As a part of the Dress That Mama series, I’ve had some questions about how to pare down your wardrobe to make it more simple and streamlined. I thought I would share a few of my tips on simplifying your closet, as well as rules about being thoughtful when buying new clothing.
To begin, why even bother? To me, there are so many reasons to purge yourself of unworn items, but the reason I started was to simplify my life in general. I read somewhere that when we own too much stuff, that stuff tends to hold us down and hold us back- the care of it and managing it all weighs us down. It takes up space not only in our homes, but also in our minds. In the way of clothing, I found that I was holding onto things I hadn’t worn in years, or things that I would never fit into again (three babies changes your body shape even if it doesn’t leave you with extra weight). It was making the task of getting dressed every morning more difficult than need be. So I decided to make a drastic change.
I chose a chunk of time to completely clear out my closet. This took time, but was completely worth it in the end. Here is what I recommend if you want to make a big change:
Remove everything from your closet and start fresh. You will probably find clothing you forgot even existed. With this will come sentimental feelings. Push them aside. If you haven’t worn these items and forgot they even existed, you didn’t really miss them.
Sort clothing into keep, give away, and sell piles. Your give away and sell piles should be equal to, if not larger than, your keep pile. Think hard. If you haven’t worn something in over a year, you probably aren’t going to wear it again. I have done this purge so many times and kept items I hadn’t worn in a year, thinking Oh! I love this! I’ll definitely wear it this year! only for another year to go by without me wearing it (surprise!). Again, try not to get wrapped up in the thoughts or feelings you get when you look at a piece of clothing. It may hold memories for you, but you will still have those memories even if you don’t have the clothing! I was so surprised when this turned into an emotional experience for me, but once I realized that, it was easier to get rid of stuff. It is, after all, just stuff. Think about what you need. Do you need three pairs of black pants? Unless you wear black pants to work every day, the answer is probably no. Pick your favorite pair, get rid of the other two. Do you need more than two pairs of jeans? When I buy a something new, I always get rid of something else in my closet. This rule also helps me tremendously when I’m about to impulse-buy: do I love this pair of jeans more than the other pair in my closet? If not, then I don’t buy.
Once you have sorted through, look for places that buy gently-used clothing, jewelry, and accessories, then make a few trips to drop off clothing. I have two places nearby that I sell clothing to. They give cash or store credit. I always take the cash and save it for something I’m looking for.
Take your time. If you are on a tight budget, replace items slowly with ones you love. It will make your decision about what to buy so much more meaningful, and you will end up loving it that much more. Set aside money and save for one item at a time. I literally have a save jar that I add money to until I have saved enough for that item. It can take a month, maybe two, but it is such a good feeling to wait and really think through each purchase. Simplifying and replacing your clothes can take years, and that’s okay. But it’s also okay to buy things you really, really love and wear them over and over again. If you take time and think about each purchase, you will only buy what you love, and you won’t mind wearing it again and again. Scratch that. You will look forward to wearing it.
Think about what your style looks like to you. If you are drawn to a certain color palette, work with it. This will ensure that your clothing will go together and you’ll be able to mix and match the few items you keep. I have a lot of grays, black, and various shades of white and blue. I have found that I actually had more choices once I decided to stop trying to dress like someone else and just get what I loved. Never underestimate the power of a monochromatic outfit. All black can look so nice and classic, as can all white, or gray, etc. It is easier to accessorize too!
Beware of trends. Things like neon polka dots, chevron, harem pants, and crop tops go out of style super fast. You may love it for a season, then hate it the next. Try to be honest with yourself about what a trend is. I try to stick with classics that won’t go out of style anytime soon, but I’m also guilty of going for a trend or two. I often regret those choices a year or two later, honestly. On the other hand, you can make certain trends work for you, as long as you don’t go overboard! I have had a plaid shirt for 8 years that I still wear frequently in the fall and winter. Some trends aren’t so over-the-top that they will go out of style forever. Beware the ones that will.
Only go shopping when you need something, and don’t get sidetracked. Look for that item, and if you don’t find it, go home empty-handed. There’s a sense of peace when you are able to walk away and say, oh, well. maybe next time. You will find what you love eventually. Don’t settle until you do. For two years, I have been looking for the perfect bag. I found it (Baggu), but it was sold out. I looked everywhere else for months, but I kept coming back to the perfection that is this one. I kept an eye out, and eventually, it came back in stock (here). I was beyond excited that I had set aside the money and could buy it before it sold out again.
Buy what works for your body, and don’t be afraid to alter. I am petite, so even though I love the look, wearing boyfriend jeans and loose tops makes me look like a twelve-year-old boy. Wear what you feel confident in, and what you are comfortable in. If it is uncomfortable, you won’t wear it. Also, find a good tailor. Make your clothes really fit you. They will be more flattering, and you’ll wear them more if they are.
Take your time when looking for a new item. Shop around. Be picky. If you are looking for, say, the perfect fall sweater, don’t settle on the first thing you see. Think about it, email the link to yourself if you are shopping online, and come back to it. If it is still the front runner after much research and shopping, then it is the one!
Beware of sales. Rather than buying something just because it’s on sale, wait for your favorite items to go on sale. If you miss out on something because you are waiting, something else will come along. I try to follow this rule unless I really love something (see above bag) and know I will wear/use it all the time. The same goes for thrift stores, outlets, and discount stores. Instead of only thinking about what a great deal you’re getting, ask yourself if it is something you would swoon over if it were full price.
Only buy what you really really love.
Buy items that can be worn in more than one season. A long black cotton dress can be warn in spring with a lightweight cardigan, in the summer with sandals and a straw hat, in the fall with tights and a bulky sweater and boots… you get the idea. If you know you are going to wear it all year round, it makes sense to spend a little more time and money on it.
Once your closet is pared down, resist the urge to refill it. When you look into your dresser or closet, you should be able to clearly see all of your clothing and not feel overwhelmed by choices. It’s easy to get dressed when you have fewer choices, and it feels good to see things that you have selected one by one, things that have made the cut over and over again and that you still love. It’s okay to wear the same things over and over again; in fact, it’s even better for the environment!