6 Steps to Building an Intentional Wardrobe

I like to think I “practice” intentional living. There’s truly no end to the journey. The objective is to keep learning and moving forward. One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned on this journey is it’s a unique experience for everyone. I’ve found myself attempting to emulate others’ journeys rather than trailblazing my own. It took a while for me to be okay with the fact that I don’t fit in the molds I’ve tried to put myself in. I’ve done that my whole life—tried to conform to a role I created for myself or others created for me—and I’m over it. It’s both a comfortable and unnerving place to be in, knowing I’ll probably never quite figure it all out. There’s also freedom in that.

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All that being said, I think having some “guard-rails” can help develop and facilitate the formation of new habits and ways of thinking when building an intentional wardrobe (and can be applied to other areas of life). Here are six steps I use to stay on track with intentionalism while maintaining the flexibility to be myself.

1. Real clutter = brain clutter.

It’s hard to crush goals when your brain is a mess. Personally, when my mental state is not at its best, there are clear outward signs. My room declares anarchy. My car accumulates about 1,000 cups. My hamper overflows. And you know what fixes those things? Cleaning and eliminating. When I eliminate unnecessary items causing the problem, there are fewer opportunities to create the problem. When everything has a place and a purpose, my mind can much more easily relax. Once I established that it was a vicious cycle, cleaning and eliminating actually became a calming experience rather than a chore. A clean space gives me the feeling of a blank slate, which is a great place to start feeling inspired.

2. Find inspiration.

“Intentional living” is a broad term. There are many possible areas to focus on, but as I mentioned, I chose to first focus on my wardrobe and belongings. I found influencers that inspired me, aesthetics that inspired me, and real-life friends who inspired me. Once I found my inspiration, I worked on finding the common denominators. Something that stood out was simplicity. The focus on experiences, not things. Highly curated aesthetics filled with beauty and purpose. That “it” factor I observed was purposeful personality.

3. Find an accountability buddy.

Share your goals with a friend. Ask them to keep you accountable and call you out if you’re slipping on your goals. It helps if this person is like-minded, as well. Then, you both have something to lose but also someone to celebrate victories with. Don’t forget to celebrate!

4. Just do it.

Don’t wait for when the time feels right. Just do it! At this point, you’ve got a clean slate, inspiration, and accountability. My first true action step was a closet clean-out. It was scary to let go of things, but I felt a weight lift off my shoulders when the excess was gone. If you haven’t hopped on the Marie Kondo train yet, she will spark not only joy, but inspiration and motivation. Her tips help you determine what to keep and how to best organize it.

4. Embrace failure and learn from it.

You’re going to fall back into old habits, buy stupid things, swipe a credit card, and feel guilty. It’s a PROCESS. Allow yourself to embrace failure and keep moving forward. Learn to avoid T.J. Maxx when you had a bad day because you know you’ll most likely regret an unnecessary purchase later. The fight against instant-gratification is not an easy one. Self-discipline takes time, and so does gaining self-awareness of your triggers and bad habits. Know that you’re not alone. Other people are also struggling, but you won’t often see that on Instagram.

5. Adapt a lifestyle that makes sense for your career, budget, and values.

I wanted a tiny minimalist wardrobe when I first started because that’s what I thought I should have after scrolling the ‘gram, but guess what? It turns out that might not be the right fit for me right now. I am required to wear business casual to work, and you won’t catch me dead in slacks outside of the workplace. It’s just not me, and dry cleaning sucks, amirite? I have a need for two separate wardrobes with MY budget (not the budget of someone who can justify buying $200 pants). I’ve also learned I like more variety than someone you’d call a true “minimalist.” Point being, I am not a failure because these are my circumstances and I value aesthetic expression. I can seek to improve. I can buy fewer, better things and free up space and time for the things that I value. So can you! It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon, ya know?

6. Reevaluate regularly.

Reevaluating where you’re at is a great way to level-set and gauge progress. Typically, I like to do this 1-2 times per season. Pausing to reflect on whether or not my belongings bring me joy, if there are any gaps, and dictate my priorities is crucial. After Christmas this year, I felt like I had a surplus (and a sad bank account). this lead me to participate in the #byebuychallenge, or essentially a shopping fast for 15 weeks. It’s been a great way for me to level-set, although I’m itching to buy spring styles. I’ve found that allowing myself to pause before purchasing is the best way for me to make intentional decisions, rather than being guided by impulse.

Overall, shifting your habits and worldview to something that goes against the grain of society is no small task. Give yourself a pat on the back for each and every step you take in that direction. I’d love to hear any tips you have for minimizing your wardrobe or living a more intentional lifestyle. Leave them in the comments, and let’s learn together!