Tiny Glam: Staying Stylish with a Two Foot Closet

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by Jennifer Baxter

Recently, while my tiny house was being photographed for a local magazine, the photographer commented that my closet was not the “typical” minimalist closet and that she could tell (from the various sleeves and pant legs that were sticking out) that I still enjoyed being stylish.

Well of course I do!

Just because I moved into a house that is smaller than many people’s closets, doesn’t mean that I suddenly stopped caring about what I look like! But I know what the photographer meant by her comment.

Often the image that comes to mind when someone hears “minimalist” or “tiny house dweller” is someone who lives in cargo shorts, a t-shirt and Birkenstocks. Or at the very least, with a minimal wardrobe of basic, interchangeable pieces like solid color tee shirts, blouses and pants.

Yea, I am definitely neither of those.

To prepare for my tiny house move, I did have to downsize my wardrobe. Like A LOT. I pulled out literally mounds of clothes, shoes and bags. I donated to the abused women’s shelter, I sold some items at consignment stores, I gave some things to friends and I took a couple loads to Goodwill.

BUT even as I scaled down the amount of clothing and accessories that I owned… I in no way changed my style. In fact, if anything, paring down your wardrobe really makes you zero in on your personal style because you have to be selective about what you keep.

So how do you downsize your closet while still staying stylish? Download this FREE Tiny Closet Worksheet to start planning your tiny closet and follow these tips:

Let Go of the Past

One of the first “epiphanies” I had when going through my clothes, was I held on to clothes for way too long. I will never be the kind of woman that needs to go out and buy the newest trends every season. BUT I realized I also don’t need to keep that cute top that I’ve had since I was 21.

Sure, a lot of the older pieces I had were still in good condition and still looked pretty darn cute on me. But I had also gotten more than my money’s worth out of them and frankly, I am in a different phase of my life now, so why not have clothes that reflect that?

Just because something still looks good on you, doesn’t mean you HAVE to keep it. If you haven’t worn it within the last year, pitch it.

But I Might Wear It…

Which brings me to my next epiphany. I had a lot of pieces that I was keeping because I thought I “might” wear them one day. Well that’s all fine and good, but when you have an extremely limited amount of space for your clothes… “might wear it” doesn’t make the cut. You need to focus on items that you DO wear, DO like and DO need.

If you held on to something but haven’t actually worn it in the last year, you need to face the reality that you don’t actually need it and let it go.

Be honest.

Downsizing your closet is about being honest (sometimes brutally) with yourself.

You have to ask yourself tough questions:

  • Do I really wear this?
  • Do I fit in this right now?
  • Do I really need this?

Don’t hold on to pieces that you used to fit in to, that you might fit in to one day, that you might wear or that you may need one day.

A major decision for me was in regard to my “business” clothes. I had a couple professional suits, blazers and dress pants that I hadn’t worn in years. Because I hadn’t held an office job that required such a wardrobe in years. But I held on to those clothes nonetheless because I figured, “What if I end up in another office job? I don’t want to have to buy new clothes.”

So move after move, I packed them and unpacked them and there they hung in the back of my closet. Gathering dust.

But when it came time to downsize for my tiny house, I had to ask myself… “Will I really ever need these again?” Or more importantly, “Do I want to ever need these again?”

And the answer to the latter was no. I do not ever want to be in another office job that requires suits. I want to continue working for myself and have no plans to be back in such a work environment. Therefore, I don’t need to hold on to the clothes “just in case.”

Sure, you never know what may happen in life and you can always say, “But what if something happens and I HAVE to take a job like that again?” Well to that I say, if I were FORCED to take on another job at some point, I could still most likely choose something in a field/environment that I preferred more. And like the old adage says, I’d cross that bridge when I come to it.

Basically, if you tried to live with that line of thinking, then you’d need to keep big clothes in case you gained weight, small clothes in case you lost weight, office clothes in case you had an office job, ski clothes in case you went skiing, yoga clothes in case you take up yoga, fatigues in case you decide to join the military…

You get the idea? The possible “cases” could go on forever.

Stay YOU.

This is really the most important part at the heart of it all. Just because you are choosing to make a major lifestyle change and live with a lot less stuff, doesn’t mean you have to change who you are at heart.

There are lots of helpful diagrams, lists and instructions for how to have a minimized, tiny or “capsule” wardrobe. I’m sure each of them are helpful in their own way and do work for some people. But when I was considering my tiny closet, I knew I would never be able to follow something that said I should have 1 solid white shirt, 1 pair of black pants and 1 pair of sensible shoes. Just typing that sentence makes me want to fall asleep.

I like to be girly. I like to be stylish. I like colors like purple and pink. I like textures and cut-out shoulders and ballerina skirts. I like clothes that I feel good in and that feel like me.

Stair closet

So, to get technical, here’s what’s currently in my 2’ closet:

  • 11 dresses
  • 53 tops (yes, I said 53!)
  • 3 skirts
  • 1 pair of pants
  • 16 pairs of shoes

Closet

I also have a small, built-in “closet” underneath my stairs that is 20” square and 2’ deep. Although I have a closet bar in there as well, I decided the best use of that space would be to use two stackable bins for my foldable items (my hamper is also stored in there). In the bins I have:

  • 9 pajama bottoms and 7 pajama tops
  • 8 pairs of shorts
  • 17 tee-shirts
  • 11 tank tops
  • 4 pairs of yoga pants
  • 4 pairs of capri pants
  • 3 pairs of jeans

Now, I know you’re probably in shock over some of those numbers. So let me first say, that I used “Wonder Hangers” in my closet which allowed me to hang 5 items on every hanger, which helped a LOT! It literally doubled the amount of space I had and allowed me to use more of the ever-important vertical space in the closet. I also purposely had my builder install the clothing bar high up to accommodate the cascading hangers.

Believe it or not, these numbers also only represent my spring/summer clothes! The fall/winter wardrobe is packed away in vacuum sealed bags in my storage loft and I will switch them out when the seasons change.

The numbers, although I admit sound high, are exactly why I didn’t want to go by a specific formula. To me, it’s not about having a certain number of each item of clothing. It’s about having items of clothing that I actually wear, actually enjoy and that actually fit me.

Instead of a numerical formula, I decided what was important to me:

  • Yoga pants to be comfy in
  • At least 3 pairs of jeans – boot cut in blue, skinny in blue and a pair of white
  • A comfortable but stylish pair of black pants – I personally love “Ponte” pants!
  • Pretty dresses for the summer (since I like wearing them more than shorts)
  • Some cute tops for going outSome casual tops for running errands and working from home
  • A couple hoodies since I wear them when I get chillyMy Panthers football jersey!

To me, it makes a lot more sense to decide WHAT to keep instead of HOW MANY to keep. Now obviously, if you attempt to do this and still find yourself with enough clothes to fill a 6’ closet, you will probably want to start counting. So

I did keep a few general rules in mind:

  • I could keep 1 pair of jeans in each style + 1 white pair
  • I wanted 3-4 pairs of yoga pants so I can get through a week without having to do laundry (I love working in them from home!)
  • I didn’t need to keep multiples of the same item (for example, 1 white hoodie and 1 black hoodie)
  • I kept tank tops in basic colors like grey, black, white and ivory and got rid of the other random colors I had (and never wore)
  • I only kept tee-shirts that I actually would wear out in public and got rid of all the random promotional tees I had accumulated over the years

And the most important rule for me was…

I CAN LOOK STYLISH AND SHOW MY PERSONALITY THROUGH MY TOPS. So I kept a lot more of them and just kept a small number of neutral bottoms to pair them with.

The reality

Now even though my planning worked out great, and everything fits nicely into my 2’ closet and my stowaway bins, I discovered something funny once I actually moved in to the tiny house. I want to downsize more! Yes, even though I already got rid of like 90% of my belongings, I still find myself wanting to “clean out” more. That’s the funny thing about downsizing… it becomes addictive!

So when it comes time to pull down the winter clothes and vacuum pack the summer ones, I’m sure I will pull out some more things to sell or donate. Who knows… maybe I’ll even get to the point where I won’t need my wonder hangers!

But one thing’s for sure, I will never get to the point where I won’t still be stylish, girly and fun. Just because the closet is small…. doesn’t mean it can’t still be FABULOUS!

So what are you waiting for? Download the FREE Tiny Closet Worksheet and get started on your new closet now!

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Nataly - August 18, 2015 Reply

Inspiring and timely. Still going through boxes in storage from current move. Just went through a box that had ” ball gowns”- yep in NC now in donation pile. Totally can relate to this post- actually after reading this I went back into the saved box and paired it down even more! The reality is that I no longer need this stuff- where I once was is no longer where I am or who I am. Thanks!

Linda - August 19, 2015 Reply

I love you article! I agree that a tiny closet helps you find your personal style. Thanks for sharing!

Carol - August 19, 2015 Reply

This is my next task, to pare down the closet and dressers. Not looking forward to it but i think i am menatlly prepared to let go of a bunch of clothes. hopefully enough to make it fit nicely in my THOW!

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