My team recently helped another client curate her capsule wardrobe to feel more organized. Organizing closets feels overwhelming to some, but my organizing team absolutely loves it. It’s like catnip for cats. We’re the cats. 🙂 This great article had me asking “How Many Clothes Do I Really Need?” While I never claim to be a minimalist, I do attempt to wear 100% of my wardrobe, and not just the 20% that most people wear all the time. I thought it high time to actually count my clothes and share with you. (Keep reading for some organizing goodies.)
How Many Clothes Do I Really Need?
There is No Right Number of Clothes
Before we begin to answer the question, “how many clothes do I really need,” let me just say that there is no “right” number of clothes.
Your wardrobe depends on so many things:
- Your closet size and dresser size
- Your job
- Your activities and hobbies
- Your stage of life
- The climates you live in and travel to
- Your weight fluctuation
- Whether you have an in-home washing machine and run your washer frequently
- Your upbringing and your own expectations
- Your desire for minimalism or a range of color choices
- and on and on and on…
I wasn’t always happy with my clothes. As a young person, I was always too tall and oddly thin. Nothing off the rack fit me. In the last decade or so, I’ve acquired a reasonably good quality set of clothing that fits well. I used to see myself in photos after an event and think, “What the heck was I wearing??? Why did no one tell me I looked goofy???” Now that rarely happens, thank goodness.
I’ve bought a few better brands through the magic of thrifting and a quarterly Wardrobe Box subscription. I’m easily able to donate five old items when the five new ones arrive because I’m swapping up to better quality pieces. My closets are at capacity, and I am not on the hunt for any more unless they are replacement garments. I’m at peace with the one in/one out rule.
I no longer shop for entertainment. I just don’t have the time.
If you’ve hired my organizing team, you’ve seen my work uniform. Branded shirts and sweaters make mornings easier for me.
I don’t fluctuate much in weight. Although I gained massively when I had my two kids, I worked to lose all that weight after nine months, and then got rid of all the maternity clothes. I wasn’t playing the “just in case” game, and I kept my memories in my photos, not my garments.
When I asked myself, how many clothes do I really need, I just never wanted to have more than would fit in my closet, without having to put seasonal clothes in storage.
Research on How Many Clothes We Need
Ask a researcher how many clothes do I really need, and you’ll get some interesting answers. According to a report referenced by Vogue in 2022 that leans on sustainability goals, “The researchers found that a “sufficient” wardrobe consists of 74 garments and 20 outfits in total. As an example, they’ve suggested six outfits for work, three outfits for home wear, three outfits for sports, two outfits for festive occasions, plus four outdoor jackets and trousers or skirts.”
The NYTimes article above references a 2016 ClosetMaid survey that states the average woman has 103 items of clothing in her closet, but only 10 percent of it is wearable. What? One in nine are regularly late to work because they can’t put together an outfit. This survey also makes me think that the number is really double since many (most) women I know are still doing a summer/winter switch, so half of their wardrobe is in storage half of the year.
How many clothes do I really need? I counted.
I have been thinking about inventorying my own clothes for a year. A YEAR! If I love this topic and still procrastinated on counting my own clothes, I can imagine that you might never get around to counting your own clothes. Why on earth would you? There’s no prize for who has the most or the least.
And still…data is interesting.
Before we dive into my closet, you should know that:
- I have been a full-time professional organizer for over 19 years, and yes, my closet is well organized.
- I work at home, in the office, with clients, and I speak regularly on stage. I need a professional wardrobe for all four seasons.
- I am not a minimalist. I love color. I like pattern.
- I invest in classic pieces that will last years. I don’t jump on the latest trend or fashion.
- I buy separates that will go with at least five other things in my closet. I tend not to buy unique outfits anymore.
- I live in an old house and have two small closets and one small dresser that I don’t share with anyone else.
- I have gym/workout garments which sometimes act as layering pieces, so I included them here.
Some people will read the numbers below and say to themselves, “Good, well, I have less than her. I must be doing clothes right.”
Others will say, “Good, well, I have more than her, poor soul. I must be doing clothes right.”
What I hope you will say is, “I love everything in my closet because it looks great on me and makes me feel beautiful.”
How Many Clothes I Really Have
82 Long sleeved shirts, fleece & sweaters
54 Short sleeved shirts & sweaters (includes 9 branded work shirts)
33 Pants/jeans/capri pants/lounging leggings
251 Core + Workout Wardrobe Subtotal
33 Pair of shoes/fashion boots
16 Fashion scarves
10 Coats for spring/winter/fall
8 Winter scarves
331 Total incl Accessories and Footwear
I wasn’t sure about sharing TMI about my undies, but isn’t that what the internet is for?? Seriously, at this point I was genuinely curious what I had. My socks and I have been fighting for the past few months, with the drawers just a little too full, so I went ahead and counted.
49 pair of socks
170: I have a mix of four main types of hangers, and I hang nearly everything. Different hangers work well for different garments. I also have about eight skirt hangers with clips.
I started at 9:40 and ended at 10:10 am. Counting my wardrobe took half an hour, much less time than I anticipated.
About now, you are probably itching to go organize and count your clothes. Click here to get some free downloads to help with your SORT and Succeed organizing efforts.
Am I Honestly Wearing All My Clothes?
Stop for a minute and make sure you are comparing apple to apples when searching the internet for how many clothes do I really need. While a news headline may say that the average person has 103 items, are we talking men or women? Are we including the same categories? For instance, I included PJs and swimsuits in my counts because they take up space, but I’m only wearing swimsuits a few days each year.
Should I really have 10 coats? It probably depends on my climate…and the fact that I am literally always cold. A reader in Miami Beach might consider it excessive, but it’s all perspective, right? A reader in Upstate New York might consider that a conservative coat count.
I wouldn’t have guessed that there were 40 dresses in my closet. I live in them during the summer.
And, yes, everything fits and I love it.
What I discovered in this process, however, was that I am not wearing everything as often as I would like. I try to wear 100% of my clothes each season, but I’m closer to wearing 80% of my clothes during the season. With this much inventory, I probably don’t cycle through it as much as I thought I did.
How Many Clothes Does the Average Woman Have?
How many clothes does the “average” woman own?
Honey, you aren’t average!
Averages aren’t helpful here because of that long list at the top of this article.
If your clothes fit, make you feel fabulous, are properly hung or folded, and you can put sparkling outfits together every day in under five minutes, then you have the right amount of clothes. Years ago, I wrote up Darla’s Wardrobe Laws to help answer the “how many clothes do I really need” question, and it’s still one of the most popular articles on my site. Click the link or the image to read.
Even though I’m not trying to de-clutter, I did quietly put about a dozen garments in the donate pile since this inventory. To be honest, knowing my closet tally made parting with a few marginal items a no-brainer.
One Important Tip for Decluttering a Closet
Now you’ll be wondering for real, hmmmm, how many clothes do I really need??? Are you are headed out to count and maybe declutter your closet? Here’s one important closet organizing tip that works really well if you live where you have distinct seasons. This will work less well for those of you living in sunny SoCal.
If you want to declutter or remove clothes that you aren’t wearing, focus on the season you are in right now or are just leaving. We are just leaving summer, so I’m focusing on trimming summer clothes.
Why? Because if I didn’t wear something from my summer stock in the last six months, I probably won’t wear it in the fall or next summer, either.
But those winter sweaters? It’s very hard to give those up right now, because I can’t honestly remember what I wore a year ago or what I might wear in the upcoming season.
So this tip is for those of you with mostly organized closets…remember that we talked about thinning from the back of the closet, which is where you’ll find the handful of shirts, pants and skirts that you didn’t wear this past season. Make your keep/toss/donate decision on the most recent clothes you would have worn…but didn’t.
Remember, keep what makes you feel fabulous. Toss or donate what no longer serves you. Don’t worry about the number.