16 February 2013

Simplify Your Wardrobe

This post is written by contributing author Vanessa Williams.
So here we are, well into the new year now, and that can only mean one thing in my household - spring cleaning! With the weather’s being usually gray, dreary, and generally miserable, I turn my energy to closets and other black holes in my home to renew, refresh and clean out.

One of my biggest challenges, however, is to simplify my wardrobe. I have so many clothes that I hold onto for “just in case” or because it’s ever so slightly different than the next thing. I know I am not alone. So even though I try my best at minimalism, I fail miserably in the clothing department.

However, a recent pin on Pinterest inspired me to really get crackin’ and tackle the clothes project. I was always in awe of minimalist Josh Millburn’s apartment (You can take a pictorial tour here. I know that will never ever be me, but I was most impressed with his small, but versatile wardrobe. Sure, he’s a guy and by default needs significantly less attire than we ladies. But I was determined to see what I could do to simplify my own wardrobe.

If you’re anything like me you have clothing tucked away in the four corners of your house. I have bins under the bed, and in the attic. Clothes hanging in the hall closet and in my daughter’s closet. This doesn’t include the chest of drawers in my bedroom and my closet there. Out of control? Maybe - clothes have always been a vice for me. In any event I was determined to make at least the in-season clothes fit in only my bedroom, meaning in one closet and one large chest of drawers. This meant eliminating nearly half my wardrobe.

I began by figuring out my style and sticking to it. It is challenging at first to determine what your style is, as it is always evolving and changing but once you know what look you are going for, it becomes easier to let things go. Knowing what colors and what styles look good on you also helps. For me this means things that cinch at the waist, tailored jackets, and bottoms that give me room at the hips where I need it. Skinny jeans? Yeah, never going to make it in my wardrobe.

So once you’ve got that figured out you’re ready to start sorting your clothes. I grouped mine first by color, then by type. This allowed me to discover I had five - yes FIVE - short, black skirts. I mean, really. Give priority to basics which will be your workhorses. I think every girl needs for winter:
  • A white shirt
  • A neutral cardigan
  • A good pair of jeans
  • A pair of black trousers
  • A pair of gray trousers
  • A different sort of bottom (whether a patterned pant or skirt, a different color pant, etc.)
  • A black skirt
  • A black dress
  • A neutral jacket (gray or black)
Then pick a color, preferably your favorite, or the one that looks best on you, and build your wardrobe. These color items, along with your basics, give you a collection to work with. With just a few more shirts and the items listed above I bet you can make an entire MONTH’s worth of outfits - no kidding.
Don’t believe me? Just check out this pin that inspired the whole project:

Just to show you how I did it in my wardrobe I took nine items:
  • Black jacket
  • White shirt
  • Grey cardigan
  • Royal blue shirt
  • Blue striped sweater
  • Jeans
  • Black pants
  • Grey pants
  • Denim Skirt
And made eighteen outfits:
  • Black jacket + sweater + grey pants
  • Black jacket + blue shirt + grey pants
  • Black jacket + white shirt + grey pants
  • Black jacket + sweater + black pants
  • Black jacket + blue shirt + black pants
  • Black jacket + white shirt + black pants
  • Black jacket + white shirt + denim skirt
  • Black jacket + white shirt + jeans
  • Sweater +  jeans
  • Sweater + black pants
  • Grey cardigan + white shirt + jeans
  • Grey cardigan + white shirt + denim skirt
  • Grey cardigan + white shirt + grey pants
  • Grey cardigan + white shirt + black pants
  • Blue shirt + black pants
  • Blue shirt + gray pants
  • Blue shirt + jeans
  • Gray cardigan + sweater + jeans

I easily could have made more had my denim skirt been a little more basic, rather than high waisted. The same goes for my blue top. It was longer and cinched in the middle, making pairing it with the average length cardigan a bad idea. In any event, I was very encouraged. I felt ok letting go of other items knowing that with just a handful I could create so many outfits. I have a GIANT pile of clothes heading out the door and as we speak I am very close to hitting my goal of cutting my wardrobe in half.

So today I challenge you to simplify your wardrobe. If you do it to the extreme, it means no matter what you pull out of the drawer, the next item will match it. This will make getting dressed every morning a little easier and that’s something from which I think we all could benefit.

How many clothes there are in your wardrobe currently that you can live without?

Vanessa Williams is the author of A simply good life where she explores how lower standard of living doesn’t mean lower quality of life. After her decision to  get off the beaten track and forge new paths she has found that living with less actually means living with more. Vanessa explores the luring and dangerous grounds of the consumerism trap and offers a solemn and wise account of her real life experiences on the quest to finding what truly matters in life. Connect to Vanessa via twitter and facebook.


  1. I love this post, just what I needed to inspire me to tackle my clothing and downsize! Since I no longer work full time in town, I just don't need all the clothes I have. Unfortunately shopping second hand stores for fun clothes was a hobby of mine and I have way too many for my need. I think downsizing will be my weekend project, thank you for the inspiration :)

  2. I try to have the basics at all times and keep them in mind when shopping. Generally I don't buy trendy clothes, but try to stick with items that will still be in style several years from now. I still need a black jacket though. I just haven't found one I like at the right price yet.

  3. So timely! I'm about to apply to my clothes the whole 'get rid of 3 things for every new thing you get' bit.

    My idea of basics is really reduced —no khakis, for instance. I'm happy as long as I have a really unique dress, black fitted pants, and a short black skirt. It gets a bit more diverse when it comes to tops, though :)

  4. I follow this idea when I travel for sure! A lot of my clothes "fall" into the same color palette so I don't usually have too much trouble with matching pieces up. I do however have probably far too many clothes in my regular everyday wardrobe. I always try to pare it down, but have trouble parting with things that I love, even if I only wear them a few times a year.

  5. Love it! What a great idea and thanks for sharing. This inspires me to clean out my closet!

  6. I have done something similar. When I first began the clean out, I put all the stuff I thought I didn't need anymore in a tote and stored it in the basement..then after a year if I didn't go back for anything, I got rid of it. I did pull out some things, but not many, maybe 2 or 3. Now, when I shop I stick with 4 basic colors and simple, classic styles. Saves money, too.