Simple wardrobe tips

How to Create a Simple Wardrobe

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Tired of the endless piles of laundry?  Have nothing to wear?  End the morning struggle to get dressed by creating a simple wardrobe.

When I did my first purge that got me hooked on a simple wardrobe, it was by accident.  After significant weight loss, 30 pounds to be exact, most of my clothes were poorly fitting.  I was sick of the way they hung and didn’t fit right and some of them were in pretty sad shape. 

At the time, I wasn’t planning on creating a simple wardrobe.  I just wanted things that fit well. 

So I just got rid of everything that didn’t fit.  It left me with a very small wardrobe.  I think I had 3 pairs of pants or capris, and maybe 5 blouses.  I worked in a business casual office at the time, so that’s really the bulk of my wardrobe. 

I lived with this wardrobe for a while as I was still working on losing more weight and I just fell in love with this smaller closet.  I never looked back.

What is a simple wardrobe?

Many people have heard of a capsule wardrobe, but what is a simple wardrobe?  What’s the difference between a simple wardrobe and a capsule wardrobe?  

Wikipedia defines a capsule wardrobe as “a collection of a few essential items of clothing that do not go out of fashion, such as skirts, trousers, and coats, which can then be augmented with seasonal pieces.”

It’s basically the base of your wardrobe.  It includes versatile items that can be worn layered and worn year-round in different weather and dressed up or down for the occasion. 

A simple wardrobe is a bit of a modified capsule wardrobe.  It’s inspired by a minimalism, but doesn’t go to the extreme that many capsule wardrobes you see on Pinterest call for.

Why you should you have a simple wardrobe?

Having a simple wardrobe, and a smaller wardrobe, gives you less choices and makes getting ready simpler and quicker.  Not only do you have less items to choose from, but everything you have you should love, and most things can be mixed and matched and worn with anything else in your closet.

A simple wardrobe means less laundry.  Need I say more?  You know when you have enough clothes that you don’t have to do laundry but once a month.  Then laundry day arrives and you’re staring down a mountain the size of a small car?  When you have less clothes, you’re forced to do laundry more often, and it doesn’t get to the point where it’s overwhelming. 

I don’t know about you, but for me folding and putting clothes away was always the WORST part.  Finding space in my drawers, and cramming things in so I have to force them shut was always a dreaded chore.  Once you pare down your wardrobe and get rid of the dead weight, it’s so much easier to find the space for everything.

That leads me to my next point.  Having a simple wardrobe and taking control of your finances go hand in hand.  If you want to do one, it’s going to help you with the other.  Whichever way you look at it.

Once you’ve established your simple wardrobe, shopping for fun becomes a thing of the past.  You’ll save money because when you do shop, you’ll be looking for specific items to fill a gap, or replace something specific, and items that you love and will wear often.  With a simple wardrobe, you always shop with intention and you won’t be buying things that don’t go with anything else in your closet.  Even though you might spend more for a quality item, the price per wear will be lower because you love everything you have and wear it all often. 

You need less space.  A simple wardrobe doesn’t take up so much real estate in your closet.  You could even do with a, dare I say it – smaller closet.  GASP!  Well if you’re looking to save money each month, maybe you can rent out that second bedroom you’re using as a closet.  Or look for a place with less square footage, and smaller closets?  Or maybe you have extra dressers or wardrobe that you can sell because you’re such a wardrobe ninja that you don’t need them anymore.

How to create a simple wardrobe

So you’ve decided to try living with a simple wardrobe.  Now what?  How do you pare down a large wardrobe to get to a simple wardrobe? 

Follow this simple guide for paring down your overwhelming closet to a manageable simple wardrobe.

The first and easiest step is to pull everything out of your closet, dressers, totes, wherever you store your clothes.  Go through every single piece and make three piles – keep, toss and donate. 

Toss anything that’s worn out or damaged.  You haven’t fixed it yet, so don’t save it, just get rid of it.  Put items that don’t fit or aren’t flattering into the donate pile.

After you’ve eliminated anything damaged or poorly fitting, you’ll be ready to really see what you have to work with.  Go through each of your items one at a time and think about the last time you wore it.  If you can’t remember when you last wore it, it’s time to let it go.  Add it to the donate pile.

Put items you wear all the time back in your closet. 

The key to living with a simple wardrobe is having items that work together.  Every top can be worn with every bottom.  Every sweater with every top and bottom.

Versatile items that can be dressed up or down are a must.  Wear it with jeans on Saturday running errands or dress it up with a nice pair of pants and some jewelry for a day at the office.  You can change your accessories to change the look too.  From heels, to flats, to sneakers.  Add or change the jewelry to change the look as well.

Choose a color palette and general style that’s flattering for you, that you enjoy wearing, and make sure everything coordinates.  All tops can be worn with any of the bottoms, etc.

A simple trick to keeping a simple wardrobe is to keep only solid bottoms in neutral colors, black, brown, navy, gray, or white.  Then your tops can be of any color or pattern and still go with all of the bottoms. 

Include layers that also coordinate with all of your tops and bottoms.  I like to go with black, khaki and navy pants.  All of my tops are in the blue color family.  Then a few cardigans in black, tan, cream and light blue can be worn with everything.   

You might be left with a very small wardrobe at this point, like I was.  You can try out your wardrobe size for a while and see if it suits you or if you feel you need a few more items.  

I was left with 3 pair of pants and 6 tops for work.  I found that this was a perfect amount of clothes for me.  I could easily wear the pants to work twice before washing.  I would wear each top once and do my laundry on the weekend.  

Speaking of laundry.  With a wardrobe this size, I could easily take care of it all in one load and it was a breeze to put it all away!

If you can’t complete a simple wardrobe from your current wardrobe, don’t worry.  This is where you can practice shopping with intention.  

Make a list of the things you need to complete your simple wardrobe and get the full benefit of mix and match.  When you’re shopping, look for specific items.  Have your color palette in mind to make sure everything coordinates.  Don’t buy that shirt with the wild print if it won’t go with anything else you own.  Don’t pick up a boho chic skirt if your closet is full of traditional tops. 

Use your judgement

Of course, there is room for some exceptions when following a simple wardrobe format.  It’s good to have at least one option for different situations.  For instance, maybe you work from home so you live in jeans and t-shirts, so you don’t need those dresses or suits from the old office job. 

It might be smart to keep one professional outfit, like a dress, or a good pair of slacks and a jacket.  You never know what might come up.  A versatile black dress in a classic cut is always in style.  It can be dressed up with jewelry and heels for a party, or worn alone for a funeral.  Pair it with a blazer and pumps for a job interview.

Sentimental items are hard to part with.  If you have the space, by all means, pack those things up nicely and put them somewhere safe.  Just don’t keep them hanging in your closet if you don’t have the space to spare. 

My wedding dress comes to mind.  It was professionally cleaned and preserved in a fancy box 16 years ago.  I have no children.  My sister has no children.  There is no logical reason to keep it.  Yet, I still can’t let it go.

After you’re done putting everything you want to keep back in the closet, immediately take the donation bag (or bags!) to your car and drop it off at a donation box within two days.  Don’t let it be clutter around your house for weeks or months.

You can find clothing drop boxes located in parking lots around town, or donate them at a second hand store, church, or a local charity if you have it.  In my county, the county mental health association runs a second hand store to raise funds for the community.  We also have a halfway house for homeless women and children in my town.  I like to support local organizations.

How much is enough?

What’s the perfect size wardrobe?  Well that depends.  If you work in an office, you’re probably going to need more than someone who works from home.  If you wear a uniform, maybe you don’t need as many street clothes. 

The great thing about this style of wardrobe is that there are no hard and fast rules.  Do what works for you, but also keep it simple.

Buy quality not quantity

When you’re looking for those replacement items or completing your simple wardrobe, look for the best quality you can afford.  In a simple wardrobe, it’s quality over quantity.  

You don’t need 5 pairs of khaki pants.  You can buy one good quality pair that can stand to be worn multiple times a week and washed every week.  This brings the cost per wear down, so in the long run it actually costs less than the less expensive pair that didn’t get as much use before it was damaged beyond repair.

Love what you wear all the time

According to California Closets, the average woman only wears 20% of her clothing.  Reasons for this could be they don’t fit right, or the color or style doesn’t flatter you.  Some styles are no longer in fashion, or just aren’t “you.”  Maybe the item doesn’t go with anything else in your closet. 

If you follow these steps to a simple wardrobe, you’ll fill your closet with fewer clothes, but all of them are clothes that you love and enjoy wearing.  And because it’s a smaller wardrobe, you’ll be wearing all of the items, and you’ll be wearing them all of the time. 

Maintaining a simple wardrobe, you’ll be shopping with intention so you won’t be making that impulse buy for the top that looks great on the hanger but doesn’t go with anything else in your wardrobe.

How to maintain a simple wardrobe

Once you’ve done all the work to create a simple, capsule wardrobe, you’re going to want to keep it under control.  Why go through all that work to put yourself right back where you started?  Here are some tips and tricks to help you maintain your new wardrobe.

A great simple wardrobe tip is to hang all of the hangers backward, so that the hook goes off the back of the closet rod.  As you wear each item and put them away, put them back the right way.  Once or twice a year, go through your closet and remove anything that hasn’t been turned around yet, indicating it hasn’t been worn in some time.  Consider donating these items.

Limit the number of hangers in the closet.  Whatever you find the perfect amount to be, keep it consistent.  Don’t go out and buy more hangers when you run out of space because you bought something new. 

Follow the 1 in 1 out rule.  When you bring something new into the house, you have to remove something.  With this new closet, every item is purchased with intention.  Once you’ve established a complete wardrobe, you’ll only be replacing items when they are worn, damaged, or don’t fit.  You should shop with intention and know exactly what you’re buying, and what you’ll be getting rid of.

Don’t trust me, try it for yourself!

Too scared to limit yourself too much?  Afraid you won’t have enough options in your wardrobe?

Follow the process, but instead of donating the items, just pack them up and put them out of sight for a month.  If you don’t go looking for them, you know you don’t need them.

Once you get used to a smaller wardrobe, you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner!  

Try it for yourself and see.  Comment below and share your favorite simple wardrobe tip!

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8 thoughts on “How to Create a Simple Wardrobe”

  1. I wish I could have a minimalist wardrobe but i can’t give up of my 10 pairs of jeans and all of my fluffy clothes !
    But i changed a lot as well for the past 3 years so i think that might happen one day.
    Loved the post !

    1. Everyone has different needs – some might need 10 pairs of jeans, some might need 10 bathing suits. Living in the northeast, I actually have 10 different jackets – something for every weather condition. That’s what’s so great about this system. Don’t feel like a failure if you can’t cut it down to 9 items.

      I never would have thought a simple wardrobe would work for me. I’ve always struggled picking out my clothes in the morning and a simple wardrobe is actually is the best thing I’ve ever done to fix that. Perhaps you’ll find some version of a simple wardrobe that works for you!

  2. Great post!! I am in the process of simplifying my life and my closet is the one area I have been too scared to start on! Time to get to reorganizing, thanks for the tips!

    1. If you’re hesitant, start with the backward hanger trick or putting questionable items in storage for a month and see if you go back for them. Good luck!

  3. Great advice. I have way too many clothes. I try to purge at least once a year but for some reason I hold on to some items that I haven’t worn in forever for way too long. I need to do this!

    1. Thanks for the comment! I admit, there are some clothes I don’t wear often, but I just can’t bring myself to let them go either. It’s definitely something I need to work at myself.

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