Move Beyond Decluttering to Minimizing – Clothes and Shoes

Minimizing your wardrobe can be both cathartic and agonizing.

Collection of Multicolored Women's High-Heel Shoes

This year for spring cleaning, move beyond decluttering your clothes closet to minimizing what is in it, forever. These five tips will help you get started.

Reducing your clothing, shoes, and accessories down to the items you actually wear and then keeping your wardrobe at a minimum has a double benefit. First, getting dressed will be easier, faster, and guilt-free since you no longer have to look at things you never wear. Second, it is good for the environment because it reduces the need to make new clothing, which involves using raw materials, water, energy, toxic dyes, and harmful chemicals.

Minimizing is a more ruthless form of decluttering, which will likely require you to wrestle with your feelings about the clothing you own now and change your approach to adding items to your wardrobe in the future.

Below are some tips that may help you navigate through the emotional aspects of minimizing your wardrobe.

1. Give Yourself a Break

Do any of your clothes still have price tags on them? Has your wardrobe expanded into the guest room closet? Is there anything in your closet or dresser that you have not worn in two years or more?

Did you answer yes to one or more of the questions above? I did, too.

Recently, when I surveyed my wardrobe, I still had clothes and shoes suitable for the corporate work world that I left over six years ago and was hanging onto other things I had not worn in years. I felt embarrassed and a little ashamed. It seemed wasteful and even selfish to have unworn things hanging in my closet and tucked away in shoeboxes and in my jewelry box.

There is nothing you or I can do about our clothing past so I propose giving ourselves a break and moving forward with minimizing our wardrobes now and then trying to keep them that way in the future.

2. Who Are You Now

As your circumstances change throughout your life your wardrobe changes, too. The overcrowded closet problem arises when you move from one life change to the next without jettisoning the wardrobe items that you no longer need or like.

Ask yourself what clothes, shoes, and accessories you want and need for the person you are now and consider getting rid of everything else.

Do you have snow apparel or shorts from when you were living in a different climate that you will probably not wear in the foreseeable future? Have you retired from paid work or changed jobs and no longer need the business suits, ties, or uniforms hanging in your closet? Are you still holding on to clothes worn by your younger and/or smaller self that you will never wear again (be honest)? When all of your favorite clothes are in the dirty clothes hamper, do you put on your just-in-case clothes or do you do the laundry?

Once you have honestly assessed your current needs, you are ready to begin clearing out the items that do not fit your minimized wardrobe requirements.

The most difficult things to let go of are the items you have a special attachment to like handbags, ties, shoes, sweaters, jewelry, jeans, or _____.

If this pertains to you, try wearing each item and then putting aside the ones that are not your favorites. Keep repeating the process until you are either down to one or what seems like a drastic reduction to you.

3. Imagine a New Life for Your Gently Worn Clothes

Another minimizing strategy is to imagine who could benefit from the wardrobe items you do not wear or need but are having a hard time removing from your closet.

Over the years, I had been reducing my corporate wardrobe but I still had a sizable collection of clothes, high-heel shoes and flats, and jewelry that I did not wear anymore. I was down to my favorites so they were the most difficult to part with.

I decided to donate my work clothes and shoes and a lot of my jewelry to a nonprofit organization empowering women by providing job search support and professional attire.

With that decision made, I began boxing up the items I was donating.

Even though nowadays I rarely wear high-heels, narrowing down to one pair was agonizing for me. For work, I had splurged on well made, comfortable, and beautiful shoes. How could I pick just one pair? My solution was to put on each pair of shoes and wear them around the house for a half an hour or so and then decide which heels were the most comfortable.

4. Inspirational Clothing

If you find yourself justifying holding onto clothes because you might wear them some day, go back and read tip 2 and 3 again.

Then decide if you have any inspirational clothes you want to keep, meaning clothes that you do not or can not wear now but that you aspire to wear in the future.

I kept two pairs of size 10 jeans as my inspirational clothing items. They were my favorite weed whacking and yard work pants until I gained 25 pounds during breast cancer treatment (I was one of those people who gained weight during chemotherapy). Now, I am working on shedding those extra pounds and looking forward to being able to pull on my old jeans.

5. A Word about Donating

By donating your gently worn clothing, you are giving it a second life with a new person. This is a people friendly practice and an environmentally sound solution for getting rid of unwanted clothes, shoes, and accessories.

However, there is a downside to donating. If you do not have growing children but are donating clothing on a regular basis it might be time re-evaluate your clothes buying habits. Are you donating existing clothes to justify buying new things? If you are, then perhaps you are not ready to minimize your wardrobe, yet.

Minimizing your wardrobe can be both cathartic and agonizing. Having an uncluttered closet holding only the clothing you like and do wear gives you a sense of accomplishment and makes getting dressed a pleasure.

Please share your wardrobe minimizing stories and strategies with other readers.

Featured Image at Top: Collection of Multicolored Women’s High-Heel Shoes – Photo Credit iStock/nullplus

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Author: Linda Poppenheimer

Linda researches and writes about environmental topics to share information, spark conversation, and convince people to take action to keep earth habitable for all. She believes our individual actions do matter—it all adds up.

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