Minimalism / Personal Finance

My attempt at the minimalist wardrobe

I have a confession to make – a lifelong secret of mine:

I have felt insecure about my clothes my entire life.

As a child, my parents didn’t make a whole lot of money. We weren’t poor, mind you, but I felt poor. We were a single-income family as my mom worked hard to take care of her two young kids and her ailing live-in mother. I didn’t had clothes like my friends did. Nearly all of my clothes were hand-me-downs from other people’s kids at my parents’church.

My dad didn’t make a whole lot of money, so even things like McDonald’s were huge luxuries for us. Whatever little extra money they did have didn’t go towards buying their kids new toys or clothes or shoes – it went to their mortgage instead. Yup, somehow, despite not being a high earner, being a single-income family and having to support 2 kids and 1 ailing mother, my parents paid off their mortgage (when interest rates were ~10%) in 14 years. (And now you know why my obsession with personal finance runs so deep :)) But I didn’t see or understand what they were doing. All I knew was that everyone had nicer clothes and shoes than I did.

I honestly don’t know why it bothered me so much, but it did. I felt inferior to everyone whose parents bought them nice new clothes and nice new shoes. I felt ugly. 

So whenever I got birthday or Christmas money, I’d save it all then spend it all on clothes, all of which were on sale of course. I needed to stretch my dollar as far as it could go so I could get as many new clothes as I possibly could. Then I’d excitedly go to school, convinced that my crush of the week would finally notice me since I was wearing such nice clothes now. What a silly little girl I was.

As I grew older and started working, I started being able to afford more clothes and shoes and started to accumulate quite a collection of clothes. But I never felt like I had enough. I was never as fashionable as everyone else. To this day, I’d sometimes internally lament “I don’t have enough clothes!!!” when desperately trying to find something decent to wear for an event.

This evening, I stumbled upon Blonde on a Budget‘s post on only owning 28 items of clothing.

And it inspired me.

I realized it was finally time to let go of that silly little idea that I needed more clothes. It was time to realize that clothes don’t make the person, and that anyone who judges me based on the clothes I wear isn’t anyone whose opinion matters anyway. It was time to stop caring what other people think of me or what I wear.

Anyone who judges me based on the clothes that I wear isn't anyone whose opinion matters anyway.

And so I set out on a mission to adopt a minimalist wardrobe. And most luckily for me, my missionary cousin is currently in the country, along with his wife and pre-teen and teenaged daughters, all three of whom could fit most of my clothes (although maybe the youngest may need to grow into them.) At least my mountains of clothes weren’t going to go to waste.

Here’s a look at my closet before. Note that I also have an Ikea PAX wardrobe, which, for some reason, I opted not to take a before photo of. Silly me! (The clothes on the right and on the shelves above the photo are my husband’s.)

my closet before minimalist decluttering

So I went through both my closet and my Pax wardrobe systematically, setting aside all the clothes on my bed that I wouldn’t wear, haven’t worn or didn’t need. I tried to limit myself to a maximum of 5 per item of clothing.

closet spring cleaning - clothing purge

Turns out, it was a lot harder than I thought it would be. There were so many things I didn’t want to let go of, even though I hadn’t worn it in ages.

My wardrobe after declutteringMy closet after decluttering

In the end, I was left with:

Casual wear:

  • 5 sweatshirts
  • 6 pairs of jeans (I know! This is still a lot, but I really couldn’t bear to part with any of the remaining ones!)
  • 2 capri workout leggings
  • 1 full length workout leggings
  • 4 pairs of yoga pants or sweatpants
  • 4 pairs of shorts
  • 1 pair of bermudas (knee-length shorts)
  • 5 t-shirts
  • 5 long-sleeve t-shirts
  • 7 summer tank tops (e.g. the type you’d wear over shorts at the beach or cottage)

Home clothes: (e.g. the type I’d only wear around the house, if I were painting or taking the pup out for a hike)

  • 3 home sweatshirts (e.g. the type you’d only wear around the house, painting, etc.)
  • 1 pair of bad jeans (really bad, but that I could wear out hiking on trails with my pup)
  • 4 home t-shirt (plus 2 of my husband’s white v-necks which shrunk in the wash)

Office wear:

  • 3 sleeveless formal tops (e.g. for work)
  • 3 formal tops
  • 3 thin sweaters
  • 1 thick sweater (we’re in Canada remember!)
  • 4 cardigans
  • 3 thick cardigans
  • 5 layering tank tops (e.g. the type you’d wear under sweatshirts or cardis)
  • 4 dress shirts
  • 3 work summer dresses
  • 4 work winter dresses
  • 3 pairs of dress paints
  • 2 blazers

Formal attire:

  • 2 party dresses (not that I go clubbing anymore, but just in case I have to go out)
  • 4 dresses appropriate for weddings
  • 2 winter dresses appropriate for weddings
  • 2 floor-length bridesmaid dresses (from my weddings last year)

Plus an assortment of summer/beach wear which I didn’t try to sort because I use all of them whenever we go to cottages and/or hot and sunny beach destinations. I also didn’t touch any of my PJs because I’m one of those people that change into PJs the second I get home so a lot of my PJs end up smelling after I’ve cooked, meaning I have to change again before bed. I often run out/am close to running out just before laundry day.

So in total, excluding beachwear and PJs, I still have 96 items of clothing. This is a far cry from Blonde on a Budget’s 28 but it seems like maybe she didn’t need an office wardrobe, which accounts for 38 of my items. I probably could get away with fewer jeans, but try as I might, I couldn’t convince myself to part with any of the 6 remaining ones.

My husband and I have agreed not to buy any more clothes unless there’s something we need but don’t have or if it’s to replace something that’s no longer wearable. I probably won’t need to buy another pair of jeans for a decade (unless all 6 don’t fit anymore.)

Having these numbers laid out have shown me that despite the purging, I still have so many clothes and that I am so blessed to be able to own so many! I’m going to embrace this scarce wardrobe and own it and be proud of my (semi) minimalist wardrobe.

I am so much more than the clothes that I wear, and this exercise was a great reminder of that. Now that I don’t have to waste any of my resources worrying about what I’m going to wear or whether I have enough clothes or whether my clothes are fashionable enough, I can instead channel my time and money towards things that really matter.

I am so much more than the clothes that I wear.

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3 thoughts on “My attempt at the minimalist wardrobe

    • It was definitely hard. Some of them I definitely hadn’t worn for awhile but kept holding on to, and I really struggled with the jeans, but I’ve just decided to keep the 6 I have now (which is a lot) and just not replace them as they wear out until I don’t have enough.

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  1. I see no reason to part with any of your 96 items. Simply replace items when they need to be replaced and you can maintain your selection of 96 items. It seems that will cost no more than maintaining a wardrobe of 60 items on a replacement basis.
    It is the “growth” of a wardrobe that incurs pointless expenses, I think.

    Liked by 1 person

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