Ask 5 Questions to Help Keep Your Closet Clutter-Free

Regular clothes shopping can turn a once-organized closet into a cluttered mess. A change of season, a couple of sales, and a special event or two for which you "need" outfits can add multiple items that don't become well-used pieces. I've been there and done that many times myself.

Learning to purchase more strategically can reduce or eliminate this problem, saving not just money, but all the time wasted on useless shopping, organizing, sorting, and purging. It's much more rewarding to add pieces you can enjoy wearing for years, and with a bit of thought and care, you can build a wardrobe full of items like that.

Before you head to the checkout line or click "add to cart," ask these questions of your potential purchases.

minimalist wardrobe

The 5-question checklist for a clutter-free wardrobe

1.  Does this piece go with at least three other items I own?

We've all fallen into the trap of buying something that tugs at our heart without running it past our brain too. I once bought a pair of Dijon mustard-colored jeans that went with a peasant top I owned. (It was the 70's – that alone explains everything.)

But that eye-catching piece will languish at the back of the closet if we can only wear it one way. The pair of ivory jeans I bought on the same day went with four or five shirts, a couple of jackets, and several sweaters. I wore those jeans at least once a week for the next three summers.

You should be able to mix and match a piece at least three ways to justify buying it. If it requires buying more items to create outfits you like, then you should give it a pass.

2.  Does this piece fit?

Especially in this era of online shopping, it's easy to order something that doesn't fit or drape the way you want it to. Sometimes we even keep items that aren't quite right because they're such a hassle to return. But if you tried the piece on in a store and it didn't fit, would you buy it? Would you try another size? Or are the style and cut just wrong for you, even if you went with something larger or smaller? If so, it's best to return or exchange it.

If you're in a store dressing room and the fit isn't quite right, don't try to "make it work." It's better to keep looking for something that fits properly.

3.  Would I buy this piece if it weren't on sale?

I know it's hard to resist a marked-down price. But look at it this way – if the piece originally cost $60 and you're getting it for 30% off, you're not saving $18. You're spending $42. If you know you'll love and wear it, that's a good deal. But if you're buying it (or worse, settling for it) because it's on sale, don't. That's just $42 down the drain.

If the discount or buy-one-get-one promotion is what's luring you in, don't bite.

4.  What is the cost per wear for this piece?

The cost per wear is the cost of the item divided by the number of times you'll wear it. My $25 mustard jeans (expensive in 1979) cost more than $5 per wear. My $25 ivory jeans cost less than 50¢ per wear.

That $120 pair of leather sandals might sound expensive, but if they're cute and comfortable – and you'll wear them three or four times a week from May to early October for two years – they might be a smart buy.

A great example of cost per wear is a formal outfit you buy to attend a wedding or holiday party. If you know you'll only wear it once or twice, it makes a lot more sense to rent or borrow from a friend instead of adding something that will sit at the back of your closet. Either that or invest in one simple black dress you can wear over and over with the addition of different jewelry (that's what I do as a professional singer).

5.  Am I buying this piece just because I "feel" like buying?

Those dopamine hits when we get a reward or something new are real, and so is our addiction to them.

  • Maybe you're bored and adding something different to your wardrobe seems fun.
  • Maybe you're shopping with a friend and he's buying something, so you want to join in.
  • Maybe the item you're considering is on trend, and you want to feel up-to-date.
  • Maybe the sun is finally shining after a long winter (or the crisp air and falling leaves are a relief after a hot summer) and you want a treat.

There are many other ways to increase dopamine without shopping for something new. If you're shopping because you're bored, enticed, influenced, or lacking confidence and satisfaction, there are better ways to feel better.

Making a plan and being strategic about what you buy keeps your wardrobe useful and clutter-free. Take the time to answer these questions and you'll make better choices.

Surveys show that the average consumer today has 120 items in their closet, with 80% going unworn. Maybe we're too influenced by brands, trends, coupons, and sales. Maybe we're bored and looking for the few moments of excitement a purchase brings. Maybe we lack confidence, and believe that stylish clothes will attract the respect and recognition of others. Or maybe we hang on to too many clothes we'll never wear again.

It's a modern consumer belief that we need a large wardrobe to be interesting, but for many of us, our jam-packed closets make getting dressed an exercise in frustration. Of course we want to dress well, in attractive clothes that flatter our body types and coloring. What would be really useful is a guide that explains

  • how to build a smaller wardrobe
  • 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!

That's where the new 3rd edition of my book The Minimalist Wardrobe comes in.*  With 7 additional chapters and more than 40 pages of new content, everyone can benefit from owning a copy.  And until midnight on June 30, the Kindle edition is available to pre-order for 25% off.  It will be delivered to your phone, tablet, or computer on July 1 (which is when the paperback edition will also become available).

Let The Minimalist Wardrobe be your guide to a wardrobe that passes the "feel good test" and lets you wear your favorite things every day.

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


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