Minimizing your wardrobe might sound overwhelming, and depending on what your wardrobe looks like now, it can be tiring indeed. We’ve talked with thousands of people, and understand the struggle.
Below are the general steps we recommend everyone to take on their minimalist wardrobe journey.
The foundation of any minimalist wardrobe is not a white tee or a classic camel coat. It is understanding your personal style. So it is essential that you define it before getting started with transforming your wardrobe.
Being uncertain about which cuts bring out the best in you, which colors suit you best, and what kind of style expresses your authentic and ideal self makes it impossible to curate a wardrobe that stands the test of time.
This is why we built the Style Fundamentals online course together with a professional style coach. It gives you a step-by-step method to discover your unique personal style.
Once you've gone through the course—or if you already feel confident about your personal style—you can start the exciting process of creating your minimalist wardrobe.
Start with examining your current wardrobe and lifestyle, so that you understand what you already have and what your needs are.
Then you'll move on to putting together outfits and tracking what you really wear.
The last step is to add what's needed. When you have a good understanding of your wardrobe and lifestyle, and have figured out your true personal style, your clothing investments will be spot on.
Remember that this process takes time and you'll face difficult decisions that drain your mental energy. Take small steps and don't rush it. Don't expect to do everything in an afternoon.
Step 1: List your wardrobe
The first step (as long as you're confident with your style) is to go through your current wardrobe and list it. You can use pen and paper, a digital notepad, excel, or whatever works best for you.
Going through everything you own gives you an understanding of what your wardrobe actually looks like and helps you pinpoint items that can easily be discarded.
Take out everything from your closet. Ask yourself, with every piece, if it’s something you enjoy wearing. If it’s even a maybe, write it down in your list, and put it back in the closet.
Only a definitive no at this point gets discarded — no need to log the items you will no longer use. Just put them in a discard pile. We’re making it as stress-free as possible at this stage of the process.
Once everything is logged, and most of your clothes are back in your closet, store away the discarded pile for now. Look for local alternatives to sell, donate, or recycle.
Step 2: Categorize your life
Which situations do you need clothes for? If you can’t answer that, you don’t know what you need. Therefore, the next step is to categorize your life. Here is a simple example:
It’s up to you to decide where activities such as going to work, running errands, going out for lunch or attending parties fall into. You can also be more granular, if that makes more sense for you.
If you live somewhere with seasons and want to take it a step further, you can do a seasonal version of each category. "Summer Casual", "Fall Casual", "Winter Casual" etc. To make it easier, you can start with just the current season.
After categorization, you’ll assign each piece of clothing in your wardrobe to one or multiple categories. There’s no limit to how many categories a garment can belong to.
It is your second chance to weed out clothes that don’t get worn. When you take this approach, likely you’ll notice that while you might enjoy a piece of clothing, it doesn’t fit your lifestyle.
If you can’t assign a piece anywhere, it's time to part with it.
Step 3: Put together outfits
You don’t wear single garments. You wear outfits. That means that your clothes need to combine well with each other. First, let's try what we can do with the clothes in your current wardrobe.
Pick a category and start putting together outfits. Put together as many looks as you can while ensuring it’s something you’d enjoy wearing.
Try new outfits on and take mirror selfies. Some combinations need to be visualized to be sure if they work. Write down the outfits.
At this point, you'll notice which pieces don't combine too well with your other clothes. Enjoying a garment, and even being in situations where it could be worn, is not enough if it doesn’t match with anything else.
This time, let’s not put those in the discard pile just yet. You might unlock plenty of new outfits with just a couple of key investments.
The end result here should be an overview of how many outfits you have for each category.
Step 4: Look at what you’re actually wearing
Now you’ve got a good list of outfits in theory, but you need to see how those work in practice. Keep track of what you’re actually wearing, and analyze the results after a couple of months.
Then, after a couple of months, look at the outfits that got hardly any wear. Why was that?
Did you have something similar but better? Didn't you really have time for a category you listed? Was it for legitimate reasons, such as weather, or could you maybe have discovered that you didn’t enjoy something after all?
It is a good moment, once again, to evaluate if you really need some of the clothes that you didn’t wear.
Just remember that there's no pressure to get rid of everything you didn't wear. For example, you might discover redundancies. Maybe you enjoy a piece, but you have better alternatives for it. Looking at your actual behavior gives you the most honest results.
To get some clue about what you enjoy wearing the most, pay attention to the outfits you wear most frequently.
Step 4.5: Quick recap
Let’s do a quick recap of what you've done so far:
- You’ve discarded everything you don't enjoy.
- You’ve discarded everything you don't have use for.
- You’ve put together outfits for different parts of your life.
- You've logged worn outfits for a month or two, and analyzed the results.
You're at a point now where you have a really good understanding of your current wardrobe. You know what you enjoy, and what you actually wear.
Clothes that don't serve you are in your discard box.
Congratulations! You're much further than most people. Now it's time for the last step.
Step 5: Fill in what’s missing
In what situations did you feel like you had nothing to wear? Take a closer look at your categories.
You probably have a piece or two in mind already. A good trick is to pre-add them on paper before you buy anything. This way you'll be able to try different combinations and make sure it's something that goes well with the rest of your clothes.
Combining a piece with your existing wardrobe before actually buying it makes impulse buys almost impossible. At the same time you're reducing the risk of purchasing something that you won't wear.
Don't be too afraid of making a mistake, though. Even the most devout minimalists sometimes buy something they won't end up needing or enjoying. We're just looking to weed out most of the bad purchases.
No wardrobe will ever be fully complete. Your life will change, and most garments will eventually need to be replaced. Some of your preferences might evolve too, even though you won't be sucked into every trend.
A minimalist wardrobe, however, requires very little effort once you've gone through this process. Now it's simply about keeping up to speed with your life.
You're welcome to spend as much time as you wish on planning and optimizing your wardrobe if that makes you happy. Having a minimalist wardrobe just makes it easier and offers the luxury of looking your best — in every outfit, every day.