Move Beyond Decluttering to Minimizing – Clothes and Shoes

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 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, high-heel shoes, and a lot of my jewelry to a nonprofit organization helping to empower women by providing 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 bought expensive, well made, 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 a 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.

Related Posts

Greening Your Laundry Habits

Freshly Washed Towels with Bottles of White Distilled Vinegar

Greening your laundry habits may be easier than you think. Laziness and using fewer products are the keys to success.

Doing laundry is a habit, something you do routinely without giving much thought to it. Over the course of your lifetime, you will either do or contribute to thousands of loads of laundry. When you consider that everyone else around the country is also doing thousands of loads of laundry, you realize it all adds up.

Laundry Habits and the Environment

Each load of laundry uses water, electricity, and possibly natural gas. So does making washers, dryers, and laundry products and their containers. If you use liquid laundry products, which consist mostly of water you are paying for diesel-powered semi trucks to transport extra water and then flushing it down the drain. Recycling plastic and cardboard containers are better than tossing them in the trash, but recycling also uses energy and creates waste.

All the substances that you flush down your washing machine, toilet, sink, shower, and bathtub end up in at a sewer treatment plant, unless you have a septic tank in which case your wastewater percolates into the ground. Sewer treatment plants primarily attempt to remove solids and kill pathogens before pumping the remaining effluent into an ocean, lake, river, stream, or aquifer. Although many natural and synthetic compounds are broken down in water, not all are. The more substances wastewater treatment plants have to deal with the more energy and chemicals they use to clean the water.

Here are some easy actions you can take to green your laundry habits.

Laundry Laziness Policy

My sons introduced me to the concept of laundry laziness.

Upon arriving at their college dorm rooms, the quickly abandoned most of the laundry habits I had taught them and laundry piled up until they would run out of clean clothes. When I asked them why they did not do their laundry every week, they responded with something like, “I have better things to do or I’m lazy.”

That got me to thinking about my own laundry routine. One thing led to the next, I began questioning everything about laundry habits and wrote about it in the post Laundry – Laziness is Good.

The drought in California forced my hand. At one point, our small town’s water supply was running dangerously low so conserving water was critical. My sons’ laundry laziness strategy seemed like a good water saving measure so I began doing only full loads of laundry and only when it became absolutely necessary.

I discovered that I could actually survive without doing small loads of laundry to wash my favorite jeans.

Laundry laziness is easy to implement because all you need is a slight change in mindset. Doing fewer loads of laundry might even save you money.

Using fewer laundry products will also help you green your laundry routine.

Use Fewer Laundry Products

Depending on how many different products you currently use to wash and dry your laundry, using fewer or in some cases, different products can substantially reduce your laundry environmental footprint.

One of the unexpected results of the drought was that I was laser focused on what we were putting down our drains. That is why I ended up standing in front of my laundry cupboard one day surveying its contents and sighing.

My collection included several different laundry detergents (you know for different fabrics), bleach, color safe bleach, an oxy additive, both a stick and a spray for pre-treating stains, liquid fabric softener, and washing machine cleaner (for the high-efficiency washer).

As I stood there, I asked myself “Do I actually need all these products to get our laundry clean?”

The answer was “I doubt it.” My next thought was “Why did I buy all this stuff in the first place?” followed by “Aha, advertising got me.” I see myself as an intelligent woman capable of making informed choices, but apparently, I had been easy prey for shrewd laundry product advertisers. Thank goodness, I came to my senses before laundry scent booster found its way into my shopping cart.

I decided to try using fewer products, which would mean fewer chemicals and other substances going down our drains or being in contact with our skin 24/7.

The first challenge was using up the products I had on hand. I did not want to dump the products I no longer wanted down the drain or toss them in the trash because that would not be environmentally sound and would waste money. Since I had bought some products in bulk, and am I now using them sparingly, I probably have enough bleach and pre-treating spray on hand to last for at least a decade.

Ditching fabric softer for distilled white vinegar was a major change for me. I buy vinegar by the gallon and transfer some into a smaller bottle which makes it easier to pour into the fabric softener dispenser of my washing machine.

Vinegar effectively removes odors and acts as a softener. The towels and clothes might not be quite as soft and fluffy, but they are soft and thankfully, they do not have that cloying “fresh laundry” smell. When static cling occurs, I just shake it out. Vinegar also keeps the washing machine clean.

I wish I had changed to vinegar years ago, but oh well.

Go look at your own laundry shelf or cupboard and then decide what products you can do without and which ones you want to change to a more environmentally and people friendly version.

Consider adopting a laundry laziness policy and then enjoy having extra time to do fun things instead of laundry.

Reader Note: If your washer is over ten years old, you could be using twice the amount of water of newer more efficient washers that also use less electricity. Old electric or natural gas dryers are also less efficient than newer models. However, I am not advocating replacing appliances that are currently in good working order. When it is time to replace your washer and dryer, consider buying water and energy saving models. Look for the ENERGY STAR label.

Related Posts