’t tell you the number of cheap jeans I went through before discovering that a quality pair will last 3-4 years as opposed to 2-3 months.

Do you get bored with your clothes?

In a word, yes.

But no more (and, in fact, significantly less) than when I had an overflowing wardrobe full of things I never wore.

With a good, small wardrobe, I have the option of wearing things every day that I really like. It makes it easier to dress, easier to walk out the door without second-guessing my choices and easier to not think about it any more.

The key thing to remember?

I do this in order to spend time and energy thinking about other things. It’s nice to have clothes that fit, that work well for my lifestyle, that I enjoy wearing. But it’s really, really, really not that important.

A small wardrobe is a means to an end, and that end is living life and doing other things with my brain, my time, my energy, my passion. It’s a great change to make and one I’d recommend you try for yourself.

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Tomorrow, to round out Unofficial Wardrobe Week, I’m bringing you a podcast interview with Courtney Carver of Project333 and Be More With Less.

Be sure to come back and listen to our conversation about small wardrobes, where I store my unwashed jeans, how she shifted from a hectic, overwhelmed life to one of simplicity, and what her family thought of the changes she’s made.

 

 

Inside My Minimalist Wardrobe

My Minimalist Wardrobe - Autumn/Winter

I used to own a lot of clothes.

Most of them I never wore and many more I didn’t feel great in. There were a few impulse purchases that hung in my wardrobe, tags still attached, and many more I had completely forgotten about. Typically I wore about 20% of my clothes 80% of the time and found getting dressed stressful because nothing ever fit or, despite my overflowing cupboards, I had nothing to wear.

Then, as part of my first big decluttering effort, I got rid of at least half of my clothes. I’ve since readjusted and continued to cull items, but until last week I’ve never actually counted what I own and I’ve certainly never taken the time to lay out my clothes and photograph them.

As the idea of minimalist or capsule wardrobes gains popularity I’ve been asked a lot about the clothes I wear so last week I removed every item from my wardrobe, hung it on the wall and photographed it. Honestly, as someone who really doesn’t put a lot of importance on stuff, it felt weird and self-involved. But it was also really instructive.

It turns out I have fewer clothes than I thought, and there are items I’m sure I don’t need. The photo below shows almost all of my winter clothes. There are a few pieces not pictured (because laundry) but with the additions listed below, here is a look inside my minimalist wardrobe:

My Minimalist Wardrobe (Autumn/Winter)

 

My Minimalist Shoes/Accessories - Autumn/Winter

As you can see, I have a fondness for grey, plaid shirts, Chuck Taylors and denim. I’m a teen of the 90s, what can I say?

Not pictured:

  • grey hoodie
  • black rainjacket
  • black trenchcoat
  • 2 pairs black tights
  • socks (2 sports, 1 woollen, 2 black everyday socks)
  • underwear
  • pyjamas
  • sunglasses
  • year-round exercise clothes (full-length running tights, 3/4 length yoga pants, running shorts, 3 tshirts/tanks, 1 zippered rain-proof fleece)

Before I go in to the details any further, there’s some things to keep in mind about my personal situation and how it may differ to yours:

1. I live in the Blue Mountains outside Sydney, Australia. It does get cool in winter (but never really cold) and very warm in summer, and I’m fortunate that my wardrobe doesn’t need to extend into the negative degrees very often. Much of what I wear is transitional, and all of the tshirts, tanks, and most shirts pictured above stay in my wardrobe year-round. Winter mostly means packing away the shorts, sandals and singlets, while pulling out the jackets, scarves and boots. It’s a pretty easy climate to have a small wardrobe.

That being said, we spent a month in the Canadian Rockies over Christmas, where it does get very cold (it got down to -32C while we were there) and my wardrobe extended to that weather too, with a few additions.

Aside from our snowboarding gear I took my normal clothes plus:

  • down jacket
  • 2 pairs thermal pants
  • 2 thermal undershirts
  • 2 long tanks
  • 2 woollen hats
  • mittens
  • heavy duty snow boots
  • 4 pairs woollen socks

It really was a matter of layering, rather than having an entirely different wardrobe. And I never once felt cold.

(Yes, I do realise that holidaying for one month is different to having to live and work in that climate. I tell you this mostly to show that even when you live in an area with four very distinct seasons, much of what you wear can work across a wide range of temperatures.)

2. I work from home and have two young kids. I don’t go to a lot of events (but when I do, this collection of clothes works 95% of the time, which I’ll explain below). I spend most of my days in jeans and tshirts because that’s what works, particularly when I’m cleaning, playing, gardening, working, cooking, running errands etc.

My style is casual and my lifestyle allows me to embrace that. If I worked in a corporate environment or retail, my wardrobe would look a little different.

3. I’m not a fashionista. Obviously. And while I love saying “on fleek”, I’m not really interested in being it.

But if you can forgive me for being a little shallow for a moment, I like looking put together, I like having my own style and I’m always drawn to looks that aren’t about trends. Classic, interesting, quirky? Yes. But fashion magazine trends? Nothankyouverymuch.

I like what I like and I love that trends play very little role in that any more. Most of the clothes pictured are at least 3 years old and I very rarely have a problem wearing the same things over and over. In fact, I like it. I like the non-decisions involved in getting dressed most mornings, I love knowing what suits me and I don’t really care much what others think about it anymore. (Basically, I love being in my 30s.)

For example, my black Chucks are 12+ years old, my denim jacket is a 90s original that I’ve owned since I was 15, the black wool pencil skirt is 6+ years old and the mustard miniskirt is an ebay special from the 1970s. Trendy I am not.

So, how did I get here?

It’s hard to break down a process that took years to gradually work through, and I’d caution against the whole “toss everything and rebuild a wardrobe from scratch” approach, unless you have a significant budget and, frankly, a whole lot of time.

This might mean living with items you don’t really like, getting clothes repaired a few times to stretch their shelf-life, or living with fewer items than is strictly comfortable until you’re able to replace or replenish. Over the years I’ve done all of those things in order to have a small wardrobe I really dig.

Over the past few years I have gradually been able to:

  1. Remove items from my wardrobe that no longer fit, are stretched, torn, stained or just make me feel a bit crap. (These are often the items you put on in the morning but change out of before leaving the house because you feel bleurgh while wearing them.)
  2. Establish my personal style. I’ve always loved good quality jeans paired with tshirts and Chucks, collared shirts with a jumper/sweater, chunky boots and tights, a denim jacket over a dress… These are outfits I wear almost every day because I like them. Taking time to work out what your personal style is can take a while, but a big indicator is to look at what you are consistently drawn to. Pare these looks back to the essentials and start there. A pair of jeans, black pants, a black skirt, button-ups, tshirts – these are the foundation to most styles.
  3. Find good quality brands for the items I wear most often. Over the years I have discovered which brand of jeans, plain tshirts, hoodies, knit jumpers, sneakers and sandals fit me well and last the test of constant wear, and I go back to these time and time again. Sometimes that means I pay more, but when I wear my jeans 5 days a week I don’t mind paying extra. PLUS, knowing the brand, the size, the fit of these basics means I can shop online (when I need something) and find what I’m after either on sale or, my personal favourite, second-hand.
  4. Learn how to mix and match for maximum effect. Every item I own can be worn in multiple outfits, and that’s by design. I’ve gradually removed everything that doesn’t fit easily with my other items and now, for example, I can make a grey tshirt work for 95% of occasions by pairing it with:
    1. my black pencil skirt, a tan belt, tan heels, clutch and aqua necklace
    2. black skinny jeans, black flats, khaki jacket and aqua necklace
    3. blue patterned skirt, black belt, black tights, denim jacket and black boots
    4. dark denim skinny jeans, purple and grey heels and clutch
    5. jeans, black belt, white chucks, aqua necklace and navy blazer
    6. jeans, grey plaid shirt, chunky scarf, black chucks and parka… (Plus I can replace the grey tshirt with a blouse or a white tshirt and triple the options immediately.)
  5. Stop caring what other people think about my wardrobe choices. Because, to be perfectly honest with you, they’re probably not thinking about it at all. No-one cares if you wear the same clothes all the time. No-one will notice. And, if you create a small wardrobe that works well, you won’t be wearing the same things all the time anyway.
  6. Stop buying things on impulse. These were almost always the items that didn’t fit in with the rest of my clothes, were poorly made, didn’t last more than two washes or that made me feel a bit crap when wearing them. Stop buying them and start buying things that work for you and save both money and time.
  7. Look after the clothes I own. I get my jeans repaired, I don’t wash my clothes unless they’re dirty, I have my shoes resoled, I use laundry bags for all my delicates, I line dry… These changes mean I don’t have to replace clothes as often as I used to, which in turn means that when I do, I can afford to spend slightly more.

How does my wardrobe work?

Most days you will find me wearing a combination of:

  • tshirt or button-up shirt
  • knitted jumper or hoodie
  • jeans
  • black belt
  • Chucks or riding boots
  • khaki jacket or black parka

If you look at my tshirts, shirts and jumpers, those items alone give me at least 12 different top options. Add in three pairs of jeans, three everyday skirts with tights and boots and three jacket options and that’s pretty much what I wear all the time. Honestly. It’s really simple.

I can live on the edge and wear a dress sometimes (crazy!) and I also have some casual tops (the feather patterned top, black blouse, green cardigan, grey and black sloppy joe) that I wear with jeans or a skirt.

I’ve never sat down and actually worked out how many outfits I can make from this collection of clothes, but at a glance I would say that I could make well over 100 combinations with the clothes I own. That’s not to say I do, because I really don’t care that much, but if I wanted to, I could.

So that’s a look inside my wardrobe.

It feels a little weird spending so much time writing about stuff (particularly in light of last week’s post on This Season’s Must-Haves) but I know the wardrobe is an area that many people struggle to work through.

With that in mind I’ve written a bonus post this week (be sure to check back in tomorrow) where I answer some of the most common questions about creating a minimalist wardrobe, including budget, finding a style, fancy events, laundry and how to get started.

And on Thursday I’m super excited to bring you a podcast episode with Courtney Carver, creator of minimalist wardrobe challenge Project333.

I guess that means it’s the unofficial wardrobe week here on the blog…

Further Reading:

 

Carl Honoré Talks Technology, Good Slow and Getting to Know Your Butcher – SHP009

Carl Honore Talks Technology, Good Slow and Getting To Know Your Butcher

Slow living is so often equated with country life, an unhurried pace, fewer modern conveniences and less pressured work. Many people also tie the idea of slow to laziness, boredom or a lack of energy.

But in today’s episode of The Slow Home Podcast, I try to put some of those misconceptions to rest as I chat with Carl Honoré – world-renowned slow living advocate.

Carl is the author of three books including the international best-seller, In Praise of Slow. He is also a celebrated TED speaker, fast sports fiend, traveller, father and husband.

In today’s conversation he and I dig in to what life was like for him and his family pre-slow and what steps he first took to create a slower, more mindful life. It’s a really interesting look at the pressures we all live under in today’s hectic, results-driven society and how any one of us can adopt the idea of ‘good slow’ into our lives. 

Neither Carl nor I believe that busy and slow are mutually exclusive and it’s fascinating to talk to someone who so passionately advocates a slower way of life while living in a fast-paced city like London.

I hope you enjoy our conversation and, as always, please leave suggestions, questions or comments below.

——

Head over to iTunes to subscribe to the show and play the episode.

Alternatively, you can listen to the show directly, simply by hitting the Play button above. Enjoy!

——

What You’ll Hear About  in Today’s Episode:

  • What ‘slow’ looks like to someone who lives in the city, enjoys being busy and loves the adrenaline rush of ice hockey.
  • The importance of community in creating a slower way of life and why knowing your local butcher is part of it.
  • Our thoughts on whether slow means simple.
  • The moment Carl realised he was rushing through the most important moments of his life.
  • Why he almost (but didn’t) bought a book of One Minute Bedtime Stories.
  • The first steps he took to slow down and live a more mindful life.
  • Carl’s thoughts on the future of the slow movement and whether there is hope for a world that is addicted to speed and convenience. (Hint: there is.)
  • How he helped a tech-addicted family regain connection with each other.

Things to Check Out After Today’s Episode:

 Keep Listening:

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This Season’s Must-Haves.

This Season's Must-Haves?

Isn’t it great when magazines, blogs or TV shows share with us This Season’s Must-Haves? Aren’t you grateful for the heads-up?

Because – and this would be embarrassing – if we didn’t have these Must Haves, we’d be viewed as poor, uncool, un-hip or just plain boring.

Thank goodness we have other people here to tell us what we Must Have.

Or, perhaps, we could look at the meaning of “must have” and suggest that a striped t-shirt or a lavender suede mini skirt isn’t as much of a Must Have as, say, water.

Perhaps gold Birkenstocks are not really a Must Have, at least not when compared to, oh, you know, shelter.

And while my sarcastic and reductionist tone isn’t really helping anyone, I would like to offer my own list of Must Haves for this season and see if they don’t fill a gap a little more significant than the white skinny jeans-shaped hole in your wardrobe.

This Season’s Must Haves:

Kindness: Nothing looks better than an open heart and genuine warmth shown to others. Bonus: it suits all hair colours and face shapes.

Responsibility for your own actions: You will look (and feel) so fashionably empowered when you realise that the potential for change is in your hands. You get to choose how to act, what to prioritise and what is important.

Perspective: Almost everything you’re worrying about now A) is simply not important, B) will not happen at all or C) will happen, won’t be as bad as you fear and will not matter in five years time. Either way, perspective is a must-have this season. Get some.

A backbone for things that are important to you: It turns out that your spine isn’t just good for supporting that sharp navy blazer you’ve been coveting, it’s also really good for helping you have an opinion on things that matter to you. Keen to stop climate change? Do something. Angry about unethical clothing manufacturers? Act on it.

Generosity: Not just about passing on last season’s Must Haves to those less fortunate than yourself, generosity is an important part of a well-rounded life. It comes in many styles and colours – time, money, knowledge – and, I’m quite certain* it makes you look younger.

An aversion to needless outrage: Being offended is very fashionable. But what feels better? Constant outrage or an ability to let go of those things that aren’t important to you? This season’s Must Have: the ability to scroll on by.

Acceptance of our differences: Can you imagine how boring and monotone our world would be if everyone was the same? Or, even, if everyone wore the same cropped boyfriend jeans? Variety is the spice of life, my friends. Accept it. Embrace it.

A sense of humour: Honestly, it mostly isn’t that bad. And even if it is, maybe a giggle might just help.

Gratitude: Your clothes may not be on the list of This Season’s Must-Haves, but you do have clothes. And access to electricity and water and food and medicine. There is breath in your lungs. Your heart beats in your chest and your brain ticks over inside your head. You are a freaking miracle. There are friends and family who love you, there are dreams and ambitions and potential for joy. There are sunsets and smiles and books and red wine and camp fires. Life is incredible and gratitude is one of the best ways to embrace it. Plus, it looks good on everyone.

Finally, go check out this Louis CK clip. (Unless you don’t like sweary language. Then you should probably avoid it.)

 

(*Not actually certain.)

Katie Clemons on Tiny Homes, Flying and Journalling – SHP008

Episode 8 of The Slow Home Podcast, with Katie Clemons of Gadanke

Do you dream of living in an unconventional home?

A yurt? A campervan? A tiny house? A converted barn? I dream of living in a canvas tent one day – a little like Oriel Lamb in Cloudstreet but with more nature and fewer ghosts.

My guest in today’s episode of The Slow Home Podcast lives in a tiny home… built inside an old airplane hangar.

Katie Clemons is a pilot, writer, journal-maker, mother, wife and all-round lovely human, and today we chat about the impact simple living has had on her life over the past few years, as she has become a mother, moved halfway around the world and started a new business.

We also dig in to the time she and her husband spent living in Germany and look at how Katie’s training as a pilot has impacted her life in very unexpected ways.

Enjoy!

——

Head over to iTunes to subscribe to the show and play the episode.

Alternatively, you can listen to the show directly, simply by hitting the Play button above. Enjoy!

——

Things to Check Out After Today’s Episode:

 Keep Listening:

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Just a final reminder too, that Founding Membership to The Bloom closes at midnight on Friday 15th May (AEST). If you want to join a brand new community of like-minded people building slower, simpler lives, and if you want to get a 50% discount off your first three months, head over here to join.

Curious to know more? You can learn more about The Bloom and how it will help you create a simpler life here.

 

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