En Route to Halving My Wardrobe

Photo: boston.cbslocal.com

Photo: boston.cbslocal.com

From the start of 2012 to the end of 2013, I pared down my wardrobe from 264 to 170 items – a reduction of 35%. I could have said I was done, except for replacements and updates, but I knew I wasn’t. I had put some areas “off limits” and just didn’t want to deal with them!

My earlier posts show that I started the project with:

  • 180 tops
  • 26 pants (trousers)
  • 2 suits
  • 4 dresses
  • 6 skirts
  • 13 coats and jackets
  • 33 pair footwear

My current tally is:

  • 92 tops
  • 23 pants (trousers)
  • 0 suits
  • 3 dresses
  • 4 skirts
  • 8 coats and jackets
  • 20 pair footwear

…for a total of 150 items. I knew I was getting close to 150 so I was especially ruthless in getting there!

I’m pleased about reducing my big collections of T-shirts and hoodies! The “tops” breakdown right now is:

  • 6 work jackets/blazers
  • 22 cardigans, button or zip
  • 14 pullovers (cardigans and pullovers combined includes 10 hoodies)
  • 9 long-sleeve button-up shirts
  • 4 short-sleeve tops
  • 7 long-sleeve T-shirts
  • 10 short-sleeve T-shirts suitable for work
  • 3 golf/polo T-shirts
  • 6 rock band theme T-shirts
  • 9 cute print T-shirts (that makes 35 T-shirts in total)
  • 2 workout tanks

I know that sounds like a lot, but I haven’t had so few in over 20 years. More money than sense, I guess!

Here is what it looks like to have fewer than 100 tops!

...and 62 tops on the bed!

62 tops on the bed

30 tops in the closet (everything else removed)

and 30 tops in the closet (everything else removed)

Closet refilled to its normal level

Closet refilled to its normal level

I did a little count of how many items I kept, but didn’t wear this year. There were 14, including 2 new things bought out-of-season which will come into play later this spring. I could just pitch the other 12 items, but I am having qualms! They include 2 dresses, 3 skirts and 2 pair dressy sandals that I never wear, but I like them all and I would do anything not to have to go dress and shoe shopping if a suitable occasion came up! To be honest, the only occasions I would wear them are a wedding or a formal reception of some kind – like the ones publishers sponsor at library conferences. However, since I have plenty of space, I will probably keep them in reserve so I don’t have to spend $150 on an outfit if something comes up.

I may have a look around the mall to see if my dresses and skirts are still fashionable enough to be seen in. Once, I switched jobs from a more formal to a less formal one. I kept my dressier clothes for ten years before I realized they were too dated to wear again. Meanwhile they were too dated for anyone else to wear either, so I felt bad for hoarding them.

Since I have less to choose from and I wear the items more, I will try these ways to cut back further:

  • I’ll keep a list of what I need. This year I’ve decided to buy clothes when I travel, taking the place of more frivolous shopping. At least somewhat? (In Toronto, I bought a desperately needed rain coat. The old one, clearly marked waterproof, wasn’t!)
  • I won’t automatically replace worn-out items. I’ll think about what I already have that will suffice.
  • I’ll stick to high-use items. I will need a new winter coat and jacket, and will buy good quality, instead of buying new T-shirts or sweaters which would just get added to the  stacks I have.
  • I’ll re-use holiday outfits. I have a few good ensembles for special occasions so I won’t feel compelled to buy more. I hope?

Anyone following along from my previous wardrobe posts will remember that I am only tracking “significant” items that are used to build outfits. However, I have cut back on my less significant stuff, too! I used to have 216 items, not including purses/bags and my umbrella, which brought it up to 227! Now I’m at 201. That includes under-things, sleep wear, bathing suits, and all accessories such as belts, scarves, hats, gloves and bags (except for jewellery).

If I received less cute socks as gifts, it would be easier to pare down!

If I didn’t get cute socks as gifts, it would be easier to manage my sock drawer (49 pairs!!)

I bet you can guess what my next goal is: to reach 132 (significant) items. That will mean I’ve reduced my entire wardrobe by half!

Do you have clothes you keep, but don’t wear? Do you have a certain wardrobe size you’re aiming for?





  1. Looks like you’re making lots of progress! One of my summer projects is to cut down on the amount of stuff that I have, including clothes. I can be a bit of a hoarder when it comes to clothes but I’m determined to fix that!

  2. My weight is bouncing too much since I gave up the ciggies. Bouncing is not quite true, that would insinuate an up and down motion where as my weight is just going up and up………… The loft is full of size 8 (4-6 US) I live in hope I will fit in them again! Only given up for two years,.

    • I only took this on since my weight has stabilized. I used to have 2 or 3 sizes in my wardrobe. If anything, now that it’s all one size, I am more motivated to stay there!

  3. This prompted me to update my ‘list’ just then, as I changed over wardrobes yesterday. I have added two ‘freebie’ shirts from my running, which are sort of a blessing. I had 343, with 20 less in 2013, and 24 new items. Somehow, I’m now at 319, so something might be out of whack! (but that includes ALL – it’s undies and socks which are extensive), 121 without accessories, outwear and all smalls

    I haven’t got a ‘number’ in mind, and I find holidays I need ‘more’ clothes (to wash less) than the rest of the time when I wear a uniform, and re-wear pants all week, and the shirts! That being said, I am trying to be balanced with incoming vs outgoing! And I want them to all fit comfortably and easily see them all. And if I don’t use things, they go!

    As I mentioned elsewhere on a blog comment, I have three ‘worn’ out fabrics in tops. They are wearable, but ‘nice’, the fabrics have worn out usually in the back. I hate throwing them out, and no one would want them at an op shop (and they aren’t great fabric for rags). So what does the zero waste gal to do?

    • EcoCatLady

      I had to laugh when I read your last paragraph, as I have a similar problem. I just have such a hard time accepting that a piece of clothing is “finished.” If I was craftier perhaps I’d come up with something to do with that sort of thing… but at some point I think I’m just gonna have to accept that certain things will eventually have to be laid to rest. Sigh.

      • Sarah said the same thing. I had some boots that were beyond repair, and since I don’t have a talent for working with scrap leather or PVC, they had to go!

      • I do have some dressy clothes – a floor length gown (which gets worn at birthday and other fancy dinners with 10 course menus), and off the shoulder short dress (which is much to short for a demure me, so I wear with leggings or a skirt) that comes out for fancy events too. I also have a beaded bodice since I was 13, never worn it (and decluttered the formal skirt I thought I’d wear it with after wearing it to a wedding last year, and the BF not liking it). The bodice is my ‘skinny’ guage – couldn’t fit in it for the wedding last year.

        Like you, I keep these on hand, and happily rewear them for the same company, rather than collect anymore ‘formal’ stuff. There are also a few ‘going’ out items – for my night clubbing sort of self. I don’t night club. But they are skirts and tops that are otherwise too dressy for a BBQ. I should try to wear them more for normal dinners out etc though!

      • I used to have a pair of Levis 501 jeans that I kept as my skinniness gauge but after the style became really passe, I let them go (and with them my standards for skinniness, LOL!) I have been trying to find occasions to wear some of my holiday/event clothes: I wore a holiday outfit to the theatre during the winter, and didn’t feel overdressed!

    • My numbers always confuse me, too! And my numbers would be a lot less if it were even possible to wear out all those socks! You might remember I only have about 30 items I wear to work, so it feels more like a uniform sometimes. Do you have any “dressy” clothes that you rarely wear? I really don’t know what to do with worn out fabric that can’t be used as rags – the only thing I can think of is stuffing for cushions!

    • I use worn out T-shirts as cleaning clothes. The cotton is good to wipe up spills and wipe over baths, basins and glass. And then can be popped into the wash to clean ready for use next time.

  4. I’ve been in donation mode this year – some of my quiet non blogging times have been spent asking those never ending questions – do I want – do I need – does it fit – will I actually wear it?
    I can actually see that there ‘is’ a bit more room on the hanging rods even if there is still a lot more to go.
    Just out of curiosity one day I might just do the sums!

    • I have been donating things, too. There were a few items that might have brought a good price, but I thought the charity shop would appreciate them (rather than me bothering to sell them).

  5. EcoCatLady

    Oh my… well, I fear that since I do not have the listing gene I have no idea how many articles of clothing I own, and won’t be counting any time soon! But I have been making a concerted effort recently to “use up what I have,” meaning that I’m working on wearing out the clothes I currently own instead of going out to buy more. This is made easier by the fact that I no longer have to be presentable for a job.

    Bike clothing aside, I think I’ve only purchased 2-3 items in the past few years (though it’s hard to count for real since some of my bike tops do double duty as “normal” clothes). I’ve also taken a number of things that I was never gonna wear in their current state and altered them into pieces that have found a place in my regular rotation – and there are a bunch more that I have similar plans for. And, of course, some things got to go back to the thrift store where they will hopefully find new loving homes. Slowly, my drawers and closets are getting less cramped.

    But, by far the hardest part of this whole exercise for me is accepting when something is worn out beyond repair. It’s not that I’m particularly attached to certain pieces, I just can’t bear to turn something into a rag when it could still be worn. I’m getting better with socks, underwear & T-shirts where the material itself is going, but jeans and other things… oh, how I struggle!

    • You know, Cat, most people would not experience this since they change sizes too much for things to wear out (I’ve been there!) Or they follow fashion too much, and pass things on because they’re not trendy any more. I think it’s great that you do alterations.

  6. Fiona

    Oh I feel weird reading this! I am still desperately yet slowly trying to build UP my wardrobe. I just don’t have enough clothes at all. That’s a mammoth decluttering task to pare back so many things. How do you feel about what’s gone? I always hope people don’t have Declutter’s Regret but it can happen!

    • So far I haven’t had any regrets. Every time I “deselect” something, it’s because it doesn’t fit well, doesn’t feel right, isn’t flattering, isn’t getting use, or has worn out. Just like library books! Ultimately I need to build up my work wardrobe and cut back on T-shirts and hoodies!

  7. I have a bit of ocd when it comes to wardrobe organisation (well, if I’m honest, all organisation…) and keep track of the number of items I have to wear. My number is 86 and it includes shoes/coats, but not handbags. I used to have closets FULL of clothes and about a decade ago I went on a zealous pairing down streak and now I’m pretty happy with the amount I have, but in reality it is still more than I need. I wear the same things over and over again so I don’t need that many clothes. I do keep a few dresses just for sentimental reasons (wedding dress,etc.), but I don’t count those items and they are stored in a trunk.

    • I have a few items I don’t count as well, such as pieces I bought for Hallowe’en costumes!

      86 is a wonderfully low number. Of my 150, I bet I wear 75 on a regular basis, and the rest just occasionally for variety.

  8. I wrote on my blog in Nov 2012 that I had 118 things- 80 clothing items, 11 bags and 27 pairs of shoes.

    I then commented on another blog in March that at that point I had 15 pairs of shoes, 6 bags, 72 clothing items to make 93.

    Since then I have got rid of two bags (though I failed to count my large walking rucksack..but then it’s perhaps more in the ‘luggage’ category!) and two pairs of boots, without acquiring any more.
    Current total- 89! Not including socks, underwear etc- but then I am quite good at wearing that until it wears out. We have a textile recycling scheme here- you can put out old clothes/shoes etc and the good stuff is sold by charity shops and the rest is recycled. Really helps me with the eco dilemma!

    I don’t tend to pay that much attention to the numbers- I’m more concerned with everything fitting into the space allocated to it! However, it’s nice to count occasionally to see how I am doing. Sadly I didn’t count before I decluttered the first time…

    • That is so impressive! Did you ever have a lot more clothes or were you always a minimalist?

      I wish we had textile recycling!

      • I used to have SO MANY clothes! (But always wore the same things). Decluttering/minimising the wardrobe has been a gradual process, as I realised (for example) that I never wore any of my heels and thus they could go!

        I realised this spring that there was a pair of boots that I had not worn all winter- these are going to a friend. The process is neverending!

      • I was in a similar position – having so many clothes but always wearing the same things. What changed my ways was the realization that there were people “out there” who could really use those items, especially excess work clothes.

  9. Look how many comments this topic prompted?! We westerners clearly have clothes issues. Too much, too cheap?

    As you know, I went a year without buying and also did a bit of decluttering. I still couldn’t count my clothes. Too many pieces. And I have been buying some pieces this year. My wardrobe is getting over-full again! I’ve never regretted decluttering any piece. Only regretted that I can’t wear some pieces anymore, ie too old, changed body shape. Actually regretted isn’t the right word, just I slight feeling of mourning of the passage of tie.

    Time for me to do some more decluttering! And I won’t be buying anything for the month of May. Zilch. Zippo.

  10. Shannon D.

    I don’t have a count but I do have too many clothes. I did put a rule in place however last year that for every piece of clothing that comes in I have to get rid of at least one piece and preferably more than one. I am currently trying to get rid of the overflow that exists in the spare room closet. Dresses from the 90’s can go!

    • I’ve decided not to use that rule because in some categories I have “just enough” and can’t go lower. I did have extra clothes in a spare room closet, but no more! I’m trying to think if I still have anything from the 90s: maybe a band T-shirt and some scarves!

  11. I have some dresses that I don’t wear often but I keep them for special occasions – a summer-y one and a more modest black one (appropriate for work events and funerals) so I don’t have to worry about shopping if something comes up. I don’t have a certain total wardrobe number/size that I’m shooting for, but I try to get rid of something if I buy something new so my total amount stays balanced. Key word being try because there are times when I weed out 5-10 things easily and other times not so much . .

  12. You know that I count, although I need to do a revised list (+post). De-cluttering and reducing my wardrobe is without doubt the best ‘de-cluttering’ I’ve done over the last few years.

    I love how you’ve approached this project – so detailed. I bought a lovely jacket for the recent wedding I attended, but now I’m considering selling it as I probably won’t wear it again. Occasions are always a problem for me as my wardrobe is very casual and I don’t own (or want to own) a skirt or a dress!

    • I would love to see a new post on that, Laura! Now you have given me courage. I haven’t worn my skirts and dresses for several years now (other than my new skort) and don’t really want to, but feel like I should! I even attended a funeral recently wearing pants (trousers) – and so did everybody else – so now you’ve got me thinking!

      • I have a ball gown that I wore at uni that I have not worn since…I should at least try it on rather than just keeping it without question!

      • Why did you stop wearing skirts, Dar? I remember at uni, a tutor who was visiting from the UK who was tried to convince the class that skirts were an impractical item of clothing and sexist. He hadn’t lived through a Sydney summer yet. I always wanted to find him and ask if he changed his mind and would prefer the freedom and coolness a skirt, but especially a dress without a tight waist, allows. I very rarely wear jeans or slacks or pants in summer. Just too hot and sweaty.

      • Well, it started because I can’t go bare-legged for cosmetic reasons. So I would wear skirts occasionally in cool weather with tights. In the summer, I work indoors with air conditioning and I am always cold! I’ve never lived in a hot enough climate to really “need” to wear skirts or shorts. The only times I came close to needing them was on trips to Florida and to Washington DC. But they have freezing air conditioning everywhere, too! If I ever go on a tropical vacation, I will think about it. FYI, our summer temperatures are about 20-24 on average with maybe 3 weeks of 25-30 degrees!

      • Lol! Perception is reality. Max was 21° today and cool! I wore a dress, trench coat and tights all day. Hate air conditioning. Much prefer an open window and a ceiling fan.

        But weather aside, I just love a well-cut dress. Comfort aside, I ove how it flatters. And I am always amazed at women who just don’t like dresses and skirts. I have bought 5 dresses this year! In less than 5 months!!!

      • You cut a fine figure in a dress, L – some of us do not!

  13. Lane

    I had an aha moment when I realized that more storage is not what I need; less stuff in the more than ample storage I have would make me feel more accomplished and satisfied. I do have decades(!) of lists of clothing purchases–what/how much/original price if on sale/where; these are fun to have and can trigger many memories. But, I have never counted what I do have. Last year I bought 48 items; this year so far 10. My goal is to have everything I have fitted into the space I have without cramming or cheating and using my daughters’ closets ( they don’t live here anymore).

    You’ve done a fine job honing your wardrobe needs/wants!

  14. You are doing GREAT!!

    I definitely have some dresses I rarely wear, but keep. I think part of it is that I WANT to have reason to wear them, but just don’t. I’m definitely needing to switch out a few wardrobe items as I somehow seem to get little bleach spots on them frequently (and I don’t even use bleach in the laundry!). I have a rule that if I don’t have enough hangers, then things need to go. Having a set amount of hangers really limits what we own. We currently have about 114 wood hangers for the 4 of us…and I hang up all of the boys clothes except jammies and underwear.

    • I like your hanger method! I move out quite a few items because of permanent stains (food or bleach or whatever!) Hmm, I wonder if I am subconsciously hoping to have more special occasions to wear dresses or other formal clothes?

  15. I have one or two items that I save for sentimental reasons. Otherwise, I just don’t have a lot of clothing. I’ve never actually counted, but I know I don’t have over 20 pairs of slacks, including jeans and sweatpants. I get rid of clothes that don’t fit right rather quickly, as I don’t have the closet space to store more than I can reasonably wear. What I do have a lot of is scarves. They change up what would be an otherwise drab wardrobe. My daughters are another story altogether!

    I would imagine you actually need a wider variety of clothing than I do, due to extremes in weather. There’s that to consider.

  16. Thanks for being a good role model. Done and done and off with my sack of donations of very gently worns I go….

  17. I am having a lot of trouble posting comments on any of your newer blog posts. I get an error message saying I am posting too quickly and to please slow down. Like this:
    Just thought I would try to let you know… 🙂

    • Hi Gam Kau, Thanks for letting me know. Although I read the forum posts about the issue, I am unable to fix this. It seems to be something about the date stamp on the post versus the computer clock?

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