How To Minimize and Simplify Your Wardrobe

Is your closet cluttered? Are you constantly purchasing new clothing & accessories to keep your wardrobe fresh and exciting? Do you have nothing to wear?

Over the past six years, I’ve transitioned from a sweatpants-and-hoodie-wearing college student to a working professional with a small but versatile closet full of clothes I truly love.


Keep reading for my best tips for minimizing and simplifying your wardrobe.

In November 2017, I was a panelist speaker at a Rochester Minimalists Meeting about this same topic. I encourage you to listen to the entire recording of that evening by clicking here (my speaking starts at around  25:00 minutes in) for even more tips and advice.

Below is a summary of what I recommend if you want to create a curated closet:

The most important and time-consuming step! Set aside time to look through and try on everything you currently own.

Keep only what you love.

Too big or too small? You don’t need it taking up space. A special occasion dress for no particular upcoming occasion? I’d sell it on a site like Poshmark, thredUP or ebay. Thirty cardigans, when you know you always gravitate toward the same three? Why not donate the rest to your local thrift store?

The general rule of thumb is that if you haven’t worn it in a year, you really don’t need it.

Now that your closet is full of items you love, examine what’s left and make a list of what you need to buy. You may have eliminated all but one of your blazers, for example, so perhaps you need a tan blazer in addition to the black blazer in your closet.

Did you keep clothing that you indeed truly love, but that may be a bit worn out and need replacing soon? Keep that in mind as you begin shopping.

These next steps are so crucial if you want to maintain your minimal, versatile wardrobe.

You must buy only what you LOVE. 

In my case, I know that if I’m in a store trying on clothes, a faux fur vest, for example, and I look up “faux fur vest outfit” on Pinterest because I’m not quite sure how this vest will fit into my wardrobe, that’s a signal that I should not be buying it!

Pay attention to the items you are selecting. Does that skirt just have a really cute pattern but in reality, you’d never actually wear it because it’s too short? Do those heels make you feel like a million bucks during the first ten seconds or trying them on but you quickly realize they are so painful you’d never really wear them?

Another important tip is to try to avoid looking at the price of an item, initially. Since the majority of my shopping is second-hand at thrift stores and consignment shops, it’s a lot easier to not pay attention to price at first. But if you’re only shopping the clearance racks and picking out pieces simply because they’re at a deep discount and not because you actually love them, you’re actually only wasting your hard-earned money.

Be sure to take your time when shopping. Don’t expect to rebuild your wardrobe overnight. Feel comfortable walking out of a store without buying anything. If you’re shopping online, don’t add a few random items to your cart just to get free shipping.

Versatility is everything.

This is why I’m a big fan of neutrals (black and gray) and small patterns that can be combined. Your goal should be to be able to mix and match your wardrobe as much as possible.

Don’t buy the skirt that will require you to purchase a top in a specific shade of blue and shoes to match. To me, if you can only wear that skirt in “one way”, what’s the point? I’d personally rather have a black skirt that I can wear with literally any top or sweater in my closet.

This is not to say that you shouldn’t have a few “fun” pieces in your wardrobe, but the more versatile every piece is, the more outfits you have to wear and the more you resist buying new items!

Yes, there will absolutely come a day when you become bored with your current wardrobe. My advice is to seek inspiration – find new ways to combine clothing you already own! This is a case in which I do recommend Pinterest, where there are endless ideas for what to wear.

Try a sweater over a dress. Or a skirt over a dress. Add a belt over that long cardigan.

Another classic case of wardrobe fatigue occurs when the seasons are changing. You just want a few new pieces! I am all for buying a few new pieces, as long as your stick to the tips above. Make sure your purchases are intentional and versatile that you can wear beyond the current season.

My go-to example for this tip is ironing: I can’t stand it. It’s my least favorite chore, by far. So, I am careful to purchase items that do not require ironing (but I do have a handheld steamer for emergencies 🙂 ). I’ve bought countless 100% cotton items and similar wrinkle-prone items before that I ultimately have donated or sold. I just know that I will not wear them, so now I don’t buy them!

Be careful with trends. Over the years, I’ve bought a handful of puffer vests to wear in the fall and winter, and I’ve even shared vest photos on the blog before, but I’ve come to accept that I am just not a vest person. So, I don’t spend my money on them, and my wallet and closet are happier for it.

Aim for quality over quantity. I used to have close to twelve pairs of booties, but now I own only three pairs of comfortable, durable, quality booties that go with literally everything in my work wardrobe. Until these wear out, I don’t need more. It’s as simple as that.

I hope these tips are helpful to minimizing and simplifying your wardrobe. They are derived from my real experiences (and failures) in creating a beautiful, versatile closet.

If you have more tips, please share them below!


Leave a Reply