4 Steps to a Simplified Wardrobe – And a closet full of clothes you love!

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How many clothes do you have in your closet? The average American woman has 103 items of clothing in her wardrobe. Yet most say they only like about 10% of the contents. (These numbers are based on a study of 1000 women done by the Closetmaid Company).  

Another survey done by ING Direct and Capital One Banks found that the average woman with a life expectancy of 80 years will spend about $125,000 on clothing and accessories. If you are in your 20s that figure will probably be significantly higher (based on current spending trends). If you are 55 or older it will probably be a bit lower.

I’m all for looking good and feeling great and if spending money on clothes makes you feel great and you can afford it – go for it I say. But then I think back to figure of the average American woman only liking 10% of the contents of her closet. That’s a whole lot of money spent on things we don’t like or don’t end up wearing.  

So what’s a gal to do?

With these 4 easy steps, you can simplify your wardrobe, cut down on wasteful spending and have clothes that fit that you love to wear! 


Step 1 – What do you need your wardrobe to do for you?  

What do you need your wardrobe to do?

Take a moment or two to consider this. Stay at home moms, trial attorneys, bank tellers, postal workers, restaurant chefs, and nurses will all have different requirements for their wardrobes. So take a little time to figure out what you need. What are your daytime needs? What do you need in the evenings? How about weekends, hobbies, leisure time?  

BONUS help! A super easy way to do this is to print out the Wardrobe Worksheet (just click to grab it) from our free resources library, take some notes and be realistic and specific about what your wardrobe needs to accomplish. 

This post contains some affiliate links for your convenience. That means if you make a purchase after clicking a link I will earn a small commission. Don’t worry though. It won’t cost you a penny more! You can read my affiliate disclosure here. 


Step 2 – Know thyself – Find your signature style. 

Simplified Wardrobe - Signature Style

What’s your style? What image do you want to project? 

 If you haven’t thought about your style in a while and have just been wearing the same suits or dress slacks and blouses to work based on what you find on sale or what you bought on impulse, it might be time to think about it. What colors do you feel good in? What clothes are you most likely to get complimented on? Not sure? Time to browse Pinterest and start a board for styles you like.

Just go ahead and pin all sorts of outfits that you like and think you might like to wear. After you’ve made a few dozen pins, scroll back through your choices. I’m betting there’s a pattern there. If not, keep going for 20 more pins or so.

Looking back through these, re-pin outfits you could and would actually wear to another board. Is there a prevailing style? Is there a color scheme that stands out?  Do the styles you chose make sense with what you need your wardrobe to do? If not, you might want to pin a few more items that fit what you actually do in your life. Then just keep those more “impractical ideas” as future inspiration. 

Split Personality? 

If you are like me this can be a little tricky because I like to wear the classics sometimes. (For me this means twinsets and black slacks and pearls.) Other times I like to be a little bit boho. (My boho look is flowing peasant blouses with jeans, boots, and jangly necklaces.) This can complicate my goals of a life of easy simplicity!

But even with my style “split personality,” patterns come through in my pinning. I can see what I like and what I’d like to wear more of.  (AND how to pull that outfit together! Got to love Pinterest for this alone!).   

Now, look at the pins you’ve chosen and figure out what your style is. Go ahead and name it. It doesn’t have to be an “official style” from the fashion magazines. Just name your style what makes sense to you and resonates with you.  Go ahead and write that down on the Wardrobe Worksheet.  


Step 3 – Take inventory – Closet time 

Simplified Wardrobe - Closet Inventory


There are lots of great posts out there about how to clean out your closet. There are many methods of figuring out what clothes you wear and which ones you don’t. But my guess is you already know which clothes you wear, week in and week out and which ones you don’t. If you’re seeing it in the wash or dry-cleaning pile regularly then you know you’re wearing it.  But if not, then you’re not. ?

So we’ll cut to the chase. If you live in an area of the world where you have seasons and seasonal clothes, then focus first on the clothes for the season you are in or the one that has just past because you’ll easily know what you’ve been wearing.

If you can remember what you wore and didn’t wear from all the seasons you can do this all at once. You’re going to sort clothes into 3 piles: donate, reserve, save. 


Take out anything you don’t like and put it in the donate pile or trash of it’s damaged or too worn. 


Take out the clothes you like but aren’t sure if they fit or not. Try them on, look in a full-length mirror and be ruthless. (Not with your body – with your clothes!).  If they don’t fit, don’t hang right, don’t flatter your figure (whatever that figure is) then put them on the donate pile.

If you really, truly think that you’ll fit in them within 2 months, then put them on a “reserve” pile. The reserve pile will be put in a plastic bag or bin and put away for two months. Write a note on your calendar to check in two months to see if these clothes now fit, flatter and make you feel good. If after 2 months they still don’t, donate them.  


Take out the clothes you wear regularly and check them for damage, fit, and whether or not they complement your style.

This gets tricky because sometimes we’ve been using an item, say a black pair of slacks, as a go-to item and yet they are getting a little baggy in the backside, or the style is pretty dated. Yet we hate to get rid of them until we find a replacement pair that fit a little better or are a little more in keeping with our style.

In a case like this, you can keep those slacks in the “save” pile but make a note that you need to seriously search for a replacement pair. If you save the items that are just O.K. and are “make-do” items then you end up with a closet full of so-so choices that you aren’t happy about and boom, we’re back to only liking 10% of what is in our closet.

Having said that it can be tough to find the right kinds of clothes that fit and flatter, pants are especially difficult for me, so keep those pants that are working “sort of” but need to be replaced for now but tie a red piece of yarn or red ribbon on a belt loop (remove when wearing of course) so that you remember that you are keeping these pants (or whatever item of clothing) on a temporary basis and a replacement item is coming soon. 


Play with the clothes in the save pile a little bit. This is the fun part. Make outfits. Try to mix and match in new ways. Lay the clothes out and snap a picture of outfits you’d like to try and save those outfit ideas in a file on your phone.

Or if you’re not too exhausted yet from sorting through clothes, try on the outfits and snap a selfie in them so you know how they’ll look. Add the shoes, the jewelry, the scarf. Really make the outfit look good and like something you would actually wear. Then you end up with a mini-catalog of outfits you have, like and can wear without spending a dime.  


Notice what’s missing. Do you have enough blouses to get you through the workweek? Would it help to have another pair of yoga pants to workout in so laundry wouldn’t have to happen as often? What items do you need to fill-in? Write those items on your Wardrobe Worksheet as well.  


Step 4 – Know thine enemy  

 Simplified Wardrobe - Beware of the Sales Rack

Discount racks, fashion trends, impulse buying, oh my!

Now that you know what you actually like, what you want to wear and what you’ve already got…be aware of the common pitfalls. The 50-70% off racks at Kohl’s can really lure me in, especially if I’ve got a 20% off coupon. It’s all too easy to think, this is such a great deal I might as well get it. Then I end up at home with a skirt that’s impractical to sit down in or a blouse that doesn’t go with anything I have or a dress that’s great but doesn’t go with any activity I’m likely to participate in.

I think we’ve all been there. Sales seem like such a good idea, but for me they can lead to impulse buys, wasted money and too many clothes in my closet that I don’t wear.

Fashion Trends – How to do them the simple way

If you love following the fashion trends, that’s great. But the key to following a trend and keeping things simple is to not overdo it. Don’t spend a fortune on something that’s going to be out of date in 6 months. Don’t buy 10 pieces in that style. Maybe get one blouse and one pair of sandals to keep your own style updated without cluttering your closet and wasting money. Remember the Know Thyself step and apply it to fashion trends as well. 

With a simplified wardrobe, it doesn’t mean you are stuck in some kind of bland uniform of jeans and a t-shirt or black suit with a white blouse (unless that’s what you like).

The simplified wardrobe is about having the right amount of clothes in your closet that 1) do what you need them to do, 2) that you love to wear and 3) that make you look and feel great…and nothing else. Yep, nothing else.  It might take a little while, but by using these 4 steps you’ll be actively working towards a simplified wardrobe with clothes you love. 

Need some decluttering work throughout your house? Check out Decluttering for the Overwhelmed – Even Baby-Steps Will Get You There!

or 31 Things to Declutter in 10-Minutes or Less!

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And if you’d like more practical ideas and tips for dressing well and living the good life without spending a fortune check out my book:

Live Like a Queen on your 9-5 Pay! Book cover and description.





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