Design your life to include more money, health and happiness with less stuff, space and energy.

Design your life to include more money, health and happiness with less stuff, space and energy.

The Hamper Test

Most of us live under the assumption that a decent percentage of our wardrobes are comprised of clothes that aren’t worn often. One closet expert (someone who knows closets, not someone hiding the fact she’s an expert) told the Wall Street Journal that most people only wear 20% of their wardrobes. This need not be the case. We can have wardrobes where every item is loved and worn on a regular basis, where we could reach into our closets blindly and be happy wearing whatever we pulled out.

If you want to reduce the volume of clothes you have while simultaneously increasing the overall quality of your wardrobe, consider doing the Hamper Test. Here’s how it works:

  1. Determine the normal interval between laundry loads. For some that’s five days, for others a week, for some two. For people who do laundry often, err on the side of making your interval long. It’s okay if your laundry interval is tethered to someone else’s, like a spouse; just determine your combined laundry interval.
  2. When you do laundry, look at the clothes not in the hamper (or laundry bag)–the clothes that are not in active rotation.
  3. Get rid of at least one item that didn’t make it into the hamper per laundry interval.
  4. Repeat until most of your clothes are in the hamper at the end of a laundry interval (some prudent reserve of unused, but wearable clothes can be forgiven).

There are a few notes to the Hamper Test:

  1. Don’t subject seasonal clothing to test when out-of-season. In other words, don’t ditch your shorts because they didn’t make it into the hamper in December. But do subject shorts to test in August (make appropriate hemispheric/seasonal adjustments). The test should be done for every season, i.e. conduct test in summer, then do separate test in winter.
  2. Clothes that are either infrequently or dry-cleaned won’t exactly fit into the Hamper Test. Just be honest about how often these things are worn.
  3. You can make some special clothes exempt: Formal wear and specialty clothes (ski pants, cycling shorts when not in season), for example. But do not abuse this exemption. If you haven’t worn that tux in the last twenty years, there’s a chance you won’t wear it in the next twenty.

Even people who think they have pretty pared down wardrobes (like this author) find dozens of things to give away: t-shirts at the bottom of the t-shirt stack, those “funky” neon green socks that are worn once a year (at most), cycling clothes that haven’t been worn for 12 years and so on.

Give it a shot and let us know how it works.

Washing fabric in Basket image via Shutterstock