10 Ways to Minimize and Optimize Your Wardrobe

Fast fashion is making your wardrobe fat, so don’t let your clothes mindlessly add up like empty calories

Credit: Pottery Barn

Here are 10 ways to cut out the excess and add meaningful items to your wardrobe

Do the simple hanger trick

You may have heard this from a friend or read about it online, but now it’s time to actually do it. The hanger trick is a tried-and-true closet hack where you flip all your hangers around at the beginning of a season. After you wear something, you get to hang it back the right way. At the end of the season, you’ll be able to tell which items you’ve actually worn. Donate the ones you haven’t.

Credit: Pottery Barn


Try a capsule collection

In 2010, the personal capsule collection movement began and Project 333 gained widespread momentum. The idea is to choose 33 items from your closet and wear those pieces for the next three months. Go with lots of basics and staples. By doing this exercise, you’ll get used to working with less and even challenge your creativity by having to pair unexpected items together.

Credit: Pottery Barn

Box away your nice-to-haves

A milder alternative to a capsule collection is to trim away the fat. Anything that isn’t on your list of absolute loves, throw into a box and hide it from plain sight. How many times have you forgotten about something at the back of the closet, rediscovered it later and realized life went on without it? Sure, you might be playing a mind trick on yourself, but it’s for the greater good of your closet (and sanity).

Let go of sentimental clothing

Your mom gave you a hideous sweater for Christmas. Your jacket is the only thing you have as a reminder of your ex. You keep a halter top two sizes too small because it reminds you of your glorious high-school days. Ditch the sentimental clothes already! Know that you can keep the memories without keeping clutter: take a picture of it.

Credit: Holt Renfrew

Rank duplicates

How often do we swing open our wardrobe and feel like we have a closet full of nothing? Yet, each rack or drawer is packed. Could it possibly be because you have too many multiples? Do an inventory of your typical high-volume items—jeans, tank tops, black tees—and rank them. If you have more than five, question whether you need the sixth. Yes, this may feel like ranking how much you like your children, but sometimes you need to give your closet some tough love.

Credit: Kate Spade

Give your closet a budget

Just like your bank account, do you know the balance in your closet? You might think that adding an extra 50 items to your closet seems like a lot, but that’s approximately four items each month for a year. And if you get three items in one shopping spree, you’re close to hitting your monthly budget. Give yourself an annual limit of 30 items or be a minimalist for a year with only one new item each month. Of course, you can make exceptions like buying a dress for your friend’s wedding.

Credit: Oak and Fort

Three’s a crowd

Sometimes you might find yourself caught up in a shopping frenzy just because the sign says there’s a volume discount. And sometimes we do this to ourselves—how many times did you pick up three items at Forever 21 instead of the one you needed? Maybe we judge clothes the same way we judge people: they look better in a group (this is called the Cheerleader Effect). The next time you find yourself holding a triplet of clothes, make the difficult decision of prioritizing which item you’d most like to have and forget about the other two.

Credit: Nordstrom

Buy what you’ll actually wear

You’ve bought things a size too small (remember those motivation jeans that were supposed to help you lose weight?), heels too high or things that are uncomfortable. When you’re trying to optimize your wardrobe for function, you have to make sure you’re buying functional pieces. One common pitfall is succumbing to beautiful but uncomfortable shoes. If you’re not comfortable wearing them in the store or if a turtleneck feels suffocating, don’t pull out the plastic (no matter how much you want to try the turtleneck hair tuck).

Credit: Forever 21

Always walk away

The next time you see something you must have, take a page from yoga class and apply it to your fashion life: meditate on it. Leave the store (or e-commerce site) and let the feelings sit with you. More often than not, you’ll find that your attention has moved onto other things. However if you come across the last one in your size and you really can’t risk the idea of FOMO, try the next tip.

Test your real level of commitment

The best time to test how much you really like what you bought is right after you bring home your prized possessions. This is like the precursor to the hanger trick. Leave your purchases in the shopping bags. If it’s true love, you’ll probably think about how to style your new blouse or start wearing your new sandals in the house. If the bags remain untouched, you’re more caught up with the romantic idea of owning the clothes rather than having a real long-term relationship with the them, so you’re better off returning them. But don’t keep them around for too long because you’ll probably start feel like you own them, aka the Endowment Effect.

Don’t hit the mall without #ShoppingGoals

If you go into a store with the intent of just window-shopping, you’re already half-committed to buying something. Stay away from online or in-store shopping when you know it’s not something you’ve budgeted for. And when you do go, make sure you know what you’re shopping for. This undeniably takes some fun out of shopping, but realize that buying fun things are often impulse purchases that we don’t need.