Some people don’t even think of downsizing when they move to Hawaii. They have all their mainland stuff packed up and shipped. This is expensive. Then you see their Craigslist ads; the very same people are trying to get rid of their stuff after they’ve brought it all out here. We decided we weren’t going to be those people. Our move to Hawaii was going to be simpler. We’d take what we could on the plane and then pack a few cartons which would be mailed. This meant I would be downsizing my closet along with every other aspect of our household for life on Kauai.
When we moved from our Minnesota house (which had a dressing room closet combination) to our townhome, we downsized into the walk-in closet you see here. While not overly large, this walk-in closet accommodated our newly-smaller wardrobes and extra seasonal clothing just fine. Then we decided to move to Hawaii.
Downsizing my closet for life on Kauai was going to be far different than a typical closet declutter. Without question, we’d be saying goodbye to cold weather clothing. Our new lifestyle would require fewer items and more casual warm weather attire.
Experts have all kinds of recommendations for common sense wardrobe downsizing. We asked ourselves: was the item coming along, being packed and stored, going to charity or given to someone, or simply thrown out? Pete did quick work: he reduced his clothing and shoes to one suitcase. Me: not so much. I had one mailing carton alone just for shoes. But I did work hard on downsizing prior to our move to Hawaii, without the slightest clue of where we’d be living, much less whether we’d have another walk-in closet. Happily, it all worked out!
This is a photo of the bedroom corner with our Kauai closet. That’s it, behind the simple cotton curtains. Downsizing from approximately 7 feet of hanging space in our former walk-in closet to the 32 inch width we now share means we’ve got less space than most hotel rooms!
We added wall hooks behind the door and got a hanging shelf to enlarge the space. Splitting things up democratically meant I’ve got more things hanging and I think I’m hogging the shelves, too. In addition to this corner, bedroom storage consists of a wicker 6-drawer dresser and two nightstands which have three drawers each. A separate alcove holds a dressing table for toiletries and attention to hair. It all feels surprisingly generous!
Here is my wardrobe inventory after our move to Hawaii:
- 1 skirt
- 3 sundresses
- 1 blue jean
- 1 white jean
- 1 denim jacket
- 1 linen jacket
- 7 assorted tops
- 12 sandals
- 1 tennis shoes
- 3 bathing suits
- 2 sarongs
- 1 dress/coverup
- 3 cardigans
- 2 hooded sweatshirts
- 2 leggings
- 17 tank tops (way too many!)
- 11 short-sleeve t-shirts (too many!)
- 3 long-sleeve t-shirts
- 2 nightgowns
- 4 handbags
- 2 totes
- jewelry and accessories
- 1 drawer of cold weather clothes worn from Minnesota
And now? Downsizing has paid off in a big way! I feel I have smarter wardrobe choices even though I have far less clothing. Plus, I’m not clothes shopping as much, so I’m spending far less. I used to stand in our walk-in closet and think “I have nothing to wear” and now, I’m having fun every day picking new combinations or returning to favorites. Here’s why:
1. What I have, I love. I enjoy wearing every single item of clothing I own. Still, I am going to be downsizing the tank top and t-shirt situation. Three months on island and if they haven’t been sufficiently worn, they’re going. Space is at too much of a premium to keep things around for a “someday” that’s not going to come.
2. Everything fits and suits me. Don’t most of us keep items that no longer fit or aren’t quite “right” around, waiting on a change that isn’t going to happen? Before our move to Hawaii, the walk-in closet had lots of those. Let’s face it, by the time we lose weight, those “thin jeans” aren’t going to be in style. And you likely will not choose the jacket that isn’t long enough, or those capris that hit you at your widest. Now, after going through the downsizing process, everything I have fits. More importantly, I’ve tried to learn what fashion suits me best right now. It’s not the same as in my younger days.
3. More things go together. I tend to buy basic items which best suit me in multiples. This has resulted in a daily uniform of sorts. The fun part is switching and combining colors. Hawaii is a colorful environment. You want to express your aloha with what you wear. Life on Kauai is ultra-casual, as you might expect, and fashion isn’t complicated by elaborate hair, makeup or accessories. Still, it’s been hard to shed the notion of “the third piece” – where you’d add a jacket or sweater to complete yourself. I’m substituting jewelry instead, and trying not to overdo it. A little goes a long way.
4. I’m not tempted to impulse buy. I value the little space I do have. There’s no room for a new item unless one goes out. While the amount of drawer space we have is fairly generous, I’ve got a drawerful of winter clothing that is taking up space. We’re planning on the Winter Olympics so we’re keeping this cold weather stuff, and we’ll have more sent from Minnesota, too. Accommodating those items is going to keep things snug. And shopping is different; the “cooling off” period between ordering something online and its later arrival here makes you less likely to click the buy button.
5. I feel like I have “enough.” Actually, I have more than enough. Way more. I could easily get by on Kauai with far less. Knowing that gives me a sense of luxury that I didn’t have with my mainland walk-in closet, even though it held four times the wardrobe. And it makes me less inclined to keep those less than a dozen items I’ve not worn. They’ll be donated to the thrift store in short order and not replaced.
Even with two previous downsizes accomplished and all the great results we experienced, I still didn’t anticipate additional positive effects like the above. Not everyone will make a move half-way around the world, but the benefits of editing your wardrobe and getting rid of the items that no longer serve you aren’t limited to the serious kind of downsizing we did. When you reduce your options by keeping only the things that truly suit you, not only will you feel like you have far more choices, but they’ll be ones you love making!