Lisa Lansing

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How to simplify & declutter your shoes

Photo by LeszekCzerwonka from Getty Images Pro

If you are looking to simplify your life, why not start with your shoes? Not only will you clear out some closet space, but you’ll also save money too.

I had a massive shoe collection before I started my minimalist journey almost three years ago. I had shoes in bins, shoes stuffed in an organiser hung over my bedroom door, and new shoes I hadn’t yet worn still in boxes. My shoes were mostly cheap shoes from Target and thrift shops. I had shoes in every colour and for every occasion: flats, heels, boots, everything!

Did I actually wear all of these shoes? Nope. I collected them just in case. For most shoes, I’d wear them once and set them aside.

I left the States in 2016 with one pair of shoes but now I’ve upgraded to just three pairs: sandals, all-purpose shoes for hiking and walking, and sturdy boots for winter.

Xero ShoesZ-Trek
For more details about these minimalist shoes (except for these Merrell shoes in particular since they’re new), check out my minimalist shoes video.

Not everyone will be able to downsize their shoe collection to three pairs, and that’s perfectly fine. Everyone is different. Perhaps you need five pairs of shoes, or even ten. What’s most important is that you start somewhere. Start trimming the unnecessary shoes from your collection: shoes you hardly wear, shoes that are too uncomfortable, shoes that serve no real purpose in your wardrobe.

So how do you start?

First, you need to evaluate what you have currently. How many pairs of shoes do you own? (Go count them.) How many pairs do you wear on a regular basis? (Make a list.)

To create your own simplified shoe collection, only draw from the shoes you currently own. Don’t run out and buy new Xero Shoes simply because they’re minimalist sandals. This defeats the point of downsizing.

Commit to not buying shoes until you sort your collection, no matter what. Otherwise, you’ll never downsize your collection and you’ll be right back where you started.

How many pairs do you actually need?

The number of pairs you need depends on several factors. I find it easiest to categorise shoes into situations. Depending on your work situation, you will need a pair or two of special shoes just for work. You probably want a good all-purpose shoe for walking and running errands. If you go out and dress up regularly, you’d want to keep a pair for that. Maybe you need another pair of shoes just for lounging around the house.

It’s important to consider the climate you live in as well. Are you lucky enough to live in a climate where you can easily wear sandals year-round? If not, you’ll need shoes that will protect your feet through the seasons.

The colour scheme of your shoes is another thing to consider when narrowing down your collection. In my opinion, neutral colours are best since they match with everything.

The shoes you keep should be:

  • Comfortable. Can you wear them for an extended period of time without your feet hurting?
  • Practical or functional. Are these shoes you can use on a day-to-day basis?
  • Versatile. Can you wear these shoes in a variety of situations?
  • Timeless. Will they still be in style in a few years?

And most importantly, you need to like them!

Make a decision and stick with it.

When I was downsizing my shoes, I dumped all of them into a pile and took out the few pairs I hoped to keep. Having a mountain of shoes in front of me not only forced me to face how out of control my shoe habit had become, it motivated me to stay focused on the task at hand.

When you do decide to get rid of a pair, absolutely get rid of it right then. Take the shoes to a charity shop or post a listing on Ebay. (I unloaded most of my unwanted shoes on Ebay.) That way, you’re less likely to reconsider and have them creep back into your life.

Think twice about buying new shoes.

I recommend using your shoes until they wear out completely, but at some point, you’ll need to bring a new pair of shoes into your home. When you do need a new pair, check second-hand shops first. If you can’t find shoes second-hand, research for shoes online and read reviews carefully. Remember that quality shoes will last longer than cheap ones, so it’s worth it to pay more upfront.

Shopping for new shoes should be a slow process, especially since you put so much time and effort into minimising your shoe collection. Don’t undo all that hard work by impulse buying shoes because these rarely work out in the long run. Shop with intention and make sure your new shoes are perfect.

In the following video, in addition to explaining these tips and strategies in more detail, I explain why I only buy vegan shoes (and why you should too).

Why not start today?

Downsizing your shoes (or your wardrobe) doesn’t need to happen overnight. You can take your time getting there, but you’ll never get anywhere unless you take the first step. Something inspired you to look into decluttering so take the initiative and start today by taking a pair of shoes to the charity shop. Your journey into minimalist living will be a life-long learning experience. Don’t feel pressured to do it perfectly straight away.

When you push yourself to minimise your shoes, you discover the shoes that are true to you. You figure out which shoes match your style and personality, and which shoes serve a genuine purpose in your everyday life. Clearing out extra shoes from your closet not only gives you more space, it gives you peace of mind.

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