Maintaining a Minimalist Wardrobe │Live Your Life like Your Future Self is Watching

A woman looking at a field of grass and the ocean
I went to an estate sale about ten houses down from me last week. I didn’t know the lady who had lived there, but I recall seeing her getting her mail, and sweeping off the driveway as I drove by her house over the years.

She may have passed away but more than likely, she moved to an assisted living facility where she didn’t need most of what she owned.

Her home was maybe 2000 square feet. It was only she who lived there and I knew this because of her closet. The entire thing was hers. And it was overflowing with clothing.

I sell vintage clothing, so this is always a plus - finding old clothing at decent prices. Being that it was right down the street from me was a bonus.

But, as I went through her sweaters, an entire rack of slacks and jeans, and another whole row of long-sleeved and short-sleeved blouses - rack after rack of clothing - my biggest thought was: Did she actually wear ALL of this stuff? 

I’ve read that the average person owns about 148 pieces of clothing. There’s a great website that talks about the capsule wardrobe and includes a survey on what and how many items people own in their closets. It’s enlightening and also thought-provoking.

The capsule wardrobe is just a touch too restrictive for me. I have a minimalist wardrobe for sure, and I’ve got it pared down to exactly what I love and wear, but it accommodates as much as I like and want. Which is how people should have their wardrobes.

So, a few years ago when I battened down the hatches and began to seriously dissect my closet and get rid of what I didn’t wear - and won’t wear - I found that in my early days of minimalism, I had about 150 items of clothing.  I was close to average but it felt on the high side. 

Since then, I’ve pared my closet down to 85 items. This doesn’t include shoes, belts, accessories, jackets or undergarments. The capsule wardrobe is so selective that all of those particulars I just mentioned are in the total.  I’m not ready for that yet.

But, I decided to do a little experiment and see if this 148 average was right. I had my two sisters and mom assess their wardrobes. One had 200 items, one had 180, and another had 160. So, apparently, my family is above average (which I heartily agree).

There is no right or wrong number here. But from my point of view, 148 may be a low statistic.

Here’s the thing: I wear and love every single piece in my wardrobe. But I wear and love every single piece since moving down to 85 items. When I was at 150 items, I knew I wasn’t wearing everything. And I certainly didn’t love everything.

My sisters and mom all have said that they don’t wear everything; some things they’re waiting to wear, and other things they hope to be a different size to fit.

Here are three simple statement steps you can implement to make your wardrobe minimal but perfectly suited to you. These three steps are what I used to pare down my wardrobe.

Keep What You Love: This is the first rule (if you want to call them rules) that every minimalist will tell you. As master minimalist Marie Kondo says, “Keep only what sparks joy.” For me, joy and love are the same here. I have to feel the best in it, or it goes. I have to love the piece and wear it with joy. If it fits both of those parameters, it stays in my closet.

Keep What Fits Right Now: None of this “I used to be this size” or “I’m keeping it for when I lose weight” or “One day I’ll wear this when…” If it doesn’t get worn now, it’s time to let someone else wear it. Don’t feel guilty about it either. If it still has tags on it, oh well. The odds are good you’re still not going to wear it even though you’ve seen the tags!

Keep What You’ve Worn The Last Year: That’s it. If you wore it two or three years ago, it’s not a “go-to” piece. If you wore it once, hold onto it. And if you don’t wear it the entire coming year, let it go - give it away to someone who can wear it, or donate it.

There’s a little test you can do to assess what you’ve worn and what you haven’t worn. On the first of the month, turn all your clothes around backward so the hangers face the other way. As you wear clothing throughout the year, face the hanger forward the correct way. At the end of a year, you’ll see what you have and haven’t worn. Easy enough. 

I’m quite certain the lady whose home I was barging through during the estate sale didn’t wear all the clothes she had in her closet. I know she didn’t or the closet would’ve had nothing in it, or very little.

Would she have liked to know that everyone was perusing through her things? Did she know I was quietly assessing her items? And maybe assessing her?

When we go through estate sales, we silently assess - and maybe criticize - the items in the closet or house or wherever we’re looking. Maybe she wouldn’t have cared that we traipsed through her belongings like gorillas over a banana pile. 

I do know that I don’t want people going through my things one day and I know I don’t want to be a burden. My closet is simple and sparse, but exactly as I love it. My family can donate the few items I have when that time comes.

I’m looking at myself in the future and it looks like my closet is where I want it. That’s a relief to me, a relief to my family (they just don’t know it yet), and most importantly, I love living with a simple, carefree, and stress-free closet.

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