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Ms. Simplicity: How to become minimalist with your clothing

The cooler temps are reminding me that my second favorite season is about to begin-boot season. I am anxious to get my fall clothing going and put away the sundresses for a few months.

Melissa Schmalenberger
Melissa Schmalenberger

The cooler temps are reminding me that my second favorite season is about to begin-boot season. I am anxious to get my fall clothing going and put away the sundresses for a few months.

I have an average sized closet, and it is full. My clothes are all arranged by color. However I am willing to bet that I am like most of you-we have a closet full of clothes but nothing to wear. So instead of grabbing something I haven't worn in awhile, I grab the same pair of jeans that I wore last week and the same shirt that I wore a few days ago.

I am consistently trying to challenge myself to try new ways to live with less clothing while still staying fashionable. Here are a few things that I have done over the years as fun experiments in figuring out the clothing dilemma:

First up was the backwards hanger trick. I turned all of my clothes with the hangers facing the wrong way. As I wore each item of clothing, I put it back on the hanger facing the right way. This showed me what I wore. Be warned, it is a lot of work to turn all of your hangers backwards in the closet, and as someone with a touch of OCD, it didn't look "right" to me.

The first thing I tell my clients with closet issues is the one-in, one-out rule. For each new item of clothing they bring in, one (or two) needs to go. I do this religiously. I only have so many hangers, and I am not buying any more, ever. However, I may "borrow" some of my husband's hangers. Seriously, this really is the easiest way to not have your closet explode.

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Another trick I tried was not buying clothes for six months. This was easy for me, but what I found was that I gained weight. I am not sure what the connection was, as I don't spend a lot of time shopping for new clothes. I think the monotony got to me. I needed to add in a new shirt or new pair of pants to break things up.

This summer, I turned the hangers backwards once I wore something. This past week I counted how many items I wore, and the number was 31. During the summer I had two vacations, conferences with award ceremonies and TV appearances. I was shocked when I discovered that I only wore 31 pieces of clothing. Looking at them, I know there are at least eight in there that were bad choices.

As of today, I have approximately 150 pieces of clothing. Yikes! For fun I counted my husband's, he has around 50. I have some work to do!

Now I am going hardcore and removing all the clothes from my closet and only bringing in what I wear. I am going to do this for 3 months. I am going to focus on 33 items, including jewelry, scarves and shoes. Yes, I said shoes. I counted the shoes I wore this summer, and it was over 15. This, I predict, will be an issue. I am using the number 33 and 3 months because of a website I ran across called The 333 Project from my friends The Minimalists.

As luck will have it, my son left for college, and I have an empty closet to use. I'll focus on groupings of clothes. When I worked at a clothing store when I was in law school, I put groupings together for the customers, and we would try to reach high numbers in options of outfits. Because I like a challenge, I am excited to try this again.

If you don't have a spare closet, try putting everything you wear on one side of your closet. Being visual is key here. Start laying things out on your bed and seeing how things can be mixed and matched. A dress shirt can go with jeans, a skirt or dress pants. My idea is that each item of clothing needs to go with at a minimum of 5 different items. Those red pants need to go with at least five shirts, or it will not make the cut.

So here is my challenge. Start finding your 33 pieces. I predict you will notice that you are wearing timeless pieces. I also predict that nobody will realize you only have one pair of jeans. You will find yourself with more time, as you have a narrow focus on what you will wear, and there will be no shopping during the 3 months, as you have your 33 pieces.

Ms. Simplicity, also known as Melissa Schmalenberger, operates her business as I Did It With Ms. Simplicity. She is a professional organizer based out of Fargo. Email her at melissa@mssimplicity.com .

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