How to Dress Better With Less – The Lean Wardrobe

How to Dress Better with LESS – The Lean Wardrobe

Have you ever stood in front of your closet and thought “Man, I have nothing to wear“, despite a full wardrobe in front of you? You begin to sift through countless items, some of which haven’t been worn in years, only to reluctantly revert back to your go-to shirt and chinos. You’re not alone.

There’s a high likelihood your closet isn’t well-organized and you simply have too much. Maintaining a well-organized and lean wardrobe is one of the simplest ways to dress better. Stop wondering if something fits or matches with the rest of your outfit; instead focus on quality pieces and know exactly what works (quality over quantity). You don’t need a lot to dress well, just a few quality staples that WORK for you. Dress better with less.

Why it is important

lean wardrobe clutter

A messy or cluttered area is not only inefficient but can also lead to unnecessary stress and anxiety. A study conducted by the Princeton University Neuroscience Institute found a negative correlation between physical clutter and the brain’s ability to process information effectively. What this means is, clutter distracts our attention from fully focusing on what’s important by competing for our attention. It forces our senses to work overtime just to get through the task at hand.

Your closet isn’t any different. You access it daily and should have it streamlined for efficiency and ease. Excessive items will compete for your brain’s attention – “Does this still fit?”, “I haven’t worn this since high school”, “Why do I still have this?” 

A lean wardrobe is often overlooked but imperative to dressing better. Stop wasting your time sifting through your closet and spend it on things that matter!

What to Declutter

How do you decide what stays and what gets tossed when you declutter your closet? Many of us struggle with the question of “what if”. What if I need this at some point down the road? What if this comes back in style? If you can’t think of a situation where you’ll actually need such item within the next year or if it’s been at least a few years since you’ve last worn it, chances are you don’t need it. Other considerations when determining what can be tossed include changes in taste, body shape, and type of daily wear. Ask yourself these questions the next time you’re in this position.

  • Does this properly fit?
  • Have I worn this in the past year?
  • Do I anticipate wearing this in the near future?
  • Is this in line with my style today?
  • Can I see myself wearing this?
  • Does this hold significant sentimental value?

If you answered no to two or more of the questions above, the article of clothing no longer belongs in your closet. Place this aside in a separate box or pile categorized as “To toss”. We will get into what to do with these below.

Storage Hack

The difficulty comes when you answer both yes and no; which then requires some judgement or creative hacks.

Hanger/Fold hack: keep the article of clothing in question (for now) with the rest of your wardrobe; except, reverse the direction of the hanger or type of fold so that it’s clearly differentiated from the rest of your clothes. Only after you’ve worn the article should you store it the same way as the rest of your wardrobe. Set a calendar reminder in your phone to check back in 6-12 months for any articles of clothing that are still stored differently. This should provide a good indication of what can be tossed. If you don’t have enough closet space for this, you can perform the same hack by storing the questionable clothing in a box and anything left after 6-12 months can be tossed.


Sentimental Value

Another challenge occurs when clothing has sentimental value. It may no longer fit, be in style, and/or hasn’t been worn in years; but it means something special to you and you can’t possibly throw it away. Remember the purpose of a wardrobe closet is function and designed for clothes you actively wear. Take a digital photo of the sentimental clothing and store it away in a box labeled “Memories”. Put this away and revisit it whenever you need it most.

Don’t forget about the seasons! What you wear changes with the seasons. Chances are you’re not going to wear a wool coat in the summer nor swim trunks in the winter. Off season clothing can be stored away in boxes and garment bags, similar to your box of “memories.”


Properly store memorable, off-season and other clothing:

  • Clean the garments. Make sure they are free of any moisture, oils, and dirt
  • Zip up all zippers and button up buttons. This will help maintain the original shape of the garment
  • Fold sweaters, shirts, and other items neatly. Starting with the heaviest item, place everything in a plastic container (if possible, clear) or garment bag. If you’re concerned there will be color discoloration or one item affecting another, lay some tissue paper in between to keep things clean.
  • Use clear containers for easy viewing access. Purchase containers that fit where you plan to store the boxes (under your bed, on a shelf, etc.)
  • Label your containers! This tremendously helps if you’re ever looking for something. Also, it facilitates the process of unpacking for seasonality. Tip: Take an aerial photo of the contents within each box along with the lid to create a digital index
    • Incorporate cedar or lavender sticks instead of traditional moth balls to help preserve stored clothing


What to do with old items you no longer want

One reason people have trouble decluttering their closet and building a lean wardrobe is because these items were purchased with their hard earned money. Naturally, you want to maximize value out of it. When you don’t wear or don’t utilize it, it may feel like you’re throwing away your money. Hey the reality is, we don’t always make the best purchases. We make mistakes. But that shouldn’t prevent you from maintaining an efficient and lean wardrobe.

It’s also possible the clothing has already served its purpose and provided you with maximum value in the past. Your interests are now different and there’s no longer a need for this. It’s time to part ways. There’s no shame in this.

Check out some ways to part with your old items below:

  • If you believe there is still value left in the product, resell your items through a conventional garage sale or put them up for sale on Ebay or Craigslist. There are also a number of emerging platforms with dedicated apps providing a similar service, such as Poshmark and Offer Up.
  • Give it to a relative or friend who respects your style and would appreciate receiving them
  • Last but certainly not least, don’t forget about DONATION. The act of donating goes well beyond just providing clothes for those in need. Thrift stores, operated by charities such as Goodwill and the Salvation Army, will resell donated articles at a deep discount, to help those in the community who can’t afford it. Proceeds are then used to help rebuild those who need it the most (employing the disabled, building homeless shelters, etc.). An added bonus is you can write off any monetary value associated with the donated items from your annual taxable income.

Take a look through your closet today, I’m willing to bet there’s something in there you haven’t worn in years.



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