In the summer of 2016, some Danish friends of ours road tripped across the US and stopped at our home in Wisconsin. While showing them around our house they sheepishly asked “Would you mind if we peeked inside your big American closet?!” Strange request, I thought, but go for it.
Their oohs and ahhs were hilarious, but as I stood there looking at my packed closet—hangers pressed so tightly together there was hardly room to move things; sweaters packed 10 high across the shelves; more shoes than I could ever possibly need crammed into an organizer on the back of the door—I made the conscious choice to make sure they didn’t find out about the closet in the guest bedroom that looked more or less the same.
Over the next five years I’d take a long, hard look at my relationship with stuff and downsize dramatically. The accumulation of stuff used to make me feel good, but when I realized how much of my time and energy (not to mention money) that stuff was taking up, I began to assess the relationship and plan my exit strategy.
When I realized how much of my time and energy (not to mention money) that stuff was taking up, I began to plan my exit strategy.
In 2017 we downsized from a 2200 square foot house in Madison down to a 1000 square foot loft in Downtown Minneapolis. 10 months later we downsized further, putting 9 boxes on an airplane to Denmark and unpacking them in a 750 square foot flat. The tiny, one-door wardrobe that now houses my clothes is roughly 1/15 the size of that walk-in closet I had in Wisconsin (once again, we won’t mention the guest room closet), and yet I’ve never found it easier or more enjoyable to get dressed. Finally understanding the concept of curating a wardrobe has been life-changing for me, my confidence, and my budget, and I want to share a few of the methods that have helped me make this shift.
The more stuff you own, the more energy it takes up. Trust me on this one, especially when it comes to your clothes. You’ll do more laundry, spend more time folding them and putting them away, and whenever you clean your closet it will take you longer to sort through it all. You will literally waste hours of your life sorting through your excessive clothing collection.
Stop buying clothes you “like” and only buy things you love. This concept was the biggest shift for me, and I call it the “4.0 Method”. Think of your wardrobe as a GPA (grade point average). You want to maintain a perfect 4.0, right? That means not only is the item the right size and a flattering fit, but also that you feel great when you put it on. Anytime you are shopping give the item a 1.0-4.0 rating. Is that 3.5 shirt worth it if it will drag down the GPA of your entire wardrobe? This has helped me stop doing so much impulse shopping.
Consider the long-term investment. Think of this as the “cost per wear”. You can buy a simple white t-shirt at Target for $12. But let’s say you only wear it 4 times before it waffles in the wash and starts to look worn. Your cost per wear is $3.00 (12 divided by 4). But, let’s say you instead invest in a basic white tee from Everlane. It will cost you $30, but you’ll wear it twenty-four times a year for the next 5 years. The cost per wear is $.25 (30 divided by 120) . While buying more expensive items can mean more cost initially, the amount you spend over your lifetime can be reduced dramatically if you invest in quality over quantity.
You can wear your favorite outfit every day, if you only own your favorite outfits. Concepts 2 and 3 really converged to drill this idea home for me. Of course we all need a good pair of Netflix Sweats, but for the most part why do I want to spend money on or give closet space to an outfit that makes me feel any less than wonderful?! Once I committed to stop buying clothes I didn’t love, I found that I loved each piece I owned even more which meant I never had to settle for an outfit that made me feel less than wonderful.
Reducing my wardrobe down to a fraction of what it once was was a huge undertaking and it wasn’t always easy. I hope that these takeaways help you start to shift the way you consume clothing! I’ve detailed my entire process for clearing the clutter, defining your personal style, and learning to dress your best with less in an ebook titled “The Minimalist Wardrobe” and I’d love to help you create a closet that you love and feel good about. Learn more about the process here!