Steps Towards Building a Minimalist Wardrobe

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Have way too many clothes for the space you are living in, or maybe you are overwhelmed by the number of choices in clothing that you have when you get up in the morning? A minimalist wardrobe will be perfect for you!

Building a Minimalist Wardrobe

Building a Minimalist Wardrobe

When you have very limited closet space in your home you have to be careful about everything you bring into it. On occasion, I love to go clothes shopping to change up my wardrobe. I like new (to me) things but I also like to spend very little on my clothes because I get them at rummage sales or thrift stores and then I either sell them or give them to someone when I’m ready to move on or if they no longer fit.

But if you checked out my tour of our 400 sq foot home, that we lived in 5 years ago you know that we didn’t have much closet space and personally I’d rather not fill what we do have with clothing! It was in this home that I learned how to have a minimalist wardrobe. In the next home we had, we barely had room for clothing because there were no closets, it was so old!

We’ve also lived in just 380 square feet (as a family of 5!) and I was happy to discover that when we moved in, I didn’t have to clean out any clothing. My wardrobe was already in a minimalist state and I didn’t need to pare it down to move in.

Today I’m sharing how I keep a fun minimalist wardrobe. These ideas are easy and things that anyone can do to help save space in your closets and keep your wardrobe simple. Not only is a simple wardrobe perfect for small spaces, but it creates much less of a headache in the morning when you are picking out what you want to wear for the day. Here are a few of my best tips for creating a minimalist wardrobe.

Minimal Kids Clothing

The kids’ clothing. More than enough for all of them! (One bin for tops, one for bottoms, and one for pjs. Baby has an extra bin for one piece rompers/outfits.)

Keep Less Space for Your Clothes

This concept is pretty simple. If you have less space for clothing, you will keep less clothing! If you have space, use your closet to organize something else instead of filling it with clothing. Create that linen closet that you already wanted or find room to organize some cluttery items that just don’t seem to have space.

We had too many clothes cupboards in one of our homes. Instead of thinking that I should fill them all up, I turned one into extra pantry space so that we can still shop at Costco and store the larger amounts of food while we are on the road.

Right now we have exactly one closet for hanging items (for all of us), one shelf closet for children’s clothing (which I keep in fabric bins for drawers), and small 3 bin shelf (for my husband and my clothing), and one dresser that we each have a small drawer in. You can read more about ideas for Minimal Children’s Clothing here.

Something else we’ve done is create a family closet. When all the family’s clothing must go in one closet, it’s easy to pare down to just what you need!

When Something New Gets Brought In, Something Old Goes Out

I use the rule that if I bring a new article of clothing in, something else that I’m not wearing as much needs to go out. Another good rule to follow when you are first starting to simplify your wardrobe is that when something new comes in, 2 or 3 things go out.

It’s a very painless way to keep your clothing closet thinned out. Then you keep it cleaned out and you can still change it up when you want to.

In our space, I only keep enough hangers for the clothes we currently have. If I went to the store to buy more hangers, I couldn’t just buy one. I would have to buy at least a pack of 10 which would make it tempting to add 10 more items to my wardrobe.

To keep from being tempted, I created the rule that I cannot add any more hangers to the closet. That means if I bring something new home, something must go otherwise I simply won’t have space for it.

Minimal Clothing

My husband and my clothing that is not hung. (Jeans, shorts, pants, lounge, etc.)

Remove Seasonal Clothing from Your Minimalist Closet

Up here in the North, we need a good amount of winter clothing as our winter runs for the majority of the year. Winter clothes take up so much room!

Instead of keeping all your clothing out all the time, put away the seasonal clothes into a plastic tote during the offseason. I don’t think you are going to wear that sweater when it’s 100 degrees out! This idea will help your clothing closet stay the most functional. Plus you won’t be storing a bunch of clothes in there that you aren’t wearing at the moment.

Plus when you pull them out during the correct season it will be like getting all new clothes again because you haven’t seen them in a while.

Keep Only What You REALLY Wear for Your Minimalist Closet

Do you have an outfit that you like? Or you wore once and swear you will wear it again but as of yet, you haven’t? Time for the outfit to go. If it’s nothing something you really need and you don’t really know if you are going to wear it again, sell it or donate it.

This can be a tough one when it comes to what you spent on the outfit. Many times we are keeping an item in our closet that we only wore once or twice, or maybe even never at all, just because we paid a lot for it.

If it’s taking up space in your closet that you don’t really have and don’t intend on using it again, you must let it go. Find someone to donate it to if you need to, but let it go.

Pretty Clothes

Keep Only What You REALLY Wear Part 2

Have you recently stopped working outside the home? Then do you really need those suits or business clothing anymore? Only keep the clothing that is actually practical for you to be wearing at this time in your life.

The same goes for those that are trying to lose weight. There’s no need to keep all your clothing (random sizes) in your closet at the same time. If you want to keep the smaller clothing, then just put it away until you get to that size. It will be like opening a present when you get to get out that plastic tote of smaller clothing!

One thing to remember with this step, don’t toss out clothing just because you don’t use it every day.

If you clean out your closet because you generally stay at home and only keep the comfy clothes. What happens when you go to town? Or go to church? Or have a get-together? Consider all of your normal activities before you fully clean out the closet.

Keep Minimalist Clothing That Goes Together

Have a zebra print skirt but no shirt to wear with it? Time for that to go. If you have a limited clothes closet…try and fill it with cute basics that go with many different things rather than single outfits that must go together.

Regular jeans, shorts, and neutral colored skirts are great staples. Then you can add fun shirts to go along with all those staples.

I have a number of basic tank tops. (My all-time favorite is from Duluth Trading!) In the summer I wear them with skirts and shorts, in the winter/fall/spring I put them on with a cardigan. Just those few basic tanks tops make up the majority of my wardrobe because they are so versatile.

Tank Tops

A few of my tank tops. I love these!

Build a Minimalist Wardrobe that Makes Sense

Finally, if you are needing to build a new wardrobe altogether or are lucky enough to start from scratch, you have the perfect opportunity to put together a great basic wardrobe that will fill all your needs. As I mentioned above, I enjoy having a few basics that create so many different outfits. It really helps me to make the most of my wardrobe!

I’m not a fan of t-shirts or long sleeve shirts. In the summer I’m all about tank tops and in the winter, cardigans and hoodies are my best friends. I use the tanks plain in the summer and under the other shirts in the winter. This way I can mix up several colors of tanks under the cardigans and get a different look every time.

For jeans, I have 2 pairs of basic pairs that I can use year-round and prefer skirts that are maxi or knee-length. I pair these with tanks in the summer and the tank/cardigan combo in the winter. In the winter I also add a pair of leggings underneath.

Along with a few pairs of capris/shorts that I use in the summer (mostly for gardening or outside work), and some dresses for church and town, this makes up my entire wardrobe. It’s pretty basic. But for me, as long as my clothing is comfy, modest, and useful, it makes up the perfect minimalist wardrobe.


Now while we are talking about clothes…here are some tips to do some thrifty clothes shopping at rummage sales and at consignment stores.

You might also want to consider Repurposing T Shirts for something fun and different to do while you save money on your wardrobe!

And if you DO happen to need to add to your minimalist wardrobe, I would recommend finding used clothing online if possible. Here are some of my favorite websites to clothes shop online.

Just getting into minimalism? Here are some of my other articles that you might enjoy!

What steps do you take towards building a more minimalist wardrobe?

merissabio

This article on Creating a Minimalist Wardrobe was originally published on Little House Living in October 2013. It has been updated as of February 2020.

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31 Comments

  1. Now that I am retired, I no longer need the same type of clothes I wore teaching.
    I haven’t gotten rid of anything yet, but I sure don’t need the amount that I have. I find myself wearing the same things-jeans and t-shirts when I don’t have to go anywhere. Thank you for spurring me on to simplify.

  2. Great tips! I especially like the one about keeping less space. After years of me asking, my husband finally cleaned out clothes from his high school years, because he ran out of room in our closet, lol. I like to go through my closet about every 6 months, and donate what I haven’t worn to goodwill.

  3. I am working on living a simpler life and currently do not work outside of the home. I still have a few dressier items in my closet for the times I need/ or want to look nice. My hair is long and usually it goes back into a ponytail; any ideas for replacing the elastic hair bands that I buy into something more frugal? I am trying not to have to purchase them anymore if I can make them. Thank you.

    1. My hair is also long. I use the big hair barrettes to keep my ponytail together. If you hair is thin, look for the smaller ones.

    2. I know this is a bit late, but I have a tip regarding the hair bands – you can make them by repurposing old stockings – just cut the leg part horizontally to create a short elastic “tunnel”. Thicker fabric or wider cut make stronger hair band.

      1. I do this too – cut all the elastic tops off old worn-out pop sox etc to make pony tail hair bands. I save the rest of the sock too as they make great plant ties for the garden.

  4. I remind myself that I can wash clothes once a week so don’t NEED that many.

    Also I stick to a basic color scheme, everything is matchable I have 1 set of brown shoes, boots, sandals that go with beige, white, brown-warm colors
    I have 1 set of black shoes, boots, sandals that go with black, gray-cool colors
    this helps me dress easier too for work-everything matches!!

  5. These are all very great tips, especially when you have limited space. I try to only keep things that I will love and I always separate my clothing by season.

  6. Great tips. I hold onto way to many clothes thinking I may just need that fancy shirt or that jacket that doesn’t quite fit right. I have less clothes than my husband but we both could get rid of a bag each easily:)

  7. Thanks for incentive to clean out old clothes. With twin teen girls who love clothes, space is a constant problem (and of course money to buy these clothes!) Since the weather is still mild in the south, I decided to have a yard sale now in addition to annual spring sale. People are more likely to buy seasonal clothes, having two a year is less work than one big sale, and extra cash is a good incentive for girls to clean out closets! Plus, the bonus of a tax deduction from Goodwill donation of everything not sold. A win-win for everyone! And room in our closets!!

  8. Thanks for the great tips. I have 2 closets and they were packed. I also had clothes in a storage tote, old suitcase case and a duffle bag. I took a really long hard look at things and purged like crazy. I just donated 15 bags of clothes. I had so many jeans in a smaller size that I finally understood when I get them to fit they will be so out of style. I am so much happier having less that I will be working on my kitchen next. I already have boxes lined up!

  9. I love the idea of something in something out. we have done that for a long time and wearing something until it is worn out and not just out of fashion too. great reminder ideas.

  10. Hi Merissa, Simplifying has been on my mind for a while now. I am 62 and my husband is 65. We live in a good size 2-story, four bedroom house. Of course we are empty-nesters. We are presently living only on the first floor. We are getting ready to put our home on the market again and really hope it sells this time. In the meantime I still want to simplify. I am trying to resist buying stuff(clothes etc.). I have so many clothes in my closet and it truly reflects the chaos in my mind. I have enjoyed reading your tips but it’s really hard to know how to begin. I have been through my closet once already and had a huge yard sale. I know you said to do it in stages. I go in there stand and look around for few minutes and walk out utterly frustrated. I guess I really need to know more about building a small stable wardrobe. If we sell the house I would like to be downsized already. I am not up to much health wise so I want to clear the decks so I can do more in my spiritual Ministry. I don’t want a lot to distract me. I need to be organized and need to cut down the everyday stress of life…money, bills that stress me because it stresses my husband. We’ve worked hard during our life to have what people call an American dream knowing full well things do not make you happy, dumb right. We are not rich , we do okay but we don’t want to live the rest of our life trying to hold on to things that aren’t that important. If you could offer me any other tips or encouragement, it would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

    1. It really sounds like you are on the right path Debra! I know the process seems like it takes forever but I promise that it’s worth it. Cleaning out to where we are now took me years (and I hadn’t even had that many years to accumulate!) and I’m still finding things we don’t need. Good luck with everything, I know you have an amazing journey to come! πŸ™‚

  11. I joined a website flylady.com which is all about getting rid of clutter. She has something called the 27 fling boogie. You take a garbage bag, run through the house and get rid of 27 things. Donate, throw away or give to friends but get it out of the house. I applied this to my closet and was surprised how many bags of clothesm shoes and bags I no longer needed or wanted. After a few flings, I really like my closet. Now I can wear everything in there and what’s better, I like them and they fit. Sorry. Long first post but this post just struck a chord with me. : )

  12. Really enjoyed your blog. I’m definitely going to declutter. Thanks for the inspiration.
    Regards Debby

    1. I’m not very big on accessories. I do have about 3 necklaces that can be paired with most of my outfits, some light scarves, and about 15 pairs of earrings. Oh and I have 3 belts, 2 wide belts and one thin one πŸ™‚

  13. You are on the right track, Melissa. Thanks for helping us. I am trying to lose weight to fit into a few dressy item that I have and for my health. That is a great idea for me to put them somewhere else for awhile (a plastic tub with lid). I Gained weight recently with helping my husband through bilateral knee surgery and having three community college students living here.

  14. My daughter visits from out of state twice a year. She wears my size in clothes and loves my taste in styles and colors. Being an extremely busy person, she has little time to shop and I have little closet space for extra clothes. I thin out my wardrobe each time. There’s a bonus, Too! I am 39 years older than her so I am careful to keep on buying youthful looking clothes and this keeps me feeling energized!

  15. Great ideas and tips that I pinned. I recycle, donate, or give away anything I replace with another item. My goal this year is to not buy anything made of plastic. I feel good that my efforts to minimalize helps the environment as well. Visiting you on this-is-how-we-roll-link-party-169, where my post is #177, Vacation Crime Prevention Checklist.

  16. Merissa, I have long followed the One In One Out rule, but I really like your addition to that idea: “rule that I cannot add any more hangers to the closet. That means if I bring something new home, something must go otherwise I simply won’t have the space for it.” Two other things that help me not accumulate too many clothes: 1. I hate shopping so only ever buy clothing when I really need it. 2. I stay the same size–you might say that’s a health benefit of #1! I put on some pants the other day I’ve had for 25 years! #HappinessIsHomemade

  17. I love these tips on building a minimalist wardrobe. I just transitioned to staying home so I’ve been on the fence about what to do with my business clothes that I still love but have no purpose for anymore! I created my first capsule wardrobe last year, and life is truely easier with it. I created an all-season capsule wardrobe, and we have small closets! I bet my decluttered closets will look even better after I take out my unused blazers. Thank you for your tips! I may steal some of your advice for our camping trips too.

  18. Some good ideas here! Building a capsule wardrobe changed my life. First, pick 3-4 colors. I picked black, white, ivory, and red for year ’round basics. 3-4 leggings / pants. 2-4 tunics. Add dusters/ sweaters in the same basics for layering. Then print kimonos, scarves. A black dress, a white dress, a pencil skirt. Shoes & bags & jewelry. A reversible raincoat. I’m done for the entire year and I can go anywhere with one small suitcase. Best thing I ever did!

  19. Indeed, we are to learn to live with less stuff, less talk, less jargon, everything in appropriate quantity in ratio to only one body we have and one life we were given on earth, to truly live, rather than being burdened by things.
    An uplifting contribution indeed.

  20. Recently moved. Got rid of 50% of my clothes and belongings and still have waaay too much for my new small home. At the age of 62, I feel the need to have less but finding it difficult even though I’ve been purging for over a year.

  21. My issue is that I have a lot of nice clothes!! It’s just so hard to get them go! Also, we have his and her walk-in closets. But my closet is full and I have almost too many choices! Help!!!

  22. I THINK YOUR WEB SITE IS GREAT.I AM OLDER AND I AM ALWAYS DOWN SIZING.YOU GIVE ME THE COURAGE TO DO THIS AND TO LET GO OF STUFF.SO THANK YOU SO MUCH,I WILL FOLLOW YOU.MARY