6 Changes You Need to Enjoy Success with a Smaller Wardrobe

Just as a clutter-free home brings more freedom, space, time, and money into our lives every day, so does a clutter-free wardrobe.  When we pare down to a capsule wardrobe, or even a daily uniform, we find that getting dressed is much easier and comes with the pleasure of feeling comfortable and put-together every day.

However, everything about our culture encourages the constant accumulation of clothes, shoes, and accessories.  Fashion magazines, social media influencers, sales, buy-one-get-one promotions, and weekly shipments of new clothes meant to lure us into the stores can make it hard to resist fast fashion.  I used to shop all the time for new things to wear, so I certainly understand the temptation.

To succeed with a smaller wardrobe, we need some changes in mindset and expectations.

minimalist wardrobe

6 steps to love your clutter-free closet

1.  Cultivate self-confidence.

Susan Sorokanich, an interior decorator who has been wearing a personal uniform every day for 20 years, explains that self-confidence is essential.  "I don't waste any time shopping for clothes or deciding what to wear every day," she says.  "It's been so incredibly liberating."  But it's impossible to create your own iconic wardrobe if you're worried about trends and influencers.

You don't need validation from others – you need to dress to please yourself.  This kind of confidence affects your posture and the openness of your expression.  It's very attractive.

2.  Become convinced that beauty is more than skin deep.

What's truly lovely about you comes from your personality, intelligence, kindness, humor, and integrity.  No stylish wardrobe or high-end handbag can make up for the lack of these all-important characteristics.  The more you realize that beauty comes from within, the freer you'll be.

3.  Realize that fashion passes but style endures.

Fads go in and out more quickly than ever because the fashion industry wants to sell us new stuff all. the. time.  When you investigate and discover the cuts and colors that work well on your body and for your lifestyle, you'll always be well-dressed.  Then you can invest in quality pieces that will be useful and sustainable for the long run, instead of trying to keep up with ever-changing trends.

4.  Understand that you have better things to do with your time and money.

Shopping every week or two wastes a ton of time, and ten shoddy pieces will cost you more than one or two quality pieces you wear for a long time.  In terms of your life energy, investing in relationships, experiences, and learning will add so much more value to your life than a crowded closet.

5.  Expect to be valued for more than what you're wearing.

If you think that sticking with a small wardrobe will be boring, consider the possibility that someone who needs a constant influx of styles and outfits is the one who's boring.  If you shop because you're bored, maybe you need to figure out how to make your life more interesting.

Buying something (clothes, home d├ęcor, new tech, or whatever) is a Band-Aid.  All that new stuff distracts you from the fact that you're living a shallow life – and that what you're currently doing to inject meaning and interest isn't working.

Don't worry if your clothes are interesting – make sure that you are.

6.  Commit to sustainability.

According to earth.org, 100 billion clothing items are produced each year, and the fashion industry generates more pollution than international aviation and shipping combined.  60% of clothes are manufactured from fossil fuel-based materials, the industry consumes 93 billion cubic meters of water each year, and the average American throws away about 81 pounds of textiles every year.

I don't know about you, but these facts make me want to do everything I can to reduce unnecessary clothing purchases, and to find sources of well-made, sustainable garments I'll keep for a long time.

How to choose your capsule wardrobe

Contrary to what some think, a smaller wardrobe doesn't require a palette of black, white, and gray.  However, you'll find more success if you choose a base color – a color that every piece you wear can "relate" to.  This could be black, navy, brown, denim, or something else.  My personal uniform is black jeans with a 3/4 sleeve, v-neck top.  With black as my base color, I can wear tops from teal or purple to coral or sapphire blue.  In winter, I add a denim jacket or a black wool cape, and if I need to be a bit dressier I don black trousers.

I chose this outfit after looking at the clothes I wore most often and noting the colors, cuts, and styles I favored.  Check your closet and see what you tend to wear regularly for confidence and comfort.  Can you put together five or six bottoms (skirts or pants), maybe in two colors, and eight to twelve tops?  With two or three blazers or cardigans and two or three pairs of shoes, you'd have plenty of clothes to rotate and combine, preserving the life and quality of each piece and allowing yourself to be fresh and put-together every day.

Pro tip:  You might need one uniform "set" for work and one for leisure, or one for spring/summer and one for fall/winter.

By choosing a base color, it's also easy to limit shoes, handbags, and coats.  Choose accessories you'll love wearing every day, such as a favorite pair of earrings or a meaningful bracelet.  I always wear my diamond wedding ring.

If you like to sport something truly unique, choose a single piece to include in your wardrobe for a season.  Whether it's a bold graphic tee, a felt fedora, or a pair of flashy shoes, let it be your iconic statement piece.  When you choose just one, you'll use and appreciate it more.  This last winter, I wore a bright multi-colored scarf that complemented all of my clothes and kept my neck warm every day.

Ready to experiment?

Live with a capsule wardrobe for a month or a season and see if it saves you time, money, and frustration.  With these six changes in mindset, you'll reap all the rewards of a smaller closet.

PUBLISHING IN JULY:  The revised and expanded 3rd edition of The Minimalist Wardrobe!*  Pre-order a Kindle copy now and save 25%.

* This blog is reader-supported. If you buy through my links, I may earn a small commission.

It's a modern consumer belief that we need a large wardrobe to be interesting.  But limits encourage creativity, and a smaller closet doesn't have to be boring or restrictive.

In The Minimalist Wardrobe we learn:

  • how to build a simpler wardrobe
  • how to make decluttering decisions
  • how to let your closet inspire you
  • how less is more when it comes to creating your personal style
  • how three words can help you define your preferences
  • how a signature outfit might increase your peace, poise, and productivity

... and more!  The 3rd edition of my best-selling book (packed with 7 additional chapters and 40 pages of new content) can be your guide to a wardrobe that passes the "feel good test" and lets you wear your favorite things every day. 

The release date for both the Kindle and the paperback editions is July 1.


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