9 Best Shopping Hacks for Your Successful Minimalist Wardrobe

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I used to spend most weekends and even some evenings after work shopping for clothes.  I often told myself I was "just looking," but the truth is, the more we "look," the more we buy.  I couldn't keep money in a savings account, and I always had credit card debt, but it took me many years to notice the connection between my shopping habits and my lack of funds.  (I know – dumb.)

So I had a closet full of clothes, but "nothing" to wear – or so I told myself as I made yet another trip to the mall.  I'd buy clothes that I'd wear once or twice, at which point I'd realize

  • I didn't like them as much as I thought,
  • they didn't look as good on me as I had believed, or
  • they had stretched, shrunk, faded, balled up, or otherwise been ruined in the wash.

What a frustrating waste of time, money, and hope – hope that I'd express my style, look my best, and feel confident in what I wore.

simple colorful outfit

And now...

Today, all of my clothes fit in my half of a six-foot closet, plus three dresser drawers.  (I do keep two jackets in the front hall closet.)  Getting dressed is super easy because everything is in one place.  I don't have to drag bins from the guest room closet at the change of seasons, and that closet is ready for guests rather than being filled with my extras.

This didn't happen overnight, and it requires better habits and careful shopping to keep it this way.  Here are my best tips for shopping smarter.

9 minimalist shopping strategies

1.  Always consider needs over wants.

Before you shop, evaluate what your wardrobe needs, what (if anything) you have a surplus of, and which wardrobe basics would help create several outfits.  This might be staples like black tank tops, white dress shirts, or your favorite brand and cut of jeans.

By the way, a sale or clearance event is never a reason to buy something you don't need!

2.  Buy only your favorite colors.

Have you ever bought a shirt in your favorite color, then found that it fit and flattered so well that you bought another in a different color?  And now that second shirt hangs unworn in your closet?  Yes, I've done it too.

A minimalist wardrobe generally requires a chosen palette of colors so that pieces mix and match with ease.  Look in your closet and choose the three or four colors you like and wear happily.  Remove the pieces that don't match.  When you shop, stick with your palette.  When you buy what you love, you'll wear it more.

3.  Choose quality over quantity.

Stores increase revenue by offering "buy one, get one" sales of cheaply-made clothing.  I own four high-quality pairs of jeans that I bought just before the pandemic.  Right now I'm wearing a black and white top and a denim jacket that are even older.  I can't even remember when I acquired my black leather purse.  These quality pieces cost a bit more than average, but when you calculate the cost per wear (price ÷ times worn), they're far cheaper than items I'd have to replace every year.

When you choose well, a sale price won't be a factor.  And your high-quality item will outlast three or four discount pieces.

4.  Love it in the dressing room.

leather jacket
Don't skip the step of trying on clothes in the store.  Yes, I know stores set up dressing rooms with better lighting and even mirror tricks to get you to buy.  But if you don't love it in the store, you won't feel better about it when you get it home.  Plan shopping trips so you're not rushed and can take this crucial step.

If you must buy online, make sure the e-tailer has an excellent return policy.  I've wound up donating brand-new clothes I couldn't return, wasting a lot of money and time and leaving me at square one with a wardrobe need.

5.  Think outside the big box.

All of my clothes shopping used to take place in a mall.  I had no problem with pre-loved furniture, but didn't consider the option when it came to my wardrobe.  Yet careful use of thrift, consignment, and vintage shops can yield unique, quality pieces that will add flair to what you wear.

As with sales, be careful that you're not just buying something because of a low price.  "It's cheap – buy two" isn't a good idea anywhere.

6.  Use "one in, one out."

Once you've simplified your wardrobe, you must maintain it.  It's so much easier to keep things organized when they aren't squashed together.  This also means that at the change of seasons you can

  • notice what you haven't used and donate it
  • notice what has been used so much it needs to be replaced

When I shop for anything in my home (including my wardrobe), I think about what I'm willing to get rid of before I buy something new.  If I don't have anything I want to remove, I have no reason to go shopping.  (So different from my previous shopping habit!)

7.  Re-wear clothing.

Most of us are washing clothes too often.  Of course I'm not suggesting we should walk around in dirty clothes, but many items can be worn several times before laundering.  Washing less reduces the chore and extends the life of my clothes.

I have a staging area at the end of my closet where I hang clothes I can wear again.  You could also use a hook on the back of a door.  Just keep it neat and use the items a second or third time before putting them in the wash.

spring dress
8.  Wash and dry with care.

With a smaller wardrobe, I have less laundry and take better care of my clothing.  I wash everything in cold water, and often hang things to dry rather than exposing them to the heat of a tumble dryer.  This extends the life of colors and fabrics, and saves detergent, water, and energy too.

9.  Try a shopping ban.

As you declutter and simplify your closet, take a break from shopping.  I recommend at least 30 days to give yourself time to consider needs and wants and to wean yourself from the control of retailers and the fashion world.  Ignore magazines and social media influencers as well.  At the end of a month, evaluate and keep going if you can.  I find three to six months with no clothes shopping very doable.

For a better wardrobe, form better habits.

A minimalist wardrobe is about more than decluttering and donating.  You must reform your shopping habits if you want to continue to dress with ease and confidence.  A new set of habits will help you shop less and shop smarter.

If you enjoyed this post, I know you'll love my book The Minimalist Wardrobe: Buy Less, Choose Well, and Feel Confident Every Day.

A smaller closet doesn't have to be boring or restrictive.  Let's talk about how to

  • build a simpler wardrobe
  • make decluttering decisions
  • create your personal style
  • let your closet inspire you
  • choose a signature outfit for increased peace, poise, and productivity

... and so much more!

This expanded and improved 3rd edition of my best-selling book can be your guide to a wardrobe that passes the "feel good test" and lets you wear your favorite things every day.


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