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At its simplest, clothing provides protection from the elements and a means of self-representation. Cost-wise, it is one of the cheapest needs, since it can be obtained through second-hand shops and swaps. Associated costs include care through cleaning and repairing as well as space for storage.

Because clothing is an outward self-representation, it can be a simple means of passing as a non-ERE person, reducing the obstacle of feeling like an outsider. Being well-dressed, which is not necessarily the same as being dressed up, can also create surprising opportunities through good first and lasting impressions.

Early Retirement Extreme 21-Day Makeover Day 6: clothes

Early Retirement Extreme Blog Clothes depreciation The Mini-minimum wardrobe Don't wash your clothes every day

Building a wardrobe

A wardrobe of basics allows for maximum mixing and matching, reducing overall wardrobe size. Lists of basic wardrobe elements can be found on many websites[1]. Choosing high-quality clothing and caring for it properly increases the lifetime of individual pieces, while finding a source of free clothing allows for more variety in turnover, though it increases waste. Clothing should fulfill job, social, and climate needs and should properly fit the body. People with diverse activities might need slightly larger wardrobes.

When starting on the ERE path, the first wardrobe step is to reduce overall wardrobe size in order to reduce the need for storage space, increase mobility, etc. The above principles can guide the selection of what to keep. As items wear out, reasonable repairs should be attempted before replacing them.

Even for those with specific needs, such as business suits, appropriate clothing can be obtained for low prices, though there is a time/cost trade-off.

A limited color palette is recommended. All wardrobe items match, and can be laundered together.

Ill-fitting clothing can look bad and increase the desire to replace an item. Doing some work to figure out correct sizing is worthwhile, and a sewing machine and alteration instructions from youtube provide a means of making current wardrobe items fit. Most dry cleaners also do alterations for a reasonable fee.

Social expectations of dressing up can be met with a limited wardrobe by choosing a dress uniform, that is a specific look which one always has. For example, Steve Jobs always appeared in blue jeans and a black turtle neck. If the uniform comprises quality clothes it is socially acceptable to wear the clothes down further than usual since the clothes is associated with the uniform which again is associated with who you are.


It is less expensive to choose clothing that can be washed in water rather than dry cleaned when possible. Choose clothing from one color palette, or only light and dark clothing, to reduce the numbers of loads that need to be done each week. Ideally, a person should only need to do one white/light load and one dark load per week.

Hand washing and air drying make clothes last longer than machine washing and drying. Even if a washing machine is preferred to hand washing due to work and family obligations, line drying will still make clothes last longer and will save energy. Air drying can also be accomplished on a drying rack. Metal drying racks last longer and are typically larger than wooded racks. Aiming a fan toward the drying racks speeds up drying which is important in winter to keep clothes smelling fresh.

Refrain from packing your clothing too tightly in a closet so that air can circulate.

Stain removal tips are easily found on the internet. Simple repairs can be made with needle and thread. Seam tape is inexpensive and an easy way to repair clothing with only an iron.



Although not cheap, modern wool (such as SmartWool or Merino wool) is durable and can go multiple wearings without being washed. For instance, wool socks can typically go 2-3 days without requiring washing.

Wool differs from cotton primarily because it doesn't hold an odor as well, and because it doesn't retain moisture as well. Wool socks are typically advised when camping/backpacking. Recently, it has become possible to buy high-grade wool that doesn't have the scratchy/itchy texture normally associated with wool.

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