How to Increase your Closet Space by 40%

Anyone out there ever waited until everything in your closet except maybe that holey t-shirt, too-tight jeans, and swimsuit is dirty before doing the laundry?  Then spent thirty minutes sorting colors versus white, dry clean / hand wash versus regular?  Then spent the better part of a weekend and a roll of quarters shuffling your things between machines?  Then looked at this massive pile of clean laundry to be folded and whined, “I hate doing laundry”?

Oh, okay, just me then.

And between shaking another hanger loose from the tangled rats nest of plastic and folding my twenty seventh pair of socks, I thought, What if this didn’t have to be so aggravating?

So last spring I went on a closet purge.  As a result, the contents of my closet as of April 2010 were:

  • 33 tops
  • 27 bottoms
  • 3 dresses
  • not including workout clothes

That’s about seventy items.  Not bad, right?  But you know, it didn’t work.  I think one of the biggest problems was that I purged toward the end of winter and didn’t keep enough summery clothes around.  So, gradually, my closet started to fill back up again as I bought tops for the warm July weather.  Not with a lot of stuff, but enough to make me antsy.

So I attacked my closet again.  My revised closet numbers are:

  • 21 tops
  • 17 bottoms
  • 2 dresses
  • these numbers include workout clothes

Sorry, I also switched which closet I'm using. Makes it hard to see a direct comparison.

That brings my grand total to 40 items, about a 40% reduction from my previous attempt.  (Note: neither count includes things like socks and underwear.)

I have seen quite a few minimalist blogs out there where people brag about their closet counts, but even though I’m an extremely competitive person I’m not telling you this to try to toot my own horn.  Instead, I have found my new wardrobe extremely liberating and think that maybe some of you out there might find it to be so as well.  It’s DEFINITELY a better way to live in my opinion.

Some guidelines if you want to try

I still often wear almost everything in my wardrobe before doing the laundry, but when I do need clean clothes everything fits in one load.  (Except the clothes on my back.  I do need to walk between buildings to get to the laundry room and don’t think the neighbors would appreciate me doing that in the buff.)

Oh, and nothing is dry clean or hand clean.  Come on, who has the money or time for that?

I learned my lesson from the last purge.  With the exception of one set of sweats, I kept only warm / temperate weather clothes.  I’m learning the art of layering.  Tanks get paired with a wrap shirt.  A sleeveless dress works as a pinafore over a long-sleeved shirt and leggings.  And all of my long-sleeve shirts are jersey-weight at heaviest.  Adios, sweaters that got worn twice a year!  You may have been attractive for the cold walk to work but made me roast once I got to the office.

I love love love white t-shirts but they just tempt fate, begging for stains and the occasional errant red item to turn them pink.  So I got rid of most of my white clothes and am down to just lounge-around shirts so if they do get a pinkish tinge or stain one day it won’t be the end of the world.

I don’t know if it’s still considered a fashion faux pas to mix your browns and blacks, but at least for me they are like oil and water.  And it bugged me that I needed to have a pair of brown dress shoes around to wear with my brown dress pants.  So I gazed into my closet and asked myself, “Brown or black?” I chose black.  All the brown shirts, pants, and shoes went adios while I embraced more black and grey.  Now everything matches!  And stains on black?  Fugeddaboutit.

Oh yeah, I also down-sized my shoe collection while I was at it.  Eight pairs including snow boots.

Beating the blahs

I’ll admit, my wardrobe’s a smidge boring.  Not that I was a terribly fashionable dresser in the first place, but I got rid of dressy clothes because they were worn so rarely in the first place.  And over half of my things are black or grey.  And with the exception of one striped shirt and one striped dress there are no patterns.

My solution has been scarves.  I keep about eight or so hanging on the other closet bar in a variety of colors and patterns and they keep my plethora of black clothes from looking goth.

Oh, and the previous tenant of my flat was a genius: hooks in the closet!  Perfect spot to hang those worn-but-not-dirty-enough-to-wash-yet clothes – like that white sweatshirt.  I hung a few extra 3M ones on the back of the door.

Go ahead, try this minimalist experiment

I’d encourage you folks out there to give this a shot!

Start by taking everything out of your closet and putting it in another space.  Grab the things you wear most frequently and take them back to your closet.  Don’t take too much; challenge yourself if you have to to survive with as little as possible.  Pretend you live in a tiny NYC apartment or are moving and can only take a backpack.  Hey, it’s okay; all your stuff is still in the next room.  See?  Deep breaths.

As you wear stuff over time and realize, “Hey, I actually do need a pair of pants for hiking,” go grab them from your pile o’ stuff.  It’s like shopping without spending any money and you already know that they’ll fit.  I still have my pile of formerly-worn clothes sitting in the next room.  Though I’ve grabbed one or two things, during the past six weeks I’ve been able to ignore most of it.  And I even was able to throw a pair of pants and a shirt back in there after realized I hadn’t worn them over the past month.

After a few months when you’re confident – and maybe even proud of – the diminished size of your new wardrobe, wash all those items and give ’em to your girlfriends.  Or sell them in a garage sale or to consignment.  Or donate.

Final thoughts

I was hesitant last November to get rid of some of my nicer clothes and pare everything down to only items I wore regularly.  A wedding loomed in November and as the weather forecast came in I knew if I wore a fancy dress I’d freeze.  I ended up arriving in a blouse and skirt, and felt plenty dressed up.  And you know, I doubt the bride and groom would have cared either way.  (If they were focusing on that instead of their marriage, serious problems ahead.)

Yes, care should be taken in the way that we present ourselves, but we all worry far too much about what other people will think of us.  Often times though, what Theodor Seuss Geisel said was true:

Those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.

* * * * *

In case you’re interested how my wardrobe breaks down further, business-appropriate clothes consist of:

  • 2 sleeveless blouses – pink, black
  • 2 tank tops (for layering) – grey, black
  • 5 short sleeve shirts – white, blue, purple, 2 black
  • 4 long-sleeved shirts – pink, blue, black, striped
  • 1 long-sleeved wrap shirt – grey
  • 3 pairs of slacks – khaki, grey, black
  • 2 pairs of jeans
  • 2 short, flared, knit skirts – purple, black
  • 1 pencil skirt – black
  • 1 jean skirt
  • 1 long, hippie skirt – blue
  • 2 sleeveless dresses – grey, striped

And the casual / weekend / workout / camping clothes consist of:

  • 3 t-shirts – 2 white, black
  • 2 tank tops – coral, black
  • 1 long-sleeved shirt – red
  • 1 sweatshirt – white
  • 1 pair long yoga pants – black
  • 1 pair capri yoga pants – black
  • 1 pair leggings – black
  • 1 pair sweat pants – blue
  • 1 pair PJ pants – red
  • 1 pair hiking pants – khaki
  • 1 pair of shorts – purple


  • dressy boots – black
  • flats – black
  • heels – lime green
  • Converse – pink
  • flip flops – purple
  • running shoes
  • hiking boots
  • snow boots
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One Response to How to Increase your Closet Space by 40%

  1. Pingback: Disaster-Planning Revealing My Own Priorities — not what you might expect | Content but not Complacent

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