Wednesday, September 25, 2019

A Shopaholic Detox or: How I Learned to Love a 40-Piece Wardrobe

simple outfit
This is about it--my wardrobe now consists of a tiny stack of clothing.  And I love it.  
It was a spring Friday night a few years back, at an outdoor bar in North Portland.  The topic turned to clothes. 

“I can remember what I was wearing at any place I've been to,” my friend informed us.  Tonight she wore her customary sheath dress and heels.

To my surprise, I realized I could, too.  In my memory, I'd even infer people's reaction based on my outfit: “No wonder she hired me on the spot.  I was wearing that Title Nine shirt!” 

Another friend chipped in.  “In Germany I worked with a woman who would wear the same thing every day.” 

The thirteen-year-old in me started.  You shouldn't ever wear the same thing twice in a week! 

I gave her the benefit of the doubt.  “Maybe she had lots of the same pants and shirts—and it just looked the same.” 

“No,” he answered.  “I could tell it was the same--the sweater had a tear in the sleeve and it was in the same place every day.” 

The same thing, every day?  In public?  It was a paradigm shift.  

At the same time, I'd be amiss to not acknowledge that 90% of my outfits look suspiciously similar: a jersey t-shirt paired with jeans or shorts, depending on the weather. 

A few years later, I came across this article.  The author determined an outfit he felt comfortable and looked decent in, and was versatile enough to wear in most situations.  In his case it was a fitted black t-shirt and khaki pants.  He then proceeded to wear it every.  Single.  Day.  

For the week anyway.  Then put it in the wash. 

I felt comforted and challenged by him.  I could let go of the anxiety over being seen in the same thing twice.  And almost like making a bold new fashion statement, wearing the same thing every day is something you really COULD do.  And not be shunned from respectable society.

Losing It

How many pieces of clothing do you have in your closet right now?  And of these, how many have you worn in the past six weeks? 

Lugging a heavy suitcase around the world this past year has made me acutely aware of just how much clothing I prefer having with me but which rarely, if ever, makes an appearance on my body. 

On the flipside, a few token pieces receive the lion's share of wear and tear. 

In an effort to make traveling easier, then—no dread at the idea of heading to the airport or up a flight of stairs to a new hostel or AirBnb—I've pared my wardrobe down to these go-to capsule pieces. 

They consist of less than 40 items, including undergarments!  Nothing special in this wardrobe: a t-shirt dress, several tanks and t-shirts, two pairs of jeans, one pair of shorts, two pairs of shoes, one coat and two long-sleeved shirts. 

I'll wear the same outfit until I can't hygenically bear putting it on again, then move on to the next.  After I've worn EVERYTHING, which takes about two weeks, I wash it all and repeat the process.

My clothing fits into a carry-on suitcase.  No baggage claim at the airport for me--awesomeness!

The Awesomeness of Keeping it Simple    

I've learned that I love having less clothing.   

There's no impulse purchases while out and about and confronted with cute clothes every day.  I don't buy anything because I don't have the space in my suitcase. 

And I only have a few choices over what to wear in the morning.  It eliminates brain clutter and makes my morning routine fluid. 

minimalist wardrobe
My clothes fit into the top shelf of this Ikea cabinet.
All my clothes fit into a small cupboard, creating an open living space. 

And laundry is a relatively painless ordeal.  There's only so much work involved in folding and putting away thirty or so items.   

Missing Those Statement Pieces

A rooftop bar on a Friday night calls for special attire.  What would you wear? 

The hard part of minimizing my wardrobe is I've had to choose practical over pretty.  I left behind my cute pink sandals in favor of utilitarian Keens. 

I'm missing the fun pieces (a jean jacket, skirts, leg warmers) I'd pull out to spice up an outfit.  I honestly don't know what I'll put on the next time I want to dress up.  

Maybe when I'm more settled I'll incorporate a few more things.  

But for now, I'm really enjoying the simplicity of my tiny wardrobe.  This is something I could get used to. 


  1. Wow! That's amazing! I guess if I traveled a lot, I'd be inclined to pare down my wardrobe, too. We do tend to go to the same comfort pieces for our days off, don't we? Summer for me is skorts and some top (graphic tee or non-graphic jersey tee) and winter is jeans and some top (whatever's easiest to pull on over my head). I tried the capsule thing for a recent trip (it was just a long weekend) and I had quite a few possible combinations and packed like I was going for a week. It was still one of my lighter packing attempts. Still working on that. I have another trip coming up (again, a long weekend) and I'll try again (except for the dress-up clothes for a wedding). Thanks so much for the inspiration, Julie!


    1. I love graphic tees! Yeah, I think for women especially it's difficult to pare down a wardrobe. There're so many combinations of clothing for so many different occasions. But anyway, I'm liking this for now!

  2. It is interesting to read about people's experiences with wearing the same/similar clothing pieces every day. I mean, it is easier to have a bunch of the same thing so you don't need to spend time thinking about what to pair. I am guilty of trying to mix and match on a weekly basis. Going towards a minimal wardrobe is hard - but worth it with some baby steps :)!

    Nancy ♥

    1. Yeah it's fun to create a new look every day. I guess that's why fashion is so popular. But sticking to the same pieces has made my routine simpler, which is awesome.

  3. I love this. I'm in the process of minimizing my closet but I believe I've added emotional value to clothes that shouldn't hold such value. Thanks for sharing, very interesting read!

    cabin twenty-four

    1. Clothes are like that, huh? One things I've done before is to NOT wear some of my favorite clothes as they're "too precious" or something. But then they never get worn and just sit in my closet! ha ha. Well good luck with the minimizing. Thanks for reading.

  4. Thanks for sharing this! I just recently went through my entire closet and donated a bunch of clothes! It's feels so great to have a clean closet again and similarly I've noticed I have a lot of the same type of clothing in my closet too!

    1. It's really so easy to keep acquiring and acquiring. And yeah, I've heard that people only wear something like 20% of the clothes in their closets!


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