Simplify your Closet

Simplify your closet Good is the enemy of the best

Too many options causes a paralyzing effect. I recently read about a bicycle shop owner who carried about 35 different models. He decided to simplify things in his store by eliminating all of the “good” bikes and only selling the best in each “category.” He had found that most of his customers fell into 1 of 6 categories of buyers: e.g. high performance, high durability, budget bike, etc. He ended up only selling 6 different models, but each one was the best he could find for each type of customer. Once he made this change, his sales sky-rocketed.

There is a freedom that comes with having fewer options. The bicycle shop owner had figured out that some of his customers were experiencing a paralyzing effect from being overwhelmed with all of the options. By eliminating even a bunch of “good” options, he simplified his and the customers’ lives.

I have begun to apply this principle to my wardrobe and have been very pleased with the results so far. My initial fear was that if I got rid of some “good” clothes, that there would be a time when I needed them and I would be kicking myself, but I have not missed them at all. In addition, I love the simplicity and, of course, the extra closet and drawer space.

Organize and eliminate waste

Most of us have clothes for different occasions. Clothes to lounge around the house in, to be casual, to dress up, to dress up really nice, to run errands in, to work in, to exercise in, to play in the snow in, to do yardwork in, and the list can go on and on. I always had a tendency to think that for each occasion I needed multiple outfits, but many occasions happen so infrequently that I only need one (or two) outfits. Or even better would be if you can have one outfit that would cover multiple different occasions.

For example, I used to have about 8 pairs of “lounge around the house” pants, and I would get a chance to wear these types of pants maybe 3 times a week. There was absolutely no need to have that many pants; I just didn’t want to throw them away, because nothing was wrong with them. The truth was, that of those 8, I had my favorite pair that I would have liked to wear all of the time, but didn’t because I felt like I needed to wear the other 7 because they were in my drawer.

It is difficult to get rid of things away when there is nothing wrong with them, but it is necessary if you want to simplify and organize. So I picked out my 2 favorite pairs, gave 6 of the 8 to goodwill, and have not missed the 6 at all. I now get to wear my favorite pants most of the time, and if they are dirty, then I have my second pair. I also have a lot more drawer space and get to wear my favorite ones more often.

I had a similar issue with my work clothes. I had about 12-15 pants and about the same number of shirts. Most of which were mediocre. I hated having to pick which mediocre outfit I would want to wear for that day. So, I began getting rid of the bad, decent, and even good and now I am happy to report that I have 6 shirts and 6 pants that I feel great wearing everyday.

I can’t wear the same outfit every time I go to social events!

True. And I don’t suggest it; people will give you funny looks. 🙂 Anyone can go buy a new outfit every weekend, but with a little creativity you can come up with many different outfits just with the clothes you have. This is why looking at your wardrobe as whole, rather than individual outfits is important. When buying clothes think about how many different ways you can wear them. If it is an item that will not work with anything else in your closet, then it isn’t going to help you simplify.

Don’t buy BECAUSE it is on Sale

There is a lot of money to be saved by shopping in the sale racks, but buying things just because they are on sale is a terrible idea. I used to find mediocre things on clearance and I would buy them because they were so cheap. The result was that I had a bunch of mediocre clothes that cost me (total) a lot of money. In hindsight, I would have been much better off buying something that looked great and paying full price. Now, I still scan the sale racks, but only buy if it is a “great’ piece of clothing that I know I will love wearing. I don’t waste my money on filling up my closet with “decent” clothes.

When you find something on the sale rack ask yourself:

  • Will this item replace or fill a need that I have right now?
  • Is it quality? Will it fall apart after I wash it?
  • Do I want it because it is cheap, or because it looks great?
  • Can I use it with various items in my wardrobe?

Your answers to these questions will give you a good indication of whether or not you should make the purchase.

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  1. Mrs. Micah

    I should probably get rid of some stuff, but I’m also finding myself in need of a couple new shirts. So that makes me paranoid that if I get rid of anything, I’ll need it later.

  2. bob

    yea – I had (and still do have) those same conversations in my head… I say go for it – simplicity provides a wonderful freedom that is worth the pain of letting go… But, if you need the shirts, just replace them as you get new ones – one joins the closet, one leaves the closet…

  3. rocketc

    I am a big believer in this concept. I just wish I believed in it about 10 years ago. . .I also wish I weighed the same as I did 10 years ago.

  4. Marie

    Have you read The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less by Schwartz, Barry? It talks a lot about this issue. I was paralyzed since I had my kids always trying to make the perfect decision. But since I read this book I realized that we have way too many options for everything. Better to isolate the parameters of what a good choice is to you and stop when you find it. Perfection is usually not worth the extra work – and too many options to sift through wastes too much of our time and dilutes the quality. Financially I have a price range I am willing to pay for an item. If we need it I will pay anything in that range.

  5. bob

    I have not, but it sounds like a good read – I will have to pick it up- thanks

  6. Fabulously Broke

    I love this list 🙂 makes sense to me!

  7. FourPillars

    Some great advice – we need to go through our closets…


  8. Cat

    I read a good hint once – if you’re worried about needing the clothes again, put everything you intend to give away into a box. If at the end of the year you haven’t pulled it out of the box then it’s safe to give it away.

    I’m sure there might be some exceptions like extremely formal wear or seasonal (eg I have cold weathethat you might not use every year

  9. EliSiza

    I started to live simple, and removing clothes from my closet is a good way to start. I have a few tips myself:

    1) Do not give yourself the option. Once you give yourself the option to buy more clothes, you will spend more and need more time maintaining a lot of clothes in your closet and keeping things you probably do not even wear.

    2) Try to find clothes that are good for more than one season. I never had a seasonal wardrobe and it made my life so much easier rather than having to pack the winter or summer clothes and taking it out again the next season. I invest in well made and good quality cardigans that are perfect for the spring and fall, and the end of summer and winter.

    3) Invest in good coats and jackets. Do not buy so many hoodies.

    4) Find clothes that require less maintenance, ones that do not need dry cleaning, or just do not dry clean too often, only when you really think your item is dirty.

    5) Buy comfortable jeans that fit. People gain and lose weight, and the best way to stay on tract in managing your weight is not giving yourself the option to wear jeans that fit your gained weight. I only wear about 3-4 pairs of my 10 pairs of jeans, and half of the ones I do not wear are too big now. Once you get rid of some jeans or donate them, you will have a smaller amount and can also maintain your weight at the same time.

    6) Buy clothes of quality and not quantity. From experience, I realized purchasing clothes and jeans from Gap and Abercrombie are more comfortable, does not fade as fast, and feels good on your skin compared to the smaller company clothing store jeans and shirts. The cotton from quality stores are softer too.

    7) Minimize your wardrobe by not accessorizing. This may be difficult, but my experience from accessorizing was just a hassle. I invested in 2-3 pairs of nice earrings that are real gold and goes great with almost every outfit. I tossed the cheap earrings, and my necklaces which sometimes embarrassingly snaps in public and beads or rings fly everywhere. If possible, do not accessorize, but if you want to, have a few things that go great with every outfit. Accessories also tend to be expensive.

  10. Crystal

    I love this idea. I’m in the market for a new wardrobe, because I had a bad habit of buying cheap clothes because they were cheap….and guess what? They would literally fall apart on me!! Seams would come undone, colors faded, shirts/sweaters would pill, and I looked like a mess. So now I’m slowly building a new wardrobe and only getting really great pieces that I love, and tossing the old ones out as I get new ones. When I get a certain amount, I’ll stop. (At the moment I only have like 6 shirts total, which is too few for me). I disagree with the person above me who said to not accessorize though. I think that accessorizing is the best way to change up an outfit that may seem boring, or that you wore already. If you have a black dress, you can wear it to church, an office party, cocktail event, date, even a funeral…and it can look appropriate for any occasion simply by switching up your accessories. And a few accessories take up a lot less room than clothes, and you’ll never get too fat or skinny for them, and they make you look really polished, like you spent a lot of time on your outfit. Just my opinion.

  11. Jason

    Bob, I couldn’t agree more. Most of us can’t imagine the “freedom” that comes with owning fewer possessions. I have given most of my clothes to Goodwill as well. The truth is that after about a year I can open my closet and honestly say that most of my clothes are not being used. So the first time I realized this I was cleaning out my closet, and I started going through my rack, and was pulling items I didn’t wear anymore. When I was done my closet was almost empty, that was when I realized I need fewer clothes or needed to “Simplify” them. Now I only buy what I need, and keep the buying to a minimum. I also set some aside for paint and yard work. Coming up with creative ways to mix and match different outfits to keep from buying and buying is the way to go. I don’t think I could go out and buy clothes every weekend just for social gatherings

  12. Cass

    Another tip to add:
    Learn how to make simple clothing repairs by hand sewing or by getting a used sewing machine. Fix riped steams, broken zippers and loose buttons, That way you don’t have to get rid of them when a small detail goes wrong

    I like applying this to clothes I buy at second hand stores too. For example: If a dress is too long, I can shorten it.

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