Experiments with Less Stuff: 3 Outfits for 30 Days

There’s nothing quite like writing a book about decluttering and living with less stuff to make you re-assess all the things you own, and question again whether the things you have are really being used to their full potential.

Things left languishing in cupboards and drawers barely used? That isn’t the best use of those resources. And all stuff is resources – materials, time and energy went into making these things.

When I own something I barely use, and I know I would make do with something else if I didn’t own it, it just doesn’t make sense to me to keep it. It makes more sense to find a new owner who will use and love the things that I do not.

That’s not to say everything I own is used all the time. I own swimwear even though I’d hardly call myself a beachgoer; I own a selection of baking tins even though I’m not busting them out every weekend.

It’s all about balance: what’s practical, sensible and what’s good for our sanity. Even if I only go swimming occasionally, I need swimwear. In my world, brownies are square and sponge cakes are round. That’s just how it has to be.

But living with less stuff isn’t just about letting go of the things we no longer need, use or love. It’s about developing a new relationship with stuff. Not just our stuff, but all stuff.

We can see stuff for what it really is: resources, time, craftsmanship and effort. We can be honest with ourselves about whether stuff is practical and useful to us, or whether the stuff’s usefulness will be short-lived; destined to become clutter, and landfill.

And when we buy things and bring them into our homes, we can make sure we maximise their use. If we realise later that things are not being used to their full potential, we can re-home them so that they get the use they were designed for.

Decluttering, for me, is not about clearing space to buy new things. It is about respecting resources, and ensuring the stuff we have and do not use does not go to waste. Decluttering is not synonymous with chucking stuff in the bin.

Instead, it is an opportunity to make good our perhaps-not-so-good-after-all choices.

But of course, no-one wants to declutter things only to realise later on that they needed them after all.

Which brings me back to where I started: reassessing the things I own.

One area where I struggled for a long time in my de-owning journey was wardrobe decluttering. I had so many clothes, nothing to wear, and couldn’t part with anything! The idea of reducing my wardrobe by half, down to 100 things seemed almost unachievable, yet when I finally got there I realised: I still had too much stuff.

Eventually I reduced my wardrobe down to about 40 things. It was no longer overwhelming, and everything I owned I liked and wore – but I knew that really, I still had too much stuff.

The thing is, I am one of those people who just likes to wear the same few outfits all of the time. I live in the same few things, and I like it like that. Most of the people I know would be surprised I even own 40 items of clothing!

The goal with decluttering and de-owning is to find our “enough”. We don’t want too much stuff but we don’t want to be left with not enough, either. But figuring out the point between “too much” and “too little” where “just enough” lies takes time.

When it came to my wardrobe, I didn’t think another round of decluttering would be that useful in helping me find this “enough”.

Instead, I decided to go all the way to the “too little” side, and live over there for a month, to really test what I need and what I don’t.

3 Outfits for 30 Days

A couple of years ago I followed a woman on Instagram who decided to wear one dress for an entire year. It actually wore out half way through, and was replaced with another dress, but she completed the challenge and decided she loved the freedom it gave so much she would wear one dress for life.

That’s definitely a little too little for me (what would I wear when I need to wash the dress?!) but it got me thinking. What would realistically be the minimum viable number of outfits I could wear?

I asked myself a few questions, such as what different types of outfits did I need, what occasions did I need to consider, and what was practical (thinking about the climate, weather and my ability/willingness to do – and dry – the laundry often).

I need clothes that are suitable for presenting in, working in and lounging round the house in.

As for climate, the month of March is late summer/early autumn here in Perth. We have a Mediterranean climate: it’s warm enough to do laundry, hang it outside and bring it in dry a few hours later. It might be cardigan weather in the evening, but it is pretty warm during the day. Rainfall is minimal and short-lived.

With all this in mind, I decided on 3 outfits for 30 days.

1 skirt, 1 pair of trousers, and 1 dress. 2 tops, a cardigan and a denim shirt. Plus a pair of leggings if necessary.

(My 3 outfits doesn’t include clothes for exercising, which I’ll still wear.)

I started on 4th March, and I’ll report back once the 30 days are over.

The goal is not to convince myself that this is all I need. The goal is to figure out what works, what is missing, and what things I would prefer to have (and not have) to make my wardrobe work better for me.

The goal is to experiment with less so I can find out where my “enough” lies on the scale.

It’s not so much about deciding which of the things I own I need or don’t need; more about helping me get clear on my future choices.

Owning less stuff isn’t just about letting go of the things we no longer use. It’s about understanding why we made the choices we made, learning from our mistakes, and getting clear on exactly what we need and what we’ll use.

If we know what we need and are pragmatic about what we’ll use, not only do we end up with less stuff: we use less resources, reduce our footprint, and create less waste.

Now I’d love to hear from you! Have you ever taken part in a “less stuff”, decluttering or minimalism challenge? What were the rules? Did you love it? Did you hate it? Did you learn anything? Were there any surprises? Or do challenges like this fill you with dread? Any other thoughts? Please share below!

Experiments with Less Stuff: 3 Outfits for 30 DaysExperiments with Less Stuff: 3 Outfits for 30 Days
36 replies
  1. Anna
    Anna says:

    Im really interested to see where this takes you. Reading this has just helped me realise that I fall into seasonal “uniforms” (combinations of clothes) that I wear repeatedly for a few months before getting bored with them, feeling the need to mix things up or the weather changes. Last years choice may not be the same as this years but things to come round. I had a change up day today and had a flash back to wearing the same top and cardi combo, maybe 6 years ago. I’ve worn both items but in different ways in the meantime. this realisation in itself has helped me loads with my enough. I look forward to the rest of your experiment, you are a constant inspiration.

    • Lindsay (Treading My Own Path)
      Lindsay (Treading My Own Path) says:

      Thank you Anna! Yes I am definitely a uniform person, I don’t tend to get bored of things but the weather dictates necessary outfit changes as the seasons progress. When I was thinking about where I got all these things, I realised that the cardigan was purchased new from the shop in my pre- zero waste and pre- living in Australia days.. which means 2011 or earlier! Part of that is because whilst it was part of 200+ things it never got worn. It was only as I decluttered I rediscovered it and now when I buy shirts I buy them with this cardigan in mind to maximise its wear!

  2. Jane Killingbeck
    Jane Killingbeck says:

    i probably dont own much more than 30 pieces of clothing s but mostly this stuff is long owned and from charity shops… i find in order to use charity shops i need to buy what i love when i see it in order to put it together with other things which maybe have sat in my wardrobe unused for many years but then i find new ways of using them… or they await things that will look well with them. so it is about keeping things and then reusing them ..often very beloved things which have stories behind them .. and which are part if my history ..but which maybe i wore for a passage of my life and then wanted a new style…. but now appear again transformed and resurrected ……. i have items of clothing still from my twenties, and often think wistfully of other things that in a fit of clearing i threw out and now wish i still had…particularly a blue laura ashley dkirt i had in the seventies!
    and most of my clothes are so well worn that noone else would wear them !
    i can remember vividly every item of clothing i had as a teenager and as a young woman….. i can picture myself in each piece if clothing still and now my daughters have so many clothes, that
    are bought without thought and in such amounts i doubt they will have such memories …this saddens me

    • Lindsay (Treading My Own Path)
      Lindsay (Treading My Own Path) says:

      Hi Jane, I loved this story so thank you for sharing! I’m so much more careful these days to make sure the things I buy go with things I already own. If I love something but it is going to need a new piece to go with it and different shoes, it is a no. Learned the hard way! I wear all of my stuff now until it is threadbare. In the old days I had things that were barely worn, but that was because I wasn’t clear in my mind about what suited me, what was comfortable and what was practical. Luckily, being barely worn, it was easy to pass them on to someone who did love them and would wear them. Wardrobe decluttering and capsule wardrobe building is a journey of discovery!

  3. Ruth
    Ruth says:

    If I don’t go to work, I find myself wearing the same clothing items for several days running, as it’s all about comfort for me. No, I take that back. Pretty is also important. I shop second hand for all but underwear, shoes and socks. (It’s hard to find thick wool socks second hand.)

    My difficulty is discarding; so though not much comes in, hardly anything goes out until it is turned into rags.

    Have you seen or heard that awful Old Navy advert that subverts the Marie Kondo philosophy? It turns the idea completely on it’s head and encourages buying more loads of clothes. Of course.

    Elizabeth Cline recently published a study detailing the worst issues of the clothing trade – Overdressed : the shockingly high cost of cheap fashion.

    I will look forward to hearing your thoughts after this experiment.

    • Lindsay (Treading My Own Path)
      Lindsay (Treading My Own Path) says:

      Hi Ruth! Yes my stuff tends to turn into rags too, which is another reason why compostable fabrics are so much better – they can be made into actual rags, then go in the worm farm or compost bin.

      I don’t have a TV and use adblockers and everything I can to steer clear of ads so no, but I might just hunt it down on YouTube now you’re “recommended” it (or not – but you know what I mean!)

      I look forward to sharing! :)

  4. juliamaurus
    juliamaurus says:

    Lindsay, you have inspired me to do a count to work out how many items of clothing I have. I haven’t done that before, but I’ve decluttered using Marie Kondo’s “spark joy” philosophy, which was fun. Decluttering seems to be a ritual I need to do periodically to keep my wardrobe fresh and relevant, and I’ve found that layering familiar pieces works better than keeping some items purely to use on the coldest days of the year.
    I read Bea Johnson’s book that talks about how bad plastic is for your health and the environment, and when my wardrobe recently got mouldy (blame the wet-season humidity) I finally gave away all my remaining synthetic-fabric clothes, except for one special formal dress that I never wear anyway…
    Only allowing myself to buy what I need, and buy it second-hand, and not buy synthetic fabrics, means there aren’t many new items coming into my wardrobe. The frustrating thing is that for work I’m forced to wear polyester shirts (compulsory uniform).
    Looking forward to your update!

    • Lindsay (Treading My Own Path)
      Lindsay (Treading My Own Path) says:

      Let me know what the count is Julie, I’d love to know! Even though I don’t adhere to the “strict numbers of things” philosophy that some minimalists follow, I do think actually counting our stuff keeps us in touch with what we have. If we don’t know what we have, does that mean we have too much?!

      Arghh…why are work shirts almost always polyester? So frustrating!

      • juliamaurus
        juliamaurus says:

        It took me a while to get around to it but the count currently stands at 99 items plus underwear, accessories and 10 pairs of shoes, but not including the work shirts. My wardrobe is in transition: I have had to acquire some maternity and nursing clothes and most of my wardrobe is on standby for when I’ll be able to fit into it again, so I’m not sure this is the best time to discard any of my “normal” clothing or assess how many is the right number of outfits for me. Having said that, while my wardrobe is smaller than it used to me, 99 items is definitely more than I need, and I aim to reassess my wardrobe sometime over the next year. LIke with moving house, a “transition” phase is a good time to audit my stuff…

  5. Marilyn Kordon
    Marilyn Kordon says:

    Good luck with your endeavor! I’m anxious to see how it turns out .I’m consider cutting way back on clothes spending it’s hard to know where to start.

  6. Melody
    Melody says:

    Great challenge! I’ve been thinking that my idea wardrobe would be: a dress for each working day; and a pair of jeans and a couple of tops for non-work days (plus sports gear, jackets etc). I haven’t decluttered down to this because I have good clothes and it seems wasteful not to use them until they wear out but I am on a shopping fast until they do wear out. But this post has inspired me to set up a capsule approximating this as much as I can with what I have now. Thanks Lindsay! P.S. that dress looks fantastic on you!

    • Lindsay (Treading My Own Path)
      Lindsay (Treading My Own Path) says:

      Hi Melody, I love this! Yes, this is exactly how capsule wardrobes should work – rather than a collection of things we may or may not wear that may or may not go with other things in our wardrobe! When I was decluttering I held onto some things that were still in good condition, but then I realised it was pointless if I didn’t wear them, and keeping them for when other stuff wore out just meant them sitting there unused. In the end I sold them on eBay – at least that way I knew they had a knew owner who would wear them. Some things (generally older stuff) I’ve kept to “wear out”. It took me 3 years of waiting for stuff to wear out to realise that it might be a loooooong wait!

      Ah, thank you! :)

  7. Liz
    Liz says:

    I find that I have an almost excellent maternity wardrobe. I just need long maternity exercise pants, and another pair of pants (apparently I’ve previously been fattest in summer). But I’m waiting for my end of baby season to go through my wardrobe and just keep what I actually wear! Because breastfeeding clothes are a different wardrobe again… Though I try to buy clothes that are normal enough to be normal clothes too.

  8. onefamilyoneplanetblog
    onefamilyoneplanetblog says:

    Hi Lindsay, I love the idea of finding your ‘enough’. I think our ‘enoughs’ may change over time so a challenge like this is probably good every now and again to assess where you’re at now. Have fun with the experiment and I’ll watch with interest to see what you get out of it!
    Cheers, Sally at One Family, One Planet blog

    • Lindsay (Treading My Own Path)
      Lindsay (Treading My Own Path) says:

      Yes definitely Sally – “enough” changes over time! And that is why after writing the book I started thinking about it again. I did most of my decluttering 3-4 years ago, so I don’t need to do the big overhaul, but things we have we stop using, or wearing. We change! So I thought it was a good opportunity to re-look at some areas. I promise to share my findings!

  9. Erin van Rooy
    Erin van Rooy says:

    As part of my simplifying journey which includes recycling, buying second hand and attempting zero waste I have gotten into the idea of Minimalism. I have followed Joshua Becker on this after doing Marie Kondo’s method a few years back. I actually signed up to his decluttering course and found it wonderful. Part of the course included 30 items of clothing challenge for 30 days. A few more clothes than you are planning Lyndsay, but a similar concept. I found too that I tend to wear a few favourites most of the time but it was still a challenge to decide to limit myself.
    I have had a purge of my clothes a couple of times and each time seem to be able to let go of more things! The same with my belongings. It is really quite freeing!

  10. Roselinde
    Roselinde says:

    Hi Lindsay, good luck with your experiment! I’m glad to see that you chose colour and not all black, white and grey like all the other capsule wardrobes on Instagram.

  11. Alyssa Arnold
    Alyssa Arnold says:

    Interested to see how this turns out! I just lost about 25 lbs which is great! But it means none is my clothes fit. I’ve never been one to buy clothes for myself (I wear mostly hand-me-downs from my fashionable younger sisters) but it looks like I’ll have to buy a few things. I’m trying to figure out what I can buy that will both be versatile and long lasting (physically and fashionably).

  12. Sue
    Sue says:

    What an excellent article Lindsay,looking forward to see how you go. I have made so many mistakes buying clothes and still having ‘nothing to wear’, any help in this department will be welcomed!

  13. Gail
    Gail says:

    I am looking forward to the results of this trial. :) Washing could be an issue for me as I am in the UK. As I read this article I realised that my husband wears the same 2 or 3 outfits constantly. I have to remind him to put things in the wash! :D

  14. Debi
    Debi says:

    This is SO interesting. I can’t wait to read your thoughts after all is said and done. We’re heading out of the country in a couple of days, and I have been struggling with the age old dilemma – what to bring and what to leave at home. This has me totally rethinking my packing.

  15. Stephanie Jane
    Stephanie Jane says:

    I read this post a while back and thought I’d be interested to count up my clothes and see what I’ve actually got. Not including underwear, it’s 40 items which is less than I expected. An unbalanced wardrobe though – over half is tops and shirts, some of which have never fitted!
    I’m now going to try your trick with the scarf tied round the rail to see what I actually wear :-)

  16. Susan
    Susan says:

    I had a major declutter when I finished working six years ago. I still find ( embarrassingly so!) that I have more clothes than I will ever need and am gradually taking them to second hand shops. My life is more relaxed now and so is my approach to dressing. I am currently half way through my “buy nothing new” year …. it’s been an amazing transformation! I just “make do” with what I have and I feel so much better for reducing my consumerism and waste. It has also freed up time that I used to spend shopping …. it’s been very liberating. I am so concerned about our use of resources and the inequalities between people ( and animals) on our planet. Thankfully in my social circle this concern , and action, is spreading!!

  17. Julia Wilkinson (Miss)
    Julia Wilkinson (Miss) says:

    This challenge seems very good. For a long time, I’ve bought partly fair trade or organic clothes, or clothes made from other sustainable materials like bamboo, and more recently, I’ve bought more charity shop clothes, and I’ve decluttered regularly, but serious, drastic decluttering of my clothing is a new, inspiring challenge, which I intend to think about. I’m quite new to going towards zero waste, and enjoying learning.

  18. Carol
    Carol says:

    You know, back in my grandmother’s day three dresses was what most people owned. Or even two! Plus the Sunday dress. Aprons kept them clean. So…it’s doable! Following your story with interest

  19. Wendy Steindl
    Wendy Steindl says:

    Hey Lindsay! This just popped up in my FB feed today and I read with interest… but I notice it was from March 19…. is there a link to your follow up – how you went?????


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