I've been working on this post for awhile now, and am excited to finally be sharing it! She's a doozy, but I wanted you to have this in a one-stop-shopping post. So, grab a cup of somethin' yummy and lets chat clothes!
I remember once hearing a statistic that we only wear 20% of the clothes in our closet. At first that sounded ridiculous, but then I realized...I'm totally that girl. The one who stands in front of a stuffed closet and feels like she has nothing to wear....who wears her same favorites over and over as soon as they're out of the dryer.....who snags all sorts of cute bargains, but still feels like she doesn't have what she needs.
I felt the same way about our home. I would stare in an overwhelmed stupor at all our stuff debating whether to sort through it or just chuck. it. all. And yet I could still give you a detailed list of all the things we "needed" for the house. I felt like I purged and donated on a regular basis, so how did we get here??
Well, I brought every cute accessory and every clearance bargain into our home....whether or not we actually needed it, or it worked with our style. A house full of great deals and a closet full of killer sales doesn't leave you with a home or wardrobe you love. It usually leaves you frustrated and wanting. That darn Need Machine.
This year we're taking back our home from the piles of randomness and clutter that have been eating it alive. We purged, andwe purged good. We said goodbye to things we held onto for "someday", things we had in unnecessary excess (hello, bath towels and coffee mugs), things we kept out of a sense of obligation, things we didn't have a place for, and things we didn't need. It felt so GOOD. Imagine me in Braveheart screaming "FREEDOM!!!!!!". Minus the torture of course.
This extreme purge finally made it's way to my closet. I had done a big purge once before of clothes that didn't fit, I didn't wear, or didn't meet a tasteful modesty level. But I still felt like I needed to fill it back up with the "right things".
Then a girlfriend and I had a chat about the European closet and working with a very minimal amount of versatile, quality items. I started Googling and Pinning and finally, I did it. I pulled out every item of clothing that didn't fit, I didn't wear on a regular basis, didn't flatter me, that could be considered a "double" of a similar item, that I had considered donating in the past, and that I didn't love.
(just a taste)
3 trash bags full of clothes later, I was down to bare essentials and decided on a doable 30-piece wardrobe going forward. I have never been happier with my clothes than I am right now...and my closet has never been smaller.
And, I'll show you how to do it too! Whether you want to move to a 10-piece seasonal wardrobe, or simply make the most out of the clothes in your closet, these tips will work across the board. So, let's jump in!
Purging is tough. It took me a few months to get to the point that I could finally let go of the "nice but not great" excess. Maybe even harder than purging, is keeping your closet from filling back up with those same offenders you just donated.
Whenever it's time to shop (or purge) I follow these guidelines. Each item of clothing should meet ALL of these standards, not just one or two.
1. Fit and Flatter.
So many pants have uber low waistlines that do nothing for us with any semblance of a curve or zero curves at all. A low-waisted jean can create a muffin top where you didn't know there was one, and make it appear that your shirts don't fit well either. And really. No one should feel like they need to lose weight just because an ill-cut pair of pants isn't doing their body justice. I love my skinny jeans, but I find myself constantly tugging them up or unintentionally flashing my plumbers crack.
Getting it right is a matter of shopping around for the right fit for your body. Finding the shapes and cuts that best flatter your figure is so important to feeling great in your clothes, so try on a variety of things and go outside your usual shopping spots!
2. Quality over Quantity (and a Bargain!).
Oh I am the queen of a bargain. It's cute and it's on sale? Done. Then, I hardly wear it...or still feel like I don't have enough clothes...or after two washes that t-shirt is piling and worn. I've learned that
it's far better to invest in quality things, especially your basics.
They will last much longer, feel great on, and save you money from having to replace them every season. By all means, seek out the best deal you can for that quality item, but be prepared to spend a little more for fewer things.
3. Love not Like.
Wouldn't it be great to open your closet and LOVE every single thing in there? Yes, it would! And we do that by filling it with just that -things we love, not things that are cute.
If you try it on and it just looks OK, skip it. If you have to tug/pull/adjust it for it to look right, walk away. If you put it on and it looks amazing, it's a winner.
Can you wear it with three different items already in your closet or think of at least a few ways to wear it? Untucked over skinnies? Tucked into a skirt? Belted? Sleeves rolled? Layered? This is one of the very key aspects to making a minimal wardrobe work.
Every piece can be worn in a number of ways
5. Understand color.
Two of my closet favorites were a tangerine dress and a flowy mint blouse. They met all the other requirements (good fit, versatile, etc) but I always ended up taking them off and putting on something else. Why? Those colors did not work well with my skin tone and never looked quite right on me.
A good test to know whether warm or cool tones work best for your skin, is the white/ivory test. Does white or ivory look best against your skin? White is great for me; ivory, not so much. Cool toned girl here.
That doesn't mean some colors are off limits, it just means I need to get them in the right hues and wear them on the right parts of my body.
Soft pale blues are not for me, but a saturated cobalt is my best friend. I loved that tangerine dress, but having a warm hue next to my face wasn't flattering. If a less than flattering shade is one of your favorites, save it for accessories like shoes, belts, handbags, and bracelets. Or keep it to skirts and pants.
6. Modesty/Taste level.
This goes for work or personal. If it's great in all other aspects, but is uncomfortably short or you're conscious of the neckline, pass on it. It may fit like a glove, but if you feel uncomfortable in it for any reason, you'll be thinking about that very thing the entire time you're in that outfit.
I've found these to be key to a minimal closet full of items you love to wear and never tire of....every piece of clothing meets ALL the requirements. Otherwise, it will be a filler that looks good but never gets much use.
I don't always get this right. It's hard to walk away from items that seem like an "almost perfect" fit. It takes practice, and as always, it's about building new habits. Which is why this next tool I'm going to share is my clothes shopping lifeline.
When I decided to do this, I sat down with a pen and paper and drew up what I thought was a workable minimal wardrobe for me. It's significantly pared down from my previous closet, but with enough room for me to have plenty of options. Before I buy anything new, I look at this list. (if it's too small you can click on the image to enlarge it)
What spot will this item fill on the list? Do I have any gaps I need to fill? It's an extremely helpful tool that allows me to see how new items will fit into my closet...and whether or not I truly need them. (Feel free to download one here)
And for those of you that are even more visual, I put together a sample wardrobe based off my worksheet. These can all be mixed and matched for endless possibilities.
*Everything on this board was found online at Target.com
Even with a handy worksheet and visual reference, this minimal wardrobe thing is a learned skill. Here are few tips and tricks that can help you stay on track.
1. Become good at returns.
I do a lot of shopping online and often have the kids with me when I do shop in stores. Translation: I usually don't get to try clothes on before I purchase them. Keep your receipts and return anything that doesn't meet the guidelines above....even if it was only a couple dollars!
2. Only keep 30-40 hangers in your closet.
Or however many items you're aiming to maintain. If your hangers are maxed out then you either don't need to purchase anything right now (even though there's a really awesome sale!) or it might be time to do a mini purge.
3. Let Pinterest help you get dressed.
If Pinterest makes you feel like you have the crappiest wardrobe ever and you really need to go shopping, then take another look at how you use this site. A good approach to pinning and using fashion boards is to check out your pins and try to spot reoccurring trends. Have a lot of outfits with ankle boots pinned? That's probably a good staple shoe to add to your closet. Pinned a lot of striped shirts? How are they worn/styled? Invest in a striped shirt you love and use those pins to help you get creative with new ways to wear it.
I have three fashion pin boards...
Fall/Winter Board (for ideas on putting together outfits for the cold weather), a Spring/Summer Board (for warm weather outfit ideas), and my Minimalist Closet Board that's full of pins on how to wear a limited number of pieces in a variety of ways. They all help me avoid getting stuck in a "what to wear?" rut.
4. Budget and plan ahead for end of season sales.
Especially for those staple items that may cost more for quality. The best time to buy a wool coat? Feb or March. When they all go on sale to make room for the spring lines. Best time to grab a summer maxi or swimsuit on the cheap? August....right now. Go!
5. Make a seasonal list.
I use my 30-piece wardrobe sheet at the beginning of the warm and cold seasons to come up with a list of items that I need to replace or want to add based on any gaps. When I shop, I look for the items on my list first. If you just go to the clearance section digging for gold without any direction, you'll end up with some cute bargains, but still feel like you need more. Sure you have a cute new shirt but what about that pair of dress pants you really needed? Now it's even harder to justify the additional money for a good pair of pants.
6. Buy clothes that fit your body now
.I think a vast number of us have clothes in our closet that don't fit. At some point I just had to get over the number on the tag. Because going up a number meant that I didn't look like I was about to bust the seams of my pants, and actually slimmed me down. Even if you're smack in the middle of a weight loss journey, invest in at least a couple of things that fit you now. You'll feel so much better about the way you look, and you can reward yourself with new basics down the road.
7. Don't shop until you're ready to buy.
Even as I was putting together this post, I hopped over to a few of my favorite online stores to window shop for the image above, and how convenient...Gap was offering 35% off.
That day only!
Soon I had filled a nice little e-shopping bag for myself. I saw the total and my heart sunk. Had I learned nothing? No...I had learned a lot, but it was a good reminder of how easy it is for me to fall right back into that false mindset of needing more...needing to jump on a sale even though I didn't truly need anything.
It's so important for me not to look until I'm ready to buy and to unsubscribe from those email lists that constantly remind me of what I could miss.
8. Use a wish list.
If you see something that you really want but aren't sure if it's something you need. Put it on a wish list. Give yourself a week or two then revisit that item. Do you still love it? How have you thought about it during those two weeks? Has it lost it's original awesomeness or are you fine without it?
9. Accessories are your BFF.
While you don't want to become an accessories hoarder, a wide range of jewelry, scarves, etc. will give even one outfit so many different looks. Just make sure you regularly purge these of similar and unused items too.
I wanted to post this right after that liberating 3 bag purge, but I also wanted to see how I felt after a few weeks. Would I be scouring thrift shops in regret, desperately trying to get my clothes back? Or go on a huge shopping binge to fill my closet back up?
I let the bags of clothes sit in the hallway for two weeks before donating them to one of our local charities. And it's been about a month since they left the house. I can honestly say that not once have I wished to have one of the items back. Seriously. Now sure, I wish I had a pair of black skinny jeans...but not the unflattering pair I gave away.
When I purged my closet I had to keep a couple of things that weren't ideal...because you know what happens when you give all your pants away? Yeah. You have no pants to wear. So, I'll gradually replace those over time.
I'm still learning how to choose the best items for my closet, but with every good purchase my confidence grows. It takes practice, but the ability to walk away from every cute bargain is possible. The freedom that comes with living more simply and feeling great in the fewer items you have is completely worth it!
I would love to hear your take on clothes....has anyone else tried the minimalist approach to their closet? How do you decided what stays and what goes when it comes to your clothes? What are some of your favorite places to shop for great quality and fit without breaking the bank?