Only five years ago, my wardrobe filled our entire guestroom from floor to ceiling. Now, it fits into a small corner of our bedroom. I have never been happier about it.
A huge walk-in closet filled to the brim sounds like a girl’s dream. But when my wardrobe still filled an entire bedroom it was also hard to find things. And nothing seemed to go together. New purchases would only call for more purchases. I faced the familiar dilemma: so many clothes, yet nothing to wear.
Choosing an outfit used to be a lot of fun. But under those circumstances it was exhausting. I grew increasingly tired of my wardrobe. So I gave or threw everything away. And it was the best thing I could have done!
Why downsize? The problem with too many choices
Before downsizing my wardrobe, getting dressed was stressful. There were just too many things to decide and think about! Jeans? Which jeans? I had dozens, and each limited what I could or could not wear with it in turn! Picking an outfit in this way was stressful and time consuming.
We think choice is a great thing to have. Freedom! Possibilities! But studies have shown that we find an excess of choice debilitating, even paralyzing. It leaves us more dissatisfied as well. For fear of making the wrong call, we waver, hesitate, we grow increasingly insecure. Once we decide, however, a nagging “what if” has us constantly doubting our decision afterwards.
I feel this no clearer than when I am in a restaurant. I take forever to decide, and once my food comes I wish I had gotten the other item after all. American psychologist Barry Schwartz calls this “The paradox of choice“: Choice actually lessens our freedom, not increases it. Because we squander so much of our valuable time and energy to make the elusive right one.
How does a small wardrobe help?
The idea of “ones”
The ideal wardrobe is made up of “ones.” It covers all the bases and ensures variety. So for example, one shirt, one blouse, one plain white T, one sweater… The overarching idea is that no one really needs two or more LBDs. Just one.
This makes choosing easier automatically. Choices are limited from the outset. Now I only have to decide whether I want to wear a pair of sleek skinny jeans or frazzled boyfriend denims. Easier already.
But thinking of my wardrobe in terms of “ones” had one more side-effect: It also amped up the quality of my wardrobe tremendously. If I am allowed only one trenchcoat, then what will it be? Just any ragged trenchcoat? No, only the best of best, of course! Ideally, (in a world where clothes last us forever,) it will be the last trenchcoat of my life.
Each purchase with a purpose
All this had a positive impact on my shopping behavior as a whole.
Fast fashion is detrimental for a number of reasons. It has devastating effects on workers’ rights and the environment. But in the context of this post, I mainly want to point to the fact that it facilitates impulse buys, and leads to unhealthy mass consumption.
On a personal level, fast fashion buys get you very little return for the money and time invested. Cheap clothes are cheap for a reason. And then there is the problem with consistency.
So many clothes, yet nothing to wear – how is that even possible? Because impulse buys happen when we shop without aim or purpose. Our mind wanders to floral one moment, to plaid the next – entirely depending on what we chance upon that day. The end result is a jumbled mess of mismatched styles. Very inconsistent. And soon, getting dressed is a little like following a flow chart: if this, then that, but not that.
Less is more: better quality, better style
So more clothes do not equal more or better looks. Whereas less clothes did definitely improve my style. Or at least how I feel about it. Because there are two things I cannot compromise on if I am really to keep my wardrobe small.
For starters, a small wardrobe is not sustainable without a shift to quality over quantity. Less clothes mean more wear per piece. But you just do not get many wears out of low-quality clothes. And having to replace an item every few months adds up in the long run. That means that of course I will look for something more durable instead.
Yet the best quality piece is of no use if it does not match anything else in my wardrobe. In that case I will simply never, or rarely, ever wear it. Thus, cost per wear goes up, and again it will be a waste of money.
So some coherence is desirable. Meaning that I have to be able to think of at least three to four novel outfits with the potential purchase. This ensures it adds value to my wardrobe, and fits with my style.
And this way, I found my wardrobe got better consistently. My style has since come out clearer. I feel very confident about all pieces in my wardrobe. And I know that whatever I pull out in the morning, I can easily mix and match.
How small is a small wardrobe?
At first, a wardrobe that would fit into a single suitcases was my highest ideal. It seemed practical (for moving), and it fit my then increasingly minimalist mindset.
I love the idea of minimalism: Strip your life from everything that does not make you happy, thus become more mindful of what does.
But I still like fashion a bit more.
Wearing the same things every day bores me. I need a bit stylistic flexibility and options. So the size of my wardrobe now seems about right, although it is also my maximum: It loosely fills two Mulig clothing racks and a four-drawer Malm from IKEA.
“Small” is a flexible term. It can denote a five pieces capsule wardrobe, or something twenty times that. I have never counted my clothes. I just edit my wardrobe until it feels right. But I would always argue in favor of: the smaller, the better!
Downsizing my wardrobe was one step. Committing to a small wardrobe followed after. Soon I also began shopping smarter. It was all a logical consequence.
Why not try and get rid of everything that does not “spark joy,” and just see what happens for yourself. You will not want to go back! A small wardrobe is unbelievably refreshing. It saves you time. Getting dressed will become easier and fun again! Less clothes to work with will spark your creativity. Your outfits will get better. It will also make you a smarter and more economic shopper. It will change your life! That is what has compelled me to stick to a small wardrobe.
Has anyone made a similar experience? Would you agree, or disagree? Leave a reply in the comments!