Nonessentialist vs Essentialist - Which One Are You?

Have you ever felt the urge to declutter your wardrobe? 

Do you often find yourself spending too much time shopping?

Do you simultaneously feel like your closet is overflowing yet you have nothing to wear?

Are you constantly buying things impulsively and two weeks later you’re already over the thing?

If you answered 'yes' to any of the above (or your life is looking more like the left column below), it’s likely that the principle of Essentialism can be applied to your wardrobe.

Nonessentialist vs Essentialist - Which Wardrobe Do You Have?


While Greg McKeown’s book is focused on identifying your work priorities, I’ve found that his decision-making framework can be used to prioritize just about anything.

He defines Essentialism as a disciplined approach to discerning what’s most important and eliminating everything that is not. Doing this allows you to maximize the impact on the things that really matter.  

This ruthless prioritization also helps you reclaim control of how you spend your time and energy – instead of giving others the implicit permission to choose for you.

While the principle of Essentialism is simple in theory, it’s really tough to execute on - especially when it comes to your job or business.

A good way to start practicing Essentialism is with your wardrobe.

Once you get disciplined with your wardrobe, it'll be easier to apply it to the areas of your life that are tougher to prioritize.

So how exactly do you apply Essentialism to your wardrobe?

Guide to An Essentialist Wardrobe

(wardrobe image credit)

The 80/20 Rule

On average, we only wear 20% of the clothes we own on a regular basis. Think about it, don’t you always reach for your favorite outfits over and over again?

By keeping that extra 80% of closet around, it actually makes you think you have nothing to wear. When in reality you probably have plenty wear. What’s actually happening is the paradox of choice—where the more choices you have to make, the harder it is to make a decision, and the less confident you are in the decision you ultimately make.

Ready to put an end to decision fatigue? Here are a few tips to help whittle down that extra 80%.

Apply Filters

As you’re decluttering your wardrobe there will be items that are an obvious ‘yes’ or ‘no.’

It’s the ‘maybe’ pile that you’ll really have to create parameters around. For me, I ask myself these questions?

Does it fit?

Does it make me feel confident?

If I didn’t own this already, would I buy it now?

Fit is tricky because sometimes we try to convince ourselves to keep a pair of too-tight jeans around because we think it’ll motivate us to lose those pesky few pounds. These items just make us feel guilty and they need to go.

It's also important to remember what we wear impacts our self-confidence. If something makes you feel frumpy, it’s time to say goodbye. It’s not worth spending a day in anything that makes you feel bleh.

Finally, get rid of the things you’re keeping around for the ‘just in case’ moments, or things you bought a year ago but have yet to wear. These things tend to make us feel buyer’s remorse when we don’t wear them, and they take up valuable mindshare. Free up your mind for better things!

Be Realistic

While most items in your closet would ideally be things you absolutely love or ‘spark joy’ as Marie Kondo would put it, there are items that serve a functional purpose.

For example, I have a pair of leggings I just feel neutral about. I chose to keep them because I wear them regularly and they fit well. On the other hand, I have another pair of leggings that I avoid wearing because they’re not as flattering. While they serve a practical purpose, I’ve opted to donate them. See the difference? 

Intentional Shopping

Now that you have a firmer grasp on how to declutter, the next step is creating criteria around what you want to bring into your wardrobe.

Here I share my personal criteria I set before I shop so I can be more deliberate and avoid making impulse purchases.  

Keep it Simple

The most important thing to remember in this process towards Essentialism is you're doing this is for you, and only you. It’s about making your life simpler, not adding restrictions or creating guilt.

While some aspiring minimalists start this journey by experimenting with a capsule wardrobe, there really isn’t a correct number of things you should or shouldn't own. It’s just about simplifying!

Still not sure if an essentialist wardrobe is for you? Read about the benefits here.