Smart shopping tips for a minimal wardrobe

I don’t know how I accumulated such a large amount of clothing, but a year ago, I started to notice how much I actually had. I haven’t had the luxury of having all the space in my room to myself, as part of it is used for storage of bedding, shoes, and seasonal clothing belonging to other members of my family, so looking at how much I actually own is important.

I’ve looked into capsule wardrobes and other methods of paring down your wardrobe, but as with all problems, the first step is admitting that you have a problem.

Signs that you may have too many clothes

The following things were were dead giveaways that I had too many clothes.

  • Wearing the same five shirts and skirts over and over.
  • Having difficulty picking something to wear each morning.
  • Finding clothes that I completely forgot I owned. Sometimes I felt awkward that I had forgotten about them.
  • Finding clothes that I had bought and was so sure I loved at the time of buying, but stood there thinking, ‘Um, why did I buy this…’
  • Feeling really awkward and bad about those clothes too.
  • Finding old, worn out clothing that I knew I had kept ‘just in case’. Pantyhose with a few little holes, socks that lost their elasticity, shirts that didn’t quite fit anymore but I thought still had cute prints on them.
  • Feeling really bad that those clothes were worn out. I considered getting rid of them.
  • Feeling really bad that I couldn’t actually bear to get rid of them.

If you notice any of these signs, you may have too much clothing – or, put it this way: you have a lot of clothing that you don’t need.

The important thing to realise is that you are in this situation most likely because you bought the clothes in the first place. So we need to look at the source of the problem.

I have outlined some common problems related to clothing shopping below. I have also provided some quick tips at the end of this post, so make sure you read those too. :D

Problem: Impulse buys, ie. ‘that looks nice’

I would buy clothes every two or three months (not as regularly as some people might), but would wear them every day for a week, or maybe a couple of times, before I decided I was bored of them and never wore them again.

I felt guilty about it after they sat untouched for months. I loved these items of clothing when I bought them, but I hadn’t thought about it enough to make a good decision.

How to fix this problem

If you are considering buying an item of clothing, give it a lot of thought. I mean a lot. Think about what you would wear it with, whether it suits your style, whether you would actually wear that colour, how many times a week you might wear it, etc.

I usually think about this as I move along and browse other items in the store. Not everybody wants to spend all day in a store, but see if you want to come back and take another look at that item. If you can walk around the store and not feel like coming back, then you probably don’t really want or need it. You may have spotted something else you like!

The second step is to try on the item of clothing to help you decide if you still want it. If it doesn’t fit, forget it. No matter what you say, you will not gain or lose weight to fit in it. It might be good motivation to get into shape, but if you really liked the item, you’d want to be able to wear it straight away. The same goes for if the item isn’t available in your size. (If you are able to, ask if you can be contacted when your size is in stock.) You don’t want to spend more time or money altering an item of clothing or trying to make it fit well.

If you aren’t satisfied once you try it on, then the reality is that you may not be satisfied at all later. You’re not losing anything by letting it go.

Avoid giving too much attention to the price tag. If possible, set your budget before you glance at the price, and if it’s out of your budget, put it back. Don’t change your mind once you have decided – this is the point of thinking of your budget before looking at the price. :)

Problem: Sales, the ol’ bargain bin, clearance rack, or Stuff You Don’t Need

I love to shop sales. But after a while shopping sales, you sometimes notice a pattern. You buy things you may not need, and justify your purchases with the fact that they only cost as much as your daily cup of coffee.

How to fix this problem

The better half of us will keep an eye on something we really love and wait until it’s on sale. You should only be buying at a sale when:

  1. There is something you have had your eye on for a while but resisted as long as possible because of the price, and now it is finally on sale, or
  2. You have been holding off buying some new basic/essential pieces because you were waiting for a better opportunity to buy them.

If you find yourself browsing a sale and you are not in that situation, it’s best to avoid buying anything. Chances are you are buying something you want and not something you need. If you really needed some new socks, you would already have them.

The same goes for gift vouchers and discount vouchers – just because you have them, does not mean you need to use them. You may end up buying something you don’t want just for the purpose of using a discount voucher. You will likely feel happier leaving and knowing you didn’t find anything you really liked.

Problem: Buying online

Yep, we’ve all been there. It’s easy to spend more money when buying online because it’s easy, you don’t actually see the cash come out of your wallet or you don’t physically scan your card.

How to fix this problem

It is hard to judge the quality or fit of an item of clothing when you purchase online. No matter what (unless we get some really kick-ass technology up in this joint), you will not be able to touch and feel or even try on an item of clothing.

You will more likely be disappointed than satisfied.

When people say, “I put all my stuff in my cart, look at the price, and then just close the window”, this is actually a good thing.

Some people feel like they have wasted their time browsing the online store. One of my suggestions is to bookmark, favourite, or add to your cart all the items you are interested in, without spending too much time browsing or paying attention to the price. Maybe even set a time limit. Visit the website a couple hours later, the next day, or even a few days later. Visiting those items with a fresh mind will probably make you think twice about some of the items you were thinking of buying.

If you sign up for email newsletters, don’t pay too much attention to the content of the emails. Most of them are just image-heavy sale and bargain temptations. If you need a sale to let you know that you need a new pair of shoes, you probably don’t actually need the shoes.

If you really desire to buy online, remember these simple things:

  • You will not be able to try the item on. In some cases you will be given free returns, but this is rare.
  • Item descriptions are written by copywriters who have experience writing for fashion items (or any product for that matter). They know what to write to make you want to buy the item.
  • Read the product details and care instructions, and know what material the item of clothing is made from. Clothing made of cotton can shrink in the wash. Other items can only be cleaned at the dry cleaners.
  • Reviews can be extremely helpful, but remember that other people’s opinions, no matter how positive, will not necessarily reflect your opinion when you receive the item.
Smart shopping tips for a minimal wardrobe

7 tips for smarter shopping

I’ve made a summary of 7 tips to help you make better decisions when buying clothing and set you on your way to a better wardrobe with only the items you need.

  1. Buy only what you need. This usually means something you don’t already own, that might complement other clothes in your wardrobe, something that will keep you warm, or something that needs replacing.
  2. Walk around a store at least once before returning to an item you’ve set your eyes on.
  3. Sales can be tempting, so walk into a sale remembering what you’ve been looking for at the shops. This is the one place to not have an open mind!
  4. Avoid signing up to email newsletters, especially for stores that allow you to purchase online, to avoid being tempted by sales.
  5. Catch yourself trying to find excuses to purchase something. If you’re trying really hard to think of what the item of clothing will go with in your wardrobe, it’s probably not the best time to buy. If you are debating with yourself over the price, then you’re probably not OK with buying it at that price – and that’s OK.
  6. Don’t get sucked in by upsells from store staff. If they ask if you would like to buy a scarf as well, if they mention it’s only five dollars, the answer is no. You know you didn’t come here for a scarf. You’re the customer and you have the right to say no.
  7. Last but not least, if it’s not a “Hell yeah!”, it’s a no. If you’re spending too long making a decision, then you’re probably not going to lose much by leaving a store without buying.

Stay tuned for my next Live simply post, where I will write about how I decluttered my own wardrobe! :)

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Comments on this post

Well, fancy that. I was also thinking about capsule wardrobes and am trying to piece one together because (hopefully – results this Thursday!) I am off to uni this September.

I have the opposite problem to you – I have *just* enough clothes, but the number of items I have is out of proportion. For example I have lots of band t-shirts / tops but only one pair of trousers (I don’t even know how that happened), 3 skirts and 4 pairs of shorts, 2 pairs of which I will only wear with tights. Wah. Especially because I don’t actually like wearing skirts that much… if I had a choice I would normally opt for trousers. When I was in Sixth Form (last years of school in the UK, normally you don’t have a uniform but you do have a dress code) I just wore the same few items of clothes week by week because it was easier than stressing about what to wear everyday, and when I had an event (e.g. Leaver’s Ball) I would then try and find something. It did mean that the extra things I had just never really got worn.

Despite being more on the minimal than overboard side, I do have several clothing items I don’t want anymore or never wear, which I am going to eBay. It’s interesting trying to work out what I want to get before I leave home because a) I don’t want to take absolutely loads of stuff with me and b) my style has changed and now I’m trying to work out what fits it. Goodbye, emo-ey band-driven child … enter grungey gothy semi-elegant adult?

I used to be the sales / bargain person. Now my main habit with online shopping – and I’m doing it even now as I hunt for uni stuff – is to have a Chrome window dedicated to the stuff I have my eye on. I then browse for clothes, shoes, whatever in that tab. Stuff I want, I keep open as a tab, and I review the things everyday and think again about usefulness, practicality, how much I’ll wear it, value for money, etc etc. Often I go over the photos or re-watch the videos of models wearing the clothes. I find that there are some tabs that when I consider closing forever I can’t do it – so I know I really really really love the item. And sometimes something I thought I really liked just suddenly seems bloody boring, so I close the tab. I think it’s a good exercise not just because the constant exposure to the things you want makes you think about how much you actually want them but also because when you have all the clothes you want in one spot, it’s even easier to see how they would mix and match.

Good luck with your capsule-ing! Are you mainly paring down or buying new things too? It would be nice to see the final result, when you get there. :)

To be honest I don’t think the capsule wardrobe idea works for me. One of my future posts will be about my wardrobe and what I was able to declutter, but having a structured wardrobe doesn’t appeal to me. I just want to have few pieces that I am able to mix and match. I have a thousand band shirts but only four pairs of jeans, for example, and that’s fine with me.

Recently I have been having the leaving-home mindset (even though it’s a while away for me), and I often think, “This is not coming with me when I move out”, so it goes. My style has changed too and I feel like we may have discussed this in a previous conversation? I don’t wear t-shirts very much anymore, if at all. I can imagine that not all my band shirts will come with me when I move.

I’m mostly paring down at the moment. I’ve had these Live simply posts and ideas in limbo for a while, and I didn’t bother taking photos – I probably won’t ever bother, to be honest. I suppose it’s less about the contents of my wardrobe (most of my favourites can be scoured from my Fashion Friday posts) and more about just keeping things simple and explaining why or how I pared down. That said, Fashion Friday has really helped me shape my style and pick out my favourite pieces, so even though I’m not keen to visually document my wardrobe in these posts, it’ll probably shine through in another way. ;)

This is awesome and insightful. I think these tips are great if you do not already have a method. I am a compulsive saver. I like to see my bank account grow. I did not think I was going to be this way until I got my first job. Once I realized how shitty it felt to throw x hours of my life away on an expensive (or even cheap) pair of shoes I stopped in my tracks. I still have all my clothes from the tenth grade, and maybe bought five – seven items through my university year so far (no purses, surprise, and only like 3 pairs of sandals all on sale). If I do need something I wait for a sale on the designer stuff. Because I have jeans from the ninth grade (guess ones which cost me 45 on sale compared to 70 without) that fit and I still wear today. I also have like a hallway closet for my closet (it may be even smaller) so I have to be really conscious of the space I have to store stuff, kind of like you!

Also if I do not want or need anything that I barely wore, I first offer it to my younger cousins ( I have no sisters) and then I give it to charity.

I think your number 4 trick is tricky, because the newsletters often send coupons, and so when I actually have to buy something I know I need, I usually go there to get a sale on the “must have” item. It’s a hit and miss scenario.

I like the mindset that you have currently that you mentioned to Georgia. In my head I better keep what I have because once I buy a house I won’t be going shopping for the next two years at minimum to pay off the mortgage faster.

I love to see my bank account grow too, but sometimes it’s hard to resist buying things. My first job was when I was still in school and when I realised I was spending a lot of my pay on snacks, it became a reality check. Over the years I have slipped and spent more than I should on things I don’t really love or need, so it pays to put a bit more thought into shopping.

I am sometimes able to give clothes to my cousins but because they live overseas, there is no point hanging onto the clothes until I get to see them (which only happens every four or five years), so I give them to charity.

Yep that is exactly what I mean! You should know what you need before you approach a sale, and just try not to buy anything beyond that must-have item you have been waiting for. :)

That’s great – I also have that in mind for my future property. It’s going to cost a lot!

I have been sorting through a lot of my things lately, so this tips make a lot of sense to me. It can be so easy to get caught in that bubble of buying all the things, but if you can think about it, and try and just have the things you like and use it makes a big difference!

I am so excited to read your post about decluttering your wardrobe as that’s something I’ve been working on myself.

These are great tips. I was always an impulse buyer and it was probably because I lived so far away from any decent clothes shops that when I went clothes shopping I bought a lot, just in case. Ever since I moved to the city I’ve been more wary of how I buy my clothes and it’s been better.

I rarely buy online unless it’s an item of clothing I’ve seen in person but they don’t have my size in the store. I also hate sales shopping so that’s not a major issue for me.

Right now I’m trying to buy items of clothing that link other items of clothing in my wardrobe together to create lots more outfit variations. It’s a fun challenge.

I also can’t wait to share that upcoming post! I know my wardrobe will be different from other people’s but just like this post, a simple change in your thinking can help you save more and buy only what you need. I’m not at all embarrassed by my problem and am happy to share my experience, so I hope you find it interesting too.

You can probably see from my latest Fashion Friday post that I have actually put a lot of bits and pieces together from previous FF posts. I had a bit of an epiphany and told myself that I didn’t need to brainstorm completely new outfits all the time – mixing and matching is fun, and it gives everyone a better idea of my wardrobe and the pieces I love to wear. :)