The New Year is the perfect excuse to tweak your everyday habits to accomplish the things you want, whether you believe in resolutions or not. The problem is, pretty much everything you want to do to improve yourself takes willpower and energy—two resources in limited supply as your day drags on. But lifestyle design advocates argue that by optimizing your life (even down to your sock drawer), you can achieve your goals in the most efficient way possible. We’re increasingly interested in how the little things help the bigger picture, so we’ll be exploring these themes as we experiment with them throughout the year. First up: We’re heading into our closets.
It may sound farfetched, but you’ve probably noticed the trend—and accompanying think pieces—of entrepreneurs spouting the benefits of wearing a “uniform” (aka the same thing everyday) a la Steve Jobs’ iconic turtleneck. The idea is that a single uniform is easier to wear, eliminates decision-making, and helps establish a personal style. While that may sound pretentious, the concept isn’t that far off. The first thing you do in the morning is decide what to wear, and micro-decisions like that do take some mental energy and contribute to decision fatigue. The fewer choices you have to make in the day, the more brain power you preserve. (This is why President Obama only wears blue or gray suits.)
So, back to the closet. Organizational gurus and minimalists have set their sights on streamlining wardrobes for a multitude of reasons. Most of our closets are stuffed to the brim with garments rarely worn, stained or falling apart (thanks to the proliferation of low-quality fast fashion), or simply ill-fitting. Hence, they take up space but serve little function. Worse, their presence makes you think you have more choices than you do, which saps your mental energy. The solve? Reduce.
Jennifer L. Scott, author of Lessons from Madame Chic: 20 Stylish Secrets I Learned While Living in Paris, advocates for the drastic reduction of your wardrobe—down to a mere 10 items. This philosophy is based off her observations of the French, who invest in several high-quality pieces and wear them in heavy rotation. This concept is also known as a capsule wardrobe, a simple collection of clothing that goes together.
You can learn more about the background behind her philosophy in her TED talk.
The 10-item wardrobe isn’t necessarily prescriptive, but the idea is to distill your wardrobe down to the core items you need and enjoy. (There are also other versions of this. Project 333 is a minimalist fashion challenge that invites you to dress with 33 items or less for 3 months.) It’s about simplifying your daily routine, reducing unnecessary consumption, and enhancing your own dressing experience.
How do you start? Here are Scott’s tips.
If you’re planning to purge soon, remember that not everything has to go to Goodwill. Use this graphic from Real Simple to figure out what you can sell, recycle, or donate.
Even if you don’t dive into the 10-item wardrobe head on, it’s a good reason to think critically about the way you consume—and what really reflects your style. The goal is simplicity and efficiency, which we can all use a little more of.
Want more inspiring content? Sign up for our newsletter.