Could you live with a minimal wardrobe?

by Sylvia

minimal wardrobe

When you come to my house you will see a lot of empty space.

In fact I realised that I’m a bit of a minimalist when a new neighbour once came to my house and exclaimed: Wow, I’ve never been to a minimalist house before!

Mind you that house was spacious, so for someone that had always lived in smaller houses before, it was no wonder that there was so little furniture!

Still, my current living room only contains essentials like a few low cabinets, tables and chairs and does not have any display cabinets, book shelves or other decorative items. I control my clutter and can easily store away most items I own in cupboards of other rooms.

Minimal wardrobe?

However, I’m not so good with clothes.

One of the reasons for that, is that I currently have ample storage space so I was not forced to get rid of clothes. Add to that that I get very tempted by each season’s new trends and all the beautiful clothes and accessories in the shops, and clothing cupboards quickly fill up. So when it comes to clothes, I’m definitely not a minimalist.

Yet, it’s possible to live well with only a few clothes. Leo babauta, for example, is a known advocate for minimalism who sticks to a wardrobe of  jeans or slacks with a T-shirt or polo shirt and sandals or Docs.

Another famous example was Steve Jobs who usually wore his ‘uniform’ look of jeans and Issey Miyake black turtle necks.

Although I admire these people for getting by with minimal wardrobes, I know that I could never be happy with so few clothes myself.

However, I do believe there are great  benefits in getting a wardrobe that is versatile, yet is kept to a small size. One way to do that is through creating wardrobe capsules and editing your wardrobe after each season.

Building your minimal wardrobe with capsule wardrobes

The key to creating a wardrobe that is minimal, yet gives you lots of variety, is to work with capsule wardrobes.

What you are trying to do, is to buy clothes that you can all mix and match with each other, therefore giving you lots of variations with a minimum amount of clothes.

I gave you examples of wardrobe capsules earlier this year when I showed you my brights wardrobe capsule and Nola Johnson showed you a wardrobe capsule for work.

Later I added a whole series on my capsule wardrobe for winter.

In general you would want to create wardrobe capsules for work, leisure time, sport and special occasions.

How many pieces would you need for each capsule?

Now this is where it gets interesting of course. You don’t actually need very many items.

2 pants and 5 tops already give you 10 outfit combinations.  Most of us would find that too basic though and need more variety.

What you will have to find out for yourself is how much you really need to make you happy and keep your closet in a manageable state.

You could start your journey by looking at:

As for me, I’m not ready to have a minimalist wardrobe yet.

I like variety and want to have lots of options for various moods and occasions.

But I DO want to edit my wardrobe since it’s getting too full. I want more visible space for my shoes, get rid of boring t-shirts that I never wear anyway and create an overall wardrobe that is more fun to shop in.

A wardrobe that contains only items I love and feel amazing in. I have already started giving you shoe storage ideas, but expect more articles on this topic coming up at 40+Style and let’s all do some wardrobe editing, organising and wardrobe shopping and look even better in the process!

(Don’t worry, I will still be sharing lots of fabulous fashion and shopping ideas as well!).

p.s. to get clear on your essentials you also need to get clear on your style personality. Find out your style personality here.

{ 30 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Anne @ the Frump Factor

Hey, thanks for the mention! Great post. I love the capsule concept, not surprisingly, and used it extensively when I started a new job with little notice, 12 years ago, and needed outfits ASAP!

In all fairness, I did leave out some things, especially those that I don’t wear too often. But I it’s amazing how I always return to the “core” for 90% of my work outfits. And yet, my large closet is still bursting at the seams. What is up with that??????


2 Sylvia

Hi Anne. Thanks for your feedback and thanks for the inspiration from your article!


3 Joni

I could definitely pare down as a minimalist. I have that side to me and it’s been there for years. I am currently obsessed with the blog Odyssey just for this reason. It’s such a refreshing idea to me. Even in decor. I remember as a kid at my aunt’s home in British Columbia. My favorite room was the entry where there was only one well made credenza with one large bronze Buddha head on it. It was fantastically rich and enticing to me. I have yet to take this on in my home though. But, it’s beginning to make its way to the surface as I age I think.

Thanks for the great tips!


4 Sylvia

Just thinking about it helps I think and then taking baby steps. I’m absolutely drawn to minimalism, but then sometimes see an amazingly decorated house (or person) and I get second thoughts again. But I love how free it makes you feel. I need to check out that blog you mention. What is the url?


5 Joni
6 Suzanne

A minimal wardrobe sounds so good in theory – but I could not do it in real life. At least not at this point. I love clothes and I LOVE shoes/boots and shopping is my favorite hobby. And I am not a “wear right away” person. If I find a dress that is attractive, fits well, and is within my budget, I have no problem hanging it in my closet to await the perfect event. I would so much rather have an outfit ready and waiting than to have to rush around to find “something that will do” for a special occasion. Maybe part of that is because I wear a small size (Petite) and do not have as many options as a regular sized (Misses) shopper. Many stores here do not even carry Petite clothes. The same is true of shoes – I need a 4.5 or 5 and many Brands start at size 6. If there is a color or a type of shoe I really want, I buy it when I find it. I am also a person who likes a lot of variety. And lots of different colors. One thing I am trying to be better about though is the one in, one out rule. I want a new black leather jacket and when I get it I need to pass on the one I already own. It’s a start. 🙂


7 Sylvia

That is already a good rule to start with Suzanne (one 1, 1 out):) I will have to start with that sooner rather than later!


8 Greetje

You have got to go to Paris or Milan… I bet you will find your size there. And aren’t there special (online) shops or department stores that specialize in petite?
At least I know my boots and shoes are safe haha


9 Sylvia

Or Singapore… I have trouble getting a size 9 here!


10 Suzanne

And maybe after Europe I need to visit Singapore!
Nordstrom is famous for their shoe department – they carry the smallest of sizes (3 or4) and the larger sizes too (like 11 or 12) so 9 here is considered average. The nearest Nordstrom store is 2 hours away so I order a lot Online. There is nothing like trying items on though. Free shipping and returns is the next best thing. 🙂 There is not a single store in my local mall that carries shoes smaller than a size 6. I have to go at least 30 minutes away.


11 Suzanne

You are such an enabler! LOL! I need to get my son through university (my daughter graduated in May) before I can afford to visit Europe but it is on my list. 🙂
PS – Purses “fit” anyone. You may not be as safe as you think! (I covet that yellow Coach bag!)


12 Greetje

I know. I will hide it when you come.
As for shopping, 30 minutes is not that far. Make it a shopping day out.
2 hours needs a hotelnight.
If you ever come over to Holland, I promise to take you on a tour. Leaving my yellow bag in a safe place.


13 Anja van der Vorst

Nope, no minimalisme for me. I am a maximalist pur sang. A real ‘more is more’ kinda gal.;-) In home decor, fashion, whatever….

I do not shop by rules, as far as I am aware of. No ‘capsules’, no 1 in, 1 out…. having a lot in my closet, most things -intuitively- matching, I discover new combo’s and outfits in my own wardrobe all the time. I am not easily bored with clothes or home decor. If I like something, I usually still like it 10 years later.

My two main problems with my wardrobe are:

1. changing sizes (from XS to XL and back, more then once) over the years, due to various circumstances. I find it really sad to have gorgeous clothes in my wardrobe that no longer fit. So I have been giving a lot away to friends, and swapping and selling.

2. not enough space for my clothes. Will I have a walk-in closet one day???!!!


14 Sylvia

I’m so happy I don’t have your first challenge. I guess that’s why I have so many old clothes still. I’ve been very fortunate to have almost the same size my whole life. (hope it stays that way…)
Good luck with both 1 and 2!


15 Tangobabe

Tx and hope indeed tt it stays the same for you. That is very convenient and saves money too;-).


16 Greetje

It really is a destruction of capital to change size for me. Therefore I keep my weight strictly the same. And if need be also the shape. But I also know I cannot control all circumstances. And thank you for giving a lot of you clothes to me.
As to your second point… I would convert your whole upstairs room into a walking closet. With a bedcouch for guests.


17 Tangobabe

Good idea! And thank for your donations to me as well…hahaha!


18 Greetje

As for minimalism…. Not me. You have seen my house.ou have seen my wardrobe. Definitely no minimalsm.
I had a look at the link Shop less, live more. Not my cup of tea. She repeats too much and does not give much taste of proof. Besides.. from August last year till end of January this year I was on a self enforced budget and it backfired. Like a diet, it did not work. Never mind, I have never been in trouble because of my spending, so it is highly unlikely that it is going to happen in the future.


19 Tangobabe



20 Sylvia

I actually think that you are more minimalist than you think Greetje. Your clothes usually have clean lines and your house is certainly not full of stuff. Now of course for Anja it’s a different story….


21 Sharon

In theory I love the idea of being a minimalist, especially in my home decor …. so much easier to keep things clean 🙂 However, when it comes to clothes, although I admire those who are minimalists, it is not me. I enjoy creating new combinations too much to be restricted to a few pieces. Now capsules …. that excites me, at least for the foundation of a wardrobe. There again, I feel the need to expand, experiment, and enjoy. Thanks for your post … really got me thinking 🙂


22 Sylvia

Hi Sharon. Yes, that’s me too. I like the idea of a minimalist wardrobe for the freedom, but also want variety. And yes, capsules are the answer and a very good base. Stay tuned…..


23 Heather Fonseca

My clothes are like old friends. I can’t just get rid of them. I love them! Now if they don’t fit anymore or are worn out that’s one thing, but I can’t pair down just to be minimal. I’d get bored.


24 Sylvia

I know it’s very tough. But I think I’m going to let go of old ‘friends’ that are just never used anymore. Some have been with me for too long. It’s time them to let them go. And some new ones were never that kind to me, so they need to go too….


25 Kathleen Lisson

I have a minimalist shoe collection but other items of clothing like hats, scarves and dresses are objects of beauty and I get good use out of all of them


26 Sylvia

That is a good idea also, to only be minimal in one aspect of your wardrobe!


27 Fashnlvr

I have a crazy amount of clothes and shoes that I adore. I don’t think I could ever be happy with so few choices. I am a clothes/shoes HOG! I do try to clean out once a season though and only keep those items that are in good condition and repair any that need it.
Great article though!


28 Jake

I am aiming for “48 by 48”, to have only 48 clothing items in my wardrobe by my 48th birthday next month. This is very liberating, and I enjoy donating anything that isn’t perfect on me. I am now down to about 63 items including only 5 pairs of pants. I hate scarves and funky accessory necklaces, so I’m actually discovering my own sense of style in the process. A boring basic won’t do. Boxy tops and tunics are highly unflattering, and jump into the donate box. I look for flattering clothing, and own a few dry clean only items that fit perfectly and match everything. I will probably build on a brights capsule, as I have always loved neon green and purple, and they still flatter my light olive complexion.Two LBD, one for summer and the second for winter, and an amazing tea length lined white linen dress, that makes me feel like a princess. Shoes are difficult to find in my size, and I’ve never been able to find a comfortable pair of flats. Thanks for the article to motivate me on my journey!


29 Sylvia

wow, I’m impressed Jake. I could never take it that far..


30 Cherryl

I love reading about what other people do about downsizing their wardrobes. I’ve been simplifying mine for years. I’m over 40 (way over 40!), and my entire wardrobe now fits into a carry on bag. That is, if I wear the bulkier items and shoes. For my last 30 day trip across country, via Amtrak, I left the coat behind and relied on layers. I even had “formal wear” in my carry on bag for two formal nights on the Alaska cruise–a fancy gauzy tunic to go over my black pants and cami, dressed up with jewelry.

I own 1 coat, 2 cardigans, 3 pair of shoes, 1 purse, and 1 tote. I do sort of wear a uniform of skinny ponte pants in black, ankle boots, some very pretty long sleeve tees, some short sleeve tees with bold graphic prints, one button up overshirt in lightweight black, the 1 sweater/cardigan in red, and a thigh length windbreaker. Then I have my small collection of handmade costume jewelry, an assortment of scarves, and 2 belts. I’ll often wear a long sleeve tee in a solid color that almost exactly matches the base color of the graphic tee I wear over it. Or, I’ll wear a tunic length tee over merino wool leggings with a belt and the overshirt. I may be 60, but don’t have any wrinkles or grey hair. My face is very babyish, so it’s fun to rock a NY style biker chick look with metallic accents on my ankle boots and purse. Either that, or I’ll put on full makeup and channel KISS. It’s fun to be old and eccentric!


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