Why (and How!) I’m Choosing to Own Less Clothes

My feelings toward clothing changed when I became pregnant.

Suddenly, there was a very real and urgent need for an entirely new wardrobe. At no other time in my life have I ever gone out and purchased an entire new wardrobe.

It is very painful on the budget to do so. It was kind of stressful for me.

So I sat down and made a list of what was absolutely necessary. (That list looks a lot different when it’s made on paper, at home, rather than mentally, in the store, as you are already trying on a super fantastic shirt that fits perfectly and brings out the color of your eyes.)

As I thought about my needs honestly, logically, and frugally, I realized I needed only eight outfits, if I did laundry once a week – eight shirts or sweaters, and three pairs of pants. For me, I knew this was enough, and I couldn’t really justify getting more than that.

So that’s what I bought. I owned very nice maternity clothes, and all of it was great quality that was still in good shape at the end of my pregnancy.

I was a tiny little bit sick of my clothes by the end, but looking back, I actually miss those clothes. I really liked them.

And then I wasn’t pregnant anymore. And suddenly, I fell into thinking that I needed about five times as much clothing as I had during my pregnancy.

I started shopping much more carelessly, and without a list or even a real idea of what I truly needed. If there was room in the clothing budget, it meant I could buy new clothes, whether I really needed them or not. And before I knew it, there I was with a closet full of more clothes than what I truly needed.

Every week, that bothered me. I remembered the simple feeling of an empty closet on laundry day – the sure sign that I didn’t have too many clothes, because they had all been used, and all need to be washed.

I missed those days.

For a long time, I knew I should do something about it.

And then one day I finally did do something about it.

Here’s how I did it (keeping in mind that I’m a stay-at-home mom who doesn’t have to glide out of the house looking sophisticated or professional – ever) :

1) I wear only what I love.

I would rather wear my favorite jeans every single day of the week, than force myself to wear the ones that don’t really fit well, and don’t make me feel good about the way I look. But I wear them because I feel like I have to. Like people will think I’m weird if I wear the same pair of pants every time they see me.

Um..so what? And will anyone really even notice? And if they notice, do I truly need to care?

2) I wear out what I have.

When I own fewer clothes, I actually wear them out, because I use them a lot. Great! Then I will actually need to go out and buy new stuff. I never used to need new clothes. I wanted new clothes, so I had to somehow justify a reason for buying them that didn’t sound as lame as, “I want to be more stylish.”

But when you have oodles of clothes, you don’t wear them out, because they’re hardly worn. Better to shop well, spend less, own less, and then replace it when you really need to.

3) I try to shop with intention.

I never spent a lot of money on clothing, and I don’t think I had more clothing than the average person. But I thought shopping was fun, and my lines were blurry when it came to what I needed or what I wanted. I felt guilty sometimes for buying something I really loved, but knew deep down I probably didn’t really need.

That list I made when I was pregnant? That was a good list. It is good to know what I truly need. Shopping with intention, rather than for the fun of it, gets rid of the guilt, and is much easier on the budget and on the closet.

4) And then I stay away from the mall.

Very logical, I know. But as I don’t need as many clothes, and I don’t spend very much time  shopping, I can’t believe how much freer my life feels. I went on a shopping spree in January, and bought a number of things that I needed, all at once.

Now I don’t need to go shopping again for a very long time. I’m not tempted to buy stuff I don’t need if I don’t go into a mall. I am able to make logical choices more easily, because I don’t have “shopping brain”. I will need a new pair of jeans in the not-too-distant future. In the past, I would just have gone out and bought them already. But now, I realize that I can make it work with what I have until summer, maybe even fall.

Because you know what? Everyone can totally survive, even if a pair of my “at home” jeans have a hole in the knee. I don’t like wearing jeans with holes, but when I’m crawling around, washing the floor or playing Polly Pockets, it really is okay if my jeans have a small hole. Let’s wait for something a little more serious before we rush to the mall.

5) I’m trying to stop thinking about my clothes altogether.

I find enjoyment in things that look nice. Which is okay, unless it gets out of hand. Or if it starts defining who I am.

Nobody notices what I’m wearing as much as I do.

Some people don’t notice at all!

But they probably notice if I’m nice and friendly to them, and if the things I say build them up and brighten their day.

It is so time to get over myself. Nothing wrong with nice clothes. I will continue to take pleasure in things that look nice. But there are so many things that matter so much more.

I want to focus on what truly matters.

There are people who can do this while still having a huge, super-fantastic, fashionable wardrobe. And that’s awesome.

For me, I have found that as I pursue a simpler life, I am able to better focus on the important stuff when I strip away some of the distractions.

********************

There are some great posts to read on this topic. I found Katie’s “No New Clothes Challenge” an interesting read.

All of Rachel Meeks’ tips on dressing well with a small wardrobe are worth reading.

And of course, I am a huge fan of Joshua Becker‘s tips to living with less in general. This is the article that inspired my wardrobe changes: 7 Ways to Sample Living With Less

Okay, your turn! I’d love to hear your opinion. Do you shop out of need or pleasure? How do you find a balance between the two?

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26 thoughts on “Why (and How!) I’m Choosing to Own Less Clothes

  1. Funny thing happened to me just a few months ago. I had 2 pairs of jeans that I wore faithfully and loved them both. One day I noticed (after hanging out with people for the evening) that one of them had a hole right on the butt! Yeesh! I was so disappointed, but thought…”well, I still have my other pair, so we’re good!” Um, nope. A few days later the other pair (my most favorite pair) also had a hole in the butt. I also tend to wear out my clothes. I like knowing the things I own are the things I love and wear. But this was just too funny. I had fun going shopping for new jeans…in the meantime I had found an old pair that fit just fine (but were also looking a little worn in the butt area) so hightailing it to the store (especially when I had a 40% off coupon that expired that day) seemed like the best plan! Maybe that’s a sign I spend too much time sitting? It was very strange. Great, post, Kendra. Always great to hear your thoughts on these matters!

    • I love it, Juls! Good job on wearing out your clothes.:)

      You’re actually part of the inspiration behind this post – you always look great, and yet I’ve learned so much from you when we’ve talked about shopping smart, and being intentional about what you buy.

      • It’s a little funny to me that you think I always look great even with my limited wardrobe. I actually tried to open the horizons of my wardrobe last year and bought a few trendy thing that really…WHAT WAS I THINKING!? Ended up not wearing a couple of those trendy things and falling back on my old comfortable t-shirts and tank tops for the summer. I would someday like to go shopping with someone who has a real eye for style and perhaps change a few things about the way I dress myself. But thankfully I don’t think that means I have to own many more clothes. Just might mean I invest in a few items that will truly last me a very long time that I will get tonnes of wear out of (in the long run, I do believe that is sometimes the smarter way to go with a few items rather than buying something I know I’ll love but will only last one season).

  2. Some times I can be impulsive when I am out shopping for something and come home with more than what I was looking for. I am trying to be more conscious of what I am picking up though. I am usually a sucker for the “bargain”, such as “buy this and get another half off”. I think I am going to try the experiment you talked about before where you turn your hanger backwards and see how much you actually wear that garment on the hanger. I love getting rid of stuff too.

    • I totally relate to the bargain thing! It’s easy to slip into thinking “Cheaper means I can buy more”, instead of “Cheaper just means I can spend less!”

      Good luck with the hanger trick!

      • What about cookbooks? I have a ton of cookbooks I never use. I should try the “hanger trick” with those too. LOL!

      • Ha! No kidding. I just packed up a box of cookbooks, and I’m thinking I’ll just keep it in storage for awhile to see if I miss it. With pinterest, who needs cookbooks?! I’m using that more and more – and then you can access your favorite recipes no matter where you are.

      • I think that depends on how much stuff you want to have in your house! Some people collect things for a hobby, and I like to get rid of things for a hobby! I got rid of almost all of my cookbooks a couple of years ago, because I just didn’t use them. I have a handful that I use on a regular basis, but most of the recipes I use regularly are online, so I keep them organized on my Pinterest boards.

        I think we should keep the things we need, love, and use. If a cookbook collection does that for you, then you should enjoy them!

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  4. Oh boy…I am SO guilty when it comes to over-spending on clothes!! My closet is bursting at the seams and so many of the things I hardly ever wear. In fact, I have so many clothes that sometimes when I’m rifling through I’ll see something that I have so totally forgotten about.

    It’s definitely a weakness of mine and this is an inspiring post. Not sure I’m quite ready to pare down just yet (sheepish grin)…but definitely something to think about!

    • I can totally relate to the part about not being ready to pare down. I read a number of blog posts about a small wardrobe before I took that plunge. It’s hard to change the way that I think and do things. I was telling Ben yesterday that I’m still trying to adjust to thinking, “How long can I make this last?” as opposed to “How soon can I buy something new?!”

  5. I’m so with you on this!! I just recently went through my entire closet and got rid of what I didn’t love, what didn’t fit well and what I didn’t really wear. It’s totally changed the way I feel about my clothes! We really don’t need much.

    • Yup, I know what you mean! I love what I see in my closet. And you’re right – we need a lot less than we think we do!

  6. Ok, this is one post that has stuck with me for a long time. I’m so with you on it! I had exactly the same experience when I was pregnant, and have been learning/trying to live with less, but nicer clothes. But now you need to do another post. “How to buy the right clothes!” My biggest problem with shopping is I think I’ve shopped well, but I come home and half the clothes I love and the other half turn out to be duds after a few wears. How do I get it right? And it’s not just about price point, because some of the duds have been super cheap bargains, but so have some of my favs.

    • Hmm, that is a good question. I still don’t get it right everytime, either. I do think, though, that having less clothes is making me shop more carefully and intentionally. I’m hoping that I’ll get better with time! The book “What You Wear Can Change Your Life” is totally worth reading. As cheesy as it sounds, it has actually changed my life!! It has made me think completely differently about clothing, and has helped me to understand what works for my body. Suddenly it makes sense to me why some clothes work, and others don’t, and I can avoid the stuff I won’t like in the long run, while I’m shopping.

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    • Well, my life basically consists of staying at home, socializing, running errands, and attending our church, where people dress fairly casually. When it comes to clothing, I’m pretty lucky, because I can wear jeans and a T-shirt at home, throw on a scarf and a cardigan, and run out the door feeling fairly “put together” for whatever I need to head off to. I don’t really have much grungy “at home” clothes, because then I’d need more. I have one pair of faded wash jeans so that the knees don’t start looking worn out as fast, and I have one pair of dark, dressier jeans that I only wear when I’m going out. I have a pair of sweats, one or two older T-shirts, and a hoodie, and the rest of the time I wear the same clothing, just mixed and matched and layered to meet the level of dressy/casualness that I need.

      That probably wouldn’t work for everybody, but it works for me, and I’m actually wearing out my clothing, which I think is awesome. It shows that I’m using what I own, and replacing it out of need, instead of want.

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  10. I just came across your blog, Kendra, and REALLY enjoyed this post! I’ve been thinking about this whole clothing issue for a LONG time. I have a large closet FULL of clothes, and yet I tend to only wear a few items that I really like or feel great in. Somehow I still feel the need to hold on to all the “stuff” though…You’ve inspired me to really think this through…

    • Oh, go for it, Marina! Clean it out! Even if you pack it away in a box, you can get rid of the clutter, but know that if you regret any decision, you can always get it back out. It’s surprising how little that actually happens! Let me know how it goes! I’m curious…;)

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  12. I am currently wanting to thin out what I have . I tend to bargain shop and I realize I get a good feeling from doing that but then I end up with way to much stuff and I am running out of places to put things and clutter causes me anxiety to so ..I am going to cut down a lot by going through my clothes and going through the cook books and make a scrap book of favorites and do one craft at a time and get things as needed. I want to be a good example to my 9 year old daughter, and get back into the place I used to be with myself.

    • That’s awesome, Norma! I’ve read that the best way to get your family on board with decluttering is just to set a good example – much more effective than nagging! I hope the purging is as addictive for you as it has been for me!:)

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