Friday, December 21, 2012

Minimalism and my Closet

When I first started reading up on minimalism, what struck me was the concept of the minimalist wardrobe.  Miss Minimalist has her post on her unbelievable 10-item wardrobe, Everyday Minimalist posted about the 30 and extreme 15 piece wardrobe.  I was fascinated by this concept.  I've read on many minimalist websites that on average we wear 20% of our clothing 80% of the time.  This made total sense to me.  There are plenty of items in my collection that I rarely reach for, and a select few I gravitate towards constantly.  Why should I even be keeping the pieces I never seem to choose to wear?  Should I keep a piece just because I spent money on it, even if I don’t enjoy it? Since the big move, I have gone through my wardrobe piece by piece 3 times and used the following criteria:

·         If I haven’t worn it in the past year – donate
·         If it no longer fits and cannot be altered – donate
·         If it does not fit my current style – donate
·         If it has holes or stains – throw or donate

Both times I gave away between 1-2 shopping bags worth of clothing to charity.  And I can’t say I have missed those pieces, and I can’t even remember what most of them even were. 

I set two goals for myself:
  1.  Reduce my clothing so it fits into ONE suitcase.
  2. Try not to purchase any new clothing items for an entire year.
To achieve goal one I instituted a process I read about on multiple blog sites.  I placed a shopping bag in the back of the closet.  Anytime I try on an item and don’t LOVE it, I put it in the bag.  If after a month or so, if I have not thought about it or wanted to wear it, I donate it to charity.  This trick has worked very well for me, and I can confidently say that since the move I have scaled down on my wardrobe by about 40%.

Goal number two has been very difficult, and I broke after 4 months of no purchases.  The break was also not because I NEEDED something.  I had had a horrible day at my job and was feeling sad, homesick, lonely and was low in the self-esteem department.  So I did the worst thing anyone trying to live minimally could do; I went to the mall.  At the mall I feel most at home because it is the most ‘American’ thing I can find in my current country of residence.  And I bought…cute pjs…  Not a proud moment in my new minimalist life style.  Even as I waited for the bus outside the mall, buyer’s remorse set in…  As I admitted my folly to my husband, he reminded me that it is ok to buy new, as long as something old goes out.  So I chose a pj shirt and pants that I wear less often, and put it in the donation bag at the back of the closet.  I have since thoroughly enjoyed my new items and have not thought about retrieving my old ones at all.  I did learn from this experience though.  Shopping when I’m having a bad day is NOT the answer.  And I have found other ways to treat myself instead of accumulating THINGS.

What are your thoughts on retail therapy?  Have you found other ways to turn a bad day around?  What about wardrobe maintenance and control?  As always, would love to know your thoughts!


  1. Retail therapy (at least for me) is a slippery slope. On one hand, it is certainly entertaining when I'm bored in CU. But on the other, I really don't have the money to spend on shopping and tend to just feel bad after finding something I like and not buying it.

    We all have bad days. I have a bad habit of turning to my favorite pizza place on those days. I'd be much better served to hit the gym, which always helps me, mentally and physically, when I go. I think you just have to find your own pick-me-up.

  2. I think many, if not most, of us Americans can relate to the instinct for retail therapy. I went through a heavy shopping period like that towards the end of high school, which started because my mom wanted to buy me stylish clothes (at that age, I finally acknowledged that I liked to wear a greater variety than just jeans and basic shirts).

    I broke out of that pattern in college once I saw how few clothes fit into my dorm room closet! But moving to a small dorm room was just the beginning; it provided a good starting point, but I then had to change my patterns of behavior so that I didn't turn to shopping/dining out whenever I felt bored or unhappy. I still struggle with it, though more with food and tchotchke's now than with clothes.

    One thing that really helps me break out of the shopping pattern is to go for a walk to a nearby park or along quieter streets of my neighborhood when I'm feeling down. The library is also a wonderful outlet; I can "accumulate" as many books, movies, or CDs as I want, and once I've used them, I don't have to keep them!

  3. It's so inspiring to hear your methods! You told me about your "bag in the back of the closet" one and I really like it, but sometimes it is still so hard to get rid of something if you feel like you haven't gotten all the wear out of it. Or even if you have, but you remember it looking great a year ago. But if I don't love something, I won't wear it, and I certainly wouldn't buy it! So why keep it?? Thanks, Dana!