Wardrobe Minimalism: Progress in Pictures

It’s no secret: I struggle with wardrobe decluttering. In my minimalism journey, this has been the hardest area for me to let go. I keep at it, because I know that practise makes perfect, and that decluttering gets easier with time (flexing those decluttering muscles is the only way to make them stronger). When I’m finally finished, the taste of success will be oh so sweet!

About this time last year I undertook a mammoth wardrobe decluttering session, and I photographed everything in my wardrobe. I say mammoth not because of the amount of items I discarded, but because owning so many things made it a big job! I removed every single item of clothing I owned from my wardrobe, shelves, those items hanging behind the door, languishing in the laundry basket and generally distributed about the flat, and made a big pile in the living room. Techinally, several piles.

I lay a sheet out on the floor and category by category, grouped together everything I owned, took a photograph and then considered what I could do without. Once those items were decluttered, I took another photo for prosperity.

I really recommend this process if you want to reduce your wardrobe. Of course, you’d think it would be easier to just look at everything hanging on a rail and make choices from there, but physically moving your things is so much better for a number of reasons:

  • You can be really clear about exactly what you own.
  • You can group things together so you can see exactly how many of every different type of item you own.
  • Physically moving everything makes you realise exactly how much you have. Clothing is surprisingly heavy, and actually lifting and feeling this is much more powerful than glancing at a rail of hanging items.
  • It’s harder to ignore something when it’s in your hands. You can’t miss it, or skim over it, so you consider every single item independently.

Originally, I took photos to write a blog post, but I found it very useful as a tool for helping me see what I owned. I think being able to visually see everything is actually far more helpful than a list. 10 skirts sounds like nothing, but when I see 10 skirts in an image, I see that is far too many! It’s also helpful in working out what goes with what, far more than a list will.

One year later I’ve repeated the process. These pictures show the journey from August 2014 (pre- and post-decluttering), and my progress in October 2015. Remember that my wardrobe decluttering journey actually began 2 years prior to the first pictures in 2014, and clearly I still have quite a way to go!

Smalls decluttering

Smalls Pre-Decluttering August 2014

Smalls decluttered

Smalls post-decluttering August 2014

Underwear Cull Wardrobe Minimalism October 2015

Smalls pre-decluttering in October 2015

Underwear Cull Take Two Wardrobe Minimalism October 2015

Smalls post-decluttering October 2015

Wardrobe Minimalism Marie Kondo Folding October 2015

And this… folded smalls Marie Kondo style! These boxes sit in the shelf in my wardrobe where the heaped pile of mess used to be, and in 2 months it has not got remotely untidy. Folding works!

More Tops Decluttering

Tops and shorts pre-declutting August 2015. I can’t believe looking at this that I used to own so many tops!

Tops decluttered

Tops and shorts post-decluttering August 2014.

Wardrobe Minimalism Tops and Shorts Casual October 2015

Tops and shorts pre-decluttering October 2015 – a new (second-hand) one has even snuck in! This was a concious purchase – I needed a green top to go with a skirt I own. I have worn it plenty of times. Unlike some of the other tops in this picture…

Wardrobe Minimalism Tops and Shorts Final Cull Casual October 2015

Tops and shorts after decluttering October 2015

Tops decluttering

Shirts, blouses and other tops pre-decluttering August 2014

More Tops Decluttered

Shirts, blouses and other tops post-decluttering August 2014

Other Tops Wardrobe Minimalism Pre Cull October 2015

Shirts, blouses and other tops pre-decluttering October 2015. The thick British shorts are gone, and the green top is a cycle top which helps avoid sunburn when out on my bike.

Other Tops Wardrobe Minimalism October 2015

Shirts, blouses and other tops after decluttering October 2015.

Skirts decluttering

Skirts August 2014. The pre- and post- images are exactly the same as I only got rid of one (the denim one at the front). How many did I wear between then and now? Honestly? Less than half.

Wardrobe Decluttering Minimalism Skirts October 2015

Skirts decluttering October 2015. One of the yellow skirts wore out, I donated the other denim skirt when I went back to the UK, and the coral skirt ended up in the charity shop pile before I took this picture.

Jumpers cardigans decluttering

Jumpers pre-decluttering August 2014. Woah, that is a lot of jumpers for someone who lives in a city which has 40 degree summers!

Jumpers decluttered

Post-decluttering August 2014. Well, I say post-decluttering, but there’s not much difference!

Jumpers Decluttering Wardrobe Minimalism October 2015

Jumpers Decluttered October 2015. The cream cardigan on the right is old and somehow escaped the August photos – it must have been in the laundry. I decided to donate the black cardigan right after taking this picture.

Dresses decluttering

Dresses pre-decluttering August 2014. Looking at this image now shocks me – how can I have owned so many dresses that I wore so little?!

Dresses decluttered

Dresses post-decluttering August 2014. Good effort, but a long way to go! Two of those dresses weren’t worn the entire summer in between 2014 and 2015.

Decluttering Wardrobe Minimalism Dresses October 2015

Dresses post-decluttering October 2015. Two gone, but two new ones have taken their place. Hopefully these will get the wear they deserve!

Trousers decluttering

Trousers August 2014

Wardrobe Decluttering Minimalism Trousers October 2015

Trousers October 2015

Final Bits and Pieces Wardrobe Decluttering Minimalism October 2015

Other bits and bobs October 2015…nothing new since 2014 though : )

Tops and Jumpers Underwear Tidying Marie Kondo KonMari Minimalism

I’ve taken Marie Kondo’s advice to fold jumpers and t-shirts. They are easier to find, don’t take up as much space and folding means I’m more aware of their condition (spills, rips etc). Love this approach!

Decluttered Wardrobe October 2015

My newly decluttered and Marie Kondo-ed (meaning folded neatly) wardrobe October 2015. I’ve also switched sides: I realized it made more sense to adopt the bigger half as I have the most stuff. For now! But the decluttering will continue…

Since taking these photos, and writing about my minimalist wardrobe struggle back in October, I’ve had a bit of a wardrobe minimalism breakthrough. Yes I have! A large part of it has to do with all the helpful comments that you left with advice and tips. They didn’t fall on deaf ears, quite the opposite, and I want to thank you all for providing well needed advice. Stay tuned, because I’m looking forward to sharing the next chapter with you shortly!

Now it’s your turn, and I want to hear from you! Now you’ve seen my wardrobe in all its, er, glory…I’d love to hear what you think! Any areas for improvement? Any glaringly obvious mistakes or inappropriate (mis-matching, for example) items? Anything I could add to make what I have much more usable? Any colours missing or over-represented? Any parallels with your own wardrobe minimalism struggle? Anything else you’d like to add?! Please keep the advice coming in the comments below!

Wardrobe Minimalism: Progress in Pictures
25 replies
    • treadingmyownpath
      treadingmyownpath says:

      Beautiful wooden boxes would be lovely, but that was what I had to hand! And I’m not one to waste! ; )

      Thanks – it looks good when I see the photos, but when I open those wardrobe doors I know I still have a long way to go!

  1. Danielle @ No Need for Mars
    Danielle @ No Need for Mars says:

    Inspiring! I can’t wait to see what else you do. My strategy is to try and get rid of a few pieces for EACH quality piece of clothing I accumulate. I don’t really like any of my clothes, but I think this is working so far :) Why have a bunch of crappy polyester skirts when I have this one beautiful tencel skirt?

    • treadingmyownpath
      treadingmyownpath says:

      I have this problem…I don’t like a lot of what I own! Mostly because it is old (some of it is very old!) and I guess I’m sick of it, or I’ve changed, or it’s been worn to death – for some pieces almost literally!

      That’s what I’m working towards…except I’m keen to have everything I own being made of natural fibres too. We’ll get there!

  2. Deb
    Deb says:

    Hi from a fan in NZ approaching 70. Love following your process, I’m on the path as well, and actually quite enjoy the annual clear out. You can imagine how much more you can accumulate over the years. Moving from the US to NZ helped focus on clear out but still… I’m a big fan of recycled, gently used clothes. You can really see what has quality in terms of construction and fabric; what has washed well. I love being able to go for some classic style I can make my own with a favourite piece of fabric or jewellery. I sometimes throw caution to the wind to wear something fun and frivolous that makes me feel good that I wouldn’t normally choose, and I love finding something ethnic. Japanese clothing is particularly easy to bring into your wardrobe, layering, and such beautiful fabric.

    • treadingmyownpath
      treadingmyownpath says:

      Hi Deb, thanks for commenting! I’ve seen my parents’ and my in-laws’ closets so I don’t need to imagine! ; ) Moving overseas helped me, for sure. I’ve been buying second-hand for a long time ,choosing brands I trust, but now I want to switch to natural fibres it’s a whole new learning curve. Still, it will be fun!

      A friend of mine is always telling me about the beautiful Japanese fabrics she’s found in a local fabric shop – I must go and investigate! Then when I finally learn to sew…! ; )

  3. The EcoFeminist
    The EcoFeminist says:

    Great focus on accountability through photography! I am pretty good at keeping my clothes to a reasonable minimum (it helps not having to go to an office anymore as I work for myself from home), but my husband’s t-shirt and scarf collections? Dang. He has 8 scarves! He managed to give one away recently and seemed super proud. Sigh…

    • treadingmyownpath
      treadingmyownpath says:

      Thanks! It’s quite fun being able to look back and see the journey unfold. My husband is fairly good, but he insists on rotating his clothes evenly which meant that ALL of his clothes wore out at once. Literally, he had about 6 shirts rip in about 2 weeks. It was ridiculous! So then he went from lots to nothing, and had to go on a shopping spree…never a good thing! And he probably bought more than he needed in the end : / But as his wardrobe is half what mine is, I can’t really complain!

      Regarding your husband, feed the pride, and he might get rid of another scarf!!! ; )

      • The EcoFeminist
        The EcoFeminist says:

        HAHAHA! I rotate my clothes as well to give them all a “fair chance” to be worn – and it also shows me what isn’t getting worn. We tear up un-donatable shirts into rags for the garage/cleanup/etc. which are great.

        • treadingmyownpath
          treadingmyownpath says:

          I wear the same two outfits until they become completely unwearable, then move on to the thing I dislike the least that’s still in my wardrobe. Not a great system. I hope to someday have a wardrobe filled with things I really like equally – and then maybe I can get this rotation thing going on! Will be interesting to see how much I really need when I do this! : )

  4. Amanda Chapman
    Amanda Chapman says:

    This is so impressive! I feel like every few months I am having a massive wardrobe clear out, I throw so many clothes swap parties & just keep accumulating more! But I am slowly working at it. What do you do with clothes & smalls that are too worn out to donate?

    • treadingmyownpath
      treadingmyownpath says:

      Thanks Amanda! It didn’t feel impressive at the time, it felt like a LOT of work and effort for little result, but now I can see that I’m starting to get there. I’ve never been to or held a clothes swap party – tell me more! What is so great about them, and why do you think you end up accumulating more?

      Good question. Anything made of cotton / natural fibres gets cut into rags and used as cleaning cloths. These get washed a few times, they usually begin in the kitchen, then go to the bathroom, then maybe the floor or the bikes, then the toilet, then the bin…but hopefully when I have hot compost they will end up there. I’ve also chucked some old smalls in the worm farm! As I move to only natural fibres this should mean nothing in the bin at all : )

  5. Natalie Tamara
    Natalie Tamara says:

    Gosh, you really do get a sense of the volume of clothes when they’re exposed and out of the safety of your wardrobe! I try to have regular clear-outs but I’m overdue a major cleanse and this may well be a useful exercise to follow. The thing I struggle with though is the emotional attachment I seem to have to a lot of my clothes but I’m slowly getting better at letting them go!

    • treadingmyownpath
      treadingmyownpath says:

      That is exactly it Natalie! when they are all hanging there, minding their own business, it really doesn’t seem like a lot…but when you haul them across the house and line them up for inspection, you see them for what they really are!

      That’s something I struggle with too, I suspect because unlike “things”, we wear our clothes so they express who we are – much more than “stuff” does, anyway! But practice definitely builds your decluttering muscles : )

  6. The Eco Grandma
    The Eco Grandma says:

    For someone who has trouble downsizing their wardrobe you have tenacity. I enjoy seeing how you continue to revisit your wardrobe to come closer to your ideal. As for suggestion, nope, each of us has different needs for wardrobe. Me, I never wear dresses so that would be the first out my door if ever one came in. :-)

    • treadingmyownpath
      treadingmyownpath says:

      If there’s one thing people say about me Lois, it’s that I’m tenacious! (I think this is a good thing?!) I’m glad you get some enjoyment out of seeing my struggle ; )

      When I have the perfect capsule wardrobe (!) I’ll take great enjoyment at looking back at these pictures. The journey is the important bit, where the lessons are learned, after all. The end IS in sight!

  7. Hoarder Comes Clean
    Hoarder Comes Clean says:

    This a problem for me too. I tend to “archive” the things I love, even if they’re no longer suitable for me to wear. I got rid of my business clothing though, and as a retiree living in jeans, am a bit stumped now about an invitation that says “no jeans — business casual”, just when my remaining travel-smith dresses are too lightweight for this season.
    You’re lucky you don’t need winter clothing. Great work!

    • treadingmyownpath
      treadingmyownpath says:

      Oooh, that’s a tough one Sandy – “business casual”?! Personally I can’t bear the term “smart casual” – I feel like it’s either “smart” or “casual” as I can’t do one without not doing the other! Don’t know what to suggest. Shame they actually stated “no jeans”! Can’t you just wear a dress with some really thick tights, and as a last resort maybe leave your coat on? ; )

  8. sarahn
    sarahn says:

    This post fascinated me – which was interesting as I read it with someone over my shoulder and I explained your/our purpose and interest. She couldn’t be more baffled or bored with the concept. Funny how everyone’s journey is so different, but i loved reading how you’d paired down.

    • treadingmyownpath
      treadingmyownpath says:

      Haha Sarah, that’s so true! I remember seeing a YouTube video (I think it was on True Cost movie) with a bunch of girls showing all their fast fashion purchases to the camera – all these girls have pretty big followings, and I was completely baffled as to why anyone would be interested!

      I’m glad you enjoyed it at least! ; )

  9. Isabel
    Isabel says:

    Your last comment made me laugh as I love seeing your pictures of your clothes! Not only interesting but I find it fascinating! I am a constant declutterer and I tell them as long as I wear you, you can stay! If I don’t someone else can have you to wear! Before buying anything I like to think in terms of wearing 30 times …preferably more! I also like to give all a turn! Another thing I do is cut of the labels as they are so uncomfortable! A lot of trouble in getting comfortable footwear and they quickly get the opportunity of another owner if uncomfortable!


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