Enough Already: A Minimalist Wardrobe

Pretty much the extent of my island wardrobe, minus t-shirts and pants.

If nothing else, traveling for the past couple of years taught me I do not need a lot of things to be happy and comfortable. That includes clothes.

Before we left, I worried that I would become bored rather quickly with the clothes I was taking along. That didn’t happen, but what I discovered instead was that some pieces I had packed didn’t work well for life on the road. They either took up too much room in my suitcase or weren’t comfortable for getting around or I just didn’t like the way they looked on me. Last summer, while we were in Portland, I redid things, adding a few new pieces and subtracting a few others. Some things went into storage, others got packed up and taken to Goodwill. I enjoyed the second wardrobe iteration much more and everything was happily worn again and again.

My cold weather items in waiting include seven tops again, three sweaters, four t-shirts, two coats, and five pairs of pants as well as three pairs of shoes, several scarves, and two pairs of winter pajamas.

All of our cold weather travel clothes are now in storage in their own closet, where we keep a shop light burning around the clock in order to keep any mildew and/or mold from growing. Tea bags are scattered throughout the closet and placed in our shoes in order to keep things smelling fresh, an trick we learned back in our navy days during our many moves. These clothing items probably won’t get used again until the spring of 2023, when we plan to return to Japan for a few weeks and know the weather will still be cold. Hopefully I will discover by then that a few things are too big to take along!

I packed less warm weather clothes than those for cold weather because we spent less time in warm weather locations, but the few pieces I do own have turned out to be more than enough for our return to island life. My wardrobe these days consists of seven tops, one lightweight sweater, two sleeveless dresses, two t-shirts, and five pairs of capris and cropped pants. Besides underwear and socks, I also have one bathing suit, a pareo, two pairs of lightweight pajamas, one pair of sandals, two pairs of flip flops (one a cheap pair to wear down to the beach), and one pair of the Sketchers walking shoes I started out with back in 2018. Other than a breezy blue linen dress I spotted in a catalog, I haven’t been even tempted to purchase anything new (and haven’t bought the dress either). I also know there are a couple more summer tops that will arrive this week in our stored items, and maybe a pair of linen pants. With the addition of those I will be more than set for the next couple of years at the least.

This linen dress has been the only new thing I’ve considered buying. It has pockets and would be perfect for Kauai’s sunny/humid weather. (Sadly, since I wrote this post the blue dress has sold out. Oh well.)

I am more than satisfied with the few things I have now as they’re lightweight, comfortable, and easy to care for. I have also honestly been surprised about my lack of interest in adding to my wardrobe. However, as life on Kaua’i has shown over and over, less here really is more, and I have enough.

14 thoughts on “Enough Already: A Minimalist Wardrobe

  1. Terrific post! And just what I needed in my current state of mind. Recently my eldest sister passed and I am her executor.I was so thrilled 3 years ago when she divested herself of a lot of things.Unfortunately I did not realize then it was the mere tip of the iceberg. And be advised I am not casting stones here, because I have way more stuff than I need or am comfortable with keeping anymore. Now, as I deal with her items I truly realize it is only stuff.The real deal for me are the people we love, the friends we cherish, gardening a wee bit and the joys of travel.

    I discovered why I really liked AirBnBs and that was as a rule we had enough of what we needed there, and not more for the what if’s. I have too much what if’s hanging around, and I recognize it is not fair to ask our sons to deal with the STUFF we leave behind. I traveled light with a lightweight 40L backpack. It was manageable and I was never in one place more than two weeks so what I had was enough.I truly have begun to think the weight of our stuff drags us down emotionally and physically. Once I recover from my next surgery I want to,pare way down which I think will help us to rethink the size of our house AND STUFF. Your bare closet looks wonderfully free. Way to go!

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    1. I think we are going to feel like we have too much once again after our stored items arrive. We’ll see – we’ve managed with the few items we have now, but I miss my cookware and dishes and other things I know are in storage. Hopefully it will be enough, and just seem like a lot because the apartment is small.

      Getting rid of stuff before we moved over to Hawaii and before we left to travel was very freeing. I remember going to an estate sale once and thinking I was never going to do this to my children. It was an eye-opening experience, and has made parting with things so much easier. It’s a process though, one that will continue going forward. And I know more than ever now that experiences matter more than things, whether that’s time with family or travel or whatever.

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    1. Living for two years with a small amount of clothes was a revelation for me. Before our Big Adventure I had always traveled with only a carryon, but while that wasn’t possible this time, I am eager to go back to that simplicity, and figure out how to travel with even less, whenever that might be.

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  2. Shopping for clothes is a huge problem for me. I cannot buy anything online since I really need to try things on. And of course, I won’t go near a store or a mall right now. So my clothes are in tatters.

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    1. I thankfully prefer to order from catalogs (learned while we lived overseas and stores and sizes were severely limited). But, I understand where you’re coming from.

      My favorite catalog, BTW, is J Jill. Their clothing is good quality and lasts, and is sized for mature women. They have a good return policy, and their sales are fantastic.

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  3. This pandemic has really changed how I’m dressing. I’m comfortable every day, but rarely wear my “dressier casual clothes” (is that a thing?) anymore. Most of my earrings are a pain with a mask around my ears, and I’m going short again on the hair front next week, because I have no patience for more upkeep time. Could be the pandemic, could be the stage of life I’ve hit. But overall, life is much simpler now.

    Moving and downsizing really caused me to pare down on things, and now that I’m trying to find locations for some of the ‘what if’ stuff (as Sonja called it in her comment above…great description!) I’m realizing I’ll be stopping at Goodwill more frequently as I unpack more of the boxes. One trunkful this week and more to come. There are still several boxes I haven’t opened and I haven’t missed anything in them. 🙂

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    1. Life is simpler now, and compounded with the ease of life on Kaua’i, I am feeling no pressure at all these days to “dress up.” I have no patience either for the upkeep that requires, so other than keeping my hair short, life is easy and I don’t need much.

      It will be interesting to see what may be “overflow” from the stuff we stored. I already know of one rug that will be sold – just don’t need it here. I think more that I realize of what we kept is the girls’ stuff, at least I hope so. We have room to store that, and as they visit over the coming years will require them to always take something back with them, or at least ship it back. I do miss most of our things though, and am ready to be done with this “camping” lifestyle we’ve enjoyed for the past few months.

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  4. I’ve been inspired by your minimalism wardrobe posts. I’m nowhere near where you are at optimizing, but you give me great ideas about a few really high quality, selected pieces, vs a lot of semi well fitting things I don’t love.

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    1. HP – first things first: I am STILL not able to comment on Blogger, not even with the new computer. It’s very frustrating. Just wanted you to know though that I remain a regular reader.

      Now, to the wardrobe: You’re doing what I did; that is, a few high-quality selected pieces that can be worn in a variety of ways and with different pieces. I had a LOT of stuff before we started traveling, but many things never got worn or were worn infrequently. I am much happier now with fewer pieces that I love and that get worn regularly.

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  5. I’m very much a minimalist when we travel, and have traveled all over the world taking just carry on luggage. I do love wearing boots as my everything shoe, including my walking shoes, because it makes everything look better from leggings to jeans. So, what I normally do is buy a comfortable, inexpensive pair prior to leaving, literally wear them into the ground during our trip, then trash them prior to our return. So, black is my travel theme, plus a pair of nice looking dark blue denim leggings. Black layers up top, leggings or skinny jeans below, boots, sandals, workout shoes, a scarf or two for color, and that’s pretty much it.

    At home though? Oh boy, nope, not a minimalist whatsoever. I love clothes! I will say though, my clothing is fairly modest in cost, and I rotate it very, very frequently. So those ten sun dresses that might be on their way here next week? Well, I am proud to say I have ten dresses pulled from my closet just waiting to go to the Salvation Army. 😄

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    1. Tamara – I also cannot comment on your blog. I couldn’t find it for a while, and got very excited when I did but the comment I left disappeared into the ether. I hoped it would be possible with the new computer, but sadly, no. And, I don’t intend to download Chrome like I did before – it caused/s lots of problems.

      Back to clothes: I am looking forward to traveling again with just a carry-on. Our big suitcases were workhorses, and did a great job for us, but they were a pain to move from place to place.

      I’m with you on black as a travel them – I mix it with indigo blue. By the way, I loved the look of my denim leggings, but had trouble keeping them up. I have wide hips, so my legging fit my hips but were too big around the waist and kept slipping down all the time. I was constantly having to tug them up. So, I’m going to have to find a different solution going forward. Like the idea of boots as well (yes, the do make everything look better) but my calves are also heavy so those don’t work well either. I did get some short books this time though and loved them.

      I love clothes too and used to have a lot of them! But I’m happier with now fewer things. They get worn and I appreciate them more.

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