It’s been almost two years since I quit buying clothes and started “minimizing” my wardrobe. Other than one purchase last December [which you can read about in my post My First Clothing Purchase in 19 Months], I have not bought any clothing since I made the commitment to simplify my wardrobe and put an end to my consumerism.
Originally, I was thinking that this would be like a victory lap where I show off how little clothes I have…
Until I actually pulled them all out and counted them. I still have 155 pieces of clothing!!!! That doesn’t sound very minimal to me, but if you look at the difference in the photo below, I’ve definitely made some progress.
Still, this is not exactly as “minimal” as I had hoped.
Here are the numbers:
In general, this is good progress – but I felt like I had WAY LESS than 155 pieces of clothing!! And now I see that I still have too many workout tops and tank tops and underwear and – why the heck do I need two bathrobes?!?!
So, since we are moving and downsizing, I’m going get rid of 55 more pieces so that I end up with an even 100.
What I Wear
I have the benefit of having a casual job and a lack of concern about what people think of my clothes which makes it very easy to get dressed.
Sure, I like to dress up sometimes. I have a few dresses I keep for summer and skirts I like to go out in on hot dates with my man…but in general, I’m a leggings and loose top over a camisole kinda gal.
I’ve already shown my favorite outfit – leggings with a camisole and a button-down flannel that I stole from my partner’s closet.
I recently stole another one – black this time – and I wear this one a lot now too.
I intentionally kept neutral pieces so that I can create as many outfits as I need – but in reality, I only need a handful.
The majority of my wardrobe still consists of workout clothes because that is my job and my passion and my hobby and the majority of what I wear.
What You Should Wear
Since I am the absolute LAST person who should be telling anyone what to wear, I’m obviously not going to make any recommendations. But if you are interested in reducing your wardrobe, here are some tips I recommend:
1. Get rid of what you NEVER WEAR.
If you have clothes that you never wear, well, chances are you don’t need those. So that’s a good place to start with decluttering your closet. And if you pay attention to what those types of things are and avoid acquiring more of them [regardless of how adorable they look on the mannequin], then you’ll be well on your way toward a less excessive wardrobe.
2. Stop buying what you don’t NEED.
Very few of us actually need new clothes, but we all buy stuff for different reasons. Mindfulness and a little self-reflection go a long way in this regard. I discovered that I liked the idea of certain clothing [wearing a certain style or looking a certain way], so I would buy it, but then never wore it because it wasn’t my thing. I also used to have a terrible problem with turning down “deals.” PSA: Just because something is cheap doesn’t mean you should buy it!
3. Find YOUR style and wear it with PRIDE.
We don’t all have to look alike. In fact, it’s kind of nice that we have the ability to choose what we like and what looks good on us, so let’s not fall into the trap of letting anyone tell us what we should like or buy or wear. Also, forget all that hogwash about not wearing the same shirt twice and don’t wear white after Labor Day and all that other nonsense. Do whatever you want and don’t worry about anyone else thinks.
Anyway, these are just the things that I’ve been learning and embracing over the past two years.
As always, if you need to know the reasons behind reducing your clothing habits, watch The True Cost documentary and/or read Overdressed by Elizabeth L. Cline.
After 19 months without buying any clothes, I have finally made my first purchase.
I’ll tell you what I bought and why I bought it, but first…
In May of 2018, I started this blog with a promise to not buy ANY clothing for a full year and to donate 26 items from my current wardrobe each month.
I had just finished reading the book The Year of Less by Cait Flanders and knew instantly that I had to change the way I consumed everything – starting with my clothes.
As someone who has never really been that concerned with clothes or fashion, I was shocked to discover that I had WAY TOO MUCH clothing in my closet [and dresser and storage] – 486 pieces in total. I had so much clothes that even after the year was up, I still had more than enough, so I made a new commitment to purchase clothing only when it was needed.
Seven months went by and I still didn’t need any clothes. By this time, I was so used to not buying clothes that I insisted my current stuff [socks with holes so big they barely stay on, and underwear so stretched out from pregnancy that they barely stay on as well] was “perfectly sufficient.”
My partner rolled his eyes.
Then, on Christmas morning, he gave me a gift card for a brand that I have already given a rave review in my post My Favorite Ethical Clothing Brands so that I could buy some much needed intimates.
My First Clothing Purchase
That very day, I placed an order for some new panties and a bra at Naja.co, ending my 19 month hiatus from buying clothes. But this purchase was different than any clothing purchase I have made in my entire life.
After a year and a half of reading and educating myself, reflecting on my values and ultimately setting my requirements for new clothes going forward – I made a purchase that I feel really good about.
The purchase was necessary. Undergarments are an obvious necessity – though I don’t need a big selection. Seven pairs of underwear, two comfy bras, and a selection of good sports bras are all I really need. I’m done buying clothing [or anything else for that matter] to make myself feel better [aka retail therapy]. I’m not going to buy clothing because I am out and see an advertisement that makes me want something that I don’t actually need. I’m not going to buy clothes just because they are cute or stylish or CHEAP. I am only buying clothes when I need them.
The purchase had to be new. I have a commitment to buying used whenever possible. For obvious reasons, intimates are not available used. So, I had no choice but to buy new.
As a reminder, here is the “Buyerarchy of Needs” by Sara Lazarovic.
The company is ethical and eco-conscious. If I have no choice but to buy new, then I want to purchase clothing that is made ethically and sustainably – meaning a company that prioritizes taking care of EVERY PERSON in its supply chain and making a concerted effort to protect the environment. The clothing industry is taxing on the environment no matter how it is done [but, obviously, so is just plain living], but some companies are trying to do a better job. The heart of the company is what I care about most.
When I buy something, I am essentially casting my vote for that business. I cannot say that I want companies to treat their garment workers fairly if I am not willing to stop buying from the companies that don’t.
And this leads to the final and [for me] biggest difference in my shopping habits.
The cost didn’t matter. I spent $100 for three pairs of underwear and a comfy day bra. In my previous life, I would have NEVER spent $100 on four items of clothing so small they were shipped to me in a manila envelope. I would have called this “highway robbery.” I would have said, “Why would I pay that price when I can go to Target and get a pack of five panties for $9.99?!”
Wow, have I changed.
Now I am buying based on my values – not the cost. [And of course, now I can afford to spend more money because I don’t buy more than what I actually need.]
How can I expect a company to pay a fair price for the cotton and a fair price to the garment worker and a fair price to the store employees if I am unwilling to pay a fair price for the item? Seriously, I cannot even go buy the material to make a pair of cotton panties [let alone pay myself for actually making them – which of course is a skill I absolutely do not have] for as cheap as I can buy them. How can I expect my clothing to be cheaper than the cost of the material??
We, the consumers, are the heart of this problem – even more so than the companies taking advantage of desperate and impoverished workers around the world. We have to be the ones to say that we care enough to pay MORE. Being cheap is not a virtue if it’s hurting people, and just because we don’t see the hurt doesn’t mean it isn’t happening. We live in such a global economy now that we can no longer turn a blind eye to the suffering that is literally caused by OUR demand for cheaper and cheaper goods.
The companies also have a responsibility to do the right and decent thing – I’m not letting them off the hook entirely. But we have the power to make changes by changing how we shop.
This change simply MUST HAPPEN.
[I’ve mentioned it A MILLION TIMES, but if you want more info, watch the documentary, The True Cost – or read Overdressed by Elizabeth L. Clineor Wardrobe Crisis by Clare Press.]
So, now what?
The results of my clothing ban have been amazing. I am so happy that I made this change[and I’m not just saying that].Besides supporting ethical and sustainable brands, there are other practical benefits of a minimalist wardrobe.
1. I love everything in my closet. Never again will I put on a shirt and then remember how the seam always irritates my armpit or how the top is just a little too snug or how the material is kind of itchy or whatever the problem was that caused me to never wear it.I’ve gotten rid of all that stuff. Now I only have pieces I love. They fit great. They look great. Some are even so worn that they have holes, but I love them so much I wouldn’t think of parting with them. Imagine having a wardrobefull of clotheslike that. I also love them because they fit my “style” [or do they fit my style because I love them?]
Which brings me to the next thing I love about my minimal wardrobe.
2. All of my clothes are MY style. The world of fashion is all about style: what is trending, what’s hitting the runways, what’s everyone going to be wearing next season, etc. I have taken all of the work out of being stylish by simplywearing my own style. And, quite frankly, I don’t care if anyone else likes it. Most people don’t even know what their style is because they are trying to be “in style” whatever that style may happen to be at the moment, rather than dressing for themselves. Wear whatever YOU want. Don’t let anyone else tell you what you should and shouldn’t wear. If you don’t know what your style is, get rid of every piece of clothing that you don’t absolutely love, and look at what is left. THAT is your unique style, and going forward you can bypass any other type of clothing that someone else or a clever ad tries to tell you you should be wearing. Wear your style. And wear it with pride.
My personal style is SUPER casual, mostly sporty, always comfy. I like to wear a fancy [read: sexy] cocktail dress on very rare and special occasions. I love long, flowing dresses in the summer.I love long, slouchy sweaters in the winter. I like neutralcolors.My favorite shirt is actually a blue and white checked flannel button-down that I stole from my partner’s closet. So apparently my style also includes menswear. So what?
I wear what I like and I like what I wear.
3. Gettingdressed is a breeze. With not as many choices, it is very easy to get dressedfor any occasion. It’s also super easy to pack. Over the holidays, I went on two short trips to visit family. I literally packed in three minutes and I only needed half a duffle bag for three nights. I only own one nice sweater and two pairs of jeans, so I don’t have to choose between a bunch of options.And since I love it all [see #1] and it’s all my style [see #2], then it doesn’t really matter what I choose.
4. I take better care of my stuff. My clothes have a greater value to me than they ever did before– partially because I love them so much and also because I don’t buy new stuff soI need my current clothes to last. I have completely erased the “take and toss” mentality that our society has toward clothing and replaced it with a “wear, take care, mend and repair” attitude. [I just made that up!]
5. My clothes take up less space. When I started the clothing ban, my husband and I each had a dresser and a closet full of clothes AND additionalbins of clothing in the shed. Today, all of my clothes fit in my closet. And folks, I don’t have a walk-in closet. A walk-in closet for me wouldtotally be overkill. [Side note: have you seen those families on HGTV who use the whole spare bedroom as their closet?!?!] The benefit of a smaller wardrobe is the same benefit as having fewer of anything – fewer things to take care of, less space needed to store it, less money spent to pay for the space to store it, more money to spend on things that matter like family, experiences, giving, etc.
2020 Is My Year of Less
It’s probably not a surprise that I won’t be shopping for unnecessary clothing ever again, but this year I am extending my values to all other purchases.
I have already started the 30-Day Minimalism Game this month to kickstart my year of less. I am not promising to never buy anything – but I am committing to purchase only things that we need [excluding gifts and things for the kids, of course] AND to remove unnecessary items from my home [at least 30 per month]. I will post a monthly update of what I have gotten rid of and what new things we have purchased [excluding consumables, which right now are only food and toilet paper]. I’m going to keep my zero waste goals in mind as well, which makes this tough because I can’t just throw everything I don’t want into the rubbish bin.
But I am very excited. If this year of less goes as well as my clothing ban did – it’s going to be a great year.
Clothing items purchased: 0 (bought no clothes at all – not for me or my kids. My husband did buy some clothes for work and bought me one of the above mentioned gifts)
[The shopping ban officially ends at the end of May on my 32nd birthday, but I’ll talk more about that then.]
The conclusion of this challenge [or experiment or whatever you want to call it] has come at the perfect time – right before I give birth to my fourth and final baby. So, on one hand, I am still holding on to some larger sizes that I will be able to permanently get rid of as soon as I shrink out of them AND a wealth of maternity clothes that I am anxious to find a good home for – possibly with a local pregnancy center. But, on the other hand, it has allowed me to clear out my wardrobe before the newborn craziness begins and my priorities switch once again to meeting the constant needs of the baby. Couldn’t have timed it better if I tried, quite honestly.
Soon I’ll be sharing my favorite ethical clothing brands that I plan to support in he future – in the absence of used clothing options.
It has been ten months since I committed to one year without buying any clothes and to donating 26 clothing items per month – my self-imposed clothing ban.
Since then, I have not bought any clothing for myself or my kids [though my husband did buy me a sweater a few months ago] and I have donated 297 items of clothing from my wardrobe.
And I still don’t need any new clothes.
In fact, I feel like I still have an excessive amount of clothes – but, after I have this baby, I will be able to give away all of my maternity clothes and, after I get back to my regular size, I will be able to give away all my postpartum stuff as well. That will probably cut my wardrobe in half – again.
Last year, I heard about fast fashion for the first time when I watched the documentary The True Cost, which highlights many of the ways that fast fashion hurts not only our planet but people all over the world.
“It’s no secret that fast fashion has been responsible for a catastrophic level of environmental pollution. The trifecta of overt use of raw materials, water pollution and greenhouse gas emissions are only a part of the story. Not only is this circular buy, wear and toss behavior impacting landfills and becoming a major carbon contributor, but that may not be the worst of it.Fast fashion has played a very dark rolein contributing to black-market trafficking of forced labor, as evidenced in theNew York Timesdocumentary,Invisible Hands, by journalist Shraysi Tandon.” – Forbes (read the article here)
I honestly had never considered how my “buy, wear, and toss” consumer mentality towards clothes [and all products] was affecting the world around me.
And it IS affecting the world. The only question was, did I care enough to change my spending habits? Hence the clothing ban.
This clothing ban has left me permanently changed. It may be over in May, but I will never be able to go back to my old ways of spending money.
Once again, if you haven’t watched The True Cost, DO IT!
This month, I’m donating [or recycling] 27 items of clothing plus three maternity pieces. [Maternity clothes don’t count towards my total because I didn’t count them in my original clothing inventory].
It’s crazy how much my perspective on my possessions – especially my clothes – has changed over the past ten months. I look in my closet now and I still have way too much, even after giving away more than 270 items from my wardrobe. How on earth did I ever justify buying new clothes? And at the same time I was probably complaining about money being “tight.”
I must have been crazy.
There have been moments when I could have bought more clothes. Believe it or not, I have actually worn my maternity workout pants straight from the washer a few times because I only have one pair and I exercise six days a week, so sometimes when I haven’t had time to dry them [or I forgot about them in the wash…oops], I just put them on straight from the washer. Other times I just wear them over and over again until laundry day. I’ve thought about how nice it would be nice to buy another pair. But I’m only going to be pregnant for a few more months and I don’t really need need them.
So I just do without. And I’ve been doing just fine. [I might be a little smelly…but hopefully no one notices.]
Even though my clothing ban technically ends in two months, I can’t imagine needing to buy any clothing for a very long time. I originally was planning to purchase something from Patagonia, which is one of my preferred ethical brands, as a way of ending the ban in May, but I can’t even justify that because I literally don’t need any clothes. When I do need something though [as in really need something], I look forward to using my consumer dollars to support a company who is transparent and ethical in its treatment of all members of the supply chain AND committed to sustainable and eco-friendly practices [like Patagonia].
If you haven’t read Cait Flander’s book, The Year of Less, or watched the documentary The True Cost, both of which inspired the start of my clothing ban last May [and my subsequent transformation], YOU SHOULD DO IT ASAP. They will not leave you unchanged.
Three notable things happened this month regarding my clothing ban:
1. We sold our bedroom set and moved all of our clothing into our closets.
I have these six drawers [still hanging around from my college days] which contain all the clothes that currently fit [all seasons] and a top shelf that holds all of the clothes that I can’t fit into while pregnant but that I will [hopefully] fit into again someday. I also have some hanging dresses/skirts/cardigans [maternity and regular].
This feels like a big accomplishment – and also makes our bedroom feel MUCH larger in the absence of the huge sleigh bed with storage, two full dressers, and two excessively large nightstands, which of course we thought we needed when we got married.
My, how we’ve changed. Now, our bed is on the floor, two plastic storage bins serve as nightstands, and we have a laundry basket against the wall. That’s it.
[Well, we also currently have a huge collection of items headed to charity along one wall.]
2. Brett bought me a sweater.
I mean, look at this thing! It is basically a Snuggie that I can wear out of the house without ridicule! Would you say no to this level of comfort???
This is the first new piece of clothing I have bought [indirectly] since last May. I’ve received a new work uniform, two race shirts for the Chicago Marathon, and a dress that was a Christmas present, but this is the first piece of clothing to come from our money.
I kinda feel badly about it. [But only kinda.] It was new and it was from Express. Neither would be my preference. But it’s so soft and so comfy and I have worn it literally every day since I got it.
And I technically didn’t buy it…
As penance, I’m giving away an extra ten items from my wardrobe this month for a total of 36.
Hey, I never said I was perfect.
3. I mended some clothes instead of tossing them.
By “mended” I mean I used a travel sewing kit to [very poorly and by hand] stitch a few holes and tears in a couple of clothing pieces that I would like to wear again. A year ago, I would have tossed these and just bought a replacement. [I wouldn’t have even recycled them! Egad!]
Now I’m wondering whether I should try to fix my socks with holes…
[googling “how to darn socks”]
We are in the middle of the “polar vortex” here in Chicagoland with temperatures in the -20s, which has me thinking of all the less fortunate people in my community without warm clothes, without winter coats and hats, and everyone living on the streets who hopefully found somewhere warm to stay today.
It made me think, Why should everyone in my family have multiple coats, hats, and pairs of gloves when there are people in my own community who have none?
So, I am going to give all of our extra winter gear to local shelters who are providing safety and warmth for the less fortunate in my town. We only need one winter coat. And the extra coat that just sits in the closet most of the time might make a big difference to someone this winter.
If you are as privileged as I am to always have a warm place to sleep and lots of warm clothes and several warm coats, I hope you’ll consider doing the same.
Last month I didn’t gather the required 26 wardrobe pieces for donation mostly because I wasn’t doing much of anything in November due to debilitating morning sickness [and a general feeling of laziness]. So this month I have a pile of 52 clothing items from my closet that will be donated or recycled [depending on their condition].
I’ve now gotten rid of 208 pieces of clothing that I don’t need. I started with 486, which means I have almost cut my wardrobe in half.
And, after 8 months, I still have not bought a single item of clothing for myself. [I did buy a pair of socks for each of my kids’ Christmas stockings…]
In a few more months I plan to move all of my remaining clothes into my closet drawers and get rid of my ginormous dresser altogether, which will make our room feel so much bigger [and also provide a space for our pet, Petunia the Python, to live].
[I was up til 1am binging the entire Body Guard series on Netflix last night. Between that and The Great British Baking Show, I find myself using great British words like gobsmacked, bloke, dodgy, and – best of all – cheers! 🥂]
October marks the halfway point in my clothing ban. In the past six months, I haven’t purchased a single item of clothing [though I did acquire two new shirts for the marathon which were included with my entry – one from the race and one from the charity I ran with] and I have donated 156 items from my wardrobe to local charities.
We’ve also been through round one of decluttering our home. I’ve been through the entire house now and gotten rid of the surface level clutter – the easy stuff. But I know there are many rounds ahead. I’ve already been through three rounds on my book collection and two rounds on the toys and six rounds on my tank top collection – and I know there is still a lot more to free myself from in the future.
This month, since it is now fall and definitely, without a doubt, past tank top weather, I am donating every tank top that I did not wear all summer long. I probably mentioned before that tank tops are apparently my favorite piece of clothing because I used to own 57 pieces [!!!] – the biggest line item in my clothing inventory last May. I’ve weaned it down now to twenty, but really, I don’t need more than seven [for crying out loud].
So, it may be a few more rounds for the tank tops.
I also began setting aside everything I thought about wearing, but chose not to for whatever reason. Throughout the month there were several times when I put something on and stood in front of the mirror and had to ask myself if I actually wanted to wear it – or worse, asked my husband whether it was ok to wear. Each time, I immediately put it in the donate pile. If I’m wasting time wondering if I like it or if it fits or if it’s flattering … then, no. Buh-bye.
I am also getting rid of some socks and tights and underwear that I know I will never wear.
This process of weaning down my wardrobe has been very effective. Each month I have to make slightly tougher choices…but only slightly. I’m still working through a lot of excess.
So, don’t worry if you feel like you could never cut down your wardrobe. Just start with one thing. Just put one thing in the donate pile. Do it in waves. First get rid of all the easy stuff. Then come back and re-examine. Then get rid of the emotional stuff. Then come back again … and again until you’ve got only stuff you love and feel good about and actually need.
I’ve read in several books that a clean sweep is the best way to declutter. Collect everything of like type in your entire home and then after examining each individual thing, narrow it down to your favorite, say, 10% and get rid of the rest. But, for me, I have found that doing it in waves is more practical and much easier.
It’s hard to slash your belongings by 90% overnight. I don’t doubt that it’s possible, but I don’t think I could do it that way. I prefer to gradually free myself from belongings and then examine myself and realize that the more I let go, the less I need the stuff that remains, and then I cycle through again. In this way, I’m changing myself and not just the amount of stuff I own.
I am continually learning how little I need in this life to be happy and fulfilled – especially when it comes to clothing.
This month I’m giving away several sweaters and what’s left of my business casual pieces: some cardigans, skirts, blouses, and dress pants. I had been hanging on to these things “just in case” [which is by far my most frequent excuse for hoarding things I never use, by the way].
For most of these clothes the excuses were: “just in case I go back to work in an office” [BUT I have been so spoiled by working in the fitness world for the last five years that I never want to work for a company that requires this dress code again] and “just in case I visit a church that expects people to dress up” [BUT I know that I’ll never conform to a church dress code again either].
I still have a few nice dresses that I really like for hot dates with my husband or weddings or special occasions [or maybe that aforementioned visit to a church] that I would actually enjoy dressing up for.
But here is one “just in case” I’m not ready to let go of yet: I’m keeping one black mini-skirt just in case my husband takes me out dancing like back in the day.
This month I donated mostly workout tops that I don’t prefer any more, but also some sweatpants and pajamas I never wear, bras that don’t fit, and a Guess hoodie that I would like if I could fit my arms into it…but I can’t, so BUH-BYE.
All of these things have been well-loved at one time or another. Some of them even brought back wonderful memories of my early running days or special nights out with Brett… some were even [almost] hard to put in the “donate” pile. BUT my body and my style have changed a lot since those early days of marriage when Brett was constantly buying me trendy, form-fitting clothes in wild colors and prints. Now, if I’m leaving the house to go anywhere other than the gym, I much prefer my plain gray t-shirt (yes, it has a hole in it) with my one pair of jeans or, if I’m staying in, a loose fitting tank top over a bandeau with my jean cut-offs [or maybe sweat pants].
Maybe for date night I’d trade the ratty t-shirt for something a bit nicer…like a black t-shirt…but probably not. I like to be comfortable.
What can I say? I’m a casual gal. Plus, I don’t like being trendy. I’ve never been good at it – mostly because I’ve never been good at conforming. I prefer simple, monochromatic, functional clothing.
Here’s a secret I love to share: Brett has been buying all of my clothes [yes, ALL OF IT] and dressing me [not literally…] since we got married seven years ago. How many women can say that their husband is the fashionable one who picks out all of theirclothes???
Anyway, another month down, a third of the way done. So far I’ve donated 104 items of clothing. 👍🏻 208 to go!
Also, in the past four months, we [Brett and I] have not purchased any clothes or accessories for myself or the kids. The kids did get some clothing as gifts for birthdays. But we have far more going out than we have coming in the house, so that’s good.