If you have a jacket for every possible type of weather—a little windy, really windy, sprinkling, raining, downpour, snow—and pants for every season, you just might be a gear junkie. And we get it—if you spend lots of time outside, chances are you’ve used most of the gear in your closet at some point. But sorting through tons of equipment and clothing can also make packing for your adventure difficult and stressful.
That’s why we here at LIVSN have a different philosophy. We believe that people should reduce the number of things they own to make room for more experiences and joy in their lives.
Now, that doesn’t mean throwing out everything or becoming an extreme minimalist. However, your gear closet “should be a ticket to adventure, not a cluttered mess that adds stress,” says our founder Andrew Gibbs-Dabney. “The more things you own, the more things you have to maintain and store - that takes time away from the experiences you're seeking. A good rule of thumb is to ask, ‘does this item help me get outside easier/safer/more comfortably?’”
It can be overwhelming even to know where to start when it comes to simplifying your gear closet. So, here are a few tips to help you minimize your clothing to a few items that are manageable and useful for a variety of activities.
1. Quickly sort through your gear
“The most notorious culprit of gear clutter is often the hardest to tackle - old gear,” says Gibbs-Dabney. “I recommend keeping old gear in service as long as possible. But needs change, and sometimes it makes sense to upgrade or replace something.”
Separate your clothing into a “needs to go” pile and a “can maybe stay” pile. The “needs to go” pile includes those ratty pants, the puffy coat with five patches, and the thermal underwear that is so stretchy you can see through it. Don’t think too much about it—just quickly sort your items based on wear and use.
2. Ask yourself two essential questions
Many people have gear closets filled with jackets, pants, and vests that were purchased because it was on sale at the end of a season. Or, they just like the way something looked and said to themselves, “Of course I could use another windproof layer.” However, the truth is that often, things just take up space after you’ve worn them once.
When you’ve completed your two piles, go back through the “can maybe stay” pile, examine each piece, and ask yourself: Is it well-made? Does it serve a purpose?
If the answer either question is no, then add it to the “needs to go” pile. If the answers are yes, keep it.
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3. Stick to the basics
Gear basics are different if you spend most of your time living and adventuring in Southern California versus the Pacific Northwest. It’s crucial to consider what you actually need based on what you like to do.
We suggest you consider how you're going to stay dry if it rains, stay shaded in the sun, and keep warm in the cold.
“Rain jacket, insulating layers, and good shoes are a must,” he says. “Then think of how you shield yourself from the elements outside of clothing: a sleeping bag first, then a tent. Then how are you going to prepare food? A basic backpacking stove and gas canister is cheap and easy to pack wherever you go.”
4. Use the space you have effectively
Even after getting rid of old and useless gear, you still might feel like you don’t have enough space. The trick here is using the available space effectively.
The best way to do that? “Go vertical! Simple shelving is great,” says Gibbs-Dabney. “Repurposed slat wall or pegboard is even better. Keep an eye on closing retail shops in your area. Often, you can make out with great storage for bottom-barrel pricing.”
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5. Be mindful when making new purchases
The goal of going through your closet isn’t to throw everything away. Instead, it’s to condense things down to a few pieces that are functional and will last a long time. To keep your gear closet clear of unnecessary items, be mindful whenever you purchase clothing and gear.
“Buying what you need (and perhaps more importantly, passing on the unessential) takes priority, but a quick second is buying things made to last,” says Gibbs-Dabney. “Buying things from respected manufacturers with a strong warranty is a good place to start.”
If you spend enough time outdoors, your gear will get worn and damaged. Gibbs-Dabney points out that higher-quality equipment and clothing are often made to be repairable, and some companies even sell repair kits for their products.
“Think of the phrase ‘buy once, cry once’ and internalize it,” says Gibbs-Dabney. “It's cheaper, in the long run, to pay $100 once than $50 three times.”
Related - How to Fix Your Favorite Jacket
Written by Abbie Mood for Matcha in partnership with LIVSN.