Many minimalists have some sort of magic number for either their clothing or total items owned. You hear of people with 100 possessions, 37 clothing items, etc. I have always said that minimalism is not so much a numbers game as it is being content with only having what you need or have space to store. There are times when I do enjoy playing by numbers, but I had yet to apply a numbers concept to my clothing.
For my wardrobe, instead of going by set numbers, I have always gone by space available. I use one closet for my clothing and I do not want the closet to be stuffed to capacity. I have a four drawer dresser, and as long as everything fits in the assigned drawer without being crowded, I do not count number of items.
I do laundry one day a week. As long as I have enough clothing to get through the week until laundry day, I do not count the number of clothes I have. When I was a child, laundry was a once a month thing and it was a huge production.
As a child, your clothes were always in garbage bags. There was no dresser and no closet to store clothes. You had a garbage bag of clean clothes and a garbage bag of dirty clothes. Laundry was not done until you were literally out of clothes and were not able to get dressed tomorrow without wearing something for the 5th time or just being naked.
I remember being dropped off at the laundry mat with several garbage bags of laundry and a $20 bill to obtain quarters. Laundry could take an entire Saturday. It was a chore to be endured. Frequently, clothes were worn multiple times no matter how dirty they were because we just did not have the money for quarters to do laundry.
As an adult, I do laundry once a week. I am currently very privileged and have both a washer and dryer in my house. Theoretically, I can do laundry whenever I want. I could do laundry every single day if I wanted. I do not want to spend my life doing laundry and I do not want to get in the habit of being dependent on the luxury of having a washer and dryer. Laundry once a week is reasonable and sufficient.
Last year, I went through and updated all of my underclothes. For the first time in 5 or more years, I updated my bras, underwear and socks. I am very glad I did that before the pandemic hit. As every single item in life is either scarce, hard to get, or expensive, I am grateful that I have new and clean underclothes. That is one less item I have to worry about obtaining.
This year, as we are quarantined and I am home more, I have noticed that many of my tee-shirts are becoming threadbare and see-through. They have deteriorated to the point where they cannot even be donated. They can be used as rags, but they are no longer suitable to be worn. Two tee-shirts in particular are surprising. I had bought them just last summer at a rather high-end store. The fact that they only lasted a year is very disappointing.
Normally, I would not notice the threadbare tee-shirt issue, as I only wear tee-shirts two days a week. Five days a week I would be in the office in my business casual wear. Since business casual attire is expensive, I have not been wearing it while working from home. I am “preserving” it for when we are able to return to the office and I have to wear business casual attire again.
So, I have been living in shorts and tee-shirts this summer. The threadbare tee-shirt situation is forcing me to take a new look at my wardrobe and it’s requirements. While I have previously focused my wardrobe on available space, I am now looking at my wardrobe by numbers. Maybe it is pandemic related, and I am trying to exert some sort of control by doing wardrobe by numbers. Who knows? There is some comfort in knowing exactly how much you have and that what you have is enough.
Here is what I have determined is going to work for me for wardrobe by numbers. My formula is based on the premise that laundry is done once a week, on the same day each week. For me, laundry day is Monday right now.
Given that every Monday is laundry day, that means I need at least 8 outfits to make it a week from one laundry day to the next. Yes, there are 7 days in a week. But you don’t really want to do laundry while naked, so you need an 8th outfit to wear on laundry day. If you want flexibility in your schedule, then you need more than 8 outfits. You may need 10.
For example, if you are not able to stick to a strict schedule where every Monday is laundry day, then you need more than 8 outfits. Say one Monday you are really busy, and can’t do laundry until Tuesday or Wednesday. Well then, you better have more than 8 outfits or expect to wear things multiple times.
I am going to take advantage of the luxury of in-home washer and dryer and go with 8 outfits. If I had to use the laundry mat, then I may go with 10 or 12 outfits. For me, 8 will work.
Here is how my formula is going to be put in action:
For my business casual work clothes, I am actually not touching them right now. I am just letting them be until it is time to wear them again. The formula that I have devised for them when the time comes is as follows:
2 sweaters / cardigans / extra warmth layer
For work clothes, this formula is actually a little excessive, as work clothes are not worn everyday. They are worn 5 days a week. As far as bottoms go, since I work in an office environment that is not overly messy, I am okay with wearing a pair of pants twice before washing.
Some people will suggest when minimizing your wardrobe that you should do away with the distinction between “work clothes” and “home clothes.” To do this, it is recommended to dress up your “home clothes” a little, and dress down your “work clothes” a little so that you have one wardrobe kind of in the middle and whatever you wear is fine for work or home. If this works for you, fine. It does not work for me.
I prefer to have two separate wardrobes. The reason why is that I find office attire to be extremely uncomfortable. If I had a job where I could choose the dress code or that did not have a dress code, I would not pick business casual. I do not want to wear “work clothes” any longer than I absolutely have to. As soon as I come home from work, I change because my office wear is so uncomfortable.
Some people will argue that if that is the case, I should purchase more comfortable office wear. That is an oxymoron. Comfortable office wear does not exist. My preferred standard uniform is something like shorts and a tee-shirt or jeans and a hoodie. I digress.
For my “home clothes,” I have the following formula to see me through 7 days of working from home:
6 extra warmth layer
For summer, my 4 bottoms is 4 pairs of shorts. For cooler weather, my 4 bottoms is 2 pairs of jeans and 2 pairs of yoga pants. So, I do have seasonal elements to my wardrobe. I plan on wearing each “bottom” twice before washing.
For tops, I do have tank tops for summer. I am pretty sure there are 4 of them. For the 6 extra warmth layers, I have 4 flannels shirts, and at least 2 hoodies. When the weather is cooler, I like to layer things on top of my tee-shirt. Tee-shirts are the first layer that is worn pretty much year round, so those get a lot of use.
For tops, I prefer to wear them once and then wash them. Especially in summer, when weather is hot and we are sweaty, I do not like to wear a shirt twice. That just feels gross.
I am applying the same concept to my pajamas. Even though I am now wearing pajamas twice before washing and could get away with 4 nightshirts, I already have 8 nightshirts, so I will use what I have. I am not going to get rid of nightshirts just to get down to a certain number. However, this means that as nightshirts wear out, I will not replace them. If one night shirt wears out and leaves me with 7 nightshirts, I am not going to replace that night shirt. I will wait until I get down to 4 or 5 nightshirts before replacing one.
I currently have 4 bottoms for my night wear as well. That keeps with my current formula of 4 bottoms. There are other aspects of my wardrobe that are slightly “over number” right now as well. For example, I have one storage tote labelled “winter,” This storage tote holds all my sweatshirts, sweaters, and other “extra warmth layers” for winter. I am not sure how many extra layers are in there. The winter box may be another situation where, instead of getting rid of items, I simply do not replace things that wear out.
My wardrobe formula is currently acting as a minimum threshold. My available space idea is a maximum threshold for clothing. The reason why I decided to come up with numbers for the minimum threshold is that I am looking at replacing at least 4 threadbare tee-shirts in my wardrobe. So I seriously began to question if I really need to replace them.
The answer is yes. Now that I am home in quarantine, I do need to replace those tee-shirts. Tee-shirts are my base layer year round. However, given that I spent $20-$30 apiece on two tee-shirts at a high end store last summer that barely lasted a year, I do not want to make another worthless investment in my wardrobe like that again.
This year, I opted to replace those tee-shirts with some more affordable options, each below $10. Time will tell if the tee-shirts I purchased for less than $10 each last longer than the ones I bought for $20-$30. If I have learned anything, it’s that just because something is expensive, does not mean it is good quality.
The only aspect of my wardrobe this does not apply to is my running wardrobe. That has its own set of rules and is a post for another day.
In general, my wardrobe goal is 8 tops, 4 bottoms, and 2-6 extra warmth layers to allow for seasonal fluctuations. This works for me with doing laundry once a week. While some categories may be above those numbers, I am not going to get rid of items just yet. I am simply not going to worry about replacing things that wear out.
This gives me one less thing to worry about while giving me the illusion of being “in control” of something in the middle of the pandemic.
How do you organize clothes? Do you use available space or wardrobe by numbers?