Slow down and simplify

How to reduce your mental load – tips for clothing and dressing

At high school, I wore a uniform. It was hideous. An itchy brown jersey, yellow polo shirt and a brown box-pleat skirt. Maybe it was the height of style in the 70s when the school opened, but definitely not in the 90s when I wore it. At least we all looked hideous together. I remember my glee on the last day of school as I dumped the old thing on a desk in the school office and told them to pass it on to someone else. Finally free.

How to reduce your mental load - clothing and dressing

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash – this is not my wardrobe!

Back then, I didn’t appreciate the freedom that a school uniform gave me. Four years of freedom from deciding what to wear to school, trying to keep up with trends, arguing with my parents over what was appropriate, and spending my babysitting money on an extensive wardrobe. While my school uniform was terribly ugly, it was also beautifully simple. Twenty years on, I’m grateful to that gaudy uniform for making my teenage years simpler.

Each day, we face so many decisions. The vast majority of them are inconsequential, yet they add to our mental load. Simplifying everyday activities, like dressing, is easy, with a great payback in terms of reducing your mental load.

 Tips to simplify clothing and dressing

Life is not a fashion parade. I sound like one of my old school teachers, but it’s true. Billions of dollars of marketing are thrown around to try and make you forget it, but it’s still true. You want to feel good about how you’re dressed, but without too much fuss. Here’s how:

  • Cull your wardrobe – I’m not suggesting a full declutter and overhaul right now, just getting rid of the most obvious things you don’t wear and get in the way. Think things with holes or stains, those that are way too big or small, or shoes that are mega-uncomfortable. If it’s too hard to get rid of stuff, put them out of the way somewhere for now (I feel your pain, I find decluttering my wardrobe super-difficult).
  • Hang up your outfits for the week – this is an old trick from my commuting days when I had to get up at too-early o’ Work out what you want to wear for the week and place the outfit for each day on a hanger ready to go – undies, tights, the whole shebang. This way, you don’t have waste time and energy in the morning thinking what to wear, plus there is no last minute rushing around when you realise your favourite top is in the wash.
  • Adopt a personal uniform – uniform dressing makes life so much easier. It’s not that radical either – think of the average male corporate wardrobe. For work, I have three dresses that I wear. They are all the same style, but in a different colour. I have a few different cardies and jackets I can wear over them, depending on the weather. In the summer, I wear them with sandals, in the winter with tights and boots. I know someone else who finds one black dress each season in a style that really suits her and buys five. She just mixes up the accessories. She’s been doing it for years and no one has ever noticed.
  • Limit maintenance – avoid things that need ironing, dry cleaning or hand washing. If you need to wear a shirt, don’t pick the one with all the little pleats. Buy socks that are all the same colour and style. Also, overhaul your laundry system. Laundry doesn’t have to be a nightmare. Check out my system for keeping laundry simple [link]. Using this system laundry is a non-event, I even enjoy it (I make up for it by really hating vacuuming). The hanging system is another one to check out. A hack for laundromat users – what’s the one thing we feel the worst about when life is frantic? Not making enough time for family and friends. Use the time waiting in the laundromat to call your mum, text your best friend from high school or check-in with whoever you feel bad about neglecting.

How do you manage your wardrobe? What’s your best tip for keeping things simple?


  • Lani
    January 26, 2018 at 7:08 pm

    This is so timely! I’ve just been buying a few dresses from Trade Me with the view of making a work uniform for myself. They have been incoming, and I’m keeping track of how many come into my wardrobe so I can ensure at least the same number of items exit. I think it will take some time to really nail, and I don’t know how I will go on lowering maintenance of my work wardrobe – but boy will it be better than the current situation!

    • Amy @ More Time Than Money
      January 27, 2018 at 2:01 pm

      That sounds great. I’m a bit stumped at the moment. We are in a long spell of unusually warm weather and my usual go-to’s aren’t working.

  • Lisa
    January 27, 2018 at 1:45 pm

    Great post Amy. Reading this one is really timely for me, as I’m really trying to reduce my mental load in as many ways as possible at the moment! I just finished reading The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz and it gave me a lot of food for thought in that area. I’ve been trying to reduce my mental load on weekday mornings by getting my outfit ready for the next day each night and it’s making a huge difference. I’ve also started laying out my backpack on the couch (since I commute on the train) along with my hat, keys, diary etc inside, so that all I have to do is put in my lunch and water and I’m ready to go. It really is amazing how much less overwhelming my morning routine feels with just a few things done in advance the day before!

    • Amy @ More Time Than Money
      January 27, 2018 at 1:54 pm

      That’s really interesting Lisa. I’ve applied this in other areas too and it really does make a difference. When I was only holiday recently, I really noticed the difference, as I didn’t have all my usual defaults set up – so many decisions.

      I’ve never read The Paradox of Choice in full, but I’ve read summaries. I must read it. I was inspired a lot in my approach by Gretchen Rubin and her “decide not to decide” approach and the freedom of personal rules.


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