I can pin the start of my borderline obsession with minimalism on the summer I lived out of my tent in Ten Sleep Canyon. When I returned to my closet at home, I saw all the clothes and realized I didn’t need half of them. Not even a tenth, really. I have since traveled quite a bit, living out of suitcases and backpacks for weeks. I have grown to love the feeling of having everything I need right on my back or in my tent (and now van).
Translating this feeling to my closet at home, though, took a few years. How many clothes does one need, and how many does one want? This may seem silly, because it is. It is a very silly and strange hobby of mine: decluttering. Or rather, minimizing. I thought I was alone in the passion until I discovered Capsule Wardrobe boards on Pinterest.
Turns out there are entire websites dedicated to the pursuit of reducing one’s closet to the essentials. Now, I’m not there yet. I haven’t committed to the bare bone wardrobe where want and need fully align. I have, in the last year and a half, gotten rid of a dozen boxes of clothes.
In addition to the website on minimalism, I read Kon Mari’s The Magical Art of Tidying Up, as I wrote about in this post. Her book helped me evaluate the material goods in my life, determining whether something sparked joy or served a specific, habitual purpose. I have since created my own rubric for my closet, using this framework as a starting point.
You may be wondering why at this point. Why, or how, does one become passionate about minimalism? For me, it was that summer in Ten Sleep, where life was simple. I baked goods at the local cafe. I climbed almost everyday. I bathed in the creek and spent hours reading in my camp chair. Though I can’t always live the pace of this simple life, I can recreate a similar feeling of simplicity through my material surroundings.
Also, the more I dug into Capsule Wardrobe research, I realized a lot of successful people chose to simplify their closet to reduce the amount of decisions they made in a day. Steve Jobs wore a black turtleneck. Vera Wang wears leggings. Mark Zuckerberg, when not on trial, wears his grey shirt. It’s an interesting concept, the uniform. And though I haven’t yet reached this point of radically, I did, as a child, wish we were all like cartoon characters with our one outfit. (Mine would have been this shirt with flowers that changed colors in the sun.)
So I suppose my interest in minimalism began long before Ten Sleep Canyon. In any case, I’m sharing below a rubric I use for my closest at home and for traveling. This rubric helps me save money on clothes. When one piece of clothing begins to wear down or no longer “sparks joy,” I know it’s time to go shopping for that particular piece. I tend to wear white and black exclusively: partly because I like how I look in these colors, and partly because it allows for the maximum amount of outfits with (my) minimum amount of clothes.
Overall, minimalism is a strange hobby of mine, born from a life where plenty is an option. And by some accounts, my closet isn’t minimal at all. It definitely includes more variety than a uniform affords. But for the record, if I were a cartoon character today, I’d wear black pants with a white shirt and a hat.
How bout you? If you're thinking about simplifying your wardrobe, figuring our your cartoon outfit is a good place to start.
A Simplified Closet & Suitcase Rubric
Closet: 30 hangers
- Two pairs of jeggings: ahhhmazing, as they allow for bloat
- A pair of slacks for the rare occasion I need to dress like a boss lady
- A pair of stretchy jeans for when I’m feeling like a sexy bitch
- A long black skirt that can be dressed down or up
- A short skirt for hot days or nights out
- Two jumpers, one more formal and one fun and flirty
- A pair of overalls: probably the cutest thing I own that my husband, naturally, found
- Three tank tops: one casual, one hip, one pretty
- Four t-shirts, which I wear most of the time
- Three dresses: one sun, one casual work, one for weddings or nights out
- Two button-up shirts: surprisingly versatile beneath sweaters, buttoned-up for business, or tied-up on the bottom with high-rise pants or a skirt
- Three sweaters: two medium-sized and one over-sized and wool
- Two shawls: one light and one warm
- Two workout sweatshirts
I personally think hats make an outfit, so I have five. I also three scarves and a belt.
Shelves: Rules of three
- Two sports bras and one sport-bra tank
- Four tank tops and a t-shirt for working out
- Three pairs of long-sleeve workout shirts
- Three pairs of climbing pants: two long, one capri
- Three pairs of workout shorts: two black, one colorful
- Two pairs of casual shorts: one for hiking, one jean
- A pair of loose-fitting ankle-length trousers that my cartoon-self would live in
- Two sets of pajamas
- Two pair of lounging pants: joggers and the sweat variety
- A warm sweater for hanging out at home
ShoeS: Form and Function
- Running shoes
- Hiking boots
- Snow boots
- Kickaround tennies
- Ankle boots
- Calf-height boots
- Flip flops
- Two swimming suits
- Two cover-ups for the beach
- Two biking shorts
- Two puffies for the outdoors
- A fleece jacket
- Rain jacket
- Long puffy for around town
Traveling: given it will be 50-80 degrees and I’ll be gone for more than a week
- A casual sweater
- Two shawls, one warm and one light
- Swimming suit and a coverup
- A rain jacket and fleece
- Toms, sandals, and a pair of boots
- A hat (of course)
- Three tank tops
- Two short sleeves
- One buttonup
- One skirt and one dress
- A pair of pants and a pair of shorts
- A pair of capris
And, if it’s a climbing trip:
- Two long-sleeve shirts
- One sweatershirt
- Running/approach shoes
- One-two pair of workout shorts
- Two pair of pants
- Two sports bra
- Four tanks