How to Simplify your Closet

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Every Fall and Spring, I rotate out my seasonal clothes. Last fall, I donated three garbage bags full of clothes. Two weeks ago, I donated another three, and I still have too much. This Spring, I recommend simplifying your wardrobe instead of cleaning your closet.

Empty your closet and put everything on the bed. This ensures that the project is done before the end of the day! Add clothes from any drawers that you have, and if you are feeling ambitious, bring in seasonal clothes that you are storing. Dump it all on the bed and admire the pile. Really appreciate how much money, space and time the pile is taking up.

Next step, ask the following questions for each and every piece:

  • Does it fit? Not, does it fit in five days or five pounds, but does it fit right now?

  • Do I love it?

  • Is it in good condition?

  • Does it speak to my be more with less lifestyle?

If the fashion receives a yes to each of these four questions, keep it. If not, donate it. You can also make a pile to send to a consignment store, but I think that drags out the process. There is great satisfaction to completing this project in a day. I plan to make another sweep at the end of June, but here is what I tossed at my initial attempt. I did keep two pieces for sentimental reasons. While I wasn’t quite ready to let them go, I am thinking about photographing them, and giving them up.

  • 1 Robe
  • 2 Winter outdoor vests
  • 13 summer shirts
  • 4 sweaters
  • 1 pair capri pants
  • 2 dress shirts
  • 2 blazers
  • 1 pair of jeans
  • 1 plaid skirt
  • 1 pair yoga pants
  • 1 workout top
  • 3 sets of PJs
  • 1 formal dress
  • 2 skirts
  • 1 sweatsuit
  • 1 sundress
  • 2 camisoles
  • 3 pair socks
  • 1 dressy hat
  • 1 belt
  • 1 scarf
  • 1 purse

What did you give up? Was it the pair of jeans that you have been trying to zip since high school, the concert t-shirt that always brings great memories but is too ratty to wear in public, or that awful patterned shirt you bought, because it was on sale, and was too good a deal to pass up?

Update: I dress with 33 items or less every 3 months with minimalist fashion challenge Project 333.


  1. says

    Hi I just found your blog and I love it! I have just started my own minimalist blog and yours is an inspiration.
    I have already been through my clothes and I’m down to the basics. One thing I noticed however was that now that I have embraced this minimalist lifestyle I no longer suit the clothes that I own. My frame of mind and lifestyle values are so completely different from 6 months ago. Not to mention that since I stopped eating meat and dairy I have gone from an Austrlian size 10 to a size 8.

    So I feel a totally new wardrobe coming on. But in the minimalist way of course:
    -Quality over quantity
    -Like colours to mix and match
    -Organic and natural fabrics
    -clothes that I love and fit perfectly

    Actually this sounds like a great idea for my next blog!

  2. Anne A. says

    I’m curious, you make the comment “Really appreciate how much *money*, space and time the pile is taking up.”

    Um, you already own it, how is it taking up money??

    Otherwise I totally agree with this article & have used similar techinques in the past & currently to reduce my wardrobe to what I ACTUALLY wear!!

    • Anne A. says

      I would recommend doing a garage sale if you are able, that way you recoup a very small amount of money from the clothes & items you no longer want/need, then put that money in your rainy-day/new-wardrobe jar!! That way the money gets “stays” in your wardrobe, complete recycling!

    • Will Hale says

      Anna A.,

      I interpret the comment to possibly “maintaining” clothing can cost: washing/dry cleaning costs, adding accessories to complement the clothing. Some clothes lend themselves to one of these more than others. It may not even be much money, but it is some. At the same time, I wonder at what point does less start leading to more costs? Fewer clothing could mean they are worn more often, washed more, soiled more, wear out more and need mending more. I currently own two pairs of jeans. I probably wash them more often than usual, which means I wash them more often so I have clothes to wear (and so I use washing resources more often). In the long term, will I spend more money keeping only two pairs at a time than I would if I doubled that number? Something for me to research!

    • AshATL says

      Anne, if someone has more clothes than they need, they may have made a decision about housing based on the extra space they “needed” My husband and I live in a 2-bedroom condo. If we didn’t have so much more junk than we need, we may have been able to get by with a one-bedroom place. Our rent would be cheaper, and our cost to heat and cool would be less, and we would spend less time and/or money cleaning.

    • Danielle says

      When I started pairing back my belongings, it didn’t take me long to start thinking about how much money I spend on items I don’t really need. (Or how many resources get used to make that stuff I’m now tossing, or recycling. REDUCE, Reuse, Recycle, right?) Sure, once you’ve bought it the money is already spent. But I see the process of minimalism as more than just “tossing” or doing spring cleaning. It’s also a process of realizing that I never needed to bring all that stuff into my life in the first place, and never needed to spend the money on it in the first place. So when I see piles of stuff I’m getting rid of, stuff I’m realizing I don’t need, I also see piles of money I didn’t need to spend. My money is being “taken up” by (aka wasted on?) stuff I don’t need. I think she’s saying her money and time and space were literally getting used up on stuff she realized she never even needed. At least that’s what I’ve been feeling!

  3. Luce says

    I am running a very “odd life” so I do not know whether I will be able to accomplish mini missions of bigger projects. However, I just discovered your blog and it is great. Reading your post has the effect of making me feel already on the way to a better life even if I have done nothing!

  4. says

    Just today I’ve finished yet another decluttering madness in my closet…but damn, I still own too much stuff! 😛 I keep thinking, if I were to move away now, how many suitcases would I need? 😀 Well but I am slowly coming to terms with the minimalistic mindset. It’s a journey worth taking!

  5. says

    I looove your blog! I moved out of my place five months ago, and put most of my stuff into storage until the new house I got with my boyfriend was ready. I’m unpacking junk I forgot about, trying to squeeze into my oversized stuffed closet. I kind of wish half the stuff would have just gotten lost in the move. Would’ve been easier that way! Your posts are very helpful for the letting go part of it.

  6. carmen says

    This is it! I need more time for me and my family. Need time to rest and have fun with my daughters and husband, and right now I practically spend all my time in organizing and cleaning the house…I need to put ALL in a mission, my daughters is easy, but my husband loves to keep everything…help in there, and thank you for your website, I am so excited to have some help here.

  7. Kathy says

    I have just found your blog tonight and I think I have found a new passion! This issue of “need more”, “spend more”, “work more”, “have more” is crazy. It was one of the problems in my marriage. My husband spent hundreds of thousands of dollars, so I worked more. He failed at 2 businesses, so I worked more. Two years ago I left him (there were lots of other issues such as his addiction to alcohol) but finally I am free. I have moved to downsize my life and I am on a roll. I am inspired by your blog to roar through my closet, then the garage, and finally through the kitchen and china cabinet where I must have 1000 items inherited from my mom and grandmother that I NEVER USE. Thank you for your mini-missions and for your list of 100 things to keep. I am inspired!

  8. Sarah says

    Thank you for sharing your itemized list of what you kept and how much of each Item! I used your list as my blue-print and it made my job so much easier and so much more successful than ever before! I have a few more things than you (instead of 3 skirts, I have 4 and a few more tops than just 13) but WAY less than I did and now I know (and will know) how many items of clothing I actually need! In this way, gaining more will become difficult, which is great! I can sustain or even pair down from where I am now, all thanks to you! Thank you! All other ‘closet cleaning’ advice I have heard (my entire life) only tells you how to delete items not how many you should actually have!

    • Linda Watson says

      I’m puzzled by choosing to have only 3 pair of socks. Do you do laundry every three days barefoot? I can understand wearing sandals all summer, but brrr in the winter. On a similar note, 3 camisoles but no bras or panties? The 4 Hour Workweek guy gets by with one pair of pants when he travels and one or two shirts when he travels, so this seems possible but not practical, at least for a walker like me.

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