How To Give Your Closet The Ultimate Minimalist Makeover

mbg Contributor By Anuschka Rees
mbg Contributor
Anuschka Rees is a writer based in Berlin, Germany. She is the author of The Curated Closet, a bestseller that has been translated into five languages, and Beyond Beautiful.
Hand Reaching for a Yellow Turtleneck in a Minimal Closet

Image by Tatjana Zlatkovic / Stocksy

Living more simply is essentially a technique that you use to improve your daily life, like yoga, healthy eating, meditation, or whatever else you do to stay happy and sane. It's not about owning or doing as little as possible. It's about owning and doing the right things, things that add value. Here are my top tips to help you evaluate the pieces in your closet that are actually essential to you:

1. Be selective: Reserve your closet space for items you love 100%.

Training yourself to become more selective is the single most effective thing you can do to upgrade your wardrobe. Try to think of your closet as an exclusive, members-only club. Only pieces that you love and are truly excited to wear get an invite. Anything ill-fitting, scratchy, worn-out, barely "good enough," or that simply doesn't suit your personal style is not invited.

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2. Be authentic: Forget conventional style typologies like "classic" or "bohemian," and create your own unique look.

Style typologies and lists of "wardrobe essentials" are to style seekers what fad diets are to people who want to lose a few pounds: quick-fix, one-size-fits-all solutions that make you feel as if you are making progress for a while but ultimately won't help you address the root of the problem.

The problem is that a ready-made, one-size-fits-all approach can give you only a ready-made, one-size-fits-all wardrobe. Following rules and blueprints is not going to help you cultivate a strong sense of style because your personal style is just that: deeply personal. Sure, you may like a lot of the same colors, materials, or cuts as someone else, but the way you combine these into outfits, the pieces you choose for different occasions, and how you style your looks are all a reflection of your unique likes and dislikes and the influences that you have picked up over the years.

3. Aim for quality: Build a wardrobe of high-quality pieces that last more than just a few years.

Only a few years ago, the concept of "quality over quantity" seemed inherently flawed to me. I thought, why in the world would I want to blow all my money on one pair of jeans when I can have five pairs instead? The result of this approach was that I usually threw out the majority of my clothes at the end of a season.

Sounds terribly wasteful? It was. Fortunately, my strategy did a complete 180 almost as soon as my goal had shifted from "be fashionable" to "cultivate my own personal style." That process happened quite naturally for me, as it does for most people: Once you become more selective about what you keep in your closet, you'll attach a bigger value to each individual piece and will probably no longer be satisfied with cheap, badly manufactured stuff. You'll want clothes that feel good on your skin: ones that are sturdy and durable and that won't fall apart after a couple of seasons. Clothes that fit the contours of your body well, without distorting your silhouette or restricting movement.

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4. Style trumps fashion: Get excited about fashion trends that suit your own style, but ignore all others.

Some of the biggest style icons of the last century were people who explicitly did not follow every new trend out there and instead had their own very distinctive looks from which they rarely strayed. Just like music, fashion should be about celebrating creativity and having fun. You should not feel bad about wearing a super-trendy head-to-toe look if you love it, but you also shouldn't feel bad about wearing something that's not in line with what's currently considered to be the look.

5. Put in the work: Invest time and thought into developing your style and selecting the perfect garments.

Like everything in life, styling takes practice. It takes time to train your eye, experiment with different aesthetics, and develop a sense of style that feels natural and effortless to you. It takes time to figure out which types of pieces work best for your lifestyle and to curate a versatile wardrobe. And it takes time to then learn how to best utilize those pieces to create outfits that you love.

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