7 Ways We Make Our Clothes Last Longer

I wonder how many people I just lost with that title, for the simple fact that many people don’t want their clothes to last. My friend said to me once, “I love shopping, and I get tired of my clothes. I don’t care if they wear out quickly.”

Then this blog post is not for you! Which is totally fine! Everybody has their own preferences when it comes to shopping and getting themselves dressed.

But I thought that for today, I’d share my way of thinking about long-term clothing choices and shopping….

7 Ways

My way of thinking goes something like this:

  • Our budget is tight, and I want to shop smart and well.
  • The more I shop, the more I want. If I shop well and get stuff that lasts, I go to the mall less often, and therefore I spend less.
  • When I find something I really love wearing, I’m sad when it doesn’t last long. I want to enjoy it for a long time, and get my money’s worth out of it.
  • Shopping well means that I love what’s in my closet. I’ve written before about how I don’t want a closet full of clothes that I don’t really love – tons to wear, but I don’t want to wear any of it.
  • There is so much excess in the world, and I love figuring out how to live with less.
  • Shopping is voting – when we buy a ton, we’re saying, “Please make more! There is a demand for it.” If our clothes last longer and we shop less, I’m saying, “We’re good! We have what we need.”:)

I’m a details person, and I actually analyze our clothing and shopping habits. Maybe that makes me weird, or maybe my observations will be helpful! Not sure, but here’s what I’m thinking about these days as I buy our family’s winter wardrobe:

1) I’m snobby about fabric.

I do not buy anything made out of polyester or fleece. (Unless it’s pajamas for the girls – then polyester is better than fabrics coated with chemicals to make them flame-resistant.)

The problem with polyester and fleece is that they pill like crazy. Even though I don’t dry any of our clothes in the dryer, it only takes about two months of wearing and washing polyester for it to get “pilly” looking and worn out.

This is a shirt that I wore for two months, and it already looks like I’ve had it for a few years. I was so disappointed, because I loved the shirt, but forgot to check the tag to see what kind of fabric it was made from. Lesson learned – check the label!


The same goes for sheets, by the way. Polyester sheets are better for not looking as creased as cotton, but it won’t take long for polyester sheets to feel rough because of all the pilling. I love smooth, soft sheets, no pills!!

2) I choose when to splurge.

I love finding good deals, but there are some items that are completely worth paying extra to get good quality, and get what you really want, need, and will use.

For example, shoes. Four years ago, I had to start wearing insoles, which meant going out and buying all new pairs of shoes that fit the new insoles. It was a bit financially painful, because shoes for insoles all cost around $150 each. I needed three pairs: sandals, runners, and dress shoes. I had never spent so much money on shoes in my life!!

But guess what? I haven’t bought shoes since, and I won’t need to for quite some time, because those expensive shoes are still in good shape.

Another item I’ll splurge on is a wardrobe staple – something I know I’ll use for a really long time. Two winters ago, I needed a black cardigan. I always need a black cardigan. I already know that I’ll use it a lot, and I found one that looked exactly how I wanted it to look, and it fit perfectly, but it was expensive. I bought it anyway, and two years later, it still looks brand new, I wear it all the time (summer and winter, because it has 3/4 length sleeves, and works with everything!), I love it as much as I did the day I bought it, and I’ll wear it for a few more years to come. I saved money by spending money. (Try convincing your spouse of that one!)

my girls

3) I’m particular about brands.

That also sounds snobby, but here’s what I’ve found: I used to buy cheap, non-brand clothing for our family in an effort to be frugal. It didn’t fit well, wear well, or look the way I wanted it to, but it was cheaper than buying it brand new.

Then I discovered second-hand clothing, and suddenly, our family’s wardrobe improved dramatically, because I started buying everything brand-name. The brand-name clothing lasted longer, so even though I bought it used, it still looked like new, and in many cases, I’ve been able to resell that clothing after our family is done using it, and make a lot of my money back. (But that’s with two little girls who aren’t hard on their clothes – I expect things will be completely different with a boy in the house!)

When I go second-hand clothing shopping, I force myself to be very picky. I only buy the brands I know are good, and I only buy stuff that I would buy if it were new. I have to love it, or it stays at the store. It isn’t actually saving money to buy cheap clothes I don’t really like, and won’t ever use.

4) I pay attention to what wears well.

For many years, we bought Ben T-shirts what would last for about a year, if we were lucky. Then they’d always start getting little holes in them, and it would be time for another whole new round of shirts. But what I noticed is that polo shirts last much, much longer – the thicker weave doesn’t wear out nearly as quickly. Neither do cotton button-up shirts, but I don’t choose to make time for ironing, so Ben has become a polo shirt kind of guy. He has them in many, many different colors, and maybe it’s not the most exciting wardrobe, but when he goes to work each day, as long as he’s clean, nice-smelling, and professional-looking, I don’t think anyone really cares if he’s wearing polo shirts every day of the week.;)

Ben and Kaylia

5) I know what we like, and wait for it to go on sale.

We buy the same kind of jeans every time, but we are very strategic about when we buy them! I get email notifications about sales at our favorite stores, and we plan ahead so that we can always get good jeans for cheap. Online shopping makes this super easy to do! (This is also how we keep Ben supplied with his collection of polo shirts!)

6) I own a clothes shaver.

Sweaters last forever if you own a clothes shaver. Whenever they start looking worn out and a bit shabby, you can just shave off all the pills, and sweaters look brand new again. When I was growing up, we used a clothes shaver all the time, so I thought everybody had one of these, but I’ve since found out that many people don’t have one, and get rid of perfectly good clothes, simply because they don’t know they can shave them!

*I’ve tried using my clothes shaver to save polyester clothing items, by the way, but sadly, it doesn’t work. The pills form far too quickly, and it would mean shaving the clothing item after every washing, which in my mind is a total waste of time. Sweaters only need to be shaved once or twice a year.

7) I don’t put our clothes in the dryer.

I hang everything to dry on racks, or on hangers that just go straight into our closets. Talk to me in a month, when there’s a newborn in the house, and this may have changed.;) But for now, we hardly use our dryer, which is great for the hydro bill, and great for our clothes, because there is a lot less wear and tear on them.


And there you have it – the complete list of Kendra’s anal clothing choices and shopping habits!;) Do you have any awesome tips to add to the list?


I’ve written about our clothing choices a few times before – you can check out those posts if you’re interested…

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

Tips For Purging

35 Days of Favorites: Clothing

This post is part of a series called “35 Days of Favorites”, in honor of my 35th birthday. You can read more about the details here

Last year, I decided to clean out my closet, get rid of anything I didn’t use and love, and shop more carefully in the future.

I have LOVED owning less clothing. Because I only keep what I love wearing, I rarely feel like I don’t have anything to wear.

Owning less clothing made me realize fairly quickly which item was my favorite:

Kaylia and me

That grey scarf is the best clothing purchase I’ve ever made. I have worn it over and over (and over and over…) again since buying it last year. I have a few other scarves, but none as versatile as this one.

It goes with almost everything in my closet, it’s comfortable, and makes me feel like I’m just a little bit dressed up when I go out.

Tips for Owning Less Clothes 

Along with discovering how much I love my grey scarf, here are a few other things I’ve learned about owning less clothing over this past year:

1) I love scarves and cardigans, in general.

Being able to layer, and mix and match, means that while I don’t have as much clothing as I used to, I feel as though I have more options for how I want to wear what I do own. This has kept me from getting completely sick of my clothes over the last winter (along with the fact that I only keep what I really love).

 2) The  Three-Piece Rule feels true to me. I can be wearing jeans and a t-shirt at home, throw on a cardigan and a scarf (usually my grey one!), run out the door, and feel like I’m wearing a different outfit without actually having to change.

3) Having one or two neutrals as the base of my wardrobe is smart. I stick with black or navy, and only buy clothes that go well with my basics, usually grey, white, or jewel-tone colors.

Sometimes I look at my clothes and wonder how boring it must be for people who see me constantly wearing so much grey, black, and white, but it’s easier to mix-and-match, it fits my personality to keep things simple and basic, and I honestly don’t think anyone thinks about my clothes enough to notice or care.


It feels kind of ridiculous to write out my wardrobe strategies, because I’m a little embarrassed to confess how much I think about my clothing. However, being intentional and knowing exactly what I want has helped me save money, simplify, and feel better about what I’m wearing.

And I love the idea of thinking about clothing so that I don’t have to think about clothing – I figure out how I will dress myself well, and then I stop thinking about it, and just feel comfortable and satisfied with what I’ve got.

There are so many fantastic articles and blog posts out there on how to own less clothes. Here are a couple that are influencing the way I think about my wardrobe:

A Practical Guide to Owning Fewer Clothes

How to Downsize Your Wardrobe With Common Sense

But having said a whole lot on owning less clothes, I also want to add this:

I have a lot of clothes because as it would turn out I just really liked getting dressed. To some, 30 pieces is a lot. To others, it’s a fraction of their closet. In my mind this idea of being a minimalist, perhaps the complete opposite of who I am, was who I thought I needed to be.  If I shop too much, then becoming opposite of that would help me, is what I thought.  I would peer into my friends’ closets and see half of what I owned and would be ashamed of the amount of items I had. So I decided to look at my closet in a different way and what I saw was not that I wanted less, but that I could do more. (Kendi Everyday)

If you love owning a ton of clothing, then do what feels right for you.

I want to own less clothes, because I want to own less stuff in general. I want to simplify my life, which includes my closet.  I just love the idea of doing more with what I already own. Basically, it comes down to this:

Use what I own. Be content with less. Shop well, when necessary.

What’s your clothing strategy? Do you use what you own? Love to shop? Want to own less? I’m curious to hear your wardrobe thoughts!

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?