What Fashion Taught Me About Minimalism

Nearly three years ago, my simple living journey started with my closet.

I'd never considered myself a "fashionable" person before, but after I started on a path toward minimalism and simple living, I spent months researching capsule wardrobes and decluttering techniques and guides for finding your style.


Though I've continued on to simplify pretty much every other aspect of my life over the last few years, fashion is one of the areas that has continued to intrigue me. I simplified my bathroom and my inbox and my kitchen and I was done, but my closet kept drawing me back to simplify it again and define my style even further.

As I've continued to work on refining my style and building that dream wardrobe, I've learned a few things about fashion that have shaped how I view minimalism and simple living as a whole.


Before I started simplifying my wardrobe, my style wasn't anything to write home about. My closet was nowhere near bad enough to get me put on What Not to Wear, but I certainly wouldn't have considered myself particularly stylish or fashionable.

All that changed after I started simplifying my wardrobe.

I started getting more and more compliments on the outfits I wore. People would constantly tell me how much they like my scarf or shoes or lipstick. They started commenting on my "signature looks" and friends would text me when they saw a great scarf or awesome red lipstick because it made them think of me.

The more I defined my style, the more people began to take notice and pay attention. They asked questions about it, which led to conversations that have resulted in many of them starting out on a simple living journey of their own — even if just with their closet.

In the same way that simplifying your closet forces you to define your style, simplifying your life forces you to define what it is you care about. And when you do that, people take notice.

They pay attention because what you're doing is different and you're different. Maybe you're less stressed or in better shape or just calmer and more peaceful. Maybe your house is always clean or you sold it and moved somewhere smaller. Maybe you no longer show up to every single event but are able to talk about the other things you're doing that are bringing you life.

Whatever the change may be, people will start to take notice and ask questions, because the truth is, most of us crave simplicity, even if we don't realize it. Life has become far more complicated than I believe it was ever intended to be, and we're feeling those negative effects.

So when you slow down, when you start simplifying, and it starts affecting your life for the better, people will pay attention.


If you google "how to declutter your closet" or "how to simplify your wardrobe" or "how to create a capsule wardrobe," you are going to get a ton of different results that will probably give you a ton of different answers. The approaches may be similar at some points, but everyone is going to tell you to do it differently.

Marie Kondo will tell you to get rid of any piece of clothing that doesn't "spark joy" whereas I'll recommend a more methodical and strategic approach. Courtney Carver will suggest a capsule of 33 items that includes accessories and jewelry, while Caroline Rector will suggest a capsule of 37 items that doesn't include accessories and jewelry.

And you know what? They're all right.

For some people, Marie Kondo's way is perfect. I personally found the book a bit ridiculous and prefer to stick with my plans and spreadsheets. Courtney Carver has found that 33 items is a great overall number and tons of people agree with her, while Caroline Rector prefers a bit less rigidity in her capsule wardrobe approach and tons of people agree with her too.

Just like there's no right way to simplify and define your style, there's no right way to life a simplified life.

Simplifying your home might look like getting rid of all those books you still haven't read with nary a throw pillow to be seen. Simplifying my home meant getting rid of lots of other stuff but keeping the books and throw pillows because I love them and they bring me joy. 

As Joshua Becker says, "Minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of anything that distracts us from it."

What you value will be different than what someone else values, which means how you approach simple living will be different than how someone else approaches simple living. And that's totally fine.


Look at any list of "wardrobe essentials" and I can almost guarantee there will be at least three items on that list — a pair of black pumps, a crisp white button down, and a pencil skirt. Oh, and based on current trends, probably a pair of ankle boots as well.

Guess what? I don't own any of them.

In fact, I don't own a single pair of heels and I have no intention of changing that any time soon. I used to have pencil skirts, but I don't anymore because outside the context of a corporate office, I wouldn't ever choose to wear them. And even in a corporate office, I would probably regret my outfit choice by 10am.

What is essential for me in my wardrobe might not be essential for you in yours, and what is essential for me in my life might not be essential for you in your life.

Merriam-Webster defines "essential" as "of utmost importance" and there is no possible way that every person on this earth considers the same things of utmost importance. There are probably some things that show up pretty frequently, but you'd be hard pressed to find two people with the exact same list of "essentials" for their life.

So in the same way that there's no "right" or "wrong" way to approach simple living as a whole, there are no "right" or "wrong" essentials to have in your life. The beauty of minimalism is you get to decide what works best for you and not for anyone else. 

Sarah Anne Hayes