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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
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.