Minimalist Wardrobe: Closet Clearing Tips and Tricks

Photo: CC0 Public Domain / Unsplash - Sarah Dorweiler

Create your own minimalist wardrobe and say goodbye to those closet-clearing searches for the perfect outfit in the morning. We’ll show you how easy committing to a minimalist closet can be and the clothes you’ll need for a creative and combinable wardrobe.

Fashion collections are constantly changing and new seasonal trends make multiple debuts within months. For stores, this means a rush of sales in order to make room for new merchandise. For us consumers: cheap fashion has us in its grips. The fashion industry has convinced us that forever updating our wardrobe is necessary, or even better: normal. In reality, we really could do without the bulk of the discounted attire we weren’t planning on buying when leaving the house anyway.

And what are we left with? A closet full of clothes that we don’t put on. A survey conducted by Greenpeace cited that we only actually wear a third of the items in our closet, 40 percent we don’t even touch.

Saying goodbye to that lingering 40 percent (for good and without replacing it with new purchases) actually makes quite a lot of sense. Committing to a well organized minimalist closet carries with it a number of perks: a minimalist wardrobe consisting of a few easily combinable and practical clothing items will save time getting dressed, money while shopping as well as the resources required to produce these items in the first place. There’s only one slight challenge you need to tackle first: What goes and what stays?

Your Minimalist Wardrobe: What Takes Up Closet Space and What Will Make it?

Deciding for yourself what items you particularly like, what you look good wearing and when are personal decisions and shouldn’t be made under pressure. Nonetheless, a little bit of orientation can’t hurt and can save time and money down the road.

That’s why we suggest with Step 1: Make yourself a plan! Take your time considering which clothes you’ll need for any number of different occasions.

You should also give some thought to what you think you still absolutely need because it’s the hottest new item out there. Correct: the latter will not make the cut when it comes to putting together your minimalist wardrobe.

Interested in all things sustainable? Check out our gallery The Top 10 Choices for Sustainable Consumption for more insight on daily eco-friendly decision-making and the role you can play in halting climate change.

Making Minimalist Moves: Clear out that Closet

Clearing out your closet can be hard while on your way to more minimalist living. Who knows, the time may come when you’ll need those old bell-bottoms again or when those spaghetti straps will get a second life. And just maybe that old pair of jeans will fit next summer.

However, more often than not, the clothes we’re not wearing now won’t be worn again anytime soon. Sometimes we just have to do what needs to be done.

Minimalist closet clearing sorting clothes
The first step in putting together your minimalist wardrobe is taking stock of what you have to work with. (Photo: CC0 Public Domain / Unsplash - Sarah Brown)

Step 2: Toss it. You might fear that you will regret it later – but you won’t. Once you’ve come to terms with your future loss, it’s time to get to work:

  • Survey your closet. Clear it out completely and begin sorting your clothes into categories: tops, pants, dresses, skirts, and so on. Hold each item up in front of you. What do you enjoy wearing? What do you enjoy wearing often? Which colors and cuts do you fancy and which fancy you? Which pieces make you feel warm and fuzzy inside? Those stay.
  • Sorting out the keepers: What makes you look good? What have you not worn in ages? What clothes do you wear only reluctantly? Anything you don’t enjoying wearing at all? These’ve got to go! You can apply the “Spark Joy method” from Marie Kondo: only wear what makes you happy!
  • The clothes are on their way out – but where to? Sell them, trade them or donate them. Items you’ve purged from your minimalist closet should be passed on. Whether via the local flea market or secondhand shop, well-kept clothes have every right to be given a second life. Exchange clothes at privately organized clothes exchanges or post an ad in your local listings.

When it comes to minimalism, creating a minimalist wardrobe is only the beginning. Check out Becoming Minimalist: 3 Methods for Beginners for more on breaking your collection of material possessions down to the basics.

Your Minimalist Closet: What Goes in

Odds are you already own many of the items you’ll need for your minimalist closet: A solid foundation of easily combinable basics you can mix and match and that you enjoy wearing. If you decide you need to add something to your minimalist wardrobe, think carefully about which styles, patterns and materials you like and purchase accordingly. Sustainable shopping for out-of-style gems or fair fashion favorites at secondhand shops make great additions to your minimalist closet.

Clear closet space
What exactly goes into your minimalist closet is up to you. (Photo: © pontchen / photocase.com)

Black, white and gray. Although these might seem a bit dreary, these basics are a lot easier to mix and match. Practicality is key when designing a minimalist wardrobe. Here are some worthy additions to your minimalist closet:

  • Sweaters, cardigans, and jackets: combine these however you want in sleek colors and cool styles. You can through these on over a blouse, shirts of any kinds, tops and long sleeves, you name it – they’ll go great. Jeans, slacks and skirts included.
  • Button-down or button-up and a blouse: This can look a bit spiffy and formal, but it doesn’t necessarily have to. Go casual by rolling up your sleeves or spotting a pair of jeans, wearing it over a cardigan or blouse. Be sure to invest wisely in comfortable and sustainable long-lasting materials such as wool and do your best to avoid polyester.
  • Tops and shirts: These are a minimalist wardrobe staple all year round and for practically any occasion, adaptable to any style. Under a button-down, cardigan or paired with pants – shirts are a must.
  • Jeans: One pair in a darker color and one in a lighter tone. Most jeans labels recommend washing your pants sparingly and instead airing them out once in a while. This way, you’ll have a pair of jeans at the ready all the time.
  • Slacks: These are a classic. Highly adaptable in style, whether casual or correct.
  • Skirts and dresses: Skirts can be worn in winter with tights or leggings and in summer without. It’s also nice not to wear pants for a change. Dresses are another practical pieces of anyone’s minimalist wardrobe. Sleek styles such as t-shirt dresses go great with a pair of sneakers, sandals and ballerinas in the summer and with leggings, cardigans, sweaters and boots in the winter.
  • Shoes: No matter the occasion, your assortment varies naturally. It still makes sense to consider the following criteria: shoes for the winter should be warm, sturdy enough and reach above the ankle for trekking through snow and slush. You can wear sneakers all year round and your sandals and ballerinas in the summer.

By no means are we suggesting that your minimalist closet should be exclusively filled with such items. However, a slight degree of guidance in picking based upon practicality and proposed use doesn’t hurt.

Making minimalist closet space for a colorful piece of clothing unique to you is important and adds life to your basics collection.

Slow Fashion capsule wardrobe minimalism minimalist method
The Capsule Wardrobe is one minimalist closet method. (Photo: © Geneva Vanderzeil)

Capsule Wardrobe: One well-known concept within the realm of minimalist living is the so-called “Capsule Wardrobe”. The principle boils down to this: Less is more. The goal in mind is to limit the total number of items in your closet while at the same time keeping among these the more important pieces to your minimalist wardrobe – that is, clothes that are easily combinable and timeless in theme and style.

Every three months (seasonally), you rearrange your capsule wardrobe. In typically minimalist fashion, new items are only bought when your minimalist closet is missing something vital, practical or necessary. Clothes for other seasons are left in storage and reintegrated into your wardrobe at the appropriate time – thus bringing about fresh combinations and new stylistic discoveries.

Thinking of applying similar principles to other areas of your life? Minimalist Living means breaking your everyday down to the basics. Our tips for minimalist living are aimed at helping you on your way to making small but pivotal changes to regular routines and habits, ones which will make your life all the more simpler and easier – and also a bit happier. Check them out here: 12 Practical Tips for Minimalist Living: Make your Life easier.

Shopping Done Right

Slow fashion principle
The core principles of Slow Fashion. (Photo: © jUliE:p / photocase.de)

In order to keep your minimalist wardrobe and your closet minimalist for months to come, a couple considerations when it comes to shopping may help you stay on track:

  • Shopping “the right way” doesn’t mean not going shopping at all. Say you need something for a one-time event, for instance. Ask some friends or relatives if they can lend you what you need instead of buying something you know you’re only going to put on once in a long while.
  • Think about what you actually need. Do you actually need it? If so, only buy that which you really love and don’t be tempted to take home more from your favorite store than you originally planned. This way, you don’t collect unwanted items and develop your own personal style.
  • Everybody has been stress shopping once or twice in their lives. Treating yourself to something nice once in a while isn’t too bad either. Nonetheless, we often buy things not for their intended purpose or because we need them. We just want to indulge ourselves with something materially rewarding or go on an all-out shopping splurge at the store. Whatever items you end up taking home isn’t the point. Each time, you’re simply piling clothes in your shopping bag bound for the sorting pile down the road. Take the high road and go shopping when you absolutely need to, not when you absolutely want to.
  • It’s not exactly your style but it’s on sale and would be nice to have – STOP! Impulse purchases and sale buys are among the most common articles lingering unworn in your closet. Don’t let yourself be tricked into buying (still overpriced) cheap sale items – no matter the discount.
  • Trends are short-lived, your taste in clothes isn’t. Trend shopping falls under the category of “Stress and Self-indulgence Shopping”. This we can avoid. If you’re on the fence about something you see in the store, sleep on it. If you can’t stop thinking about it and have already mixed and matched it with ten other items already part of your minimalist wardrobe in your closet, then it might be a new favorite. Go for it.
  • Be mindful of materials. Natural fibers such as cotton, linen, hemp, wool and silk etc. are long-lasting. Synthetic fibers such as polyester start to stink pretty quickly, are uncomfortable and play a substantial role in the accumulation of microplastics in the oceans.
Buy secondhand minimalist wardrobe for cheap
Only go shopping when absolutely necessary. Sustainable shopping at secondhand stores is the best way to put together your minimalist wardrobe inexpensively. (Photo: Utopia)
  • Buy secondhand. You’ll find the best new additions to your minimalist wardrobe at the lowest prices possible and ensure nothing new has been produced in revamping the selection in your minimalist closet. Sustainable shopping at thrift stores is high on the list of ways to make green living reality – no matter your budget. Check out the rest here: 10 Everyday Green Living Ideas: Sustainability on a Shoestring Budget.
Minimalist Wardrobe: Closet Clearing Tips and Tricks
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This article was translated from German to English by Evan Binford. You can view the original here: Der minimalistische Kleiderschrank – Tipps & Tricks.

** Links to retailers are partially affiliate links: If you buy here, you actively support Utopia.org because we get a small portion of the proceeds.

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