Low Buy Challenge 2020


Maybe I’ve hit a point of contentment in my wardrobe. Maybe I’m a little all shopped out. Or maybe it’s because the year (and decade) is coming to an end and I was super curious how chasing minimalism for another year went. Curiosity got the best of me, and I decided to go through all of my previous Closet Updates from 2019 (including my latest Fall one) and add up how many pieces of clothing I’ve added, how many I’ve let go, and how much money I’ve spent. This led me then to reflect on this year of consumption and create some goals for next year.


a breakdown of how much I spent in each category, how many were thrifted or secondhand, how many were brand new, and how many were gifted to me

EVERYDAY CAPSULE WARDROBE: Overall: -1 (+42 pieces of clothing / -43 pieces of clothing)

  • Spent: $2,550
  • Thrifted / Secondhand: 12
  • Brand New: 21
  • Gifted: 9

SHOES: Overall: +2 (+7 pairs of shoes / – 5 pairs of shoes)

  • Spent: $520
  • Thrifted / Secondhand: 4
  • Brand New: 0
  • Gifted: 2

LOUNGEWEAR / GYM CAPSULE: Overall: -1 (+16 pieces of clothing / -17 pieces of clothing)

  • Spent: $442
  • Thrifted / Secondhand: 1
  • Brand New: 8
  • Gifted: 1
  • Demoted from Everyday Capsule: 6

OCCASSION WEAR CAPSULE: Overall: +1 (+1 piece of clothing / -0 pieces of clothing)

  • Spent: $0
  • Thrifted / Secondhand: 0
  • Brand New: 0
  • Gifted: 1


  • Spent: $3,512
  • Added: 66
  • Decluttered: 65
  • Thrifted / Secondhand: 17
  • Brand New Pieces: 29
  • Gifted Pieces: 13


  • Everyday Capsule Wardrobe: 67
  • Shoes: 18
  • Loungewear / Gym Capsule: 14
  • Occasion-wear Capsule: 6


I’m not quite sure which number shook me more–the $2,550 I spent or the fact that I added 43 pieces of clothing to my Everyday Capsule wardrobe–or rather should I say I replaced 42 pieces of clothing to my Everyday Capsule wardrobe. It has become very darn clear that I abide by the one-for-one rule when it comes to keeping my wardrobe minimal. And I have to say, I think the number, 42, bothered me way more than $2,550 because it basically means that I have replaced about two thirds of my wardrobe in the last year–all in the names of investment and longevity.

I noticed that there were some pretty big spikes in spending in April and this last Fall season. I’m not quite sure why other than the bi-yearly change in seasons. Once it started getting uncomfortably warmer or colder, I felt more inclined to change up my wardrobe. I think knowing that I might feel more inclined to spend during these times of year will help me at least be more mindful next year.

2019 was also the year that I made the goal of shopping more secondhand, which I think I achieved. However, I think shopping secondhand encouraged me to spend more than I would have if I were buying new. With lower prices and the adrenaline of the hunt, Poshmark became a bit of a danger zone for me as I could shop during staff meetings or in the comfort of my own bed. I definitely made some impulse purchases that I wouldn’t have made if those items were brand new. I actually like how I approached shopping secondhand this Fall season more than how I started: I would only buy something secondhand if 1) I’ve tried it on in store if I could (i.e. from places like my old fast fashion favorites–Madewell and Free People), and/or 2) I would buy it brand new. I’m happy that now checking Poshmark is my first step before buying new, especially for brands like Madewell, Free People, and Everlane where you can find things that are still on their websites but for secondhand. It’s better for the planet and for my wallet. This will be part of how I approach shopping in the new year.

Changing how I approached partnerships this last Fall season has made me think really hard on which partially gifted pieces I’m adding into my wardrobe, and I’m hoping that this will help me with buying even less next year. My new direction still allowed me to partner with four brands this Fall: Tradlands, Eileen Fisher, Sotela, and Pamut. I am so excited that there are brands out there willing to work with me in this new capacity, and I can’t wait to see what the next year brings me. It did make me realize though that partnerships are going to be an expense I need to consider moving forward.

Overall, I’m really pleased with where my wardrobe is at right now. Sure, there are definitely some pieces I could probably part with (particularly in my shoe section), but I genuinely love each and every piece in my wardrobe. Thinking back to where I started two and a half years ago, I have a completely different relationship with clothes and with shopping. I feel more confident getting dressed every morning, and I think my style truly does reflect me as a person. When I first started, I don’t think I had much of a style, but now I know what is undoubtedly me. I know what works for my lifestyle. I know what flatters my body and makes me feel beautiful. And I know what I like to wear.


so what does this mean for this next year?

I think I’ve written on my curiosity on the longevity of ethical clothing before, but I really do want to put my wardrobe to the test and see how little I can buy moving forward with the wardrobe I have right now. I was hugely inspired by my friend Jaana and her recent No Buy November challenge, as well as Signe, from Use Less, and wanted to join her in her Low Buy 2020 challenge. Like her, I know a no buy challenge is impossible for me, so I think a low buy with some guidelines is the way to go. I’ve adopted a few of her rules but have also adjusted some for myself.

my low buy 2020 checklist:

1. secondhand first, ethical second
can i find what i want secondhand? can i wait for it to become available secondhand? if not secondhand, where can i find what i want that’s ethically made?

2. buying questions
do i actually need this? do i already have something similar in my wardrobe? what gap does this fill in my wardrobe? will i wear this 30 times or more? does this fit into my lifestyle and in my current wardrobe?

3. basics and replacements allowed
while my wardrobe is pretty basic, the basics i’m allowed to purchase (when needed) are: undergarments (bras and underwear), socks, and plain t-shirts. i’m also allowed to replace items that are too worn out and can’t be worn anymore. my one-for-one rule does not apply to this replacement rule (i.e. i cannot replace a perfectly fine black jumpsuit with another jumpsuit or dress that i want at the moment).

4. twelve is my magic number
twelve pieces (or less) is what i’m going to try to stick to buying over the course of this next year. these twelve pieces include secondhand pieces, gifted pieces, brand new pieces. these twelve pieces do include shoes, but do not include basics listed above. these twelve can be spread out throughout the year however i see fit, but i figured an allowance of one a month or a few pieces a season is a good start to curbing my consumption next year.


so what do i hope to get out of this challenge? 

LOWER MY CONSUMPTION || I know that I’ve been able to slow down my consumption over the last few years, but I want to slow it down even further. It’s honestly a little scary to think that I used to consume more than 43 pieces in one year, but similarly, I hope even consuming as much as 43 pieces will be a thing of the past. The most sustainable garment is one that you already own, and I want to live out that idea more. I want this to ripple over into the other areas of my life too. Our lifestyle is already pretty simple, but there are times when I feel like our tiny 400-sq-ft apartment has too many things.

TRUE GRATITUDE FOR WHAT I ALREADY OWN || Gratitude was a huge theme in 2019. I was pretty consistent with my gratitude journal and it’s something I want to continue going into the new year. However, I’ve learned there’s a difference between being simply content and being grateful for what you have. You can feel content while still wanting more, and yet, I think if you’re truly grateful for what you have then you feel like what you have is genuinely enough.

SIMPLIFY || It seems counterintuitive but I’m hoping that my wardrobe (and life, in general) gets simplified even more. Two and a half years ago, I let go of 70% of my wardrobe and I haven’t looked back since. Even with 67 pieces, I feel overwhelmed some days with how much I own, and I still feel like I only wear maybe half of what I own. There’s definitely still room to pare down and simplify in my life. My goal when I embarked on this whole capsule wardrobe journey was to get down to around 50 pieces so maybe 2020 will be the year that happens.

I truly had a blast gathering and organizing all this wardrobe data (#nerdalert), and I cannot wait to do it again next year (though fingers crossed it will take way less time!). I will still continue to do my seasonal Closet Updates so that I can keep track of my progress over the course of next year. I will also still try to keep my Closet Inventory as up to date as possible, but I will still no longer be tracking my wear count.