Starting any simplification project can feel overwhelming, but giving yourself a few guidelines can certainly help ease the stress. Here are five steps for tackling your wardrobe.
11. The Easy First Edit
Open that closet door, take a breath, and take out any items that meet the following criteria:
- It’s in bad shape – stained, faded, worn, or ripped.
- You haven’t worn it in a year.
- It doesn’t fit.
Now that you’ve removed all those items, your closet should look a little lighter and less daunting. If you need one outfit for yard work or painting projects, this is a good pile to select from. Everything else, however, can stay in a pile for now. We’ll figure out what to do with all that stuff a little later. Buckle up, because we’re just getting started.
12. The Ruthless Second Round
This will be a bit more challenging since you're down to things you wear and in decent shape. Pull all of that out of your closet, it’s time to think about each piece. If you're not familiar with Marie Kondo's joyfully popular method of closet editing, to avoid sparking a lawsuit we'll simply suggest only putting items back into your closet that you truly love. Pick each item up one at a time and ask yourself, do I like the way I look in these pants? Do I really need four of these? Did 1996 call and want its JNCOs back (oh no, they’re back?!)? Be ruthless, your future simplified-life self will thank you for your honesty.
Bonus Lifehack: Try "the hanger trick" – as you hang all of your clothes back up, position them with the hook opening facing you. As you use the clothes, hang them back up the normal way. At the end of the year, you may be surprised how many clothes have gone unworn. You know what to do… Unless it’s the suit. Do keep the suit.
13. Be Mindful
For items that didn’t make the cut, you have options. Donating is probably your first instinct and while it can feel good, it's good to know what's going on behind the scenes:
Globally, 80% of discarded textiles are doomed for the landfill or incineration. Only 20% are actually reused or recycled. –Remake
It’s important to be mindful of where our clothes end up, because sending them to the landfill should be your last resort. Fortunately, there are quite a few tools in your toolbox to ensure your clothing has a more conscious life after your closet:
If there’s something in your pile of rejected clothes because of stains or rips that you love, consider mending or dying it. The best thing you can do to combat the scourge of fast fashion is rehab older clothes. Check out Patagonia's DIY Repair tips, or send your Patagonia items to their Worn Wear program working to keep their gear out of landfills. Sharpen your sewing skills with Visible Mending techniques like these from Arounna Khounnoraj.
Consider if there are any things you could do with your old clothes that would give them a new life. For instance, ship a pile of your old shirts off to Project Repat and get back a memory quilt you can keep forever. Cut up old clothes (especially tees) and use them as cleaning rags around the house. Or turn them into ca$h by selling the good stuff on ThredUP or at a local consignment store.
14. Find Focus
If you can get away with it, keeping a disciplined capsule wardrobe can help you gain both peace of mind and time by demanding fewer decisions. Now that you’ve paired down your wardrobe to only those items you love and wear, you may have a few gaps to fill in – but those can be done mindfully, depending on your lifestyle.
Try listing out your real needs for your daily life and see what you can get down to for a capsule wardrobe of essentials. I’ll start as an example:
1 suit for weddings, funerals, and other formal occasions
4 pairs of pants - can be reworn multiple times. Black, gray, khaki, denim
8 T-shirts - one for each day of the week + one for laundry day. Black, gray, blue, white
4 pairs of shorts - can be reworn multiple times. Black, gray, blue, khaki
5 work shirts - button-down long sleeve
5 work shirts - polo or short sleeved
2 winter coats/jackets - one casual, one dress
4 pair of shoes - running/sport, two casual every day, formal
You should create your own list of course, I'm lucky to live in a climate that doesn't demand aggressive layering for survival!
If you can really think through your needs rather than relying on impulse buys that lead to closet creep, it will help you keep a tidy closet. What is willpower, amiright? Often, as humans, we think that if we get that one more thing, then we’ll be happy. If you can update your inner monologue to “if I can keep this closet tidy, I’ll be happy,” you might actually have a chance.
15. Dressing Forwards
Resist the urge to buy something on impulse because it's a good deal... Influential industrial designer Dieter Rams said it best: "less, but better." You should be shopping for items you love and that you look good in – and that you'll actually wear. Also, keep quality and durability in mind so you have your item in your collection for longer.
Here are a few more ways you can foster a conscious clothing cycle:
- Consider buying second-hand, as local consignment shops keep money in the community.
- Look for clothing made with recycled content.
- Connect with friends to host a clothing swap.
- If there's an upcoming occasion that's tempting you to shop, instead consider renting an outfit – save money and space in your closet!
Being a more conscious consumer may take a bit of effort, but be encouraged by the fact that you'll see the benefits in your closet and your bank account – and in the bigger picture, the planet.