4 tips for maximizing clothing storage when you don’t have closets

Happy Thursday! Did you take my challenge last week? I would love to hear all about it. I made a concerted effort to connect with my partner and really focus on him for a few moments at the beginning and end of each day. This week in particular has made a big difference on my mood and outlook throughout the day. Spending some time waking up together, instead of me slinking away to get dressed for a workout in the dark, has made me a happier person these last few days. Those moments are more important, in the grand scheme of life. I will never wish “If only I hadn’t spent so much time sharing my love with him…” so I call this challenge a win, in my books.

How did your challenge go? (If you’re just reading, last week I challenged readers to perform a small action each day for a week to improve their lives – such as drinking a glass of water upon waking, spending a minute to hug and kiss their partner or children when they get home, eating a serving of vegetables, etc. Go check it out!)

This week, I’m going to bring it back to your garden variety minimalism themes and talk about how to cope when you lack closet space. Many of us live in small spaces and lack storage space. I, personally, find this to be a blessing in disguise, because it means I have to be very particular about the clothes and items I keep around. They must really be things that I love if they make it to the prime real estate.

We don’t have closets in our master bedroom. There is a linen closet and a couple of storage cabinets on the landing outside our bedroom, which are being used for linens, the laundry hamper, workout equipment, unmatched socks, and craft supplies. The small spare room/office near our bedroom has one closet, but it’s housing my boyfriend’s nice button-down work shirts and some shoes. (Stay tuned for “How to live with a non-minimalist.”)

What can you do when you don’t have a lot of closet to work with?

1. Store clothes in a dresser

My first order of business when I moved in was to procure a dresser or two. Co-human had been using a downstairs spare bedroom to keep his clothes in a dresser and closet, but I prefer having clothes in the bedroom. I found a set of dressers at a local antique shop and purchased them for a great deal. One dresser is more horizontally oriented with three long drawers – these house partner’s underthings and socks, tee shirts, and backup tee shirts, respectively. The other dresser is taller with four short drawers. I have two: underthings and socks, and tee shirts/workout clothes/misc. The other two are for my partner’s workout shorts/towels and pants. (Side note: I have now written and read the word “dresser” so much that it no longer looks like it’s a real word).

Keeping clothes in a dresser, bureau, or chest of drawers is a great way to keep clothing contained without needing to hang them up. This works well for pants, sweaters, workout gear, tee shirts, socks, and underwear, but some things really need to be hung to maintain their shape and avoid wrinkles, such as dress shirts, slacks, dresses, or blouses.

2. Hang clothes on coat hooks

The more minimal you keep your wardrobe, the better for this example. If you only have a few “nice” items that you need to keep on hangers, you could hang them from coat hooks on the wall. This would be a great option if you only keep a few articles of clothing (think Project 333) and want to pre-make some outfits to wear.

Do not use this option if you have cats, dogs, ferrets, or other pets that might climb up your pant leg, pee on your hemline, or chew your sleeves.

3. Use a wardrobe

We bought two Ikea wardrobes to put in our bedroom for clothing storage. This solution made the most sense for our needs. They were about $100 each (plus gas and mileage to Pittsburgh and a burger lunch) and fairly easy to assemble. I put them both together. They have a shelf at the top, on which I keep folded pants, tank tops, leggings, and sweaters. They have one rod, which comfortably fits all of my clothing besides the things in the two dresser drawers. I still only have about 50 items in my wardrobe, but there are some things I recently culled from the pile and need to donate.

4. Be a nomad

You could always live out of a backpack and just have two pairs of pants, five shirts, and some socks and underwear. Hey, it’s an option.

How do you compensate for lack of clothing storage?

Love your body, clean your closet

Wednesday, October 17, 2012 was Love Your Body Day (LYBD).  LYBD seeks to encourage women (and men) to, clearly, love their bodies.  Stop fixating on the things you hate about your body.  Stop wishing it was different.  Stop worrying about numbers on a scale.  Stop negative self-talk.  Stop reading magazines that promote airbrushed models as the desired shape and size for beauty.  Stop letting other people’s words get you down. Here’s a secret: They aren’t always happy with their bodies either.

A pants size will not make you happy.

To bring this idea around to a practical minimalist application, I’d like to talk about the clothes in your closet, wardrobe, or dresser that do not fit and do not make you feel fabulous.

Holding on to clothes that are too big, just in case, is not healthy.  You have an excuse to stop being accountable for your health because you think it’s okay since you’ve got a pair of fat pants. First off, stop calling them fat pants.  Someone else out there just calls them pants.  They may like their body just how it is, and you calling their pants “fat pants” just adds another little layer of insecurity that society is throwing at them.  Stick to the clothes that fit you.  “But what if I gain weight?” Then you buy bigger clothes when you gain weight.  Keep yourself accountable — eat a balanced diet of mostly plants, and move for thirty minutes a day, and you should maintain your weight (minus any health issues that cause extreme weight fluctuations).

Holding on to clothes that are too small, as motivation, is not healthy.  Having clothes in your closet that are too small is a body-negative reminder of your “ideal” beauty and body.  Get comfy in your body, and stop making yourself feel bad by surrounding yourself with reminders of what you’re not.  If you want to lose weight and wear smaller clothes, do it.  In a healthy way.  Which will take a while, so go ahead and take that top to Goodwill.  Reward yourself with new clothes when you do lose the weight, instead of having to look at a blaring neon sign that says “YOU CAN’T WEAR ME” every time you get dressed.

Holding on to clothes that are not your style is silly. These are the clothes that technically fit, but that you don’t wear.  Because they have a weird pattern, or you don’t like the cut, or you just don’t wear long sleeved shirts but your aunt bought it for you, or a tee shirt from high school that you have no reason to wear, or any other of the million reasons people hang on to these clothes.  If you are not wearing them, get rid of them.  Try the hanger trick.

Some guidelines:

  • Only clothes that fit you and that make you feel good deserve a space in your closet.  Anything else is not worth your time.
  • If you are pregnant or otherwise gaining weight that is temporary, a range of sizes is acceptable, but it IS possible to avoid having an entire (soon useless) wardrobe of maternity clothes.  See Miss Minimalist for more on that.
  • If you have a lot of clothes in sizes that don’t fit and you can’t bring yourself to get rid of them all, limit yourself to one box of clothes to put in storage for you to have on hand in case of weight fluctuations.
  • Don’t let your mom guilt you into keeping an ugly shirt because she bought it for you. Apply this to whatever guilt-ridden sentimental reason you have for keeping something you don’t really wear. Sorry mom.
  • When purchasing new clothing, look for items made with forgiving fabrics with some stretch, or elastic waists.  This makes the clothing more comfortable to move in and accommodates minor weight fluctuations.

What’s your favorite item of clothing, and how does it make you feel to wear it? Share in the comments!


Tiny purses

I mentioned before, in No chihuahuas in my purse, that I was going to try out a little bag instead of carrying around a huge messenger bag as a purse.  I absolutely adore my Ameribag Baglett, which is relatively tiny (a checkbook fits in it but that’s about as long an object as it will accommodate) and has a cross-body strap.  I am firmly in the tiny-bag camp and will not look back.

Five reasons that a tiny purse with a cross-body strap is a good idea:

  1. No back pain.  This purse keeps you traveling lightly.  In mine, I have my checkbook, a clip with cards and cash, daily medication, a flash drive, and a couple odds and ends — but only a couple!   It’s very lightweight, even with my phone and keys inside if I don’t have pockets.  There’s no back pain or shoulder strain from hefting a heavy bag around.
  2. No clutter. Receipts, candy wrappers, etc. are all banned from the purse.  It would get full so fast if I let those things in, so I keep them from cluttering it up in the first place, which also cuts down on the weight of the bag.
  3. Restaurants and public restrooms. In a restaurant or public restroom, you don’t have to worry about finding a place to hang your bag (or resting it on the floor, gross!), because the strap keeps it on your person at all times, and it’s so small and unobtrusive it doesn’t get in the way at all.  Best of all, you can’t forget it if you never take it off.
  4. Grocery stores. There’s no worry about leaving your cart to go grab a can of something or put some apples in a bag, because your purse is on you, not in the cart.
  5. No leaving it in the car. It’s easy to drive with a small cross-body bag, and it doesn’t get in the way of the seatbelt.  You’ll never forget the bag in the car because you’re wearing it.  As an added bonus, in the event your car stalls on railroad tracks, you can get out and run away without worrying about grabbing your purse.

With a tiny bag, I can’t do cool things like carry home leftovers from dinner like my friend did recently in her briefcase-sized purse, but I definitely avoid bathroom germs and oncoming trains, so I think it evens out.  What do you think about tiny bags? 

Minimalist jewelry box

Is your jewelry box overstuffed?

Jewelry can be hard to minimize, because it really doesn’t take up all that much space and it often has sentimental memories attached or may cause you feelings of guilt when you consider relocating it from your life.  Wedding rings, inherited jewelry, gifts from current or past partners, gifts from family members… these are all sentimentally charged articles in our jewelry wardrobe and it can be very hard to shake the sentimental ties.

I have a ring my ex-husband bought for me.  I picked it out in the store and it was perfectly me.  And now it’s sitting in an Altoids tin because I love it but I cannot bring myself to even consider wearing it.

You may have items in jewelry boxes like I do, relics of your past that are beautiful but that you just aren’t wearing and can’t seem to discard.  Or you may have gifts from friends or relatives that just aren’t your style.  How much good are those pieces really doing you?

When you consider your jewelry, think about the following:

  • Do you wear it? If not, why not?  Memories? They will still be with you, even without that ring or bracelet.  Take a picture of it if you want to remember it specifically.  Not your style? Then why does it deserve a space in your home?
  • Will you wear it? Maybe you have a set you wear for job interviews or during the winter holidays.  While you could probably get by with a basic pair of earrings and simple necklace for any occasion, sometimes you can justify holding onto an item if you will wear it soon.
  • Is it worth something? If you’re holding onto it because it’s worth some money, sell it.  If it only holds sentimental value, examine that and see if you can move past it and declutter it if you’re not wearing it.
  • Is it beautiful? This one is tricky with jewelry.  With other things in your minimalist life, you can justify keeping something that is not necessarily practical, like pictures and paintings, souvenirs from travels, and other such items because they are beautiful and make you happy to look at.  However, jewelry is not to look at, it is to wear.  If you aren’t wearing it, it is taking up valuable space that could be better occupied by pieces you are wearing.  If you’re keeping an heirloom ring that you personally think is the ugliest ring in the world, it’s not doing you any good.  Only keep pieces that you wear regularly, which should be ones you think are beautiful.

Anatomy of a minimalist jewelry box:

My jewelry box is not a box, really.  I had a jewelry box, but I didn’t like how cluttered it was.  I looked into necklace racks and earring holders and was appalled at how much they cost.  I’ve always tried to be frugal, even if I spent the last twenty years accumulating stuff.  I fixed my accessory needs with a trip to a DIY store and a dollar store, where I bought a small plank of wood, some brass hooks, and a $1 grease splatter guard.

Bam. Eat your heart out, jewelry rack companies.

The above necklace rack used to be so full I had to double up on some of the hooks.  And that’s a lot of earrings!  I don’t even wear most of them, but that splatter guard makes me feel so clever every time I see it, so I have kept it full of earrings.  I set out to purge some jewelry I wasn’t wearing, and below are the results:

I’m now down to sixteen pairs of earrings and eleven necklaces from about twenty.

Reasons for purging earrings include:

  1. I don’t wear them anymore (4)
  2. I have never worn them (3)
  3. My ex-husband bought them for me (1)
  4. They make my ears itch (1)
  5. I have another pair similar to them (1)
  6. They are broken (1 — that one hurt, I loved that pair… sigh)

Reasons for purging necklaces include:

  1. I don’t wear it (5)
  2. It pulls my hair (1)
  3. My ex-husband bought it for me (4)

I am keeping a couple articles of jewelry that I have never worn in hopes that my reduced inventory means I’ll put them into a rotation more often.  Being honest with myself, I really only wear a few pairs of the earrings I’ve kept and I have a small rotation of necklaces that I frequently use to accessorize.  I’ll re-evaluate in a few months.  I think jewelry may always be my soft spot!

What items do you have trouble purging?

Oh my god, shoes

How many shoes does a minimalist own?

Minimalism isn’t about having the absolute least amount of stuff that is humanly possible.  It’s humanly possible to never leave the house ever and just go barefoot inside all the time.  No shoes and no socks.

How minimal. 

No, minimalism is having what you need and no more.  And it doesn’t exclude collections, though hopefully it can help you to reconsider the importance of having stuff for stuff’s sake.  Some people have large shoe collections.  It’s okay to love shoes.  To be a minimalist who loves shoes only means that you take excellent care of the shoes you have and you only collect shoes you wear and that are comfortable and meet your needs.  I am not particularly into shoes, so it is easier for me to detach from shoe-mania and stick to what I know works.  For me, this means good arch support and no high heels.  For you, it may mean something completely different.

Recently, I had a friend visit my apartment.  We had talked briefly about my minimalist lifestyle and she was flabbergasted that I had so few things.  She joked (or perhaps it wasn’t a joke) that everything in my whole apartment was less than she had in her bedroom.  She was amused, and then she looked on in almost-horror when she saw my shoes.  “Those are all. The shoes.  You own,” she said.

My six pairs of shoes.

If I remember correctly, I had at least ten or twelve pairs of shoes when I initially purged my wardrobe.  As of this post, I own six.

  • Brown heels: I haven’t worn these in months, and they survived the purge because they “go with my brown dress pants,” which I also haven’t worn in months.
  • Brown sandals: I have been wearing the brown sandals while the weather has been warm (even with black clothes, since I didn’t get around to replacing my black sandals that died).
  • Walking shoes: I wear these for exercise or days I will be on my feet a lot.
  • Black boots: I will definitely wear these when the weather gets cooler, as I wear them with dresses and leggings as well as with pants (casual or dress). They are also very good and reliable bug-killing shoes.
  • Converse (Black hi-tops, blue low-tops): Upon wearing these, I noticed immediately how old and worn out both pairs are, and I plan to replace them both with one pair of Converse slip-ons in black or grey.  These are not the most versatile or practical shoe but they make me happy, and that means they still deserve a spot.

My ideal minimalist shoe-drobe could be attained with the following five shoe criteria met:

  • Walking/running shoes with good arch support for walking and other exercise (check!)
  • Sandals with decent support that can be worn with dresses, pants, or shorts in the summer
  • Casual flats (ideally Converse low-tops, possibly slip-on)
  • Waterproof boots with good traction that will keep feet dry and warm in rain and snow (maybe a pair of big colorful rain boots that are actually comfortable)
  • Boots that can be worn with dresses/leggings or casual/dress pants (check!)
  • Bonus footwear: Orthotic inserts for my flat feet to get arch support

Like, maybe these sandals

These slip-ons are lovely.

Rainy days mean I can wear a fun color in my boots.

And perhaps these three as well, if needed:

  • Flip flops (for beaches, pools, potentially funky shower stalls, etc.)
  • Proper winter boots (in the event rain boots don’t cut it in the winter)
  • Flats that I can wear with dresses or pants if sandals would be too cool, boots would be too warm, and Converse would be too casual (these are in the “optional/situational” pile because in most circumstances I would likely wear the Converse anyway — I wore low-tops at my wedding!)

How many pairs of shoes do you own?  Do you have a favorite shoe you recommend?

New closet, new rules


As described in an earlier post, Cleaning out the closet, I pared down my wardrobe to 50-ish items before moving from my mother’s house to my own flat.  I am slightly ashamed to say that I did rescue one sweater from the purge pile, but I did add another shirt to the purge pile in its place.  I also have a plan to make sure I only possess the articles of clothing I actually wear.  I am going to share that strategy with you now!

I put my hangers in backwards.  Every article of clothing in my closet went in on a backwards hanger.  As I take out items to wear them, and they go back into the closet, the hanger gets reversed to the “normal” position.  At the end of a certain period of time, whatever is still on a backwards hanger gets donated or sold, because I’m clearly not wearing it, so someone else should get the chance.  Some of the things in this closet have the tags on, and they were purchased months ago. Yikes.

Tee shirts are in an under-bed storage bin, all facing down.  As I wear them, they can get put away facing up.  I rarely wear tee shirts so that should be an easy purge in a few months.

Typically, I sort by color, but I sorted my clothes by type this time.  Tank tops, short-sleeve blouses, pants/shorts, dresses, sweaters, dress clothes.  I think, for dresses, pants, shorts, tanks, and short-sleeves, I will re-evaluate in six months and take a look at what I wore and what I didn’t.  For sweaters, obviously I’ll need some colder weather before I evaluate that. Ideally I would like to own only one suit, but my mother (she should get her own tag) assures me that, in case one pair of dress pants rips, I should have a backup.  And a backup for my backup.

I’ll wait a few months and probably pare down the dress clothes too.

I would like to — ideally — end up with a color palette of “stuff that goes with black” or “stuff that goes with brown” and not have to deal with both… for now, I have blacks and browns and I love them both.  Baby steps.