I first suspected I had too many clothes when I finally ran out of hangers. I just finished doing laundry when I realized I didn’t have enough hangers for my shirts. My first instinct was to buy more hangers, but there was one crucial problem with that plan: our tiny closet in our tiny apartment couldn’t accommodate more.
In my 20s, I spent a lot of money in clothes. I was never a brand whore and I never accumulated consumer debt because of shopping, but I did buy new clothes regularly. I had an unfortunate penchant for tight graphic t-shirts and funky sunglasses. I especially liked fast fashion brands like H&M and Armani Exchange—they were trendy and within my budget.
Oddly enough, my liking for clothes took a hit just when I started earning a decent income. Aging, I think, had something to do with it: As a 30-something, I felt silly trying to keep up with trends. Entering my 30s also forced me to look at my finances more closely. And what I found didn’t impress me. I definitely could have saved more in my 20s.
My newfound dispassion for shopping was further stoked by the documentary Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things. A lot of the ideas that Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus shared in that film spoke to me. The idea of giving things up so you can create more room for more meaning in life—by consuming less—resonated with me.
That was late last year. It’s been more than six months since I bought new clothes, and so far, I’m really digging it.
What giving up new clothes did to me
When I stopped buying clothes, no one really noticed. My family and friends certainly had no clue. My co-workers didn’t notice either, and some of them were even surprised when I told them about it.
The biggest impact has been on my head space. I spend less time in the morning trying to decide what to wear—because I have fewer options to begin with. We’re talking about only a few minutes per day here, but that amount of time quickly accumulates in a week, a month or even a year.
I was concerned about being less confident if I wore not-so-trendy clothes, but I found that this wasn’t the case at all. If anything, I’ve gained more real confidence knowing that when people listen to me, it’s not because of what I’m wearing—it’s because of what I’m saying.
Perhaps most importantly, when I stopped buying clothes, I became less concerned about what others were wearing. I still give compliments when friends and colleagues look nice and fancy, but someone’s outfit isn’t one of the first things I notice anymore because I have no idea what’s on trend.
Yes, it’s possible to stop buying clothes—and look decent
One concern I had when I decided to stop buying new clothes was that I might look like a homeless person all the time. I work in the technology industry, so I’m not required to go to work in a suit or in anything formal. But, out of respect for my colleagues and our customers, I wanted to look presentable. And when I went to networking events, I hoped that I at least looked semi-professional.
The good news: it is possible to avoid shopping and still look like a functioning human being. Here are four tactics that worked for me—they might be useful if you’re also thinking about abandoning shopping for a few months.
1. Know what you already own
Since you have to work with what you already have, you need to start with a decent selection. Ideally, you should have clothes with neutral colors and timeless design. Anything too trendy could easily look silly a few months down the road.
Take a full inventory of what you have, and make sure you have enough for each season and for all types of clothing (including socks, underwear, etc.). If you have high-quality clothing for all seasons, you’re off to a great start!
2. Get rid of clothes you’d never wear again
It’s crucial to stop buying new clothes, but you also have to get rid of stuff you don’t plan on wearing ever again. This creates some space in your closet—a crucial step in ensuring that you get utility from everything you own.
Before committing to avoiding shopping, I spent a few hours going through my closet. I quickly discovered that I had a lot of clothes that I kept “just in case.” Those clothes had to go. I got rid of about 30% of old clothes and my closet is more manageable now. (Plus, I have more hangers now.)
3. Rotate, rotate, rotate.
This one’s critical. Say, you only have few pants left and some tops for this season. You don’t necessarily want to wear the same thing over and over again because it’s not hygienic. You want to maximize everything you have. Rotating is the answer.
If you have 12 button-up shirts, make sure you go through all of them before you wear one of them again. This creates the illusion that you have more clothes than you actually have—and you won’t get raised eyebrows for wearing the same thing over and over again.
4. Do your laundry regularly
Speaking of hygiene…please wash your clothes often—more than you did before. Since you have fewer shirts, pants and underwear to work with, you’ll risk running out of clothes if you don’t think ahead. (And, believe me, almost running out of clothes when life gets busy is not fun.)
A related point: Take care of your clothes. Read the washing instructions for each piece and actually follow them. Doing so will help you keep the structure and quality of your clothes.
The key to avoiding shopping for new clothes is to plan ahead. If you know what you have and take care of what you have, you’re set to win.
Have experience avoiding shopping? Share your experience below. I’m always looking for more tips on how to do this more successfully.