Why I Got Rid Of Half My Clothes – And You Should Too

In recent years, the idea of stripping back our wardrobes has gained traction, whether it’s minimalism closets or selecting items that do not spark joy and lighting them on fire while beating your chest and screaming at the moon (I didn’t read the book)… the underlying theme is own less stuff.

Lately, the capsule wardrobe has caught my eye and seized my optic nerve in its fist, rendering me unable to move. I’m an impulse shopper on a low-income budget, and justify this with “it’s secondhand!” or “it’s on sale!”. After a decade of adulthood chasing shiny things and wondering why my piggy bank is hungry – while feeling immense guilt for the environmental impacts of consumerism –  it’s time to make a change.

Minimalism has been criticised as it is obviously a huge privilege to be able to go ‘back to basics’ and is vaguely arrogant towards people who struggle to afford food, let alone consider ‘investing’ in a silk blouse. With this in mind, I’m a low-income earner with too many clothes, and felt it would be a good experiment.

Creating My Capsule

I followed suggestions found online (here and here). I like this approach because it’s not extreme. For some people it might feel like a lot of clothing! But I’m an awful impulse buyer, remember? So downsizing my 50+ tops to just a few was difficult (and shameful). The idea is to wear only 30-ish items for three months, and then re-assess. Here’s my diary of the first week.

Day 1: black pants, knit, brogues, pink earrings

Black cropped pants, black knit from ASOS (I like men’s jumpers for slim fit and longer length) with black lace-up brogues I’ve had for years. Worried I look like a casual goth or informal mourner so I pop on pink earrings and sparkly socks.

Day 2: black pants, shirt, brogues

Same pants again because there is nothing more comforting than an elastic band waist. Paired with my Levi’s denim shirt which I’ve had for six years (!) and same shoes as yesterday.

capsule wardrobe on a budget

Day 3: white pants, skivvy, raincoat, boots

White pants purchased for $10 from a Facebook clothes selling group. They’re a good quality linen-blend but a bit big around the waist so I wear a belt purchased from an op shop for $1. It’s raining, because Melbourne, so I opt for a black skivvy, boots and a raincoat. The raincoat is secondhand Gorman with blue and pink spots. I feel like a fun ladybug.

capsule wardrobe cheap budget frugal minimalist uniform

Happy raincoat!


Day 4 – black pants, leopard-print shirt, brogues, denim jacket

Am wondering how many times a person is allowed to wear a pair of pants before deciding they need to be washed. The black pants don’t have any stains and my legs are not generally prone to sweating so I decide this is fine. Fun story behind these: I bought them recently from Katies. The assistant asked if I’d shopped there before and when I said no, she momentarily clutched my hand and said earnestly “Welcome to Katies”. It felt like the universe was reminding me I wasn’t going to be in my 20s for much longer. My new life as a Katies shopper had begun.

Day 5 – blue jeans, black skivvy, runners

Whoops, I’ve accidentally dressed like Steve Jobs.

Day 6 – white pants, black knit, black trench, brogues, silver earrings

White pants again, a different sweater, trench-style jacket, brogues, pink socks. Saw a film with a friend and mentioned that I always get chocolate on myself when I have a choc top, so deliberately placed my jacket over my body like a bib. Somehow still got chocolate on the crotch of my white pants. Must have sat on a dirty train seat coming home because the back also has a dirty mark. Nice!

capsule wardrobe on a budget frugal minimalist fashion clothes cost 

Day 7 black jumpsuit, t shirt, denim jacket, runners, pink earrings

Jaunty high kicks are not required for my lifestyle of sitting down and looking at memes, but whenever I wear a jumpsuit I want to kick my gams out. Jumpsuits are fun. It’s not quite spring yet so I needed a plain white top underneath plus a denim jacket, grey scarf, and white runners again.

What did I learn?

  • Trends come and go and I’m not a fashion blogger. My style is basic and that’s OK: lots of black, lots of button-ups, lots of comfort.
  • I already do rely on a ‘uniform’ – the comfortable go-tos – but end up chaotically flinging hangers around every morning trying to find something ‘nice’ before settling on old faithfuls. What a waste of time.
  • I can make some spare change selling those awesome pieces that I love but never wear. Made $50 selling an Obus top in a print I adore but doesn’t suit me.
  • I shop when I’m bored or need a serotonin zap. Not ideal. I’ve deleted eBay off my phone.
  • Some guidelines lost me when stating specific items needed (“a cashmere knit”). Many people work outside of traditional office settings, or have a unique personal style: someone’s staple jacket might not be a black bomber but a sparkly silver cape. Rules can be annoyingly gendered – I kept whispering “please don’t make me wear a pencil skirt” – so some creativity and flexibility is paramount.
  • I was not run out of town by a pitchfork-wielding mob for wearing the same pants three times
  • Secondhand shopping is great, but not when I don’t actually need anything… that’s when it borders on hoarding
  • White pants look good but are terrible for clumsy babies like me.

Will I continue for the three months?

Yep! Mornings are less stressful and I’m enjoying pairing cute socks or earrings with a basic clothing uniform. I have three bags of clothing to be donated, and am going to be more mindful with any future shopping trips. Wish me luck.

Deirdre Fidge is a Melbourne-based writer. She spends too much time on the internet at twitter.com/figgled