Waste Less with a Near Minimalist Wardrobe


See this dress my oldest is wearing?

This is her favorite dress.  How do I know?  Because even though she has something like, 15 other dresses, she insists on wearing this one, three or four days a week.

“Why do you wear that dress all the time?” I ask.

“Because it’s pretty and I like it,” she says.

What a great concept.  Only wear clothes that are flattering (“it’s pretty”) and cherished (“and I like it”).

With this in mind I decided to transform the items in my closet into an efficient and almost-minimalist wardrobe.  No more complaints “I have NOTHING to wear!” while staring up at 120 pieces of clothing.  The Zero Waste idea here is having manageable apparel keeps me from buying new clothes I don’t like, don’t need or that don’t fit.  Wasted money, wasted time and wasted material.

So what to do?  There are many minimalist regimes out there:  10 pieces of clothing, 30 pieces of clothing, 33 pieces of clothing, capsule wardrobe, only black tee-shirts and jeans.  While that last one sounds nice, what I wanted was a “i love it all and it looks good on me” wardrobe.

Caveats:  I’m not exactly Audrey Hepburn.  I would petition for the wearing of a national uniform akin to the toga if such a clipboard were presented to me in front of Whole Foods.  Also, I’m done making babies and feeding them with my boobs.  This helps IMMENSELY.  I would like to say I’ve also reached my target pre-baby weight but that would be silly, and false, and I’m tired of waiting for that magic day so …. 

Here’s what I did:

1.  Occupied the kids.  I gave the oldest some electronic entertainment and the youngest a trip to Napville.

2.  Instant evaluation.  I started pulling clothes out of the closet asked myself, “Do I love it?”  There’s no thinking involved here.  You either know it…or the answer is “No”.

3.  Looked for patterns.  With nothing but the clothes I adored on the bed, I looked at what kind of colors and styles I had been unconsciously buying all these years.  In my case it was fitted, semi-casual clothes in the same, solid, three colors:  white, navy blue and light pink.  Maybe you like floral and billowy.  Or rock-star tight and dark.  It should become obvious once sprawled upon the matrimonial bed.

Had to go.

4.  Separated clothes into top, bottoms, cover-ups, etc.
5.  Created outfits.  Find a pair of bottoms and a bunch of tops that go with it.  Do you have a few stragglers that don’t seem to have a partner?  Or worse, you put it on in the morning only to take it off a few hours later, inexplicably unhappy?  Gotta let them go.  Like this adorable yellow top with a large bow in the back.  Super cute, fits well, never made it past lunchtime.  Also a good time to prune those shirts that ride too high, show too much bra strap, pants that make Mommy look like the broad side of a Bayliner.  “Slutty, fat, old, dowdy.”  The only time these adjectives belong together is in the “No” pile.

6.  Put seasonal stuff away.

This is where I stopped.  I don’t have a ton of accessories although I did cull some shoes.  Gardenista continues where I left off for more advice.
Here’s what I ended up with:
I hung all my pants/skirts in the closet and to the left of each one I hung matching tops.  Now I know EXACTLY what goes with what.
Now, do I have outliers?  Of course.  I’ve got (one set of) garden clothes, ski clothes, rodeo (attending) clothes, and even a concert dress for an instrument I haven’t played in three years.  But they have their place, they don’t get in the way, and they only come out for special occasions.
I’m a bit frugal so I took the nicest clothes to the consignment store, a bunch to the used clothing store for credit and then donated the leftovers.

Side effects:

  • Less time standing in front of the hangars, deciding what to wear.
  • No mid-season discoveries,”Oh!  I forgot I HAD this!”
  • Fewer mall mistakes:  great in the dressing room, WTHWIT? at home.

Since I know exactly what I have in my closet, and what styles I prefer, clothes shopping is now more calculated and less frequent.

Here’s the best part – I take really good care of my clothes now.  I only have so many, so it behooves me to be careful of spaghetti sauce and laundering instructions.  Next week seems like a good time to look at maintenance.

Wearing it even today, post swim lesson.

July 4, 2014

About Me

About Me

I’ve been passionate about combatting blind consumerism since 2008 and joined the Zero Waste movement by starting this blog in 2013, soon after my second child was born. I think it might have been trying to unwrap a toy or someone’s attempt to sell me a butt-wipe warmer that put me over the edge… read more



  1. IronMike

    I'm sorry. All I heard was "boobs."


  2. IronMike

    Would have gotten my attention quicker if you'd posted a picture of said boobage to prove your point. 😉

    And, btw, you guys should have more kids. You two make beautiful babies.

  3. zerowastemommy

    Well, you're (sort of) in luck. Next post is all about underwear. 🙂

  4. Elizabeth

    You have a rodeo outfit? Seriously? Love your idea to put matching outfits together (reason #829 I wear a lot of dresses — less thinking involved!). And, happy to be the benefactress of that cute yellow top.

  5. zerowastemommy

    Yes siree! We try to hit a few rodeos a year. Even the oldest has her little cowgirl shirt. And I'm with you on the dresses. Less contributions to decision fatigue.

  6. IronMike

    I've thought for years I need to get polaroid pictures of me in each of my dress shirts with my suits, the ones that match, wife-approved. Then I'd tack them all up on my closet wall under a sheet of plastic. I'd tick the outfits off as I wore them so I knew that I hadn't worn a certain combo in the last 10 days or so.
    Alas, I've not found the time…


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