Simplifying the Wardrobe – Part 1

Now isn’t that a simple wardrobe?

Continuing on in our simplifying series, I have received many requests to talk about clothing! Oh the joy of figuring out how much clothing is sufficient!

Remember again, the reason we are simplifying is so that we might have more freedom to enjoy the important things of life. Having an overstocked closet can definitely consume a lot of time as we stress over the fact and complain to our husbands or family “I have nothing to wear!” Let’s admit…we have all been there! “Nothing” in our book means nothing “new” to wear. Do we really need new items or do we need to develop our creativity in assembling new outfits from what we already have?

Shopping for clothing can consume a lot of time (to find modest clothing especially), in addition to washing and maintaining your wardrobe. Just because we may have the space to store them, shouldn’t give us license to fill it with more clothing. Women especially have more of a natural battle of desiring to look appealing and fashionable and thus a tendency to consume a significant wardrobe.

How can you begin to simplify?

1. Evaluate Your Clothing Needs

First, figure out your clothing needs. For what purposes/events are in your life that you need attire for? It may include: casual day-to-day attire (which may include an exercise outfit or two, if you exercise outside the home), semi-formal attire (for work, church, etc) and formal attire (for weddings, formal occasions, etc). Divide your clothing into these three or different categories. Whatever doesn’t fall nicely into these, eliminate it from your wardrobe.

Second, evaluate how many total outfits you will really wear between washings for each category. Overall, having around seven pairs of your everyday/casual clothing is the ideal to last you through one entire week between washings, with a little buffer for vacations, forgetfulness in keeping up the laundry, etc. Realize that most often you can wear one shirt or pair of pants more than once in that period of time.

Both Aaron and I have around seven shirts/tops (for each season -summer and winter), two pairs of pants and shorts/capri’s (with one extra for painting, and more messy house or car work), and 3-4 church outfits or more semi-formal attire (also for both seasons). All other undergarments and the like are limited to around seven pieces to last a week, once again. During the off season, we store the other seasons clothing in a box in our closet, to keep our closet clean and not overflowing with both seasons clothing. My pregnancy clothing is in another tote and is rotated as necessary.

Children may need more like 14 outfits, depending upon their age and around 7 pairs of pajamas, onzies/t-shirts, and socks. Infants and toddlers tend to get more dirty and thus may require two outfits a day. I have chosen to limit our children’s clothing to the maximum of 14 outfits per season, to last them for an entire week.

2. Weeding & When in Doubt Solutions

Before you begin to weed out some of your clothing, ask yourself the question, “have I worn this in the last year?” (The one exception is when dealing with pregnancy and maternity clothes – hold on to those if you are in that season of life). If you have not worn it in a year, then remove it all together. If in doubt, place it in the back of your wardrobe and if it never moves forward in six month’s time, then remove it…or try this little trick.

Hang all your clothing (besides maybe those casual pants) – this makes them easily accessible too! Turn all your “in doubt” clothing so that the hanger hooks are facing towards you (basically backwards). As you wear your clothing turn the hangers hooks around to face away from you (in the correct hanging position). This will tell you in a period of a month or so which clothing should stay and which should be removed. This is something I would do every six months or so, with the changing of the seasons.

Donate your unused clothes or resell them at a consignment shop.

3. Limit your color scheme

I have found it best to limit your color scheme in your clothing selection and when simplifying your wardrobe, choosing roughly three colors to stick with and one or two complementary colors. This simplifies your wardrobe by allowing you to mix and match your clothing rather than having an entire outfit that only works on its own. Don’t necessarily choose these colors based upon your favorites, but also evaluate your skin and hair type. Make sure these three colors go together so you can mix and match your clothing for variety and freshness. If you have three basic colors you don’t always have to wear that same skirt with that same blouse.

My dark hair makes warm, deep and some soft colors look the best on me (I fit into the Autumn colors), whereas light hair can get away with more lighter colors/ tones (tans, beige, yellows, etc). You want your face coloring to blend with the colors of your clothing, so that people are drawn to your face instead of your clothing. You will find depending upon your skin/hair color that certain colors look good on you and some do not. My closet contains mainly red, browns, black and white. The brown, black and white are my versatile colors that go together well and red and turquoise as my bright additions/complementary colors which also work well with brown or black bottoms. Begin simplifying your wardrobe by removing the colors that do not match well with your coloring and stick to three or four basic ones. Get others to help advice you on this as well!

Limiting your color scheme will help limit your accessories (stick to accessories that complement those main colors!) as well and shorten those shopping trips. You can pass right on by all those other colors that don’t fit into your wardrobe!

To figure out what colors work for you, check out Color Me Beautiful for a step by step guide to get you started on what season you are. They provide some helpful color schemes without buying their packets. There is also several books under the title Color Me Beautiful which will help guide you. This video is also very helpful in figuring our your coloring.

Stay tuned next week for part 2…for more tips and tricks to simplifying your wardrobe, including those purses and shoe collection!

About Lindsay

Lindsay Edmonds is first a lover of Jesus, wife, mother of three, homemaker, and writer. She is the editor of Passionate Homemaking since its beginning five years ago. She loves inspiring women around the world toward simple, natural, and intentional living for the glory of God.

15 Responses to Simplifying the Wardrobe – Part 1

  1. Sarah February 15, 2011 at 7:51 am #

    Sorry this is so delayed, I’ve just learned about your blog and I’m reading, reading reading!
    I like the idea of reducing my wardrobe to a minimal amount of clothing…but really, how do you never have the feeling of “I have nothing to wear,” when you’re cycling through so few clothes? I’m adjusting from being a work-out-of-the-home to a work-in-the-home mom and have begun the process of giving away or selling my professional attire which has been so freeing, but I’m in doubt about slimming down my everyday wardrobe. I LOVE variety in everything and worry that about discontent, which is of course a much bigger issue. Does it just get easier with time? Thanks!

    • Maura April 25, 2011 at 10:19 am #

      I have a limited wardrobe myself and I find it freeing as well. I have one pair of jeans, one pair black dress slacks, 2 nice sweaters, etc. Very simple. I find it so much less stressful than when I was a younger adult with a ton of clothing. I have 1/10 of the clothing I had a decade ago. I look at clothing as items I need to wear rather than items I can show off. Does that make sense? Nowadays I purchase high quality nice items. I’d rather have 1 special Nordstrom outfit than 10 Target outfits. I don’t mean to judge people who do shop at Target, but just trying to show the comparison.

  2. Jennifer September 30, 2009 at 1:02 pm #

    I know this is an older post, but I wanted to chime in my thought! Several people mentioned the hardship of storing/keeping children’s clothing for future children. If you already have the children in your house (say a 4 and a 6 year old) then by all means, pack away the 6 year old clothes until the 4 year old needs them.

    But if you are keeping clothes for future children who are not born/adopted yet, consider just giving the current clothes away. Keep in mind that someone else’s child could be wearing those clothes right now, instead of getting musty in a box. And if you know other mothers who practice this idea, then there will be new clothes to receive when you need them. God will provide! (Of course, set aside a few extra special pieces that you just can’t part with, like christening dresses or from a special trip or event, etc)

  3. Esther July 18, 2009 at 12:10 pm #

    Thanks so much for writing up all these parts of your “Simplifying Our …” Serie. I have read through a lot of them and am inspired!
    I love the ” When in Doubt Solution” of using the hangers to show whether or not you wore something recently. Very smart!

  4. DeAnna September 20, 2008 at 7:22 am #

    I know I’m late on this post, but I would love to hear how people simplify, clean out, etc their kids clothes. My mom is a shopper and she loves to buy the girls clothes, nice clothes that she finds on sale. I of course enjoy my girls looking nice, my mom loves having the grandkids all spiffy for pictures, but we have ended up with WAY too many clothes. But I don’t really just want to take Gymboree, etc clothes to Goodwill, I feel maybe I could sell it, but I’m not sure how to organize it and decide what to take to consignment stores. Or even if that’s a good choice. Also, we have 2 girls and Lord willing we hope to adopt again and we have never requested a particular gender — so right now I’ve got alot of clothes in rubbermaids, wondering whether to get rid of them or continue to store them. I’d love to hear any suggestions on what others have done.

  5. Shannon September 17, 2008 at 8:40 pm #

    I was hoping you would post about simplifying the wardrobe. We have been evacuated for almost a week now, since hurricane Ike hit the gulf coast. So our family of 4 has been living in a handful of outfits, and it is very freeing. I am really looking forward to cleaning out the closets when we finally get home. (We are still under mandatory evacuation.) Now… if I could just narrow down the shoes…. :)

    I do have one question – this is a problem I always run into. I have casual shoes and dress shoes, and some have higher heels than others, so I find myself falling into the trap of needing pants that are differing lengths. Have you found a solution for that?

  6. Cherity September 17, 2008 at 6:45 pm #

    Thank you so much for this post! I’m with Hannah on the kids clothes. We have 3 children and the clothes piles up as soon as I think I have it all finished. I try to stick with doing all the laundry on Monday, but by Tuesday I have two more loads! I really need to weed out my two tween girls dressers. My youngest tween daughter is very much into fashion (which we are trying to change!) and will try on 3 outfits and throw them all on the floor! Our girls go to Christian school, so they have to wear dresses, skirts, or slack outfits. They change after school, but those clothes are dirty and rarely do they keep their play clothes clean until bedtime. Anyone have a suggestion? I think I’ll tackle a dresser or two while they are at school tomorrow..thanks for the inspiration!

  7. Erin September 17, 2008 at 5:29 pm #

    Thank you for posting this! I have wanted to simplify in this area, but didn’t have a plan for how to do it. I can’t wait to implement this! On a side note, I’ve started implementing your ideas on simplifying our toy collection and it’s been so freeing! Thank you for all of your posts!

  8. Cammie September 17, 2008 at 3:52 pm #

    Great Idea about turning the hangers! I have a few things that I am sure have stuck around to long.

    One thing I have done also, with my pre-pregnancy clothes (That I am determined to fit into again someday), is to box em up and stick em in the garage. Also, if you have multiple children and are still having more It is a good idea to keep a box for each size per boy/girl in the garage as well. That way you don’t need to purchase a whole new wardrobe for each child. This also must be kept under control and limited to one box each…or trust me…you can end up with a garage full of clothes.
    If you don’t have a garage….maybe a parents garage? or storage unit?
    Anyway…sorry, I got to rambling here. Just a few thoughts.

    Great post…I think I have some weeding to do.

  9. Jennifer September 17, 2008 at 11:10 am #

    Simplifying is good, I agree. However, I really don’t feel that I can simplify my wardrobe any more than it is now. I think it really depends on the type of work a person does. I work in a professional educational field and appearance actually plays a portion of our yearly evaluations. I don’t spend a fortune on clothes and mix and match frequently, however wearing two weeks of rotating outfits won’t work for me. I really wish it would, but it wouldn’t. I would estimate that I have about 25 outfit combinations. Sadly, several of them are showing wear and are fading and will have to slowly be replaced. In all honesty, I would rather wear a school uniform!!!!

  10. Becky September 17, 2008 at 10:22 am #

    I can’t wait to read the next post on the purses – that is my downfall!! Also I desperately need to go through my closet and get it down to those bare essentials. I have lots of things I never wear but I still keep them for some reason!

    I like LizzyKristine’s answer above, I need to get 9-10 tops that can be switched around with 5-6 bottoms. I need to start working on that!!

  11. Trying Traditional September 17, 2008 at 9:40 am #

    I would love to follow these guidelines and used to (but on a larger scale as we laundered every two weeks.) Somehow during our adoption I stopped buying clothes and took my mom’s hand-me-downs. I know have a closet overflowing with clothes of all seasons and color families. I still do not have finances to start from scratch, but am thinking I’ll go through my wardrobe and build on what I have.

    Something I would like to learn more about would be colors that look good. I’ve always had a hard time with color. Where would I go for help knowing what colors look good with my skin/hair, etc?

  12. Farrah September 17, 2008 at 9:27 am #

    Great post! As a fashion marketing major I could easily spent lots of money and have lots of clothes. However, in the last 2 years I am slowly simplifying my wardrobe as well. You have some great ideas!
    Take care!

  13. Hannah September 17, 2008 at 9:19 am #

    This post brings literal tears to my eyes. Until about 3 weeks ago, this whole concept was so stressful for me. I felt like I was constantly going through our clothes to get rid of things but the laundry pile never seemed to get smaller. I could NEVER keep it done and for every load I did, two were brought to the laundry room. Finally, I was taking my kids to see some family, so I packed up what we needed for a two week stay and carried the rest of the clothes to the garage, where I plan to bag them and give them away. I have to say, I am sooooooo beyond words, relieved. I have kept my laundry DONE ever since then. I have no idea how we got to that point but I have to say, NOBODY needs that much of ANYTHING. And I am so thankful that I finally simplified in that area, because my life has blossomed in ways I couldn’t have ever imagined as a result!!!

  14. lizzykristine @ Uplifted Eyes September 17, 2008 at 9:02 am #

    We are once-a-week laundry people — there’s no way I’m going to the laundromat more than once a week if I can help it! — so I try to have a couple more outfits than weekdays, like 9 or 10. That way if we need to change clothes or my laundry day is delayed, we can still be clean.

    That said, beyond 9 or 10 pairs of ordinary clothes per winter and summer season, we only have the dirty-work clothes, formal clothes, and I have some extra skirts.

    Also, choosing clothing within our “color me beautiful” colors means that it is easier to coordinate and mix-and-match within a small wardrobe. 9 or 10 tops can be switched around with 6 or 7 bottoms for what feels like always-different outfits. :)