Maintaining a Minimalist Wardrobe

I have many reasons for having a minimalist wardrobe and becoming a minimalist. 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. Minimalist living is what I am all about. I also…

Jordann

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Jordann

Last Updated: August 21, 2023

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I have many reasons for having a minimalist wardrobe and becoming a minimalist. 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. Minimalist living is what I am all about.

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. Whether you are wanting to have a minimalist travel wardrobe, a french minimalist wardrobe, a chic minimalist wardrobe, and so on, it IS possible! Minimalist living most of the time starts with your closet.

Related: How To Get Free Clothes Online & Near You (15 Best Ways)

Here’s how I do it:

The “No Duplicate” Rule For My Minimalist Wardrobe.

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 For My Minimalist Wardrobe.

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 For My Minimalist Wardrobe.

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 For My Minimalist Clothing Lifestyle.

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 For Minimalist Living.

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! Do you have a minimalist wardrobe?


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Jordann

Author: Jordann

Jordann is a part time runner, yogi, local foodie and personal finance aficionado. She’s also a full time marketing professional living and working in Atlantic Canada. She writes about her life at her blog, My Alternate Life.

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  1. 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

  2. wmwo

    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

  3. plantingourpennies

    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 =)

  4. John S @ Frugal Rules

    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!

    1. Sukina

      Hey Jordann! I have a small house. Roughly 1100 sq ft. I am trying to become as minimalistic as possible! My closets are small and I really don’t like having a ton of stuff anyway. I definitely agree with your concept and thought process! I am trying to get my bf on board. He loves the thrift store but never edits! To date he has and I am serious, 150 shirts!! Let’s not get on the shoes he has gotten for no more than $40 bucks/pair. Therefore, keep with the minimalistic approach all the way!! Best practices if you ask me.

  5. sara

    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!

  6. Mochi & Macarons

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

  7. Christopher @ This that and the MBA

    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…

  8. AlexM

    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…

    1. @myalternatlife

      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!

  9. Ashlee

    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 ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. @myalternatlife

      For awhile when I was buying stuff I would count how many outfits I could make with that one piece. It was a good way to judge how 'wearable' that item would be.

  10. 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.

    1. @myalternatlife

      I wear jeans to work too, and definitely get multiple wears out of them, it just seems like a waste to wash something that is not visibly dirty…

  11. missamanda101

    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.

    1. @myalternatlife

      I completely understand that! I only have one size of clothing and most of my motivation to not gain weight comes from not wanting to buy new clothing to accommodate my new size!

  12. Frugalista Married

    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.

    1. @myalternatlife

      It's definitely all about balance, both with your budget and how many clothes you're comfortable with having. I'm glad you've found your balance!

  13. Caitlin

    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

  14. 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.

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

    xx
    Kelly
    Sparkles and Shoes

    1. @myalternatlife

      Purging is a great place to start, it gives you an idea of what holes are in your wardrobe and what you might need more of. I highly recommend it!

  16. iheartbudgets

    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?

    1. @myalternatlife

      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.

  17. 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

    1. @myalternatlife

      I have a few high quality items that are still looking as good as new. I'm very happy with them!

  18. makemoneycleaningoffices

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

    1. @myalternatlife

      I definitely think there are tons of good clothing to be found at thrift stores.

  19. 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

    1. @myalternatlife

      That's definitely true. The more stuff you have, the more space you need, the more house you need. It's better to have less stuff, and spend your time and money on experiences instead.

  20. SavvyFinancialLatina

    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.

    1. SavvyFinancialLatina

      Oh I have also accumulated my clothes. It's a goo thing I haven't really gained any weight the past couple of years.

      1. @myalternatlife

        If shopping is "your thing" then I wouldn't feel bad for it. My thing is running, and i spend a lot of money on that. Everyone needs a thing!

  21. I went through my wardrobe and broke out all my clothing earlier this year (http://nzmuse.com/2012/03/whats-inside-my-closet/) – 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 ๐Ÿ™‚
    My recent post Friday Five: Things I can’t get enough of

  22. 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.

    1. @myalternatlife

      I love singling out one single item that I need to fill a hole in my wardrobe and searching for the perfect thing. These days I want a chunky scarf, and some new maroon jeans.

  23. LivingDFRocks!

    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.

    1. @myalternatlife

      Sounds like you have a very functional wardrobe! Fiance definitely has more clothes than I do. ๐Ÿ™‚

  24. 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

    1. @myalternatlife

      I think that's fair. Maybe if in a year you're still the same size, you'll be comfortable donating them.

  25. Pauline @ Reach Financial Independence

    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

    1. @myalternatlife

      I think you would definitely qualify as a minimalist wardrobe, but you just prove the point that no matter what amount of clothing you have, there's always something you never wear!

  26. femmefrugality

    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.

    1. @myalternatlife

      Moving definitely makes for a slim wardrobe, you shouldn't feel guilty for buying something you need!

  27. Madison

    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. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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

    1. @myalternatlife

      Wow that sounds like a really interesting book!

  28. Canadianbudgetbinder

    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!

    1. @myalternatlife

      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.

  29. Diane

    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.

    1. lynn vonhoogenstyn

      I am retired and want to look nice in public. Most my activities are gardening or going to the gym which translates into having too many ill-fitting stained pieces. I need to bite the bullet and get the 30-gallon trash bags out.

  30. MoneySmartGuides

    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.

  31. @myalternatlife

    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.

  32. @myalternatlife

    I find that rule is also great for pairing down a cart. I might have five things in my cart, but in the end I usually only get one or two because I don't need the rest.

  33. @myalternatlife

    It sounds like your purchasing habits are very deliberate and careful – which is a great way to maintain a minimalist wardrobe. Good luck finding the perfect pair of gloves!

  34. A Dash of This and That

    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 ๐Ÿ™‚ because I don't think I can resist any longer. I will however be getting rid of stuff in my wardrobe also.

  35. 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

  36. Ashley

    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

  37. Lauren Martin

    i LOVE this!! I wrote about the exact same thing recently, because we’re in the process of building a tiny house! So my walk-in closet was the first thing to get cut. I love it though because I’m so much more thoughtful when it comes to my clothing choices now. ๐Ÿ˜€
    Xx
    Lauren Jade
    Simplifying Life, Maximizing Happiness

  38. Tonnie

    Having been a military spouse, we moved every 3 years, quite a bit of editing. I just recently retired from oil & gas, my wardrobe consisted of a color palette of brown, beige and black. I own 4 pair of jeans, a pair of black dress slacks w/matching jacket for weekly meetings dressing it with pearl earrings and necklace.

    My weakness are jackets, I own several color & patterned jackets to work with my jeans, 5 silk tees (2 white, brown, beige and black).

    For my shoes, I have 2 pairs white tennis shoes (one pair is steel-toe), a pair of dress shoes (black & brown).

    Winter coat (1) tailored camel coat, 1 navy short waisted jacket.

    Last, I own a few scarves.

    This may sound boring I know, but now that I’m retired it will do! I get dressed
    w/out thinking too much! ?

  39. Colleen Farrell

    Could you give a list of clothing pieces and colors that should be in a minimalists closet. I am picturing wearing the same outfits without time to launder,

  40. Barb

    I just found your website. Excited to settle in.

    I have found that I often have a shopping urge but if I shop online line for 20 minutes, even on just once site, filling carts, that by the time I am done scrounging their sales and outlets, I don’t really want anything.

    I delete everything and close the windows fully satisfied that I “shopped” even though I did not buy.

    Some times it’s just satisfying the urge to find the next new and shiny, but not necessarily own it.

  41. Sydney

    One piece of advice I was given recently that has really stuck with me is the $1/day rule, or rather $1/use. It kind of goes along with you not owning any party dresses because you do not want to spend a bunch of money on a piece you’re going to wear once maybe twice. So the advice was this: will you wear or use this item as many times as dollars you are spending on it? A pair of jeans, for example, will you wear them 50 times? If so, you may be justified in spending $50 on them. Another example, a flashy colourful handbag that is soo in style this season for $150, will you really be able to pair it with enough outfits 150 times before it goes out of season and style? Maybe not.

    This mind frame may work for some people. I use sometimes but not always. Just another approach to evaluating where and how you spend your money.

  42. Jayne Blasser

    I have been shopping for the first time in almost 2 years. My daughter died and I locked myself away. I also gained 30 lbs.I always shop thrift stores and get designer clothes, many with the tags still on them! If you shop a nice store you can have a nice wardrobe for less. I got everything I needed for less than $100.00. It makes me a minimalist by choice, knowing I will lose the weight so not buying too many items made sense. When I’m back down I’ll probably donate the larger clothes back to the same place.

  43. Kimberly McBride

    I got sick a few years ago and have not had the money to pay my mortgage much less buy clothes. However, I hold on to stuff that no longer fits or fills a need because if I get rid of all of it I will have to face a very empty closet. I know it sounds silly but I’m not sure how to get past this mental block.

  44. Marguerite

    I am no minimalist yet – I always bought quality clothes so getting rid of nice jackets that I only wear once a year is still difficult – and there is the “what if” I need one and can’t afford it. However, I am working on not keeping clothing that I don’t absolutely love, or anything that is beginning to show sign of age, even if I love it.

  45. patricia

    I teach kindergarten through 3rd graders. Needless to say I need a functional wardrobe. I also do not want to spend a lot of money on my clothing as I have had marker, pen, snags, you name it ruin my clothes. So I shop at the local thrift shop. I get designer labels as well. Just have to watch and be selective. If something happens then I am only out a few dollars. I can deal with that.

  46. I love having a minimalist wardrobe. It makes getting dressed SO easy. I love the “rules” listed above. Especially “seriously Jordann?” LOL. Everything in my closet fits perfectly and I love it all, and nearly every item complements everything else. So easy!

  47. This is some. I edit my wardrobe as many times as I can. I own one pair of heels per type, 4 pairs of jeans, a lot of loose shirts (i like to be comfortable). My thinking is that I spend most of my time at the office for that i need to be comfortable (definitely not in heels and a clean cut suit). My minimalist wardrobe is influence by my lifestyle mostly.