minimalist wardrobe resolutions for a new year.

January 7, 2016

I’ve said before: I’m not a clothes horse, or a fashionista, or fabulously stylish. I want to feel good in my clothes, absolutely. I want to feel beautiful and comfortable every day. (Small request, no?) I also want getting dressed to be a simple affair. I want to wake up in the morning and open my drawer or my closet and be able to select, in a matter of minutes, something to wear for the day. There’s no such thing as effortless but I do enjoy keeping a wardrobe that requires less effort. This is my particular wish. It might not be yours. You might derive great joy from putting together a fabulous and inventive ensemble of lovingly selected and vibrantly colored garments. You do you.

Here are four resolutions I have in the continued march toward maintaining a minimalist wardrobe:

minimalist wardrobe resolutions | reading my tea leaves

Buy less, love more.

This fall I bought two pairs of jeans on the same day. One of them I love. I wear them near daily. The other I wear only occasionally. I can’t tell you why precisely. Something about the weft or warp of the fabric. Something about the particular place where they hit my hips. It’s hard to say what makes a particular thing work better than another. I feel like I probably knew this at the time of purchase. I wish I had waited on buying the second pair. Something to work on.

minimalist wardrobe resolutions | reading my tea leaves

Mend and mind.

I’m working on my continued mission to take care with what I have. To address things that need attention: removing stains, and resewing buttons, and depilling sweaters. And to take good care of what I have. (In tandem: to become less bereft, when inevitably something does get shrunken or damaged.)

minimalist wardrobe resolutions | reading my tea leaves

Shop small.

This is my personal resolution this year: To buy only from small makers and to know a bit more about the where and when and who of the clothes I’m bringing into my house. I don’t mind that it can be limiting. In fact, that’s the point. I feel admittedly well set up for this right now because I don’t feel like I really *need* very much more. But if there’s something that I decide I *want*, I’d love for that thing to come from someplace knowable.

minimalist wardrobe resolutions | reading my tea leaves

Work with the seasons.

I’m not a huge clothes shopper, but here’s a resolution for those of you who are; a little guideline for the folks who genuinely enjoy shopping, but who might be desiring a shift in process. I think we can beat fast-fashion retailers at their own game by deciding to shop seasonally rather than perennially. The rise in fast-fashion chains who produce never-ending collections of new clothing encourages a similarly relentless purchasing pattern. If we decide instead to shop seasonally and to look out adding only a few thoughtful items with a shift in the seasons, I think that could be a good—and easy—start. It requires wearing a certain kind of blinders, perhaps. Or finding an alternative to after-work therapeutic shopping. But it might be a good place to begin.

What about you guys? Any sartorial resolutions in your worlds?

In case you missed them: zero-waste resolutions and decluttering resolutions for the new year. 

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  • Reply Loribeth January 7, 2016 at 7:48 am

    Therapeutic online shopping is one of my biggest struggles and is definitely a challenge to keeping my house and wardrobe clutter free.
    Because my budget is very limited for clothes and the price point for buying small is out of my reach, I like to use online thrift store services like ThredUp. It makes me feel like I can at least buy re-used higher quality items rather than buying something from Target at the same price point.

    • Reply alison January 7, 2016 at 12:25 pm

      I have to second ThredUp (although I feel like I want to keep it all to myself!). I am a therapist and need clothes that are professional yet flexible and comfortable enough to play on the floor with kids (yoga, obstacle courses, etc.). ThredUp has been the best source of clothing I could find; I have spent relatively little money for a new wardrobe (I moved from PA to FL). I especially like that they have good standards and are reusing clothing that would otherwise be just left in a closet.

      • Reply Kristin P January 9, 2016 at 9:24 pm

        Totally, Agree..Thred Up is great. Sometimes, there desriptions of items can be off but, all and all its great.

    • Reply Kristin P January 9, 2016 at 9:22 pm

      Omg, I love Thred up. I do have serious online buyin habits as well. You pretty much summed me up, when you spoke about yourself. Love it.

      Kristin, From MA

  • Reply Rosena January 7, 2016 at 8:24 am

    I have started paying attention to the fabric that I purchase. I’ve decided to switch to more cotton. For a few reasons, it seems to be more durable, easy to wash (a must with a husband and two kids), and it’s a natural fiber. By paying attention to the fiber content, I’ve discovered how much easier it is to pass by what won’t fit into my life, or will fall apart after a few wash and wears.

    • Reply Alix January 7, 2016 at 10:13 am

      This is a great point. I, too, have created a “rule” for myself where I can only buy natural fiber clothing (cotton, wool, linen, silk, and some bamboo-based rayon or lyocell). In addition to the benefits of not wearing petroleum-based clothes, I find this has greatly reduced my impulse purchases on cheaper items since I am much pickier about what I buy.

      • Reply Genevieve January 7, 2016 at 8:06 pm

        I agree with this sentiment, Alix and Rosena! Also wool, silk, cotton, etc. looks and feels so much more beautiful than the cheap synthetics, and is not hard to take care of (although I do a lot of quick handwashing, which I know some people loathe).

  • Reply Sorcha January 7, 2016 at 8:49 am

    Curating a minimal/capsule wardrobe is definitely on my list of things to achieve this year. Right now I often feel like I’m drowning when faced with the inside of my closet and it’s silly for something as necessary as getting dressed to be so stressful.

    I can’t wait to have a much calmer closet and a collection of clothes I really love.

  • Reply Caitlyn Hampton January 7, 2016 at 8:50 am

    I’ve started taking some similar approaches, as well. I haven’t really shopped at “small” stores, but am considering making a change in the future… I do have a pretty consistent uniform though. Skinny jeans/pants, solid blouse (or tee on the weekend), jacket, and gold, simple piece of jewelry somewhere. My main colors are black, white, gray, blue (denim), and then I tend to gravitate towards wine colors in fall and winter and other varieties on blue in spring in summer. Bright red is always, present as well.

    It works for me every morning. Feels easy, provides slight variety in color and fit of blouse. I only sometimes put together something else. My goal is to continue making replacements that are investments when one of the cheap things fails me. I also want to put a little more effort in comfort.

    I’ve started exploring all this on my blog with much more work to do 🙂

  • Reply Camila January 7, 2016 at 9:12 am

    Love this! Your blog was a great find in 2015. 🙂

  • Reply Ris January 7, 2016 at 9:25 am

    My clothes-related resolution for the year is to buy nothing new. I can (and do, and will) buy used clothing, and there are a ton of places out there to do so–I’ve had great luck with consignment, thrift, clothing swaps, ThredUp, and eBay. There is just so much already-produced clothing out there, cast off by original owners for various reasons (you reference jeans that never fit right, but we all have those items!) that it’s hard for me to justifying buying something new when its used counterpart is out there, waiting for me to find it. It’ll also make me slow down on impulse purchases since I’ll have to seek it out used instead of brand new. We’ll see how this endeavor goes!

  • Reply Ros January 7, 2016 at 9:28 am

    Not a ‘NY Resolution’ per se, but more ‘something I’ve been trying to do for a few months that’s working out for me’: spend more on things that will last if they’re things I will actually use (and don’t buy things for my ‘I want to be this person’ life, buy things for my real life).

    Translation: I just spent 130$ on a pair of work pants from a brand that fits me well, look good, and, lasts forever (the one pair of work pants I have left in my wardrobe is 6 years old and still look good). In comparison, the ‘fast fashion’ pants I bought in may have holes in them or are looking shabby. Not worth the money. Less pants, nicer pants, pants that last.

    Quality over quantity. And not needing to go shopping because what I have lasts. That’s the goal.

  • Reply PJ January 7, 2016 at 9:39 am

    So, in your quest to keep it small and simple, what are the “must haves” in your wardrobe? For me, it’s a great white shirt, long enough to wear with leggings, if I choose. Jeans that fit, khakis (because I can’t wear jeans to school). White, black, grey t-shirts (long and short sleeves). What do you consider essential?

  • Reply maputna January 7, 2016 at 9:43 am

    I still do therapeutic shopping but having two young kids has shifted my priorities. I shop in thrift stores, even online ones, for the kiddos. They don’t need a lot of clothes but they grow so fast and I’m so happy with the great finds. However, I do need to rebuild my wardrobe after two babies so, like you, shopping small is my main resolution.

  • Reply Christie January 7, 2016 at 10:43 am

    I discovered this blog several weeks ago while on vacation. I love it. I have long lived in a small place (though not by your standards, but we are a family of four in 900 square feet–plus a large yard and a garage). Before this, we lived as a family of three in less than 700 square feet (yes, they make houses that small). We are minimalists, and it has been hard with children (and grandparents who demonstrate love by buying toys and books). Anyway, after two kids, my body changed, and I have not been able to lose the baby weight from baby # 2. In fact, I lost all but 10 pounds and then gained 10 more. It has been difficult, and I hung on to a closet full of beautiful clothing that did not inspire me, and, in reality, depressed me. While on vacation, I read your entire “growing a minimalist wardrobe” series and I felt inspired. I went home and purged my wardrobe–I took everything out and put it on my bed. If it didn’t fit, it went. I have a very, very small wardrobe now (one t-shirt! but Everlane from a couple of years back, so at least it’s still in good shape). But I know where I need to grow and where I don’t. I also feel such contentment when I look in neat closet and drawers. I take care of my stuff, putting it back where it belongs, rather than lumping it on the bottom of my closet. And all of my nice (beautiful!) work clothes that I collected for years, I donated to an organization that helps low-income women with clothing options for work, a way to help them get back on their feet. I’m pretty excited to read your blog, and I’ve been scouring the archives, as well. Thank you for the inspiration.

    • Reply Caitlyn Hampton January 9, 2016 at 10:52 am

      I just wanted to say, good for you! I purged my closet about a month ago and feel much more calm in my life. Building it back up is tough and requires some strict decision making, but can be soooo worth it in the end.

  • Reply Simona January 7, 2016 at 11:09 am

    I really support your last point about buying seasonally; that combined with buying from independent makers is a great formula for beating fast-fashion retailers. Doing this, you know that the item you bought will live beyond a few wears and a wash and you feel good supporting small business.

  • Reply Archana January 7, 2016 at 11:32 am

    You have great personal style. Style > fashion.

    Great resolutions.

  • Reply Linda January 7, 2016 at 11:51 am

    I’m trying, I really am! But there are a lot of thrift shops near me, and I have to learn how to resist a “bargain”. So often I only wear the thrifted items a few times, and then re-donate them – not a good use of my $$. My mother never had many clothes but always looked well turned out, perhaps she had more style than I do or clothes were better quality? Another resolution is to actually buy better clothes as I lose weight as I will look good and feel good, and they can always be sold/thrifted when I’m a smaller person.

  • Reply Bella January 7, 2016 at 11:59 am

    Hello from the UK! In December 2014 I decided that I needed to stop pondering over what to wear in the morning – hence I made a point to only wear white – yes, white top, dress, white anything! And since I wear scarf/hijab too, I decided to stick to black. White top and black scarf. Only ever! Not only I find it therapeutic as in I no longer stress on what colour should I wear today (and matching it with the scarf, ugh), it also curbs my spending habit MASSIVELY because I only look at white things when I go shopping – keeps me focused. Admittedly it does limit my fashion sense, but I work in a hospital anyway, so it doesn’t really matter. It’s been over a year now and I’m still wearing white – my brother (whom I see once a year because I’m originally from Malaysia) once commented that I look like the man from The Transporter, not sure if you’ve seen the movie, haha! In short I think it works well for a shopaholic (but not really stylish) like me, so the goal is to keep wearing white, and not be tempted by colours again!

  • Reply jpb January 7, 2016 at 12:16 pm

    Something I would love to achieve, that, but a couple of years ago I stopped feeling guilty about not being able to do that. I’m 5’10 and even at my skinniest it is so extremely difficult to find clothes that fit. I was able to buy most tops and shoes second hand while living in the UK (I miss those charity shops) and that felt pretty good.

    My point, there is and ideal in certain social circles (not just in the US, I live in Germany) of having amazing fair trade organic clothes which last forever, which actually cannot be achieved if you are not an average sized person (both in height and weight) with enough money (a combination of factors which in itself seem to be the exception).

    This is not about criticising you, I just wanted to put this out there to also talk about not feeling guilty if you cannot achieve those ideals. Sadly, living environmentally friendly on an advanced level is still a luxury.

    • Reply Erin Boyle January 7, 2016 at 12:41 pm

      Hey there: Thanks so much for this note. I never want anyone one to feel guilty about taking the same approach that I do! And I would say it’s important to keep the very kind of pragmatic approach that you do! (If they’re worn regularly, there’s no such thing as clothes that last forever anyway!) Each of has to make the choices that work for us.

    • Reply Vee January 13, 2016 at 10:14 am

      As a plus-sized US-based gal, I echo your sentiment. I have found a few brands that I love — Comfy USA and Goddess on the Go are my favorites because I love their comfort, style and resiliency (modal fabric is truly fabulous) — but my style tends to be flowy, unstructured and a bit dramatic/eccentric (i.e., all black with giant silver accessories). For those with a more traditional, classic or structured style, I have found few if any designers who meet the criteria Erin describes. As with all things, I try to follow the 80/20 rule and make sure that the majority of my purchases are consistent with my values, but I (try to) let go of the 20 percent that inspire guilt.

    • Reply Karen T. February 10, 2016 at 8:52 am

      Hi JPB. Thanks for pointing out what is true . . . not every aspiring minimalist is of average height and super thin! Finding second-hand clothing that fit my plus-size tallness is extremely difficult. BUT, the answer isn’t a bunch of cheap fast fashion either. The tailored black jeans I love that fit me well are a staple from a fast-fashion retailer, but I only buy a couple of new pairs at a time. Washed in cold water and hung to dry they look good for quite a while (my current jeans are over a year old and won’t need to replaced for a while yet). I love bright colors, so all of my tops are solid bright colors — tees for summer and sweaters for winter. I buy only what I need to replace twice a year. With the addition of a black jacket or cardigan and silver jewelry I can look quite put together.

  • Reply Jen January 7, 2016 at 12:23 pm

    I literally have been debating a pair of jeans that I ordered for the last three days…telling myself that I’ll wear them but still feeling hesitant for some reason. Thanks for this post…it made me realize that I wouldn’t want to wear them everyday and that therefore they are not a good purchase and are getting returned.

  • Reply Marichelle January 7, 2016 at 12:52 pm

    Love this post Erin! I always feel refreshed and inspired every time I come for a visit 🙂

  • Reply Taylor January 7, 2016 at 12:58 pm

    Great resolutions and I’m also trying for the “Mend and Mind” one this year. I purchased a clothes brush and sweater shaver as stocking stuffers for myself. My wool clothes now look as good as new. It’s a nice little ritual when I get home from work to brush down my coat and hat – they look very refreshed and ready for the next wear.

    • Reply Zoe January 15, 2016 at 6:48 pm

      What did you buy specifically, if you don’t mind me asking? I’ve been looking for something to de-pill my sweaters, hard to know which is the right thing!

      • Reply Erin Boyle January 17, 2016 at 11:02 am

        I use a razor!

  • Reply Claire January 7, 2016 at 1:19 pm

    I wondered if you’ve come across before. A US based company that use only surplus fabric or fabrics made in North America and sew in Denver. Most items are also multi purpose / have multiple ways to wear…

    • Reply mado January 7, 2016 at 2:02 pm

      I just wanted to say that I just visited the seamly website and I love their models! Actually a variety of women in somewhat different shapes and sizes. Just another reason to shop small.

  • Reply Steph January 7, 2016 at 2:12 pm

    I’ve been implementing a ‘uniform’ look for both at work and ‘off-duty’ using a palette of black, grey, white and navy since last August. Saying that, I do tend to wear black to work – skinny jeans and a top as it means all I need to check is the weather to determine how many layers to wear (and whether a change of clothes is needed when I get to work – I live in the U.K and it’s been raining almost constantly since early December). I save up to buy most of my clothes (in neutral colours) from Howies – a small company based in Wales who sell organic clothes ( When I’m having a ‘I don’t know what to wear moment’ I raid my boyfriend’s wardrobe for a shirt, tee or jumper. Somehow, that stops me shopping impulsively, but gives me that little ‘buzz’ of having something ‘new’ to wear.

  • Reply Heather | Cedar & Bloom January 7, 2016 at 2:29 pm

    I have been planning to rebuild my wardrobe after having two babies. For me, it isn’t that my body has changed, but that when I’m pregnant, I ruthlessly over-purge my closet! Also, after watching True Cost, which I learned of through your newsletter, I’ve made an increased effort to buy secondhand or fair trade. I have been planning ahead, so that I can get a couple quality “needs” for summer and a few quality “wants” next fall. I want one of those beautiful Tradlands shirts!

  • Reply lowolf January 7, 2016 at 2:49 pm

    I suggest using RIT dye to spice up old clothes if you are 1. going to give them away anyway. 2. can’t buy new or old stuff. 3. change your mind about fashion a lot! Xoxo

  • Reply Kizzy January 7, 2016 at 3:11 pm

    Great resolutions and some I think I need to take on board too. I love the shop small point, need to find some smaller companies to buy from

  • Reply Maureen January 7, 2016 at 3:31 pm

    Any advice on the aforementioned depilling sweaters? I’ve tried several methods (pumice stone, razor, etc.) none of which have worked. I assume you haven’t bought one of those sweater shavers so would love to know what you do!

    • Reply Erin Boyle January 7, 2016 at 3:33 pm

      I use a razor! (I find you have to be pretty aggressive to make it work! No fear!)

  • Reply monica January 7, 2016 at 5:11 pm

    I really support your last point about buying seasonally; that combined with buying from small makers is a great formula. I like writing down an item or three to buy for each season like buy new sandals in April for spring. It gives me something to look forward to and also it really makes me think about what I really need.

  • Reply Elisa January 7, 2016 at 5:59 pm

    Inspired by you (and by my own path toward minimalism, including a Marie Kondo-style “tidy up”) I am going to slowly cultivate a more intentional wardrobe. The goals I have set for myself are 1) buy fewer, but more durable items, 2) opt for natural materials, 3) shift toward a more neutral and interchangeable color palette, and 4) emphasize “uniform” dressing.
    I am already pretty good at #4 and this Christmas received the gift of a Zady .01 sweater. Now to start the search for the “perfect” white dress shirt designed for a generous chest, as well as the perfect, durable, all cotton non-skinny jeans.

    Thanks for your inspiration and beautiful blog.

  • Reply Karina January 9, 2016 at 12:14 am

    Thank you! You always remind me of what is important when I find myself getting carried away with all the options on the internet.
    I am shopping for an upcoming surf trip and was wondering what companies James supports for his surf gear? I have found a nice one for me, the Seea, but I need one for my boyfriend.
    Thank you again. Your site and your words are refreshing.

  • Reply Erin January 10, 2016 at 12:06 pm

    My friend and I just had a conversation about spending more for quality clothing! If you don’t minds asking, where is your white shirt from? I am trying to build a more timeless wardrobe.

  • Reply Cussot January 10, 2016 at 7:23 pm

    My clothing resolution this year is to use some of the fabrics I have in my stash. Some pieces have already been so many garments in my imagination! Time to put needle to fabric, so to speak.

  • Reply Rachel January 16, 2016 at 4:11 pm

    Have you looked into Green Eileen? It’s a branch of the Eileen Fisher brand, focused on recycling their clothing and using the profits for charitable donations to organizations supporting women and children. Really looks at the timelessness of the garments, both through style and durability.

    I think they, even as a larger brand, represent a lot of the fashion choices you’re talking about. Thought of you immediately when researching them over the holidays — I bought my mom a sweater from their main line for Hannukkah, and wanted to know more about the larger company.

    Also, I’m loving your new book. Huge fan of the “Simple Matters” lifestyle.

    • Reply Erin Boyle January 17, 2016 at 11:01 am

      agreed. i heard eileen fisher give a talk last spring and was so impressed and inspired!

  • Reply TC January 21, 2016 at 7:09 pm

    I would love to buy more from small makers, but unfortunately finding quality clothing as a plus-sized woman is very difficult. If anyone has any recommendations, I’d love them.

  • Reply Kiki February 27, 2016 at 4:59 pm

    I am an aspiring purposeful minimalist who wears a small selection of clothing only because I can’t find anything that suits me. Does anyone out there have recommendations for body type with an ample bust and large tummy? Since having my second child I’m stuck in a limbo of looking 8 months pregnant every day. Size 14 bottoms and Xl or 38DD top. Very hard to shop for. I prefer grey, black, cotton. Any style tips or blog recommendations for women shaped like me are appreciated.

  • Reply Sam12587 August 17, 2016 at 1:55 pm

    During my last pregnancy I came to terms with the fact I have a long torso ( my preg shirts fit me non-pregnancy better then my regular ones).
    Since that revelation, I have been tossing like never before. I no longer look at a peice of clothing & contemplate if I’m in the mood to deal with how it fits if I wear it that day. 4 chunky sweaters, 9 good tee shirts, 8 ok to work in tee shirts later I’m finding I’m much less stressed on clothes.

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