March 7


One In, One Out; How to Stop Buying Clothes You Don’t Need

If you walk into my basement room, which is pretty large, it looks like a clothing store threw up in there.

I have gotten much better of the years but used to be terrible at buying things that I would “wear someday.” Now in my defense, most of the clothes that I have purchased over the years have been extremely affordable, like $5 dresses from Goodwill. The problem is that I have A LOT!

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Then there are the kid’s clothes. I could literally outfit a small village with all the clothes I own. But this the year to purge! While recently cleaning out the basement room, which is literally a big closet at this point, I have actually been getting rid of things. I may or may not have a small issue hoarding clothes ?.

In my efforts to get a handle on the disaster that is my basement I have already taken five or six van loads to St. Vinny’s, and I feel like I haven’t even made a dent! I seriously think I might need some professional help on this!

I have invited guest contributor Renee Mazurek here today to share her insights on how to stop buying clothes you don’t need and purge the ones we already have.

One In, One Out

For someone who doesn’t like to shop, I used to buy way too many clothes. My drawers didn’t quite close, my shoes overflowed off their shelves, and I once considered moving to a new apartment for a bigger closet. I would exceed my monthly clothes budget for the sake of a “sale” (it’s a good deal, right?). I could only imagine the struggles of a shopaholic.

One day, I decided to start implementing the “one in, one out” rule; every time I buy a new piece of clothing, I get rid of an old one. My apartment is less cluttered, my wallet is happier, and I value and wear all the clothes I own. The road to maintaining a smaller wardrobe isn’t easy, but here’s how to start.

Purge your current wardrobe

Sort through your clothes and take out the ones you no longer wear. You can fold them neatly, but I prefer to throw them in a satisfying mini-mountain in the middle of the floor. Don’t think too hard about what you toss over your shoulder.

If you haven’t worn it in a year, toss it.
If it doesn’t fit you anymore, toss it.

If you used to love it, but now it’s faded/stained/stretched out, toss it.

If you’ve put it on then changed your mind about wearing it multiple times, toss it.

You’ll toss way less than you should and you may not get through everything you own all at once. That’s ok–the goal is to start.

Sell clothes in good shape to a consignment store

Throw away underclothes and anything that’s too worn. Gather everything in good condition (even if you think it’s out of style or ugly) and run a load of wash. Fold the clean clothes neatly into a bag and include shoes in “like new” condition, as well as belts, scarves, purses, and other accessories.

Find a local resale shop. (I usually make the rounds to three different shops that each take different styles.) They usually take one or two items and give you cash or store credit. You’re not going to become a millionaire doing this, but some money is better than none. (If you’d like to try to make more money, post on eBay or Craigslist.) Donate the remaining clothes to a charity.

Institute the “one in, one out” rule

Now you’re ready to maintain or slowly trim down your essential wardrobe. If you bought new clothes with your consignment shop credit, you’ll have to toss more old items.

This is usually where cutting out clothes gets tough. There’s that jacket you used to wear every day, but it never seems to come off the hanger anymore. That shirt cost a lot, but you’ve only worn it once, eight months ago. You tell yourself you need those shoes you wore for your sister’s wedding–you know–just in case you want to wear horribly painful silver heels at some future event. Whittle these non-essentials down one at a time and it won’t hurt so much.

Eventually, you’ll get down to the essentials you actually wear and like. Knowing you’ll have to sacrifice a physical item, you’ll start to think twice about buying new clothes.

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Tips for success:

  • Restrict your drawer space and number of hangers. This is a physical reminder to toss something since you’ll have nowhere to hang your new shirt.
  • Find a wardrobe size that works for you, personally. Some people may feel free with only 33 items, while others feel restricted.
  • Buy good quality clothes. They may be more expensive up front, but they last longer and usually look better.

Don’t buy something simply because it’s on sale

When you buy an item on sale, you don’t “save” 30%; you spend 30% less. The only way to save money is to not spend it. Sales can lure you in to buy clothes you don’t need.

I don’t shop because there’s a sale; I look for sales when I need to shop. I like to browse consignment shops and clearance areas of high-end stores for quality unique pieces when I need a new dress (cheap dresses always seem to be too short). Use sales and discounts as a tool rather than letting them control you.

Related: 8 Ways to Stop Impulse Buying

Benefit from your smaller wardrobe!

As you consciously consider your purchases and the clothes in your closet, you’ll save money and appreciate what you have. Your closet is a good starting point for cutting out unnecessary purchases since it’s easily definable, but you can also expand to controlling other types of shopping sprees.

Coming home to less clutter simply feels better. When my apartment and closet look neat and everything I have fits into its own space, I find it easier to relax. I get dressed more quickly in the morning since I am familiar with each item in my closet and know it fits well. Laundry is less overwhelming. Because I own less, I can’t afford to let dirty clothes pile up.

Living frugally and minimally saves more than money and helps break the vicious cycle of consumerism.  

For more tips on living frugally through your closet, check out: 25 Useful Ways to Save Money Every Day (Part 1).

Renee ghostwrites for freelance creatives and small businesses. She’s also an adventurer, a language learner, and an outdoorswoman. Renee and her cat, Dragon, strive to live frugally and intentionally in a beautiful old apartment in San Antonio, Texas. Check out her website and follow her on Instagram to learn more!

How does the “one in, one out” rule work for you?

What are some benefits and challenges you’ve experienced?

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