Want a Minimalist Wardrobe? Here’s What to Get Rid Of

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clothes in minimalist wardrobe

Years before selling our condo and downsizing to an RV, I began a massive closet downsize. For two years, I donated, sold, and consigned over a thousand items to create my minimalist wardrobe.

From living in an RV to moving onto a boat, I continue to re-evaluate and edit my closet. But even today, I still find myself justifying things that don’t belong in my wardrobe.

I’ve recently been working through a “new year purge.” As I sift through clothes, I remind myself to look at the realistic situation of each item. Hold it, and consider it before deciding it has earned a place in my closet.

New challenges often arise when it comes to creating a small wardrobe. I want to share the types of clothes that don’t belong in your minimalist wardrobe, plus how to get in the mindset to get rid of them for good!


1. “Just in Case” Clothes

I’m not in love with these pants, but they’re good quality and in decent shape. I might need them later. I’ll keep them just in case.

3 pairs jeans folded and laid out

This is a common theme that continues to challenge my approach to a minimalist wardrobe. I often find myself ready to toss something in the donate pile but then experience a sudden rush of panic.

This reaction must be part of our natural instinct to prepare for the worst— kind of like your body storing fat because winter is coming (if only).

We don’t live in a world where we need to store up fat because we can’t hunt. And we don’t need to store up clothing in case of a fabric famine.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t keep a few spares tucked away, but do we need 30 or 40 t-shirts? I could see every concert, fundraiser, and vacation of the last two decades immortalized in my t-shirt collection. If I lived to be ninety, I would’ve still had t-shirts without holes, guaranteed.

SOLUTION: First, recognize this isn’t about perfection. You can allow yourself a few exceptions.

I have some comfy long-sleeve Pima cotton shirts that aren’t made by the brand anymore. I’ve had these for years but don’t need many long-sleeves on the boat.

Knowing I couldn’t repurchase my shirts, I tucked two away in storage and only kept one in my closet. This is a freebie “just in case” item I allow myself. So when it comes time to evaluate the t-shirts I’ve stashed away, I know some of those have to go.

Don’t beat yourself up as you work through this process. It’s ingrained in our DNA to not be wasteful.

The last thing I wanted to do was have to replace those pants I was thinking of donating. But I had to start being honest with myself. What am I saving everything for? And does the reward of keeping an item outweigh its impact on mental and physical space in my life?


2. Clothes No Longer Your Style

Some of the biggest challenges can be items you used to wear regularly that you no longer have a desire to wear.

dresses and skirt hanging on bar

The garment still fits, you even look good in it, but it doesn’t give you that spark of confidence it used to.

Frustrated, you ask yourself, “How can something I used to love become something I don’t reach for?” This is all part of the evolution of our personal style.

I went through a floral/colorful sundress phase in my late twenties. Those sundresses were some of the most challenging items to part with. Even though I never wore them anymore. They were so beautiful, and in great shape, but somewhere in my early thirties, I moved away from the romantic style they embodied.

How sad those dresses were hanging in the back of my closet. Come Spring, I happily took them to consignment.

SOLUTION: There’s a difference between liking an item (or style) and it being your style. You can appreciate something without it being something you would wear.

Think about the items you used to wear but haven’t recently. Now think about the space you would have if you removed those items. Try it for a week. See how you like your closet without them.

You’ll be happier opening your closet to styles you love to wear now, not then.

After I parted with my sundresses, I felt rejuvenated by the space it opened up in my closet.

I accepted the dresses served me well. So I thanked them (in true Marie Kondo fashion) and allowed them the opportunity to be valued by someone else.


3. Clothes You Never Wear

On the opposite side of the spectrum are things that were never worn or worn once.

sweaters disorganized on shelf

The guilt from spending money on something I never wore would consume me. I was paralyzed when faced with those items.

“Don’t waste that money,” I would say to myself. But the truth is, the money is already wasted.”

If you don’t love the item or you’re uncomfortable in it, it doesn’t matter. That money is spent. Adding to the guilt by looking at it in your closet or forcing yourself to wear it adds to the frustration.

SOLUTION: Getting rid of the item as soon as you realize it’s not working will make life a lot easier. But this isn’t a complete waste. You’ve learned a lesson. You now know you don’t like that color, cut, fabric, or whatever is causing the issue. Don’t forget it!

Since creating a minimalist wardrobe, I have been able to decrease my “mistake” purchases.

I follow the below rules to avoid purchasing clothes I will never wear.

  1. Don’t shop when you don’t need anything. Unsubscribe to promotion emails unless you are waiting on a sale for something specific.
  2. Keep a list of items you need and wait weeks or even months before purchasing.
  3. Make it a point to try on any items before deciding on a purchase. Even if ordering online, I always try to find articles in a store to test the fit and feel.

There is a nice side effect to creating a minimalist closet. The time invested in curating your closet will make you an intentional shopper. Once you’ve gone through the process, you’re naturally more selective about what you let in your wardrobe.


4. Clothes that Don’t Fit your Lifestyle

Transitioning from living and working in Colorado to a nomadic life in an RV and on a boat was impactful to my wardrobe. There was a lot to consider.

What I ultimately created was a minimalist outdoor wardrobe that was perfect for my lifestyle.

sweaters hanging in closet

Climate Change

Temperature, Humidity

When I left Colorado, I ditched most of my more bulky, cold-weather clothes. I knew we’d see some cold weather, but for the most part, would be chasing warmer temps.

As much as I enjoyed my quality cotton clothing, I paired it down since I knew it would be hot and hard to dry.

Storage Adjustments

Space, Access, Protection

I couldn’t afford to tuck away nearly as many seasonal clothes as I had in the past. With limited space and access, I had to be even more selective with my wardrobe.

Another critical factor was the threat of mold. I loved my leather boots and handbags, but humidity is not a friend to leather. Delicate wool and cashmere items also had no place on a boat.

I lessened the blow by keeping a select few “lifetime items” that are loving packed away at my parents’ house. When I visit, it’s fun to pull them out to enjoy during my vacation to “land life.

Lifestyle Changes

Work, Hobbies

Since I wouldn’t be going to the office, I got rid of more office clothes than other clothing types. But let’s be honest. I wasn’t dressing up much for my relaxed ski resort gig to begin with. No pantsuits (or anything close) in this closet!

SOLUTION: It’s helpful to diagram the type of clothing in your closet versus the time you spend wearing that clothing. Once you have a visual, you can answer the question, “How much of your wardrobe mirrors your lifestyle?”

Below is a visual representation of my closet before quitting my job and moving into an RV. I had been living with a minimalist wardrobe, but it didn’t fit my future casual, outdoor lifestyle.

Type of Clothing

pie chart breakdown of type of clothing
Closet breakdown before moving into an RV/boat.

Allocation of Time

pie chart breakdown by allocation of time
How time will be spent in the new lifestyle in an RV/boat.

It was hard to part with items that had served me so well through many Colorado seasons. But as we got closer to departure, my good sense and minimalist mindset triumphed.

I recognized the humidity would destroy my precious leather items. I also accepted that the type of clothing I wore daily would change drastically.

Be honest with yourself about where you are spending your time. Compare your findings with your wardrobe and begin editing accordingly.


Final Thoughts on a Minimalist Wardrobe

Living with less – it’s a lifestyle that requires small and consistent changes.

Always remember to continue to take baby steps forward and work toward conquering new challenges. It’s part of curating a minimalist wardrobe!

Keep at it. There’s so much reward in continuous closet purges and tweaks. And there’s nothing like the feeling of knowing you genuinely love everything in your closet.

Check out 6 Life-Changing Benefits of a Massive Clothing Purge for why you should get started now!


Want to learn more about downsizing your closet to a minimalist wardrobe?

Check out our 5 step guide to downsizing your wardrobe.


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