We’ve all been there: a closet full of clothes with nothing to wear. Sure, we have that handful of staple pieces that we couldn’t possibly live without, but the rest of our wardrobes can go untouched for weeks, months, or even years. I personally found myself in a dire state of closet disrepair a few months ago, around the same time that I stumbled upon the super stylish blog, Un-Fancy. With her 37-piece wardrobe, Caroline inspired me and many others by proving that when it comes to fashion, less is definitely more. Lucky for us, Caroline is joining us today to share her tried and tested tips for building out a wardrobe that’s versatile, stylish and budget-friendly, giving you the peace of mind and freedom to focus on what really matters. Without further ado, take it away Caroline!

First, change the way you clean out your closet.

Usually, when it’s time to purge, we rifle through our clothes while they are still hung in our closet. But there’s a much better way — one that will actually help you find your style, and give you clarity…


Cleaning out your closet.

Step 1: The secret to cleaning out your closet is to completely empty your closet. I know, it sounds like a ton of work, but it works. Take absolutely everything out of your closet and lay it out on your bed.


Cleaning out your closet.

Step 2: Sort each item into one of these four piles:

Love it and would wear it right now – It fits. It’s right for your lifestyle. You feel comfortable and confident wearing it. Put it back in your closet.

Maybe – This is for items that don’t fit quite right. The color might be a little off, or it has sentimental value, or you’re keeping it because you paid a lot for it but don’t wear it. Put all this stuff in a box and store it in the garage. You can always go get stuff out of it, but you probably won’t. If it’s still in the box at the end of your season, it’s time to say goodbye.

Nope – Self explanatory. Donate, swap with a friend, or sell it to fund new purchases.

Seasonal – Wool coat in summer? Probably don’t need it handy, but you’d never get rid of a staple like that. If it’s not in season, but you love it, put it in a nice under-the-bed box and store it. You’ll definitely use it when the appropriate season rolls around.


Cleaning out your closet.

Step 3: Assess what’s left in your closet –  your love it clothes. Your true style should be practically screaming at you. How do you feel about it? Need to supplement? Make a plan, and shop. Need to downsize? Put a few more items in your maybe box.


Now that you’ve simplified your closet, it’s keeping it simple that’s tricky. Here are some easy ways to keep your closet uncluttered…

Keeping your closet simple.

Step 1: Play with your hair and makeup instead.

If you want to play with your style, instead of going shopping, why not try teaching  yourself a new hairstyle or new makeup technique? Satisfy that same need to feel new and improved by learning how to do a perfectly Pinterest-worthy messy braid.


Keeping your closet simple.

Step 2: Hit unsubscribe.

I can’t tell you how many times an email would convince me that I needed to go hit up that sale right this second. So I decided to unsubscribe from all the clothing email lists I was on. Yes, I missed news about fun sales. But I stopped caring. Contentment just felt better.

Keeping your closet simple.

Step 3: Try a capsule wardrobe.

Ever buy some fun new clothes, but end up wearing your old favorites anyway? Me too. Ever feel like you have nothing to wear, even when your closet is filled with clothes? Me too! I started wondering why I was spending money on and keeping a closet stuffed with mediocre clothes I didn’t love/wear.

So I tried out this capsule wardrobe idea I’d been hearing about. It’s basically a mini wardrobe made up of versatile pieces you completely love. There are a million different ways to try a capsule wardrobe, but here’s what I do: I limit my wardrobe to 37 pieces — tops, bottoms, shoes, and outerwear — and I dress with only these 37 pieces for 3 months. No shopping allowed.

Keeping your closet simple.

Step 4: Use the rule of 3.

Typically, when I start planning a wardrobe, I start with shoes since they make the biggest impact on an outfit. I like having about 9 pairs — for example, 3 pairs of flats, 3 pairs of heels, and 3 pairs of boots. For each of these sets, I include one classic pair, one fun statement pair, and one pair that falls between the two.

I like having 9 bottoms too – for example, 3 pairs of jeans, 3 pairs of shorts, and 3 skirts. Again, in these sets, I include a classic option, and statement piece, one option that falls between the two.

Then, I like having 15 tops. I bet you can guess where this is going. I’ll use the “Rule of Three” rule here too — for example: 3 sweaters, 3 tee shirts, 3 button up shirts, 3 tank tops, and 3 vests. All broken up into basics, statements, and in-betweens.

And finally, when it’s time to shop, shop smart. 

Step 1: Ask yourself the right question.

When I’m trying to make a smart decision in the dressing room, I ask myself, “Would I reach for this over my chambray shirt?” I could wear chambray every single day, so if I couldn’t envision myself choosing this new top over my trusty staple, then I knew I’d never wear it – back on the rack it went. This little trick goes a long way in preventing shoppers remorse.

Try it for yourself: “Would I reach for this over my [insert favorite comparable piece of clothing here]?”

How to shop smart.

Step 2: Identify where you’d wear it.

You know the old shopping advice, “If you love it, get it”? I can’t tell you how many bad purchases I made following that advice. Loving it doesn’t mean it’ll fit into your lifestyle. And loving it in a dressing room doesn’t mean you’ll love it at a restaurant.

So get specific. Think of places, events, and times of the day. If you can’t envision yourself wearing it to your regular spots around town, put it back on the rack.

How to shop smart.

Step 3: Gather your pieces in an amazon wishlist before you buy.

Not only does this help you budget, but it helps determine if your pieces will work together as a whole. Here’s how I do it: About halfway through a season, I start window shopping for the next season. When I find pieces I think I want, I add them to my Amazon Wishlist with the universal button. When it’s time to start the next season, I make edits based on my budget and then purchase what’s left on the list.

41 comments
  1. 1
    Libby | January 22, 2015 at 12:55 pm

    Great post! I’ve been working towards the capsule wardrobe since the end of last year and it is amazing how fun and easy it makes getting ready each day. I feel more put together than I ever have. The tips on under-bed storage for those off-season and big ticket items I’m not quite ready to part with are really helpful.

    Reply
  2. 2
    sylvie | January 23, 2015 at 1:57 am

    I love the “9 shoes” idea and I’m gonna work on it ! Thanks for this helpful post.

    Reply
  3. 3
    Coach Your Home | January 23, 2015 at 2:29 am

    I am so tempted to count the number of items in my wardrobe. Will definitely do that over weekend (smile).

    Reply
  4. 4
    Karen Farber | January 23, 2015 at 3:42 pm

    This is amazing! I needed to read this years ago! Cleaning out my closet now, and trying her technique to have a closet full of ONLY things I’ll love and wear, and to shop smarter!

    http://www.littleblackshell.com

    Reply
  5. 5
    Yellow Peaches | January 23, 2015 at 6:09 pm

    Such a great read – thank you! I am just in the process of clearing out my wardrobe and am def going to follow these steps x
    http://www.yellowpeachesblog.com

    Reply
  6. 6
    westcoastcitygirl | January 24, 2015 at 12:20 pm

    Fantastic article. I’m moving in to a new place next weekend and once I do my unpack, I’ll be going through my closet again!

    Reply
  7. 7
    Madonna Phillips | January 24, 2015 at 4:08 pm

    I absolutely loved this post. I am trying to be more intentional with my clothing purchases. These are great ideas for implementing an intentional wardrobe. Thanks!

    Reply
  8. 8
    Juetta West | January 24, 2015 at 4:51 pm

    This is an excellent post, especially the capsule collection suggestion. One thing that wasn’t mentioned was looking for apparel that has more than one function. I like to create a capsule of one top, two pants, one jacket and one skirt that all mix and match seamlessly….the kicker here is that this capsule has two functions. Each item has design elements from the fashion runway so that it can be worn as stand alone fashion with heels, jewelry and scarves. The other function is high performance fitness apparel. How does this work? It only works if the fabrics, trims, and zippers are of catwalk quality but has all the technical attributes for the studio. There are very few brands that do this with true design elements from the runway that also function from am to pm, from work to workout or from boardroom to locker room. If you look, you’ll find them.

    Reply
  9. 9
    Daiane | January 24, 2015 at 6:14 pm

    First time I “heard” about capsule wardrobe, but loved the idea, will work on mine!

    Reply
  10. 10
    Daniella Ruiz | January 24, 2015 at 6:34 pm

    I love, love, love this! Being a newly wed, I need to save up money, but I love shopping. This will help me stop over spending on clothes I just don’t need.

    Reply
  11. 11
    Andres Poiche | January 24, 2015 at 9:44 pm

    cool closet

    http://thepocketstyle.blogspot.com/

    Reply
  12. 12
    Trudy | January 25, 2015 at 2:12 am

    Excellent suggestions I have way too many clothing and need to downside. I think I will swap it.

    Reply
  13. 13
    Gabrielle Stanley | January 25, 2015 at 4:44 am

    So what do you wear when your one ‘inbetween’ top is dirty? How often do you wash your jeans? This is unworkable for a normal life.

    Reply
  14. 14
    The Queen of Dreaming | January 25, 2015 at 5:25 am

    Great post! Very inspiring!

    http://justsem.wordpress.com/

    Reply
  15. 15
    freetimefriends | January 25, 2015 at 6:05 am

    This is a must-read for every girl/woman! I’m going to do this right away. Up to my room then!
    http://www.eliseschoice.wordpress.com

    Reply
  16. 16
    Tessa | January 25, 2015 at 7:12 am

    As always, some great advice! Will be trying my best to follow it.

    Holly Sparkle | Petite Fashion & Lifestyle Blog

    Reply
  17. 17
    Caroline | January 25, 2015 at 7:16 am

    Awesome post, very helpful! Thank you for sharing 🙂

    Reply
  18. 18
    Aleksandra | January 25, 2015 at 3:02 pm

    I really love your tips, really helpful ! 🙂

    Reply
  19. 19
    Sara @ Cake Over Steak | January 26, 2015 at 4:03 pm

    Caroline is the best!!! This is a great overview of her philosophy. She’s the sweetest.

    Reply
  20. 20
    Rosie | January 26, 2015 at 4:51 pm

    This is the most comprehensive how-to I have read on simplifying a wardrobe and I appreciate it for that! I’m currently changing myself to minimize the amount of pieces in my wardrobe, and maximizing the ones I love the most. Thanks for these tips!

    Reply
  21. 21
    fungifoodie | January 27, 2015 at 12:22 am

    great article! Super helpful tips. Inspired me to clean out my closet the very day I read this post. My closet has never looked better!

    Reply
  22. 22
    Jen | January 27, 2015 at 6:24 pm

    Love the idea of boxing up the maybes! So many of them sit in my closet anyway. And, when I wear them I am not that jazzed about them so why not box them up! This post is actually the most useful one I have read out of the many posts I have read about streamlining my wardrobe. Thanks so much.

    Reply
  23. 23
    Lauren Fair Cooke | January 28, 2015 at 11:09 am

    I really wish your site was more mobile friendly. This content seems great, but sadly it doesn’t scroll properly on mobile. In the gallery, it just gets stuck when trying to scroll to see more of post.

    Reply
  24. 24
    Martha | January 29, 2015 at 8:29 am

    What about dresses?

    Reply
  25. 25
    graciousstore | January 29, 2015 at 10:31 pm

    “a closet full of clothes with nothing to wear” You can say this again! I’ll you tips on how to keep the closet simple with stylish wearable, rather with clutters of clothing that simply fill the space.

    Reply
  26. 26
    Marylène | January 30, 2015 at 7:44 am

    WoW! Amazing helpful post. I always find myself in front of my wardrobe thinking “I have nothing to wear” (who hasn’t ) I especially like the capsule wardrobe. Definitely gonna try it.

    Bisous Marye,

    http://www.niniiinjune.com

    Reply
  27. 27
    Emily | February 1, 2015 at 8:08 am

    I love that black fringe sweater! Where can I find it? Thanks 🙂

    Reply
  28. 28
    Fizza | February 2, 2015 at 10:14 am

    Only 9 pairs of shoes? I’m scared to get rid of my precious 😉

    Reply
  29. 29
    Ciara | February 9, 2015 at 10:15 am

    This is amazing, great advice. I really need to do this I struggle with what to wear all the time!

    http://www.spacedreamsandmarshmallows.blogspot.com

    Reply
  30. 30
    silgtavares | February 17, 2015 at 4:44 am

    Brilliant!!!

    Reply
  31. 32
    Katie | March 18, 2015 at 3:07 pm

    UGH This is brilliant! I have been putting off going through my wardrobe for weeks, now. It’s so intimidating and the prospect of tossing something I may want later… daunting!! This is a great way to break it down and really leave yourself with the perfect assortment!!

    Reply
  32. 33
    Silvia | October 21, 2015 at 8:54 pm

    Silvia: I will try your technique .

    Reply
  33. 34
    Daniella | January 31, 2016 at 8:29 pm

    I’ve read a lot of capsule wardrobe articles, but the point on slide 11 is great! It’s so true, there’s plenty of pieces I love, but will I love it for every day wear? Not always. Great tips! Think i’ll be doing a wardrobe clear out soon, especially being a new mum! 🙂

    Reply
  34. 35
    Monica | May 20, 2017 at 2:04 am

    I have been doing a capsule wardrobe, minimalist for sure. The rule of 33, clothes, jackets, shoes, purse/accessories. I have a few dresses for special occasion and since I live in the bay area where weather can run between cold and hot any time of the year, I have all seasons together. If I buy anything new, I have to remove an item from my capsule so I really have to need it or I can’t buy it. Works great, dressing and packing are a dream

    Reply
  35. 36
    Rebecca rose | March 12, 2018 at 10:58 am

    The first thing I do when I begin working with a client is tackle the dreaded closet. Before I arrive and to streamline the process. http://cuteactivewear.blogspot.com/

    Reply
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