Rule of 10: An Easy Formula for Simplifying Your Wardrobe

Want to declutter your closet but aren’t sure where to begin? Use the “Rule of 10”! This formula for simplifying your wardrobe is easy…and it works!

Want to declutter your closet but aren't sure where to begin? Use the "Rule of 10"! This formula for simplifying your wardrobe is easy...and it works! #SimpleWardrobe #Decluttering

I’ve simplified the clothes in my closet, and then simplified again. And again. Each time I go through my wardrobe, I find more that I can do without–more that I want to do without.

I wish I had been as ruthless in the beginning as I am now. I would’ve spent many more days wearing clothes I actually liked and felt comfortable in, rather than vanilla pieces I was hanging on to “just because…”

But I guess simplifying is a process–the preliminary purge sessions give you the necessary whiff of freedom that entices you to keep on simplifying. Both the process and the destination of decluttering are incredibly rewarding, and while I can think of dozens more, this little list of 10 reasons to simplify is what the other reasons usually boil down to.

After many simplifying sessions, my closet is about where I want it. (I’m still saving up money for a few wardrobe staples and nicer pieces I want to swap in.) Eric and I can fit all of our winter and summer hang-up clothes–including coats and jackets–on a small clothes bar. We each have a short dresser where we keep T-shirts, jeans, and other non-hanging items. As you can see in our cabin tour, we don’t have a ton of extra space for especially long or tall dressers, so we couldn’t have more clothes even if we wanted to!Whether you want a capsule wardrobe or you just want more control over your closet, this decluttering formula will help you simplify your clothes!

The Rule of 10 to Help You Create a Beginner’s Capsule Wardrobe

If you want to simplify your wardrobe but aren’t sure where to begin, I have a little formula for you that can serve as a guideline. I call it “the Rule of 10.” When I simplified my clothes, I didn’t start with this formula in mind. But glancing over the clothing items that I kept after our recent pre-move purge, everything pretty much works out to The Rule of 10.

With the Rule of 10, you simply keep 10 items from each category of clothing that you own.

Ten is a generous number–not minimalist at all–and leaves you with more than a week’s worth of items. (And many more than a week’s worth, if your wardrobe lends itself to mixing and matching.)

The goal is to pare down your closet to:

  • 10 winter tops
  • 10 summer tops
  • 10 summer skirts/shorts/capris
  • 10 long pants/winter skirts
  • 10 dresses
  • 10 pairs of socks
  • 10 pairs of underwear
  • 10 T-shirts and tank tops
  • 10 pieces of outerwear (including coats, jackets, and cardigans)
  • 10 pairs of shoes (including flip-flops and winter boots)

Do you see the pattern?

Yep, 10.

I know, 10 items in each category might still seem like a lot. One hundred items, when you add it all up. But it’s a good place to start, and you can go from there, paring down as necessary until your wardrobe is where you want it!

Here’s how to put The Rule of 10 into action:

1. First, read my overview posts on simplifying your wardrobe and simplifying your shoes. You might also want to read about how I purged half my wardrobe.

2. Next, get all of your clothes together in one place, pulling out boxes that are in storage, too.

3. Starting with summer tops, set aside just 10 items that you truly love and are a reflection of who you want to be. Preferably, these 10 will also be versatile, but if a few items are a little more specific, that’s okay. I have a couple of tops that I don’t wear every week, but keep for occasional use or date nights.

4. After you have your 10 set aside, evaluate what’s left. Ideally, you’ll sell or give away almost everything. Only add in additional items if you absolutely “must”! Try to go a week or two before adding in anything, to see if you really miss them or not.

Do the same thing with your winter tops: keep only 10 items, including sweaters, long-sleeve blouses, tunics, etc.

As you go through each category, you might find that you don’t have that many clothes that you really love. If that’s the case, make a list of what pieces you’d like to put in your wardrobe. Try to be as specific as possible (like, “I’m looking for a light blue chambray shirt”) and then save up money until you can buy them and check them off the list one by one.

You also might discover that you simply don’t need 10 items in every category. Perhaps you don’t wear dresses, or 10 pairs of pants is overkill for you. If so, great! Ten is just a number, a guideline to give you parameters in which to work.

Try out the Rule of 10 and let me know if it works for you! My guess? You’ll be proud of your wardrobe, you’ll enjoy the extra breathing room, and you’ll be inspired to go simplify other areas of your home, too!

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  1. I think this is a GREAT idea Elsie. Every time I look in my closet, I feel like there’s a lot of clothes that I don’t wear… there’s probably not more than 10 of each item, but still – what’s the point of keeping them if I don’t even wear them? Or if they don’t fit? Or if they’re faded? Or aren’t flattering? LOL. This was the swift kick in the backside I needed to purge out some older clothes as the seasons start to change a bit. I also clicked over to see your cabin – SO CUTE! Thank you for sharing your space with us! 🙂

    1. Thank you for reading, and for your comments! Simplifying sure does feel good! If you write a post about your simplifying adventures I would totally read that!

    2. Very motivating especially for retirees! Some may want 12 or 15 in certain categories like extra tops (t shirts, etc) or bottoms like capris. I suggest getting down to 15, then re-evaluating, then maybe dropping down to 12 or 10, depending on activities or space. I don’t count undies and socks- I cull as needed worn items. Retirees can ditch dresses and opt for separates when casual or dressy. Men can figure out their groups.

  2. I need to help my daughter get on the wagon with this! Her grandparents give her so many clothes and she would really like to simplify! Thanks!

    1. You’re welcome! I hope your simplifying efforts go well! I don’t know what it will be like when we have kids–hopefully the grandparents will know we don’t want too much stuff!!

      1. Smart grandparents give cash keeping it simple. Another point: retirees and self employed work at home gals. Ditch the skirts and dresses. Have several neutral dress pants with several blazers for special events. One pair of black dressier shoes (flats or 2 inch heels) is enough. I live as a retiree in active wear , got so used to it, have little else now in clothing styles.

  3. Good idea and I enjoyed the tour of the cottage. We just moved from a one bedroom cabin back to a 3 bedroom house so my wardrobe has expanded not shrunk, but I also collect shirts all in the same style and colour for when my dance group needs simple outfits, then I can supply them all. Eg black tops with puffed sleeves, skirts and black dresses. So I think I have more than 10 of each!

  4. I think it is a good idea. I have cleaned my closet before and flat out said it was a sin to have as many clothes as I did that I never wore. I donate them to Rescue Mission and other charities Battered Women’s Shelter etc. It makes me sick to my stomach when I drag all that junk out. I have a rule if I buy something new something has to go

  5. This is great! The only thing that I respectfully disagree with is the 10 socks and 10 underwear. Since these are things that I cannot give away or sell used, I’d rather use them until they wear out and not buy anymore until I get below 10 of each. That said, I will go through and dispose of some of the hole-y ones that are still hanging around!

  6. My husband and I recently began the simplifying journey…and a journey it is, as much as I want to “be there” already! The first place we started was in our bedroom. We sold our very large headboard and footboard set and got rid of both of our dressers. My husband, who is an excellent craftsman, made us a gorgeous rustic platform bed which took up much less space, and built shelving and clothing rods in our closet for our clothes. We also purged our wardrobes, although there is still work to be done there, and now everything fits on those shelves or the two small rods. We have made so much progress throughout our house and it feels so good! I feel like I can actually breathe easier! Thanks for this inspiring post!

    1. You have a good man! I’m hoping that when my husband’s dad comes out, he can build us some custom shelves for our kitchen!

      I’m so glad you’re loving the journey. I don’t know if one ever really “arrives,” but the change is noticeable, for sure! I think you do get to the point where you can breathe easier and take note–and it seems like you’re enjoying that right now!

  7. This post made me laugh because I’m pretty sure I don’t have ten of any of these items, except maybe socks and underwear. But I do have the problem of finding some good items instead of just jeans and shirts. And I have plenty of other areas in my life that could use decluttering!

  8. Thanks so much for sharing this, Elsie.

    One of the problems I have with simplifying is trying to reconcile the simple life with the frugal life. I fear that if I simplify too much, I might get rid of something I will end up having to buy later.

    Your rule of 10 is excellent in this way because 10 is a generous number while allowing for simplification. Brilliant!

  9. Interesting read! I’m about to start the process of cleaning out my closet and I stumbled on this article (must be a sign). Although I don’t think I’m quite ready to simplify to the rule of “10” (especially my shoes, I’m too much of a shoe lover). I’m definitely going to try with some of my other items. Great piece by the way, keep up the good work!

  10. I am starting to separate out my “strictly summer” clothes and shoes. I don’t have many clothes; I’m a Texan and fall comes late. It also does not get cold and stay cold, unlike other areas of the country.

    BTW, great suggestion. Personalizing to lifestyle.

  11. I read an article the other day and I think I will implement it. The lady wore black pants and a black jacket every day to work. She “popped” the clothes with a scarf or broach. So ten pairs of black pants (lessens the decision making) and maybe 5 black blazers leaving the only decision as to what color of shell or shirt underneath! I love it I am going for it!

    1. Really 10 Black Jackets and 10 Black Pants?? You could wear everything twice and only get 5 of each that way you could get more of the shell or shirts….

  12. I recently purged many of my clothes because I’m a year postpartum from our fifth child and realized I was still dressing way too frumpy. I had a category of 10 lounge pants! So I kept 2 and ditched the rest. Now I actually get dressed each day. It feels great!

    1. Postpartum dressing is a hard stage, as I’ve experienced for the first time this year! Definitely increases the need to re-evaluate more frequently. I’m so glad you’re loving the way you dress now!

  13. I think I hate my current clothes. I may try a only 10 hangers for a totally new wardrobe (athletic clothes excluded). Like when washing clothes by hand, dresses may save the day. Thanks for the mind wander, someday, inspiration.

    1. Yes, that can happen when you take a really critical look at your current wardrobe! Sometimes you realise there’s just not much you love or that’s actually “you.” Experiment with styling what you’ve got, and in the meantime research and write down a wishlist of key pieces you’d like to add. Gradually replace the old wardrobe standbys as your budget allows. Mine is still a work in progress, but at least it’s become a very fun one!

  14. I like the idea of this and it’ll definitely be a start for me, I have way too much for one person. But 10 categories would never do for me. I have way more categories than you do, because for Summer for instance I’d like to keep 10 short sleeve shirts, 10 sleeveless tops and 10 tank tops for instead of only 10 for the Summer?, and I’d still be getting rid of a ton. And the same for Winter: 10 of my favorite pullover sweaters (and believe me this is significantly downsizing from what I own), plus 10 long sleeve tops, and 10 cardigans of every size and length. Don’t even get me started on shoes, purses and coats for every season. But I still like the Rule of 10, but with way more categories, and I’ll still be getting rid of so much, so thank you for giving me the motivation.

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