9 Steps to an Essentials Minimalist Wardrobe

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What we wear is an important part of the image we present to the world.  Clothing is a way to express who we are.  It is as important to the way people perceive us as our attitude and personality.

Employers usually set the parameters for what we wear at work.  If you have a uniform, then there isn’t much to think about.  More often, there are guidelines.  They may be for a certain kind of clothing such as business or business casual.  Other workplaces have color requirements such as black pants and a white shirt.  I once worked in a store that required tan pants and a blue shirt.  These kinds of guidelines do offer some flexibility so you can explore options.

Outside of work is when we can really let our personal style come through.  However, knowing what our personal style is and how to use clothing to project the image we want can be tricky.  We read lists of must-haves in magazines and on the internet.  We listen to friends and coworkers about what looks good on us.  The pursuit of fashion and expression leaves us with closets bursting at the seams.

So what can we do about it?  Perhaps you heard of a capsule wardrobe on a blog, but the hard number limit was intimidating.  Maybe you secretly covet those minimalist closet photos you see on Facebook but feel like you could never get rid of all of your things.  Minimalist is about focusing on what is enough for you.  Some people benefit from a specific numerical limit on clothing items, but it’s not for everyone.  Simplifying is a pursuit of the essential.  Here are nine easy steps to get a more efficient and minimalist closet that focuses on our essentials.

Step 1 – Visualize the Fabulous

You thought the first step would be to take everything out of your closet, right?  We’ll get there later but first, we need some of your impressions untainted by looking at your clothes.  Clothes lie all the time.  They tell you that they will make you look and feel amazing, but let’s see which items actually delivered.

Think back over the past year or so.  Call to mind those days when you felt like a rockstar.  You had confidence and swagger.  You felt like you could take on the world.  What were you wearing?  Make a list of those clothing items that came to mind because they put that extra oomph in your step.  These are your rockstars.  You associate these items with feeling amazing.

Step 2 – Visualize the Not Fabulous

Now let’s do a 180 and think about the days when you felt decidedly not awesome.  You felt awkward or uncomfortable.  Clothes can make you feel like a dud as easily as they make you feel like a star.  Make a list of those clothing items that made you feel unfabulous.  That these items make you feel that way is a sign that they just aren’t working for you.  It might be the shape, color, or fabric but remember that the clothing item is the dud.  Not you.

Step 3 – First Look at the Closet

Now it’s time to go to your closet.  Pull out your rockstars and set them aside in a keep pile.  Then pull out the duds and put them in a go pile.  What’s left are your maybes and we will winnow down the maybes in the next steps.  Check the tags and pull out everything that isn’t your current size.  Also, pull out anything that is damaged or stained.

Step 4 – Own Your Size

Unless you know for a fact that you will return to that exact size and you like the item very much, then these items are not serving you.  More than likely they are making you feel a certain way about the size you are now.  You don’t need to keep clothing that doesn’t fit to keep positive emotions.  If the feelings are negative then you definitely don’t need them.  Let these items go.  Put them in the go pile.

Step 5 – Assess Damaged and Stained Items

Honesty is important in this process.  Let’s break this step down into two main questions.

(a) Do you want to save this item?  Have you missed it while it has been out of the rotation?  Did you like it when it was in the rotation?  You don’t have to make a decision on keeping it but think about if you definitely don’t think the item is worth the hassle.

(b) Do you know how to fix the item?  Are you willing to learn?  Do you know someone who can fix it for you?  Are you willing to ask someone or pay someone to fix it for you?

If the answer is no, then let the item go.  If you said yes, then the item goes back in the maybe pile for inclusion in later steps.

Step 6 – Check the Feels

Next is a visual assessment of the maybes.  How do you feel looking at them?  Hold up each item and really look at it.  If you were in a store right now, would you be interested in it?  Do you like the color?  The shape?  The details?  Is it your style now?  Remember to be honest.  Obviously, anything you need for work or specific events, that is what it is, doesn’t care how you feel.  If you do have some flexibility, then you can consider replacing items that fail the tests ahead.  If you don’t have flexibility due to requirements or budget, then just take out those items and put them aside to keep.  For now.  Anything else that you look at it and know you would pass by in a store, put it in the go pile.

Step 7 – Tender Love and Care

It is common to not check care instructions on clothing before we buy.  After all, we are usually more concerned with how it fits and how it looks.  That’s how I ended up with a suit in a bag on the floor of my closet for years.  That is not a typo.  I dropped food on myself the first time I wore it.  I checked the tag to find it was dry clean only.  Dry cleaning was not something I wanted to deal with nor could I afford it, so I set the suit aside to wash later.  Later never came.  I finally accepted that I was not going to deal with the hassle and I wasn’t willing to pay the cost.  So I ended up getting rid of it and my money spent on it was wasted.  Now I make sure to check tags before I buy anything.

Check the labels on your remaining maybe items.  Does the tag call for hand washing?  Dry cleaning?  Can you wash it in a machine, but then need to lay flat to dry?  Decide how much hassle and cost you are willing to deal with and put anything requiring more care than that in the go pile.  You won’t wash them in a timely fashion and you will get less use out of these items, so they will just become clutter.

Step 8 – Fashion Show

Yes, it is finally time to try things on.  Make sure you have a full-length mirror for this step so you can really see yourself.  Go item by item and assess the clothing on you.  Remember to be honest.  Lots of items look great on the hangar, the mannequin, or other people.  That does not mean they look good on you.  Can you make outfits with these items?  Play around and have fun.  Anything that’s not working for you, that you decide you don’t like, goes in the go pile.  Not everything will be a home run, sometimes we need basics that are workhorses.  They anchor outfits so we can wear more fun items.  That’s okay.  If you like the look and fit, keep them.  You should feel comfortable and confident in these items.

Step 9 – Guilt Free Zone

Your go pile is probably pretty large at this point.  That’s okay.  Don’t feel bad about the money you spent on these items.  Don’t fee guilty because of who gave it to you or who told you it would look amazing.  Don’t beat yourself up for choices that didn’t work out.  Let all those negative feelings go.  This is your life, your closet, your style.  Look forward.  These items are going to go and hopefully make someone else happy.  This is a guilt-free zone.  You have the right to make decisions about your things.


And that’s it.  We’re done.  What’s left should only be clothes that look good and make you feel good.  Make sure you actually fix any of the damaged or stained items that made it to the finish line.  Don’t let them continue to be clutter.  What to do with your go pile items you ask?  Well, I’ll talk about that soon and give you some great ideas of what to do with them.  The effect clothing has on how we see ourselves and how we feel about ourselves is vastly underestimated.  You should pat yourself on the back.  You were honest and you made some tough decisions.  Good job!