Save. Spend. Splurge.

How Parisiennes seem to have the smallest, most minimalist wardrobes and closets

French women have tiny little jewel boxes of wardrobes, or so they would have us think!

But how does that happen?

How do you manage to curate down your clothing into one little neat wardrobe with no more than 25 evenly spaced hangers and a few rolled or folded items?

The key, is space. Or the lack thereof.


In Europe, things all tend to be smaller, not always, but it is true of the apartments for instance. My partner’s apartment in Paris was a tiny but serviceable 400 square feet and that was luxurious!

When he moved to Canada he was amazed at the amount of space for the price, and took a 1200 square foot apartment.

He didn’t have to try and turn his bedroom into a living room and office hybrid, or make do with a tiny little kitchen where you prep with a board over try sink because he had a truly separate room for sleeping and cooking.

The scarcity of space is what makes it all possible. The more space you have, the more you fill it up because you just aren’t used to seeing space.


Just look around your living room right now.

Do you have a couch? Coffee table? End tables? Lamps? A huge bookcase with books and knickknacks? TV? … I’m running out of things to name because I don’t own any of that so I’m just going off pictures I’ve seen and homes I’ve visited.

(Don’t even get me started on your basement or garage!!! I’ve seen some serious ones filled to the ceiling with stuff.)

Imagine if all of that was gone. Wouldn’t you feel a bit strange? Empty even?

That’s space. That is having space, to be more accurate.

When you have less stuff, things look more spacious.

When you have less clutter, you look more organized, or it is easier anyway because there’s not much to shift around.

That’s the real secret to a minimalist wardrobe: the lack of space.

You have to start making decisions about what to keep and you have to constantly clean and edit ruthlessly because you simply don’t have the space.

My rule is with hangers, also known as the “one-in one-out” rule.

If I don’t have a hanger for it, I need to get rid of something to make a hanger available.


The other reason people’s wardrobes are so small and properly curated is the lack of money.

Things cost a lot more money outside of the U.S. because they’re being imported from other countries (shipping, duties and taxes tend to dampen shopping enthusiasm) and when you have to pay good money for things, you think twice.

Not only that, I find the general attitude towards shopping in Europe to buy things locally, and buy quality to last.

You don’t want to spend 10€ on a dress only to have go after a few washes. You’d rather save all the money on those cheap fast fashion dresses, and buy a 100€ dress that is made well and will last through many washes and years.

Now if you’re going to spend 100€ on a dress, you are going to make darn sure it’s a classic piece you can wear for many years to come, right?


That’s how Parisiennes have such small, curated, closets.


  • Sylvie

    Extensive traveling and living in a small room helped me pare down my wardrobe. Sadly, it also raised the threshold of what I’m willing to pay for a garment that is versatile, packable, and made from quality fabric. I never thought I’d consider shelling out $1k on a Burberrry dress, especially since my job is pretty average in pay, but it’s hard to find timeless and season-spanning pieces.

    • save. spend. splurge.

      You know, I have reached the same conclusion about my clothes. No sense in wearing fast fashion crap, it doesn’t last and looks terrible to boot. Just a waste of money.

      • Sylvie

        On that note, do you only buy the “perfect” garment and if not, what do you compromise on? I realized that I’m willing to compromise on colour because I can never mind my ideal colours on garments that have flattering cuts, and high quality natural fabrics and workmanship. People say that if you wait long enough, the perfect garment for you will come around. I no longer believe that, at least for my body type and colouring, and I don’t think I would feel vindicated holding off for many years if it meant not having a versatile wardrobe staple.

        • save. spend. splurge.

          I only compromise on if it doesn’t fit my body type or if the fabric is not 100% wool / cashmere, etc… A little polyester or acrylic blend creeps in on occasion but I try not to let it.

          I won’t compromise on cut (although I do tailor everything), colour (I hate colours that wash me out or depress me), and quality in workmanship.

          If you wait long enough you may wait forever! I tend to have favourite designers/stores, and I browse their wares religiously always scanning and looking for the right item.

          For instance, I am still looking for khaki green high-rise skinny pants (that are soft and thick and feel like jeans). Still can’t find them. Won’t buy substitutes.

          I just make do with what I have until I see them, but if it were a versatile sweater I would wear constantly, I just buy whatever colour is most flattering out of the available picks & wait for the perfect one to come along in the meantime.

  • Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life

    I’m reapproaching our closet with this in mind. I have a lot of clothing that I’ve accumulated over the years that were more like temporary pieces in the sense that I wasn’t thinking if I should keep this for 20 years because that’s what I do with clothes! So it’s killing me that I have to weed out things that aren’t worn out yet but I must because I hate how overstuffed it has become. I don’t care that I CAN fit more clothes in there, I’d much rather have 10 great pieces than 50 mediocre ones. This also came about because I HAD 10 perfect pieces but they were tailored for pre-pregnancy and now they are so not perfect. Sigh.

  • Krystina

    What we call a closet in North America is what some Europeans would call a room! In older buildings in Europe there are no closets so you might have a rack or a wardrobe. Staying with a friend in Amsterdam taught me to value the vast amount of space we have here and to be mindful of my purchases.

  • Miemo

    So true. Before I had Bebe, her bedroom was A WHOLE closet for me. Then I had to downsize her room into half the closet in my bedroom and got rid of 12 bags of clothing. Now, per the many closet posts I’ve read through you, I only purchase quality items that I can create many outfits with! But now this encourages me to clean out my tiny closet again, and reassess what I have!

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