Maintaining a Minimalist Wardrobe


I have many reasons for having a minimalist wardrobe. I move around a lot, I haven’t lived in the same place for more than eight months in awhile, so not having a lot of clothes to pack up and unpack is beneficial.

I also live in a 400 sq. ft. house, which, needless to say, has no walk in closets. Finally, I’m trying to pay off $20,000 in debt, so buying fewer clothes means more money (read further about how to make extra income) to send towards my debt.

That said, I love to shop. I really didn’t spend too much cash on my wardrobe in University (what with have no money and all) and now that I’m out and earning a steady paycheque, the urge to upgrade, replace, and spend spend spend has been strong.

My preferred poison is online shopping, where I can agonize over the perfect pair of jeans, hunt for free shipping, and make wish lists galore, all from the comfort of my couch.

In order to keep that shopping urge under control, I try and keep my wardrobe minimalist. Here’s how I do it:


The “No Duplicate” Rule

This rule really is the minimalist in me. I hate have multiple items that perform the same function. That’s why I don’t have an eReader (I already have a laptop and a big smart phone) and the same principle applies to my wardrobe.

I don’t need two red scarves, I don’t need more than one winter hat. If I must own multiples of one item (like jeans) I make sure each pair has a unique feature, and I still strive to own as few as possible.


The “Novel Purpose” Rule

If I’m thinking about buying something online, it must serve a purpose. It has to fill some kind of void that my current wardrobe just can’t fill. If I want to buy a fall jacket, it has to be because my wardrobe is sincerely lacking a fall jacket.

If I can get by with lighter jackets and my heavy winter coat, I don’t buy it.


The “Versatility” Rule

I never buy anything that can only be worn for one specific occasion. That’s why I don’t own a party dress, or anything else that I would only wear only a few times a year. If I want to buy something, I must be able to get a lot of use out of it, otherwise, it’s not worth my hard earned cash.


The “Quality” Rule

When I was in university, I bought cheap clothes. I couldn’t help it, I had no money and clothing ranked lower on the list than “feed myself” but I still had to maintain some level of professionalism in my business school presentations.

I remember getting really sad when I’d finally plunk down the cash to buy a new top, only to have the stitching completely unravel after the first wash because the piece was so cheaply made. These days I make sure to spend a bit more money on quality clothing that I won’t have to replace anytime soon.


The “Seriously Jordann?” Rule

Before hitting “checkout” during my online shopping endeavours, I try to think to myself “Seriously Jordann? Do you need that?”

Even if whatever I’m buying meets all of the other criteria, but I can’t honestly say that I need it, I generally don’t buy it.

Of course, all of these rules are guidelines that I occasionally completely ignore because something is flashy or is on serious markdown, like the top I ordered yesterday that I’m completely excited to get because it was 60% off and had free shipping. But generally speaking, these guidelines help me maintain a small, functional, minimalist wardrobe that’s easy to move, easy to maintain, and easy on my credit card.

Do you have a lot of clothes? I  want to know!


68 Responses to Maintaining a Minimalist Wardrobe

  • I have a minimalists wardrobe too, although I don't know it's by conscious choice? haha. Nah, I've never been a 'shopping' kind of girl. I also very rarely buy the party dress items. I have my standard dress pants, that although I rarely wear, need for occasions like interviews, dinners etc. I actually have so few outfits I had do go out and find something o wear to my staff party this weekend, thank you value village for finding a beautiful silk club monaco shirt for 7.00! Great post Jordann
    My recent post Weekly Reads 14.12.12

  • These are some good tips. Since moving I have yet to go through my closet, but I am fairly confident I can get rid of 60% of the clothes/shoes/crap sitting in there right now. Our house does not have gigantic closets so I need to prioritize. My wife is great at this and I'm always impressed at how organized her closet is, and her ability to throw away (donate) stuff she doesn't need!
    My recent post 5 Signs You Need a New Job and 3 Things to do about It

  • wmwo says:

    Compared to some, I don't have a tonne of clothes. I'm not minimalist by any means, but I'm on my way. I've gone through multiple purges in recent years, so my wardrobe is much more manageable now than it used to be.
    My recent post 52 Cards

  • plantingourpennies says:

    I'm definitely not a clotheshorse by any means, but my style is pretty much set, so I do find myself looking at what I've got in my hands on the way to the fitting room and realizing I have almost the exact same top already. So I either try and branch out into something new (I'm trying to be slightly more adventurous in my style) or not buy anything.

    But I love the "seriously jordann!?!" rule. We all need one like that for every purchase – not just clothes =)
    My recent post Life’s A Marathon – Where Are You At?

  • John S @ Frugal Rules says:

    I remember our first apartment…not much bigger than yours as it was 556 square feet and we were in the same situation. If we bought something it had to serve multiple purposes. Unfortunately now that we've upgraded to a house and have kids the crap is everywhere!

  • sara says:

    Wow, that's impressive! That's amazing you're so in-tune with what you have. But, I can't help but think you don't want to have a 'party' dress and a pair of really nice shoes (heels)… they really don't take up that much space. I think it's nice having a few 'go-to' outfits to wear for parties, events, weddings, special nights out, etc.

    While I think it's great to have small closet with key pieces, I also think there is a fine line of wanting to be a 'minimalist' and then just being to strict with yourself. I also think it is important to update work clothing from university clothing, sure, one could get by with the more casual clothing, but I do think it's important to dress professionally. I think it's more than fine to spend a bit of money developing a career wardrobe, not restricting oneself.

    In my own personal case, I was too restrictive when it came to 'fun' clothing, i.e. I didn't buy new workout gear for a good year. I'm finally allowing myself to buy new stuff. This weekend, I bought 2 new pairs of shoes and a whole whack of workout gear… makes me happy!

    • Jordann says:

      I got my degree in business, so fortunately I have a ton of business clothing from university co-op jobs, however some of them do need updating… and yes I DO want to own a party dress and a nice pair of heels to go with them, maybe some day but not right now. As strict as I like to be with myself, there are lots of times when I splurge and buy stuff that I don't really need. It's all about balance and having those rules ensures I maintain one.
      My recent post Friday Link Love, Staff Parties & Snow

  • I only like duplicates if they are dupes of perfect items, like military shirts.
    My recent post My Favourite Beauty Items of 2012

  • Wow 400 sq feet. My wife and I first moved into our house…we barely had anything…3 years later there is so much junk all over…it is amazing how fast you accumulate it…also with 2 lil kids now…we have outgrown our house…we have been trying to cut back on our shopping using rules similar to yours…we if we see something and we are still thinking about it a week later we talk it over and then see if we should purchase it…it has helped alot of impulse buys…

  • AlexM says:

    What I have, is a lot of jewelry. Doesn't take up as much space! I don't tend to buy junk/costume. But it can be a bad habit…

    • Jewelry is a great thing to collect because like you said, it doesn't take up much space. My only issue with jewelry is I tend to buy it and never wear it, which makes it a waste of money!

  • Ashlee says:

    I have a good amount of clothes, but most of them I can't make outfits out of. I'm trying to focus more on what I need to make outfits and try to get rid of what I'm not wearing.
    Great post today, Jordann :)

  • I do have multiple pairs of jeans because that is what I wear to work every day. That said, I don't have 5 pairs because honestly unless I do something crazy they aren't dirty after wearing them just once.
    My recent post Be Wary of Year End Charitable Contribution Calls

  • missamanda101 says:

    I have far too many clothes, and I know I need to purge at least half of them. My "excuse" is that my weight has fluctuated so I have my "fat" clothes and my "skinny" clothes, and I'm afraid to let go of either in case I need them again.

  • Those are really good tips. We just really need to be aware of what we are doing. I have too many clothes but nothing to wear! I consistently make the wrong clothing choices and it drives me nuts. I probably need to get rid of half the stuff in my closet! my shopping habit has started to increase lately. I used to almost have a nervous breakdown every time I bought something and that's no way to live so I'm glad I'm not doing that. I'm feeling comfortable with my finances right now so that's why I'm spending more but always in budget. And never getting into debt over it. It's all about balance really.
    My recent post Confessions for the Week

  • Caitlin says:

    I love your rules! I am going to start utilizing a lot of them when I shop.

    I have a lot of clothes but I think that is also due to my previous jobs. My last job, I was expected to dress "young, hip, professional" to go with the consultant image, the job before that I was the youngest in my department so I dressed much older to fit in. I am finally at a job where I can dress like me and my age but then the clothes I have that matches that is limited. Kind of annoying but I am figuring it out.
    My recent post Strategic Spending Thanks to Email Spam

  • I have a mid-sized wardrobe. I rotate in and out and get rid of something when I buy something new. I love all of these tips, I'd rather have a small wardrobe that really "worked" for me than the large mass of clothes I used to own. I also do the "crush" rule. If I have a "crush" on a piece of clothing and keep thinking about it day after day after seeing it, then I know it'll be a good purchase. If I forget about it, it wasn't meant to be.

  • Kelly Ann says:

    I really need to do this, I have way to many clothes!

    Sparkles and Shoes

  • iheartbudgets says:

    Quality rule is my fav. i used to buy cheap junk (i.e. Old Navy), and the clothes would literally unravel while wearing them. Not I buy quality, and shap rarely.
    My recent post What Does $1 Mean To You?

    • That used to happen to me, and for awhile there I bought nothing but high quality clothing. The only problem with that was that I wanted to keep shopping, but the high quality clothing was lasting so well that I didn't need to buy anything! Now I try and strike a balance.

  • Since I work in a mortuary, I get to wear black all the time. This makes it easy to have a minimalist wardrobe! I try to buy few items, but high quality items. I have clothing that still looks great even after I have been wearing it for ten years!
    My recent post The VIP Club Roundup – 13th Edition

  • makemoneycleaningoffices says:

    Business casual clothing, bought at Goodwill; turns into 'work' clothes after a few months. Frugal, sometimes trendy; looks good but really cheap.

  • Deacon says:

    I am very much like you in that I am a minimalist when it comes to clothing. If I don't wear it then I don't need it. I forget who said it but "The more stuff you own, the more stuff owns you." There is freedom in not having a lot of stuff.
    My recent post How to Track Your Finances Online for Free

  • SavvyFinancialLatina says:

    I love shopping for new clothes. My closet is packed with all my clothes. My hubby jokes that I wouldn't have to do laundry for months! I have enough clothes to last that long. Sorta true, but some of my stuff is seasonal.
    I don't shop for clothes online though. I like to try it on before making my decision. My mom also knows my size perfectly and buys me clothes.
    I never buy anything full price though. Usually I get all my clothes on super sale.
    I also think that you have to live life. I don't have a lot of things I do for fun. I don't drink or smoke or do drugs…or do crafts or really anything outside of work, working out, and having family. I don't even buy music. Everybody has something they spend their money. You can't feel extremely guilty.

  • eemusings says:

    I went through my wardrobe and broke out all my clothing earlier this year ( – I don't *think* I have a lot of clothes but I'm not a minimalist either. As you can probably see I have a lot of clothes in various shades of my favourite colours :)
    My recent post Friday Five: Things I can’t get enough of

  • Kaileigh says:

    I wish I had a minimalist closet. I've started going through my closet and everything was broken into four piles: Keep, Maybe, Give Away, and Throw Away. And after giving away three trash bags of clothes, throwing away a few items – I still have a closet full. I just always feel like "I'll wear this someday." It's the worst. :(
    My recent post Weekly Round-Up.

    • You could benefit from this trick then: Turn all of your hangers in the same direction. Then, as you wear an item, turn it's hanger around so it's facing the other direction. At the end of one year, you'll be able to tell which clothing items you haven't worn all year, and those are the ones you should get rid of.

  • momoneymohouses says:

    I always do that last one, where I've got a bunch of stuff in my online cart, then go "Do I really need that?". And most of the time I don't and don't end up getting it.
    My recent post Happy One Year Blogiversary to Me!

  • The Blonde says:

    I`ve started to be conscious about my style. before, I could buy different kinds of clothes that just didnt go together. now I try to pick a style and certain colours, so that all my clothes can be used together in different ways. I`ve always gotten a bit more shopping with a goal. Instead of using lots of money on clothes, I try to think more about what I would really want and need. f.example. I have a lot of different short sleeved tops, but few sweaters. and I have no decent looking simple black pants. so that`s what I`m after these days. this way I dont overspend, and still get what I need.

  • I don't have a whole bunch of clothes either and I'm about a simple/classic wardrobe. The most important rule I follow is that I must feel 100% good in what I wear. In fact my husband easily has twice the amount I do! I do keep a couple of party dresses and heels around since I do attend functions a few times per year. I work from home so my typical uniform is my flannel pyjamas unless I have a web conference call lol. I have a few pairs of jeans and some v neck tops long sleeved and short, a couple of dress pants and a few nicer tops. I think I own more accessories than clothes actually. I often tend to go through my closet and see if there are items I'm not wearing often and will donate them. I spent 3 1/2 years paying off debt so like you shopping was put on the back burner and it has really changed my mindset on buying "wants". I love the "Seriously Jordann" rule!
    My recent post My Weekly T.G.I.F.

  • Christa says:

    I have way too many clothes, but most of them don't fit. If I were to donate all of my bigger clothes, I'd have a very minimalist wardrobe. But I'm scared of putting back on the weight, so I keep the bigger clothes around. Someday, I'll be confident enough to donate them!
    My recent post Investing in Health: Losing Weight Post-Baby

  • Pauline @ Reach Financial Independence says:

    I don't have many clothes and all I have here with me fit in the suitcase I came with. After two months I haven't used half of the clothes I brought! I try to have versatile things that I can use for different occasions. Most of my clothes are pretty classic so should age well.
    My recent post Friday recap, mentoring and time management

  • I don't. I moved a lot a few years ago, too. It's AMAZING how quickly that will slim down your wardrobe! I also get really guilty every time I buy something for myself, even if I really need it. It's something I'm working on.
    My recent post Linguaphile Library Love: Free On-Line Language Learning

  • Madison says:

    I don't have a minimalist wardrobe. But I want one. I stumbled upon an ebook called The No Brainer Wardrobe that covers how to create a 'capsule' wardrobe where every piece has it's purpose and can be interchanged with various other items. Countless different outfits can be created out of only a handful each of tops, pants, and shoes. I'm trying to get away from cheap clothes and my next purchase is going to be a really nice, high quality pair of boots or a shirt. Whichever I find first. ;)

    I do the "Seriously, Madison?" thing too. It's got me out of numerous purchases!!
    My recent post My First Board Game Night

  • Canadianbudgetbinder says:

    I only like to buy quality clothes depending on what I will be using them for. If I am going into the garden on working around the house I don't care if they are used second hand clothes. For work or going out and about I need casual and business wear but I do like to have bits that I can mix and match. I have far from the amount of clothes that Mrs.CBB has but I always live by the Quality rule and buying something once that will last you a decent amount of time. Mrs.CBB is the same though and likes to get pieces that she can mix and match.
    My recent post The Saturday Weekend Review #9 December ~ Pray For Change!

    • I usually banish older casual clothes to the "gardening and housework" pile when they're no longer fit for every day wear, that way I can still get a lot of use out of them, even if it wasn't their intended purpose.

  • makinthebacon1 says:

    I have a small closet in my apartment so it fits my small wardrobe selection quite nicely. I don't need nice clothes for either of my profession. I sometimes will borrow from my sister who has to wear nice clothes for her profession or I will try and mix and match things. I'll also try and accessorize with a scarf, so it looks like a different outfit.

    I have to admit, I often get sick of wearing the same thing and feel an urge to buy clothes. But then I'll sit and think on it, and if I've been getting for this long without it, I can probably get by a little longer. And if I really want it, I'll wait till it goes on sale. Right now, my item of desire is a pair of nice leather gloves for driving. I'm using big mittens, so not very practical. lol.
    My recent post Whether You Like It or Not, You’re a Walking Billboard

  • My wardrobe is pretty minimalistic. I have five pairs of shoes, that's it. I'd have less if I could, but I need a pair of black/brown formal shoes. Work shoes. Everyday tennis shoes and a pair to mow the lawn.
    I find that I wear the same shirts over and over, so if something is pushed into the back of my closet it means I don't wear it and it gets donated.
    Most of my clothes are years old, in great shape, that my mother-in-law bought me on my birthday. So I don't spend much on clothing either.
    My recent post Friday’s Fork in the Path: Eleven Days Until Christmas

  • Diane says:

    I have way too many clothes and I've been cutting back, only keeping things that I truly like, that I look and feel good in. I'm also trying to eliminate duplicates and focus on fewer quality items. I have a medium-large closet, and I've lived in the same house for 29 years, so things tend to accumulate if you're not careful!

    My style is casual, jeans, tanks & tees, layered as needed, with capris for the heat of the summer, as we work at home. But we do travel for business conferences, which requires a different set of clothing in business casual. I also have several black dresses appropriate for various occasions, which I wear repeatedly. My favorite I've had for 10 years. I also have too many jackets & coats for different weather & occasions…

    I'm currently on a 'no buy' rule, unless I'm making a direct replacement or I find something outstanding that I don't already own.

  • I keep my pile of clothes small as well. Whenever I buy something new, I force myself to get rid of something old. This way it never gets out of control.
    My recent post The Round Table – December 14, 2012

  • A Dash of This and That says:

    This post has made me ponder on what I bought in 2012. I bought a few things for going to the gym and undies and stuff of the like but I don't believe I have bought any pants or shirts. I have been feeling this huge urge to buy cloths lately (and I have been resisting) but I already know that I will be shopping soon :) because I don't think I can resist any longer. I will however be getting rid of stuff in my wardrobe also.

  • Vicki Arnold says:

    400 sq. feet. Whoa. Our house is around 1200 sq. feet and it feels small with all our belongings (4 kids, 2 adults). We really need to implement some minimizing, lol. My hubby has been preaching to me for years that our kids have too much stuff. Finally, I'm starting to agree. Thanks for your blog, it is a good read!

    If you are interested, I have a frugal link up on my blog right now that many of your posts (including this one) would fit. You can find more details on the post Comment Luv pulled.
    My recent post Everything Frugal – Mom Tested, Family Approved Link-Up

  • Ashley says:

    I follow all of these rules too!! I also never buy somewhere that doesn't have a great return policy. There have been too many times I've made an impulse purchase and because of this rule I can always take it back once I have cleared by head!!
    My recent post 10 Ways to Stress Less & Boost Your Energy

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