Minimalist…or (Closet) Hoarder?
I am a closet hoarder. It’s true. My wardrobe is far too full of things I never wear, and things I know I’ll never wear, and yet I struggle to get rid of them. On my path towards minimalism, my wardrobe is the elephant in the room, showcasing my hoarding tendencies.
Over the last two years I’ve got better at letting go and living with less. The stuff we buy and accumulate has many costs beyond the initial outlay, and recognising this has helped us step off the consumer treadmill, and stops us getting more. Understanding the emotions behind decluttering, the reasons why getting rid of stuff can be so hard, makes it easier to be kind to ourselves and know that letting go takes time.
This post should have been entitled “The Great Wardrobe Cull”. I’ve been thinking about my big wardrobe cull for a month or so, focusing on my intention to cut the number of items in my wardrobe in half. When it came to it, though…I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t get rid of half my things. Fifty per cent was just too much… even though I do probably only wear half of what I own. There’s still some things that I’m not ready to let go of. You’d think it would be easy – I want to have less, I have items in my wardrobe I am unlikely to wear again, and yet I cannot let them go. I still need to give it more time. Decluttering and my minimalist journey teaches me a lot about patience, if nothing else!
In spite of this, I’m pleased with my progress. There’s less now than when I started, and I’m also very clear on exactly what I own, what I have far too much of and potentially what I need more of (meaning I will replace less useful things with more useful things as they wear out). I have a good idea of what my future wardrobe should look like, based on things that are practical and that I will actually wear.
Here’s a guide to carrying out your own wardrobe cull, based on what worked for me. It took a couple of hours because I was taking photos, but I’d recommend it if you want to do your own wardrobe cull because you’ll know exactly what you own, and you can use the pictures for reference later on when everything is packed away. In the past I’ve written a list, but after a few days it just becomes a meaningless list of numbers – if you don’t lose it first, that is. Pictures are the way to go!
The (Not-So) Great Wardrobe Cull
Step 1: The Clothes Audit
How you do this might depend on how you store your clothes, but it’s best to be methodical. If you can, use another room rather than the bedroom. It may seem like more of a chore but it will also realise that you have too much stuff!
Group your clothes into categories. I grouped mine into: underwear drawer (smalls, tights, swimwear); T-shirt drawer (casual tops, shorts); smart tops; skirts; dresses; and trousers.
Work through each category one at a time.
Take a picture, and then make a note of the numbers of everything you own for that category. Remember to add anything in the laundry to your list!
Step 2: The Cull
Once I’d taken a picture of a category, I looked long and hard at what was there, and asked myself what I was happy to get rid of.
Questions to ask:
- Does it fit?
- Is it broken?
- Could it be repaired or is it too worn?
- Do I ever wear it, and am I likely to wear it again?
- Is it practical?
- Do I have too many of this type of item?
I had items that were broken and beyond repair, items that were way too small (and had been for several years), and a top that I never wear because I don’t have a bra that works with it. I hate bra straps showing! I also had items I didn’t really like.
Do a recount once you’ve decided what you’re ditching and make a note of the new numbers.
Of the things I decided to get rid of, they were sorted into categories. Some of the new stuff I am going to see if I can sell on eBay. The better quality stuff or anything still in good condition is going to the charity shop. The stuff that’s tatty is going to be chopped up for cleaning cloths, bike rags and household use. The underwear, sadly, is going to have to go in the bin. I contemplated keeping it in case I ever fit into it, but it’s been 6 years so far (at least), so chances are I won’t.
Step 3: New Targets
Once I’d culled a category, I’d look at what was left and decide on what was a reasonable number of items to own. For example, I owned 13 dresses, and I probably wear dresses 6 times a year! I got rid of 4, but my target is to get down to 6. Once I reach that target, I will possibly make it smaller.
However, it also made me realise where I have too little. I only have 2 long-sleeved jumpers, and one I am getting rid of because it is almost entirely worn through. I think it would be useful to have another – probably one I can use for exercise. No-one needs 7 short-sleeved jumpers though! Reducing these will balance it out.
My new targets:
3 x pairs tights
2 x bikinis
10 x pairs of underpants
4 x bras
8 x pairs of socks
3 x pairs leggings
4 x pairs of casual shorts
10 x casual tops
2 x pairs of smart shorts
1 x white shirt
1 x blouse
0 strange tops!
3 x short-sleeve T shirts
1 x long-sleeve T shirt
6 x dresses
4 x short-sleeve jumpers
2 x long-sleeved jumpers
3 x cardigans
7 x skirts
5 x trousers
2 x jackets
2 x suit (top and bottom)
1 x hat
2 x PJs
1 x thermals
How Did I Do?
At the start of the (Not-So) Great Wardrobe Cull, I owned 169 items (plus 7 odd socks that are all beyond repair). I managed to cull 30 items. No way near half, but almost as much as a load of washing!
I didn’t include shoes.
When I added my targets up, it came to 90 items. That’s what I think I could manage with. Actually, I’m pretty sure I can manage with far less than that, but small steps! I think reducing my wardrobe down to 100 items would be a bit of a landmark moment. That means getting rid of another 40 items…
Now I want to hear from you! How would you do in a wardrobe audit? Do you think 100 items is a good amount, too few or way too many? Are you already a minimalist in the clothes department, or would you have absolutely no idea how many things you own? Are you up for a challenge?! Please leave a comment below!
Lindsay, I found this so entertaining! Thankyou for sharing the contents of your wardrobe with us all. You must have been so busy with your audit, and taking photos as well. I don’t know how many items I have, but know it’s not a lot, owing to the fact I only have a rack, not a wardrobe. This is a great advantage to not being able to hoard! None the less, I cull at the start and end of every season. I am very strict with that, and if an item has had minimal, or no wear at all its off to the Opshop! It’s a system that works really well for me and keeps me inn tune with what I’ve got, or what I need to look out for the next time I’m at the Oppie :)
Haha, I guess that you found it entertaining is a good thing?! The wardrobes in the flats I live in seem to be getting bigger, but my wardrobe contents are definitely getting smaller… it’s just a much slower process than I expected! When you say season, I assume you mean the change of weather? That would make sense. I’m impressed you can be so strict with it – it’s something I find so hard!
I think I’m pretty minimalist in clothes department. Apparently wearing same clothes for a week is considered weird, but it doesn’t bother me so I don’t need many clothes to begin with. But I do have a few items that I need to get rid of and some that I need to get more of (a dress, more jeans – only have two that fit and both of them are falling apart), but I don’t think I need to do a cull as such.
But good on you for getting rid of as many things as you did, I think it’ll only get easier with time!
The irony is, that I also wear the same thing for five days at a time, wash and repeat! I think most people who know me would look at these pics and say…I’ve never seen half of that stuff! My boyfriend can’t understand it. and of course, whenever I need to dress up for something, I always declare I have nothing to wear (when I mean I have nothing I want to wear).
I definitely think when it comes to replacing stuff, practical will be at the forefront of my mind!
Thanks, I really hope it does! : )
I culled mine when I went from a size 20 to a size 12. Replaced a drawer full to over flowing of t-shirts with 6 organic cotton ones. Should probably dump a few more blouses but my drawers are looking empty. Shame I can’t manage the rest of my house.
Haha, that made me laugh…I can manage everywhere in the house EXCEPT my wardrobe! I guess with weight loss it must feel good to get rid of old stuff. With weight gain, it just isn’t the same : /
I will fit back into those things! Grrr!
Thank you for another great read! I travelled on and off for 10 years so if I couldn’t fit it in a back pack then I didn’t need it. Now that my husband and I have bought a house I have a new strategy. At the beginning of each season I turn each clothes hanger in one direction. When I wear It, it then faces the other way. At the end of the season, if the hanger has not turned the clothing item goes. As don’t buy much I never collect much. It works for me! Good luck!
Thanks! I have heard about the “turning the hanger round the other way” technique from a couple of other people too, but I know it wouldn’t work for me, because I KNOW there’s stuff in my wardrobe that I haven’t worn in 3 years, yet I can’t give them up! How do you do it?! And why I am I so attached to things I never wear?! It makes no sense!
That was a fun read! God, I feel guilty as charged when I read your article, for me it’s the t-shirt section that is ridiculous! I only own three pairs of jeans and an alright amount of dresses and skirts but I probably have 40 to 50 t-shirts… it’s silly really but everytime I try to throw them out, I just can’t… I’ve considered doing a “let one shirt a week go” kind of thing, especially considering that the majority has holes in them from my belt and my desk at work… I’ve also turned a couple of them into bags so I wouldn’t lose them for good. It’s insane how one can cling to material things like that… Every year I take at least one or two or sometimes three bags to a thrift shop or a givebox and still it doesn’t seem to get any less :))
Haha, thanks! I’m feeling slightly better that someone else has too much stuff in their wardrobe…all my other readers seem to be wardrobe minimalists! 40-50 t shirts! Wow! Yes I can’t figure out why I can’t get rid of things I know I don’t/won’t wear… Why do we cling to material (literally…ho ho ho) things?!
And how do we learn to let them go?! The one-a-week challenge sounds good but do you think you’ll be able to keep it up?
I think I should simply start by throwing out the stuff with holes and then see how much I have left but maybe the one piece a week stuff might actually work… I think I’ll give it a shot…
That’s what I did – get rid of the stuff with holes! Don’t keep it for “round the house” – you already have enough for “round the house”. Rather than throwing away, T shirts make great cleaning cloths/dusters etc.
That’s a very methodical cull!! I really like clearing out my wardrobe, weird, I know! I’m not so logical about it though. I try and pick out anything that I know I don’t wear or things that I put on and take straight back off again. If I like the thing and I can change it into something I will wear by shortening it or changing sleeves then I’ll do that straight away before it sneaks back into the drawer. Anything else goes to the charity shop before I change my mind. I do have a blind spot for underwear, socks and workout gear though!! Oh and handbags ;)
I wish I was like that! I could tell you which of those things I don’t wear, but get rid of them? Oh no! Maybe with practise I’ll get better though!
A couple years ago I decided to do The Compact and buy nothing new for 6 months. I was going along so happily that I did it another 6 months! And I’ve never looked at shopping or my belongings the same since.
I think the best strategy I have for keeping my belongings at a reasonable number is the One In, One Out rule I have adopted. If I buy something, something in the same category must go.
I think the 100 item maximum depends completely on where you live. We in Minnesota, US, can go from nearly 100F in the summer to -30F in the winter, and all temps in between, so I have 5 coats in my closet, ranging from a light rain jacket to a parka for snowshoeing in sub zero temps, along with all the scarves and hats necessary, which adds up to nearly 20 items right there. I think it’s silly to set an arbitrary number — you will know what feels right for you.
Meanwhile, you have a wonderful start on your closet!
I enjoy your blog.
I decided last year that I had too much stuff and that I wouldn’t buy anything else…but stuff doesn’t wear out as fast as I hoped! In fact, in the whole of last year I bought less than 10 items – some new underwear, a pair of trainers and three items second-hand. But if I waited for stuff to wear out I wouldn’t get very far. Having done the audit I’m clear on what needs replacing (my black leggings will need replacing with a new pair of black leggings) and what is not getting replaced (anything that is an awkward shape – think practical!). Once I’m at a number of things I like, I’m definitely adopting the one in, one out rule. I try to do that with other areas already.
That’s true – it does depend where you live. I’m not a fan of arbitrary numbers either; I guess 100 seems like a milestone, but actually if I can get to 91, then that is what it will be. And moving somewhere else would probably mean reassessing. Perth gets up to 40oC in summer but can get to 0oC overnight in winter – no need for lots of winter stuff but definitely some!
Thanks very much!
I think that your system makes a lot of sense, and it sounds like you have made excellent progress. Congratulations!
On thing that helps me to part with things is this – I hate to see anything go to waste – so if I am not using it, I like to give it to someone who will. I often donate to Savers and Salvation Army.
Thank you very much Carol!
I usually donate good clothes and make the old tatty ones into rags for dishcloths, cleaning etc. I can’t bring myself to send anything to landfill either!
For things I don’t wear but I’m not ready to get rid of yet, I take it out of my closet and box it up so I can’t see it. At the end of another year, donate the sealed box. Do NOT open!
Haha, that sounds like a great tip! I’m visiting my parents right now, and they’ve wheeled out a few boxes of stuff I forgot I had. surely I don’t want them if I didn’t even know I had them, but now I’ve seen them…!
Love this post – and i seems most readers love these poss too! I love auditing and rationalising everything I own.
Thanks Sarah! I do too… except when it’s my wardrobe!
Hi! Beginning minimalist here!
I have a question?
When you get rid of bikinis, do you donate them or throw them in the garbage?
Hello! That is a good question, and the answer maybe depends where you live. I hate throwing anything away if there is still life left in it, so I would say that is a last resort. Check the policy of your local charity shop and find out if they take them. They may take the tops at least. Another reader suggested that women’s refuges may also take them, if you have one close by. I have no idea whether the fabric would maybe useful to anyone.
They are my suggestions. Let me know what you decide to do!
Thanks for the reply!
I don’t have any bikinis, but I do have gently used brassieres..
I feel uncomfortable donating used panties. Even bikini bottoms. I tend to throw them away.
I was just curious on what you’d do. That’s why I asked.
Yeah, I remember reading an article about Ghana refusing shipments of used underwear because they felt it was insulting! Which is true. I’m not sure either – I don’t want to make a donation that ends up being more work for the receiving party (in terms of extra sorting and then discarding anyway). I think I need to make better choices in the first place so I don’t end up with things that need getting rid of!
I’m doing the project 333 and that’s really helping me to let go of my hoarded wardrobe items, and do it gently.
I had shirts in my wardrobe that I hadn’t worn in over 6 years, literally since moving countries! I’d brought them with me from Australia and hadn’t worn them since moving to New Zealand six years ago! Crazy!
I’ve now got three boxes of clothes about to be sealed shut for the first three months of the Project, and already am finding I have more to wear…with less! Because I can actually find the stuff I love wearing without all the clutter blocking it out.
Thanks for such an entertaining read…I look forward to following you along as youcull ththrough the process!
I’ve read about this many times, but never felt ready to go to that step. Maybe when I’m back from holidays I’ll give it a go. I’m loving the idea of sealed boxes though! Such a good idea.
I’ve done the same thing…lugged stuff from the UK to Australia and never worn it!
I’m glad you found my blog post entertaining!
Definitely give it a go! I’m already noticing the difference in how I dress. Saying that, I’m sitting here right now in tracksuit pants and hoodie – but I’ve just been out sawing logs on the farm, so I think I have an excuse! ;)
This is a great post and super helpful to those of us just starting to downsize. Thanks for your ideas and the photos. I love it when there are photos lol.
Thanks Natalie! I did wonder if it was over-sharing when I first wrote this, but now I’m glad I did. It definitely helps to motivate me and I’m sure it’ll be useful to track my progress!
Hi Lindsay. I’ve been looking at zero waste blogs, and have found it fascinating to look at our waste. We’ve been able to halve it immediately, even though I was composting and recycling already! Anyway, on the subject of clothes, my daughter got me onto 333. I found it fascinating for lots of reasons. Firstly, I found that I actually wear less than 33 things anyway, and had a lot of wriggle room when choosing. The second revelation came after the second changeover of seasons. As I picked out my new 33 ( more than half of which was in the old 33) I looked at some items in the wardrobe and though “you’re never going to make into any 33 ever” and suddenly it was easy to throw away 10 items that I had kept for years, thinking I may wear them sometime.
Hi, I just found your article on google and I liked it ! I was wondering if next time you have to toss any underwear or nice clothes that are broken/stained to the trash can, if you could take a picture of it inside the kitchen trash can with all the regular trash around ? I know it’s weird but, you would make someone relly happy :) Since it’s not recyclable, it would be the only way to give them a ”kind of” second life ;) I know I’m probably bothering you and you won’t even awnser me, but I lose nothing to ask in case you want to help me ! It’s not something I can ask anyone but since I know you are not shy to post them on the internet, I thought it wouln’t make a big difference to post them once they are in the trash can ;) Thank you !!
I found this so interesting, because I’ve been there and done that, and my wardrobe was pretty much exactly the same not so long ago, except with different colours!
I’ve been doing The Project 333 for coming up on three years now, and I really recommend it. I found I needed some hard rules to get my wardrobe under control, because without the rules there wasn’t any way for me to figure out structure.
These days I’m even following a colour code. I’m sticking to blues, purples and greens for my tops, have come to the conclusion I don’t wear skirts at all, and black and denim for bottoms. *Hot* colours like coral and red are for accessories like scarves and jewellery. Having constrictions keeps my splurges under control and my wardrobe a lot more mix and match, with everything working together.
I found (you might be the same, I don’t know) that because I love colour and variety, I kept on buying different stuff all the time, but it didn’t really go together. I had a lot of items that didn’t go with anything, and a lot of pieces that I never wore. I also (like you) had some repeat items that were identical. I don’t know how that happened! ;)
What I *have* found is that I need far fewer clothes than I once thought, and that having fewer clothes enables me to be able to afford much better, nicer clothes. I’m a lot less random than I used to be, and plan for purchases a lot more. Still plenty of mistakes, but they’re fewer and cost me a lot less :D
When I did get rid of things, I was disappointed in how little I got for them when I sold them, so in the end I just gave stuff to friends and to charity. That way I felt like my unused stuff was doing a lot more good :) It also made me feel like my mistakes weren’t so bad after all!
Thanks so much for sharing your wardrobe :)