Why I Am Happier With Fewer Clothes

I love buying new clothes. I love getting new clothes. I love wearing new clothes. What I have started to learn though, is that this doesn’t have to take a significant amount of time or money. Worrying too much about clothes actually reduces the joy I gain from them.

In the past I was always on the lookout for something new to wear. I would browse my favorite retailer’s websites, join various free groups, and stroll through thrift stores. It was always so exciting when I found that next outfit. I would wear it a few times, the excitement would fade, and then the hunt would begin again.

I knew I spent too much time and energy on my pursuit of clothes. I looked for ways to solve this. For example, I learned about a capsule wardrobe. The idea is you can have a small number of clothes that all work together, giving you more outfits because of the different combinations. That ended up becoming more searching and more worrying trying to find the “perfect” capsule wardrobe, and didn’t really solve the root of the problem.

Nathan and I decided it was time to try a different solution. We had been learning about minimalism for years, and he has slowly been encouraging me to be okay with this philosophy. You can see some of the impacts of this in our posts about our eating habits, organizing our kitchen, and in other areas of our lives. I still wasn’t sure about minimalism when it came to my clothing, but I decided to really give it a try.

Over the last six months I have been slowly working on minimizing my clothing and reducing the time I spent looking for clothes. Here are some things I learned:

  • Track what you wear. If you are like me, then you own 15 tops but only wear 2 or 3. The problem is that when I look at those other 12 tops I really struggle to get rid of them. I convince myself that I still regularly wear them, and I start wearing them again for a couple of days, and then they go back to being forgotten.

    To help with this I started tracking what I wear. At first I was trying to write down when I last wore each outfit, but then I came across a much easier idea. I simply tie a scarf onto my closet rod to divide my clothes into two groups. I start with all my clothes on one side of the scarf and then after I wear something I move it to the other side of the scarf. After a month or two, I get rid of (almost) everything that is still on the original side of the scarf. Then I reset the scarf for the next period of time.

  • Have a fixed number of clothes. It is so easy and fun to go buy a new item of clothing. All I have to do is swipe a piece of plastic, or maybe it was even free, and I can always find more space in my closet. This lack of obvious cost makes it effortless to continue to add clothes to my wardrobe.

    The problem is, there is a cost. There are more things to choose between each morning. I have more things to wash. I have more things to take care of. These costs are too far removed from actually putting that new item into my closet. I needed to create a more immediate cost for myself. I decided I would have a fixed number of clothes in my closet. Now when I get a new piece of clothing it has to replace something already there. This creates an incentive for me to be more picky about what I buy. Another benefit of this policy, is that when I wear out an item of clothing, or if it no longer fits, I have no guilt about replacing it.

    If you decide to implement a fixed number of clothes policy, be fair to yourself. Pick a number you are comfortable with. As you get more comfortable with this idea you can reduce the number. We have paired down the number of things in my closet three times before arriving at where we are now.

  • Stop looking. When it comes to clothes there is an almost infinite number of options. As a result you will always be able to find something that might work slightly better than what you are currently wearing. You may have heard the phrase “the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.” Constantly looking for what you might buy next actually makes you less satisfied with what you already have. This is also similar to the Diderot effect - “the introduction of a new possession into a consumer’s existence will often result in a process of spiraling consumption”.

    What is the solution? Stop looking.

    For me this means I have limited my shopping to only the spring or fall when I switch between summer and winter wardrobes.

  • Find your style. How do you feel in your clothes? Do they spark joy? I’m serious, do you really like them? Do you feel good wearing them? Do they fit? Are they too short, too tight, too baggy? I don’t want to spend my life annoyed by the clothes I am wearing, I have more important things to do. I needed to learn to be honest with myself and decide what I am happy wearing. Be careful though, our feelings are fickle, maybe you are just having a bad day and you are taking it out on your clothes.

    For me, I occasionally get convinced I want to dress more professionally. The fact is, I don’t like those kinds of clothes. They are too finicky or not comfortable enough for me. I am at home most of the time and so I don’t need very many fancy things. I do like to look nice though, so I had to find the right balance that worked for me. If what you want to like wearing doesn’t match up with what you actually want to wear, you are always going to be disappointed. Figure out how to align those two desires. Be you.

By paring down my clothes, I discovered I don’t need or want a large wardrobe. I learned to make trade offs and to decide which item I like more before adding or removing one. Having fewer clothes allows me to invest in pricier items that will last and still look great even though I’m wearing them more often.

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Now it takes me only seconds to decide what to wear each morning, plus I feel better because all the clothes in my closet fit well and I love every one of them.

I’m working on making my life more about my family and my goals, and less about the clothes I wear. Simplifying my wardrobe has helped me in this pursuit.

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The purpose of “The Couple Project” is to learn more about what makes a strong marriage or relationship. We share what we are learning, which ideas we are trying, and which ideas helped improve our relationship. We realize not everything that works for us will work for you, but we still hope you will find our journey valuable.

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