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8 Steps to Cultivate Your Ideal Minimal Wardrobe

An ideal minimal wardrobe is not a specific number of items, it’s meant to be a wardrobe that is not excessive yet has your back when you need it. Do you have the appropriate thing to wear for the situation and is it clean? That’s it, it’s not rocket science. 

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard, “I have nothing to wear” from people who have overstuffed closets; or how frustrating it is when you have items in your closet that don’t go with anything else, so you never wear them. Ugh!

These 8 steps walk you through creating a list of items you might want to have in your closet. 

Here is some additional advice. 

Keep your clothing contained easily within the space you have available, if your closet is overstuffed it creates the following issues:

  • You are not be able to see what you have
  • You won’t remember what you have
  • It will be very difficult for you to put things away

A streamlined closet is relaxing, cultivated, and practical. Trust me when I say, you will end up dressing better because you will have what you need and it will be chosen by you with intention, not bought in a flurry of mindless consumerism.

We will create a fully functioning list of items you probably should have in your wardrobe. You can then evaluate what you currently have to determine what things you have too much of, or what you don’t have and might want to purchase.

Let’s get started. I highly recommend using a digital spreadsheet but a paper list works too.

Daily Clothing

  1. Make a quick list of the daily activities you do
  2. Add the style of dress required for the activity such as business casual, casual, loungewear
  3. Write down how many times you do the activity in an average week
  4. Consider how often you wear things between washings and how often you will do laundry

This little exercise gives us a good idea of what the bulk of our clothing should be. 

Let us assume this is the minimum number of outfits we would need for seven days. If you wash your clothing each time you wear it you would have enough for one week.

If you wear clothing more than once, you can adjust these numbers accordingly.

The key is to have your needs met so you are not scrabbling for something appropriate to wear without going totally overboard on quantity.


Now think about other activities that don’t happen often but that inevitably appear at least once year. List the number of outfits and style of dress you would need for each occasion, things like weddings, camping, hiking, travel, and formal events.

  1. Add these activities to your current list.

Seasonal Consideration

What are the big seasonal shifts you deal with where you live?

I live in the Northern US so I deal with bitter cold and snow in the winter, hot and sunny summers, wet and windy springs, and beautifully diverse autumns. 

The more seasonal swing you have, the more clothing you will likely have as well. 

Break Down Each Style of Dress 

  1. Start a new list for each Style of Dress you have and how many outfits in each style you require in a week.

***If you do 3 different activities every week that all require Casual clothing you may have 21 Casual outfits on your list, you really only need seven to ten casual outfits to fill that need in between laundry day, remember we are trying to get to an ideal minimum.

  1. Break down each outfit and get the number of individual pieces of clothing you need. Don’t forget to think about the seasons here. Your number of outfits may grow depending on how extreme your weather shifts.

Example: Casual 8 Outfits per Week.

  • 8 Jeans
  • 8 Casual Shorts
  • 8 Casual Long Sleeve Tops
  • 8 Casual Tees or Tops
  • 1 Sneaker
  • 1 Flip Flop
  • 1 Winter Boot
  • 1 Casual Winter Coat
  • 1 Casual Jacket
  • 1 Raincoat
  • 1 Pair of Sunglasses
  • 1 Casual Purse
  • 10 Underwear
  • 2 Bras
  • 10 Socks

Example: Smart Casual 4 Outfits per Week.

  • 1 Jeans
  • 1 Casual Pants
  • 1 Casual Skirt
  • 1 Sundress
  • 1 Sweater Dress
  • 1 Cami
  • 2 Blouses
  • 2 Button Up Long Sleeve Tops
  • 2 Sweaters
  • 1 Cardigan
  • 1 Blazer
  • 1 Flat
  • 1 Pump
  • 1 Smart Boot
  • 1 Wool Winter Coat
  • 1 Smart Jacket
  • 1 Raincoat
  • 1 Pair of Sunglasses
  • 1 Smart Purse
  • 4 Underwear
  • 1 Bras
  • 4 Socks

I like to be very specific listing the items here so when I get a final master list at the end, I know if I need Casual Shorts vs Athletic Shorts.

Do this break down for each Style of Dress; look for the items that overlap with each other, you may have jeans on more than one list, and you will have socks and underwear on multiple lists.

Master List

  1. Create a master list that combines all the items you just listed.

I like to put the tops, bottoms, outerwear, shoes and underwear all together. When you do this you will see those items that overlap. Don’t list jeans three times simply put it down once and put the highest number. (If you needed 3 for one style and 1 for another list 3.)

Don’t forget to include outerwear and shoes in your list.

Awesome! We now have a list of items for your wardrobe! Before you get all wild and start purging or buying things you should decide on a color palette.

Your Color Palette

Choosing a limited color palette will super simplify and streamline your wardrobe. A perk is that everything will mix and match, and choosing outfits becomes super simple as well.

I’m not going to go into how to pick the best colors for your specific coloring here, that’s a whole other process. Do the best you can based on your favorite colors and current pieces of clothing.

Choose your Main Neutral color, usually one of these:

Black * Brown * Grey * Navy

Then choose a Secondary Neutral. If your Neutral is black, maybe your Secondary Neutral is gray or camel.

Then choose 2-4 colors you currently like to wear, you feel amazing while wearing, and you believe really compliment your natural coloring.

Here are couple palette examples.

  • Main Neutral: Black
  • Secondary Neutral: Gray
  • Color 1: True Blue
  • Color 2: Emerald Green
  • Color 3: True Red
  • Main Neutral: Navy
  • Secondary Neutral: Camel
  • Color 1: Teal
  • Color 2: Rust
  • Color 3: Magenta

A good rule of thumb for applying the color palette to your wardrobe:

Main Neutral:

  • Bottoms 
  • Shoes
  • Cardigans or Jackets

Secondary Neutral:

  • Bottoms that I already have in the Main Neutral Color
  • Cardigans or Jackets

Colors 1, 2, & 3:

  • Tops
  • Items I already have in Neutral or Secondary Neutral

That’s it. You have a master list and a color palette.

You just created an Ideal Wardrobe personalized to your specific lifestyle. I know it seems like a lot of work but it really will make your life easier if you struggle getting dressed, with having the appropriate thing to wear, or with having a messy closet.

Go forth and look amazing!!


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