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!


Multifunctional clothing: The cozy

Cardigan Cozy

It’s a cardigan.  It’s a jacket.  It’s a cowl neck sweater.  It’s off the shoulder.  It’s even a scarf.  More than ten sweaters that take up the space of only one — interested?

As minimalists, we strive to detach from the need to obtain physical items to make us happy.  Giving up fashion trends is one way we can clear out our mental clutter.  If your closet is full of stylish cuts in neutral tones and/or colors that work for you, why stress over what’s in this season?   Relax in the knowledge that being comfortable and looking good is always in style, even if you don’t rush to the stores with the changing of seasons.

However, one article of clothing that appeals to me as a minimalist

Off-the-shoulder Cozy

is this sweater.  It is the Swiss Army Knife of outerwear.

If you have six minutes of your life to spare, I invite you to watch this video that shows the multitude of ways in which the DKNY Cozy can be worn.

As fall approaches, I am getting excited about wearing sweaters.  This Cozy has me daydreaming about how I could replace two or three items from my closet with just one, and that definitely appeals to me.  In my wardrobe now are two sweaters, two cardigan-style long sleeved tops to go over layers, and one black shawl.  I could easily replace one of those items (possibly more than one) with a Cozy.

Jacket Cozy — One of my favorites.

I ordered a less expensive version from Amazon, and I like it.  I’m not exactly the size of this model so I can’t do a lot of the wraparound styles, but I have so far been successful with the cardigan, cowl neck, and a front-tie.  I will get some photos up soon — I was unable to get some in time for this post!

Does anyone have a DKNY Cozy? What do you like about it?  Is it worth the investment? 

Photos from the DKNY Cozy App for iPhone.

The case for uniforms

It’s occasionally a topic in the news… the great School Uniform Debate.  Do uniforms stifle kids’ creativity and individualism, or do they reduce bullying and class distractions by making sure everyone is wearing the same thing?  Both? Neither?

While yes, uniforms to reduce students’ ability to showcase their personality through what they wear, wouldn’t it be nice if they could showcase their personality through their actions?  In my opinion, uniforms are a great idea.  You won’t see children ridiculing another child’s hand-me-down clothes or last-season garb.  Everyone in the same skirt/pants, shirt, and shoes means less stress over what to wear in the morning, less comparing to others based on wealth and appearance, less distraction in the classroom.

From a minimalist standpoint, I’ve seen several people describe their pared-down wardrobe as their personal uniform.  As I mentioned before, lots of choices actually means more stress.  Whether it’s getting kids ready for school in the morning or getting dressed for work or the day’s other pursuits, having a limited number of options means more peace of mind about what you’re wearing.

What do you think?

One color palette

A book from my childhood — Photo from Amazon.com

I read this book when I was a young Brownie Girl Scout myself.  I didn’t even remember the book at all until I started this minimalist adventure — nearly two decades after I had known the book in the first place!  Amazon provides a synopsis of the book, but the only thing I honestly remember is that the babysitter is described to wear black and white clothing, and the sole source of color in her wardrobe comes from her jewelry and accessories.

I remember being fascinated by that as a child.   I wondered if people really did that.

They sure do!  I recently read an article about actress Jamie Lee Curtis, in which she describes her style as an evolution, a distillation:

My style is a distillation. I’ve etched out who I am through myriad haircut attempts, outfit attempts, beauty attempts, diet attempts. It’s been an evolution. I’ve let my hair go gray. I wear only black and white. Every year I buy three or four black dresses that I just keep in rotation. I own one pair of blue jeans. I’ve given away all my jewelry, because I don’t wear it.

My partner recently pointed out to me, “You have a lot of jewelry.  That’s not very minimal.”  Like Ms. Curtis, I really don’t wear much jewelry, but I have accumulated quite a few pieces of it.  That will be changing soon!

Jewelry aside, I wrote this post to talk about a black and white, simple, clean wardrobe.  While I don’t think I’ll be a strictly black-and-white girl anytime soon (or ever), I have culled my wardrobe (so very nearly) to one where I can reach into the closet and pull together an outfit that works.  I’m not as minimized as I would like to be, but I will get there one item at a time.  Fortunately, I recently ripped a pair of pink plaid shorts, so I can replace them with a black pair that goes with more tops!

Anyone else aspire to a one-color-palette wardrobe?

No chihuahuas in my purse


Big bags are a thing now.  Bags big enough for books and puppies and three spare changes of clothes and, if you’re like me, a ledger’s worth of receipts for everything from stamps to dinner to oil changes three months ago.

Before my minimalist reboot, I was using a Timbuk2 messenger bag as a purse.  I absolutely adore the bag.  It is a fantastic bag.  So many pockets, and I could carry practically anything.  Padded shoulder strap, Grid-it organizer, so much storage… a wonderful bag.  However, I have decided to experiment and try a tiny bag as a purse instead.  The more room I have in my purse, the more room I have available to accumulate Stuff.  (I had a rubber door stop in there when I cleaned it out for this experiment…).

During the packing of my room at my mother’s house, I found a little zipper bag and thought “Oh, I can do something with this.”  Normally that line of thinking is my downfall and leads to more and more Stuff (I can make a pillow from this shirt, I can make a lampshade from that skirt, I can make a quilt out of these fifty tee shirts I’ve had since high school).  But not this time!  This time, my accumulation of a Thing was for minimalism.  I wondered if I could do it.

I opened my (very large, very full of cards) wallet and took out the necessary items: debit card, driver’s license, grocery store loyalty card, cash, etc. and I put them together with a kitchen clip.  Into the tiny bag they went.  Also into the tiny bag went a pen and a tampon.  You never know when someone will need to borrow one.  I know that’s not minimalist thinking, but seriously those are handy.

I took a look at my keychain next and decided I did not need all seven of those keys at the ready at any given moment.  Two keys — one to my partner’s house, and one to my mother’s, were clipped onto a key clip inside the bag, so I had them if I needed them but they weren’t cluttering my main keychain.  My keychain now features my three apartment keys (two doors, one mailbox), my car key, and my key for the office at work.  I rarely need that one, it can probably go onto the ring inside the bag as well.  My keys were previously kept on a long lanyard, which I have now repurposed as the purse’s strap, and I’m using a keyring my partner gave me as my main key-collecting device.  So far, so good.  I’m excited to see if I accumulate less Stuff in a smaller purse.

Also, the Timbuk2 messenger bag will continue to be used, as an overnight packing bag or camera bag, or both.  Just maybe not as my daily carry-all.

Cleaning out the closet

I started my journey to less with my closet. And dresser. And chest of “off season” clothes.  I have too many articles of clothing.  Pants and tops that don’t fit — and haven’t in years, pants too long that I meant to hem, clothes I bought so I could get over $25 to use a coupon in a store, clothes my mom suggested and that I went along with because, according to her, they looked good, but that weren’t my style in the first place and I have subsequently only worn each of them once.

I enlisted my sister to help and we went through all of my (clean) clothes.  I didn’t count the dirty hamper, I figured I actually wore the stuff in there so it was pretty safe.  My goal: To pare down my wardrobe to 50 articles of clothing.  Socks, underwear, and bras don’t count.

Started with: 11 tank tops, 15 short-sleeved tops, 9 long-sleeved tops, 24 tee shirts, 3 blazers, 1 suit, 10 pairs of dress slacks, 1 pair of khaki pants, 5 pair of jeans, 10 sweaters, 5 sweatshirts, 1 vest, 3 shawls, 4 dresses, 6 cardigan-ish coverups, 1 pair of leggings, 4 pairs of shorts, and 1 satin cape.

Ended with: 5 tank tops, 8 short-sleeved tops, 7 tee shirts, 2 blazers, 3 pairs of slacks, 3 pairs of jeans, 5 sweaters, 1 vest, 1 shawl, 3 dresses, 3 coverups, 1 pair of leggings, 2 pairs of shorts.

After doing laundry I will post the final count, but for now I have pared down my wardrobe from 114 articles to 44.  Mission accomplished.

The most surprising thing about my clothing purge was that it wasn’t even difficult.  I had been holding onto sweatshirts and tee shirts (I found a whole cache of them in storage in the basement that weren’t counted here – probably 15 more) from high school and college and graduate school, always intending to turn them into a memory quilt.  But I finally realized that if I hadn’t gotten to making that quilt over the past several years, I probably wouldn’t ever get around to it.  So I tossed the sweatshirts and tee shirts.  I don’t even really like sweatshirts!

The items I kept are items that I can layer for different looks and occasions, and that are simply designed – I only kept a few tops with patterns.  Part of the reason I had so many blouses and pairs of slacks is that my graduate degree is in educational administration and I had intended to end up in an office at a college or university, rather than the jeans-and-sneakers every day position I wound up in an office at a chemical manufacturing plant!

The ease of the clothing purge was inspirational, and I thought I could finally tackle my growing library of books taking up several boxes in my mom’s basement.