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When I previously wrote about minimalism, I already knew the next thing I wanted to write about, It's something so close to my heart. It's the minimalist wardrobe.
Have you ever stood in front of a crowded wardrobe and think you have nothing to wear? Have you ever wanted to wear that one shirt, but just couldn't find it in your jungle of a wardrobe? Do you have many nice designer clothes, but still feel unsatisfied? Then, maybe the minimalist wardrobe is what you need.
What is a minimalist wardrobe in the first place?
In my article on minimalism, I defined minimalism as the curation of your belongings, relationships, and pursuits or anything that takes away your finite resources from things that matter the most.
In a wardrobe, it's exactly the same. Just in a smaller context.
A minimalist wardrobe is one without excess. It's a carefully curated selection of your clothes and accessories to focus on the ones that give you the most value.
Why a minimalist wardrobe and not a capsule wardrobe?
A capsule wardrobe is actually one of the ways to achieve a minimalist wardrobe. A capsule wardrobe imposes a limit to the number of items you should have. While having a number might be a goal for some to work towards or boast about, others might get fixated on it and miss the point. Some might just give up altogether.
Unlike a capsule wardrobe, there is no limit to how many number of clothing you can own or buy in a minimalist wardrobe. It's entirely up to you and your goals. The condition is that you only keep the pieces that matter the most. A minimalist wardrobe is less but better.
Why do I need a minimalist wardrobe?
Why do I need to throw away clothes that I spent hard-earned money on? Why can't I just keep them? Why do this at all? These are questions I asked myself when I went through the process as well.
Even if you are not a minimalist, there are very apparent benefits of practicing intentionality with the clothes in your wardrobe.
1. Increased Confidence
Imagine a wardrobe where every single item is perfect. No socks with holes. No embarrassing graphic t-shirts. No jeans that no longer fit. A minimalist wardrobe will give you that. Just throw anything on, and look good and feel good.
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2. More Time
This journey will likely result in a tidier wardrobe. The time you spend deciding your outfit each morning can be used for something else. You'll just kinda know what to wear, because there is just so little to consider.
High-profile minimalists, like Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs, realizes that there is only a finite amount of decisions that could be made well in a day. They famously wear the same thing every day to reduce decision fatigue and save time.
3. More Money
Many people think that a minimalist wardrobe doesn't actually save them money, since guides are asking them to get that $1000 pair of shoes and $800 jacket.
In some cases, there is an initial investment to make sure your wardrobe only contains high-quality pieces that you like. But in the long run, you no longer spend time and money to pick up items on a whim, only to replace them in a few weeks. This is taking a stand against fast fashion.
A clean closet is but a side effect of a minimalist wardrobe. The real benefits are the time, money and confidence for you to use on things that truly matter.
How to Start a Minimalist Wardrobe?
Convinced? Excellent. Let's get started.
I've done this process three times now, and let me tell you it ain't easy. But if you just go through with it, even half-heartedly at first, you'll be glad at the end.
Step 1: Decide your Goals.
Like minimalism, the point isn't just decluttering. You are reducing what is less important to get to something that is more important. You are sacrificing the trivial many for the vital few.
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You need to understand why are you doing this and how can it help you? Here are some questions you can ask yourself.
- Who am I?
I know we are complex individuals, but if you had to, could you describe yourself in a sentence or two? This will help guide the next few questions.
- What is my style?
What do I look best in? Can't decide? Get a friend to help. What kinda outfit is really you? We probably can't imagine Karl Lagerfield in a pink floral shirt, because his suit has become part of his image. Ironically, people would remember consistency, as opposed to constant efforts to stand out.
- What doesn't fit into my lifestyle?
Still holding on to that one Halloween costume when Halloween parties are no longer your thing? It's important to be realistic and not hold on to the things that you are going to use “one day”. This is often referred to as the sunk cost fallacy.
- Can I support this?
Let's be realistic. There is no use deciding on a Barney Stinson style suit only wardrobe, if you can't afford it. You'll likely give up halfway. This isn't to say to go for something cheap, but try to reduce the amount you think you need, for the essential few.
Once you have something you are glad with, it's time to go to the next step. Sometimes, the hardest person to figure out is ourselves, so don't spend too long thinking if it's right. This is a journey so we can always come back and refine it later on.
Step 2: Decide Your Style
You probably have an idea of which outfits you look the best in, if not, think about the outfit you felt the most confident in. Think about the time when you received a compliment on how you looked.
Even if you might not have realized yet, you have a personal style. Are they mainly solids or prints? Monotone or with bold color? You can also think about the clothes you wear the most, and the ones you spent the most money on. Try to put that style into words, so you don't have to spend so much time deciding in the next few steps.
It could be something like:
- Smart casual with a hint of color
- Casual, comfortable streetwear, with all-over patterns
- Hardwearing, rugged functional wear that ages beautifully
And if possible, you should include some details on what you would wear but what you wouldn't wear. For example, this is how mine would look.
High performance using technical fabrics, made for travel, only in black.
- Slim but not skinny
- With as little exterior branding as possible
- Good balance between style and comfort
If it helps, you can assemble a few looks from the internet as a guide. You should be as specific as you can be, but not to the point you feel restricted. Be sure to be strict with yourself. If it's too broad, there won't be much of a point.
Step 3: Get Rid of Clothes
Now, to get to the actual minimizing. Marie Kondo's method to gather all your clothes, from every part of your home onto your bed is a good one. Start early in the morning and aim to finish by bedtime or you won't have a place to sleep.
If you have done step 2 right, you should be able to quickly decern which pieces from your current wardrobe you want to keep. Apart from those that don't fit your style, you should get rid of those that no longer fit, have holes, are out of style, or are simply kept for sentimental reasons.
Once you've decided which pieces to let go off, you want to do so in a way that shows your things respect.
Here is how I get rid of my clothes, in that order;
- Sell them
Get some money while you go through this process. This is why I often only buy clothing that would retain some of their value even when worn. Apps like Mercari and Rakuma have recently been on the rise in Japan, which makes it easy to quickly get rid of something.
- Give it away
I try not to throw something when someone else can still get value from it. I just post it on Facebook and anyone who wants it would come and get from me.
- Throw it away
There comes a point when trying to sell something or give it away would just way too much effort and would impend your progress. I would usually set a deadline in which I would toss it if there aren't any takers. If you need to throw something away, just do so.
I would suggest not trying to upcycle, downgrading something to loungewear or putting it in storage. It's just another excuse for you to keep something you don't need.
Step 4: Decide What to Buy
Once you've done the hard part, now you just have to add to it. But wait! Don't just go out adding to it willy nilly, or you'll end up where you started.
The main rule is that you want to make sure that you are 100% sure that it's something worth a spot in your wardrobe.
Get something when you need it, not when you think you do.
This is a general rule I live by, not just with clothes. I don't think I need something and buy it before I actually feel the need.
For example, I won't buy a down jacket just because winter is coming. Instead, I would only buy it when it's winter and I repeated feel too cold in my current outerwear. You'll be surprised how many times you don't actually need the things you think you do.
Think about how the end of the product's life would look.
That is, knowing what is the eventual place of this product in your life. Is it a one-year item and you are going to replace it the next? Is it a buy-it-for-life piece and it's going be with you always? Is it a one-time piece, like a Halloween costume?
How will you be getting rid of it? Do you have someone in mind you can pass it on to? Is it something that would retain its retail value?
Envisioning your journey with each piece, and how that journey would come to an end, will help you decide if you really have a place for it in your life or not.
Make sure there's space for it before you buy.
No use buying that grail $350 Common Projects sneakers if it's going to sit in a pile of unworn sneakers that you can't even sieve through. Visually confirm that there is a space in your home that you can comfortably access and respect the item.
If possible, try it out in person before buying.
This might be difficult for brands like Outlier or Supreme that don't have a physical store, but you'll be able to tell if a piece of clothing is for you the moment you put it on.
Is there a little something that bug you? Does it feel a little tight when you stretch a certain way. Does it fit funny in some parts? These are some of the things that are hard to tell without trying it on.
This is also the reason why I write product reviews that are in-depth to share insights for those who can't get a chance to try. For online-only stores, I'll only buy from ones that offer free returns.
Establish a few core brands.
Once you've tried enough brands, you should have gotten a hang on which brands work for you. These are brands that have a distinct style that matches you. You've worn them often enough to be sure of the quality and value for money. For me, it's brands like Uniqlo for basics (I swear by their Supima Cotton T-Shirts), Wool&Prince for shirts and Outlier for almost everything else.
This way, you'll be able to have confidence purchasing each time since you are already sure of the quality and sizing.
As stated in step 1, make sure this is a brand you can support financially. There is a brand for every price range in every style.
Think about it
I mean, really think about it. If you are only going to have a few pieces, you want to make sure they are absolutely the ones you want. If you picked the right ones, especially for basics, it's likely that you will be replacing it with the same one the next time round as well.
So, it's better to spend some time thinking about it at the beginning, to save time in the future. If you need some time thinking about it, just take a day and ponder about it. There is no such thing as a “sale you can't miss”. There will always be something better. In fact, there are some mature brands that have totally disavowed sales altogether.
Go for pieces that last
If you are going to have limited pieces in your wardrobe, you want ones that will last as long as possible. It's not just about maintaining your clothes, but also choosing the ones that last.
In general, brands that have been around a long time and have sold the same product all that time tend to carry timeless pieces that would never go out of style. The VETRA Workwear Jacket is a good example.
Something I personally do is try to go for pieces that treadle the fine line between outdoor and city, like the WoolX Endurance Tee. These are usually made to last, yet look good in your daily life.
Go for versatile pieces
This is also why I only wear black. I wanted to maximize the ease of matching my clothes.
If you really think about it, you really only need three layers, a base layer, mid-layer and outer layer for your top. Try to make sure that any part of those layers goes well with any other part. This is why my base layer is almost always something with a basic style like the Outlier Ultrafine Merino Wool T-Shirt or Wool&Prince Henley.
Step 5: Keep on Keeping On
I read many minimalist blogs and books. And I can tell you, it's not everyone that can just decide to be a minimalist and get rid of everything at a go. It's a journey of imperfections and trying moments.
That stuff you read online only talks about how they did something, but not about all the times they failed at it.
So, it's important that you remember that minimizing your wardrobe is for no one but yourself. Rather than getting held back by little hiccups along the way, making progress and celebrating small wins is important for progress.
Be forgiving but firm with yourself. It's only with going through the routine repeatedly, you'll get used to it and it'll get easier each time.
It's easy to make excuses about what you can't do. Instead, try to look at what you want to achieve with all the freedom you will get in return.
Your life will be simpler. And more importantly, you'll be able to concentrate on the things that matter.
In other words, you'll be happier.