One of the ways to avoid having a constant laundry mess is to have fewer clothes in your closet. Here are 15 tips to get you started:
1. Get rid of any clothes that do not fit you. It sounds like an obvious statement, but you would be shocked by how many people store clothes that are not their size. Many people have told me that they hold onto smaller sizes because they want to lose weight and fit into their skinny clothes again. This doesn’t make sense, because when you lose weight the first thing you want to do is buy new clothes — take my word on it, I’ve recently lost 20 pounds.
2. When buying jeans, shop for ones that are unadorned and inconspicuous. You want jeans that you can wear, wash, and wear again the next day without people thinking you’re in the same pants you were in the previous night. You can’t do that if there is a giant dragon embroidered on the leg. If you work in a corporate office and don’t often wear jeans, I suggest having only two pair (one designer pair and one “I don’t care if these get paint on them” pair). If you work in a casual environment or from your home, then I suggest having no more than four pair of jeans (three designer pair and one “I don’t care if these get paint on them” pair).
3. Unless you’re a personal trainer, aerobics instructor, or professional athlete, you don’t need a full separate wardrobe for exercise clothing. Two tops and two bottoms work fine for a gym enthusiast.
4. Donate or give away any clothes in your closet that don’t coordinate with anything else in your wardrobe, have only one matching piece, or are limited to a specific holiday season. You want clothing in your collection that has multiple-outfit and multiple-season potential. The basic white t-shirt is a prime example of what to keep (wear it with jeans, shorts, under a sweater, or with a sports coat at any time during the year). The red sweatshirt with a snow man on it, however, is an example of what to toss (limited seasonality, difficult to wash with other clothing, and usually can’t be worn with anything but jeans).
5. If you wear underwear, have no more than 14 pair. Get rid of any that have holes, bad elastic, don’t fit correctly, are uncomfortable, or you’ve just never liked. If you’re someone who has intimate apparel, bump your number up to 16. These items are fun to replace on a regular basis, anyway, so keep the number low and switch them out often.
6. Have your favorite t-shirts from your past made into a t-shirt quilt. My mother hijacked my t-shirt stash after college and paid a woman to turn them into a quilt. Now, whenever friends from college come to visit, I pull out the quilt for their bedding. It’s a little bit cheesy, but it’s more useful than having all of those old t-shirts taking up space in my dresser. If an old t-shirt doesn’t have any sentimental value then use it as a rag in the garage.
7. Don’t be hesitant to return clothing that someone bought for you as a gift. People buy you things because they want you to enjoy them. If something isn’t your style and will only sit at the back of your closet, take it back and get something that you need.
8. Build your wardrobe on basics. I’ll be writing two posts on this in the coming days — one for men and one for women — so stay tuned. In short, though, focus on a style and stick to it. The more your wardrobe can mix-and-match with multiple pieces, the better.
9. If you feel that you must have a robe, only have one.
10. Own (and properly store) only sweaters of the highest quality fibers. Cheap and short-staple fiber sweaters easily pill and wear unevenly. One hundred percent cotton sweaters stretch out after just a couple hours of wearing. The best sweater fabrics for long-term wear are long-staple wools (like merino) and natural cotton blends (like cotton/silk). Cashmere and alpaca, if they’re premium quality, also can wear well over time. Bamboo is a durable and comfortable fiber for people seeking non-animal fiber alternatives. If you don’t know much about fabric quality, I suggest talking to a hand spinner or textile engineer.
11. Invite your friends over for a fashion show and model all of the pieces that you’re on the fence about keeping. If you have good friends, they’ll tell you honestly which of the items look best on you and which ones you should donate to charity. Sometimes having a second opinion makes all the difference.
12. Institute the sock purge I discussed last week.
13. If your wedding dress is hanging in your closet, it needs a different place to live. Consider donating it to charity — seriously, do you ever plan on wearing it again? If you want to keep it, though, have a professional wrap it and box it in archival materials and then store it flat on a shelf instead of on a hanger.
14. Get rid of anything you haven’t worn in 12 months.
15. If something needs to be repaired, and has needed to be repaired for more than six months, give it away. By not having it immediately fixed, you’ve already shown yourself that the item is not an essential piece of your wardrobe.