My Secret to Curating a Minimalist Wardrobe

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A small wardrobe has been one of the most helpful aspects of minimalism. Three awesome things happened when I simplified my wardrobe!

  1. Easy outfit selection — every piece is my favorite and is versatile
  2. Manageable laundry — items are reworn and all washed in one load
  3. Less clutter — spacious drawers make it easy to put things away

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So what’s my secret to maintaining a small wardrobe?

Even though we try to keep our purchases at a minimum, things inevitably creep back in over time. To keep my wardrobe small, I set space limits with a small dresser, a handful of wood hangers, and two plastic bins (similar) for seasonal things. I like this method better than having a certain number of pieces because, one, I don’t want to take the time to recount my clothes, and two, this method gives me a little flex. I set small space limits, but then have the freedom to include anything that will fit.

However, the main reason that I love using space limits is that they let me know when I have too many things. When I start noticing piles of clothes on floor rather than being put away because a drawer is too stuffed, I know that it’s time to pare down again.

This happened just recently when a resurgence of clothing was kicking around the floor.  The slow-drip of accumulation wasn’t able to sneak around my space-limit alarms! Commence minimizing!

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Here are the two steps that I used to pare down.

1. Pile everything. I gathered every piece of clothing, shoe, and accessory into a large pile. This KonMari method is my favorite for this step because it lets me see the impact of what I own and allows me to view each thing objectively.

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2. Sort and Donate, Sell, or Recycle. Next, I sorted everything into their respective storage systems and tossed anything that didn’t fit in my space limits, wasn’t used in a year, didn’t like/fit, was an unnecessary multiple, or was damaged or ragged into donate, sell, or recycle bins.

This time, I let go of a whole bin worth of clothes and accessories. I even decided to sell a pair of nice water shoes that I bought for our trip to Costa Rica to make space for our next adventure.

And, that’s it! Super simple. I just piled and sorted using the above criteria.

What did I keep?

Arranged by space-limit, below is what I kept. Note that items aren’t crammed into place. Loosely fitting a small handful of things into each drawer reenforces accessibility and makes it super easy to put things away — not to mention the fact that it just makes for a more pleasant experience overall.

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Dresser

Bottoms and bulky items. (top left) Two pairs of jeans (dark and light), one pair of black opaque tights, two pairs of black, fleece-lined tights, pjs, and two sweatshirts. Dark, black, or neutral colors for bottoms makes outfit pairing extremely easy.

Tops. (top right) Here is where I add color. I just make sure that each shirt or blouse can be paired with most of the bottoms. I can also add color with the addition of a scarf.

Activewear, including shoes and socks. (bottom left) No more “I can’t find my shoes” excuses! Having my gear in one place makes the transition to working out a little easier.

Most-used shoes. (bottom right) My shoes are neutral colors so they match everything and can be worn for multiple occasions. Currently, this drawer houses my booties that got me around Europe and super versatile black boots. Less-used shoes are stored in bins above my dresser. Keeping all of my shoes off the floor and stored in this manner helps prevent clutter.

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Hangers

I hang up a handful of blouses, two pairs of black pants, one black skirt, dresses, and sweaters/cardigans and a black puffer vest. My dresses are comfortable and can be worn for multiple occasions.

Rather than cramming our large closet full, we try to keep it light and airy. It’s actually become a space that I want to feature instead of closing the door out of embarrassment when guests come over.

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Seasonal

I fashion my wardrobe for only two seasons — warm and cold. This reduces storage needs and simplifies outfit pairing since everything can be worn all year. When temperatures change, I just switch out a few things from the bins above my dresser. One bin (left) includes my canvas shoes, versatile nude heals, and winter accessories and the second bin (right) includes my warm-weather clothes and a handful of less-used cold-weather items.

Also, coats. We live in Minnesota where coats are an absolute. My Eddie Bauer parka is amazingly warm for biting Minneapolis temperatures. I also have a couple extra coats for sweaty outdoor activities like running and hiking/camping. They’re stored in our coat closet near the front door.

Even though we keep purchases at-bay, stuff inevitably slides back into our home. Thankfully, I can relax and trust that the built-in alarms that space limits provide will let me know when to pare down again. Ultimately, staying on-top of small, bite-sized amounts is much more manageable than letting it accumulate and overhauling in one intensive sweep later.

I would love to know what clutter-busting systems you love or are experimenting with. Do you have a favorite trick for keeping your wardrobe at your ideal size while reducing clutter? Comment below!

Simply, Becky

How I Packed for a One-Week Trip to Europe in a Small Weekender Bag

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We just got back from an amazing week sightseeing in Paris and Amsterdam! Naturally, as minimalists, we packed as lightly as possible to skip super long checked-luggage lines at the airport (and sleep in a little, woohoo), avoid tripping people with roller bags, and forgo jamming cumbersome luggage into overhead bins. The ease of packing so light was especially noticeable when we took the train from Paris to Amsterdam and didn’t have to worry about dragging additional luggage while trying to figure out the transit system and running to catch the next Metro.

Packing lightly required a little planning and creativity so below is a description of what and how I packed for a week of sightseeing in November.

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Outfits: Dark jeans and fleece tights with a black skirt were great neutral bases for any top and layering with a black vest and light-weight green anorak coat were perfect for the 30-50 degree weather. I also brought a pair of lightweight shorts and tank top to sleep in.

Since my wardrobe is already very small — only a handful of neutral color bottoms and and a small collection of versatile tops — it made the outfit prep simple. I grabbed the two most comfortable and cute bottoms (dark jeans and leggings/skirt) and chose a small selection of tops based on style and function (warmth).

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Blanket Scarf: My favorite versatile travel accessory! It functions as a blanket for chilly outside seating at cafes, a wrap, and a super warm scarf.

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Shoes: I planned on only wearing this pair of booties but quickly found that I hadn’t broken them in enough prior to traveling. So, we made an emergency stop for a pair of little black walking shoes in Paris. I packed my booties in my husband’s small backpack each day (his only luggage, btw) and switched them out throughout the day based on the level of activity. Turns out that having two pairs of shoes is just the ticket for me. Thankfully I had space in my weekender bag (similar one) for the extra purchase!

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Toiletries: travel-sized tooth brush/toothpaste, makeup, half of a shampoo bar, citric acid, deodorant, sun flower seed oil (face moisturizer), prescription medication, melatonin, ibuprofen, hair accessories, and jewelry.

Below are a couple ways that I saved some major space with my toiletries.

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Deodorant: I removed the block of deodorant from the travel-size applicator and packed it in a reused Altoids tin that also housed my shampoo bar. Note: this is not zero-waste, but I’m using this method until I can find a homemade deodorant that works for me.

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Makeup: It seemed silly to bring giant makeup containers for just a week abroad, so I simplified as much as possible. I only brought the leftover stub of an eyebrow pencil and brought a little powdered foundation in a small pill container with a cotton-ball applicator. I purchased these little plastic containers a few years ago and am reusing them as many times as possible.

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Hair care: I use shampoo bars with a citric acid rinse to wash/condition my hair and super love how small and light they are for traveling! I brought powdered citric acid in a small reused pill bottle and mixed a little with a glass of water prior to showering. Read more about this process here! Also, putting my hair up in a bun every day meant that I could leave my hair dryer and hair brush at home.

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Purse: This mini crossover/wristlet purse perfectly fit my phone, sunglasses, tinted Chapstick, phone charger, European power adapter, passport, cash, bandaids, Ibuprofen for achy feet, earbuds for museum audio tours. As a bonus, backpacks weren’t allowed in museums but I was able to bring in my essentials by using this tiny purse.

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Travel Guides: The Lonely Planet travel guide for Costa Rica was immensely helpful on our trip back in January, so we brought the Paris and Amsterdam guides for this trip too. They were great resources especially when cell reception was slow or spotty. We brought the guides with us each day in my husband’s backpack which was also lightly packed with my additional walking shoes, hand-sanitizer, and a bottle of water.

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Travel outfit: I wore my bulkiest clothes when traveling on the plane (above: jeans, wool sweater, vest, coat, blanket scarf, and booties) and packed the rest into my weekender bag.

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So this is it  everything that went in my black weekender bag; clothes (orange bag contains one week of underwear), travel guides, and toiletries. A small backpack would have worked perfectly as well, but trying to be cost-conscious, I opted to reuse my trusty little weekender that I also used to travel to Costa Rica in. Hard to believe that this small amount of stuff could be sufficient for international travel, but it was more than enough!

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And, voila — ready to go! Note the extra space in the top… that’s on purpose! How else would all of that delicious cheese and chocolate going to come back with us?

There was more than enough space for a few souvenirs! Below is the stash that we brought home that fit in the available space.

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And here’s the proof — pictures of our week! We spent half of the week in Paris and took a train to Amsterdam where we spent the remainder of the week. The weather was a little overcast and slightly rainy, but it didn’t matter! We were so happy to have the chance to visit such beautiful cities, taste amazing things, make some friends, and see SO MUCH art. Our favorite sights were Sainte-Chapelle in Paris and the Maritime Museum in Amsterdam.

Now I would love to hear from you, dear readers! Do you have any travel tips and tricks, favorite piece of luggage, or packing hacks? I would especially love to know if anyone’s found a way to pack lightly for traveling over the holidays! Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section below!

Simply – Becky

1.jpgParis, France

2.jpgAmsterdam, Netherlands