This isn’t anywhere near so terrible as it sounds. Promise. A big something I’ve learned in this process is that the things we purchase tend to create a facade of who and what we’re trying to be, and don’t necessarily represent who and what we are. In beginning this challenge I thought I wanted to narrow things down to what’s really “me” and remove the things that aren’t. What I’ve discovered along the way is that my search is for authenticity. I want the things I own, purchase, and pursue to be things that accurately represent me. Aspirational purchases (those jeans I *might* fit into if I lost a few pounds) and impulse purchases are not for me. Neither are the expensive brand of yoga pants, or hanging on to a gift that just isn’t my style. I’ve given up fast food and haven’t looked back. So long cardigans! I’m building a wardrobe and a life that feels most authentic.
Looking back I wonder what took me so long to make the leap to a minimalist mindset. Deciding to downsize was a liberating moment and came with a realization – I was keeping all these things and clinging to the idea of them out of fear. What if I pulled away this facade? What would be left? What was my personal brand? When I pulled the facade away I found relief and a sense of freedom. All those things that aren’t in line with my personal brand were weighing me down, dragging behind me like an anchor, and taking up so much space. It was liberating to say goodbye to all those things represented a lifestyle I didn’t want to live.
Admittedly, it was a challenge in the beginning and I had to overcome some crazy thoughts. What it all comes down to is recognizing that it’s ok to not want what someone else wants. There’s no need to hang on to something just because it’s trendy, or someone famous has one like it, or it costs a lot of money. What works for you is all that matters here. That being said, it’s ok to change your mind about what you want. Minimizing a wardrobe doesn’t mean being stuck with the same, fewer, options forever. Over time weeding items out and adding new things in keeps the contents fresh. Also, it’s important to remember that these things are what define us, and as such they shouldn’t be aspirational. The items we own should complement who and what we are, add value to our lives, and be purposeful. Lastly, removing those things that aren’t a great fit isn’t a time for regret. It’s not a waste that these items were purchased in the first place or kept for a period of time. It’s happened, we’re making a change, if nothing else they’ve allowed us an opportunity to inch closer toward authenticity.
In my goal of having fewer things you could maybe read between the lines and see something like : spending less on things, not spending/shopping at all, reducing clutter. All of those things might come out of this challenge, but those aren’t the reasons I entered into this, and maybe we’re getting a little off track with that kind of mindset. Something I’d like to focus on in the the coming months is being mindful about my minimalism approach. Looking for ways to make smarter purchases, purchasing for quality over quantity, keeping the things I need and/or use, letting the rest go – this what the challenge should be about. With that in mind I’ve come up with some guidelines to keep myself on track. These are the things I’m comfortable with splurging on :
Good, real food – I like to eat, a lot, and I particularly like unprocessed food made with ingredients I can pronounce, that don’t come with all sorts of added chemicals, pink slime, or unidentifiable stuff.
Learning new things – Last year I signed up for a Metalworking class at a local museum despite having no idea about anything having to do with metalsmithing. What a wonderful experience! The year before I did a certificate on Business Foundations that covered things like financial accounting (yikes!) and stretched the limits of my brain beyond where I thought they could stretch. It was a definite struggle, I hate it at times, and in the end I learned nearly as much about myself as I did about accounting. Under this heading I’d file things like travel, professional development, conferences, networking groups, and philanthropic endeavors.
Services that make my life better – Of course I could probably super glue some shoes back together or stitch up a seam myself but taking these things to a professional serves two purposes for me, getting a job (really) well done and giving myself a break. I like both those things.
Quality, Purposeful “Stuff” – Whether the trusty (cheap) one cup coffee maker I use every day and still runs like a charm, the boots I wear almost daily all winter long, my last car that I drove for more than ten years before it finally bit the dust, it just feels plain good to use something up completely. Fast fashion, wasting food, and planned obsolescence just aren’t for me. I get such satisfaction from knowing my cost per use is a fraction of a penny, and that I’m purchasing things that are made of good quality and served their purpose well.
Giving (Back) – This one can come in many, varied forms. My giving back of choice is by joining philanthropic groups in our area, in particular, Young Friends groups that support local organizations. These groups typically involve planning and executing events that raise capital for the organization, awareness of a cause, and involvement with the community. Under this heading I also lump in gifting to others for any occasion. I enjoy taking the time to select a perfect, thoughtful, quality, and purposeful gift for each recipient. There’s something delightful about finding that exact match.
Finding Joy / Unique Experiences – This one sort of sums up the others; finding joy in the opportunities presented to me and recognizing the uniqueness of a moment. This is easiest to find when traveling somewhere new but can also be present in daily experiences. More than anything it’s mindfulness, being aware of the moments as they happen, and delighting in them when they do.
Great resources :
(image of tall trees / idea of freedom from things + freedom to do instead)
Well, can you believe I’ve survived the challenge this far? Now that we’re at the halfway point I’d like to review my rules :
1. Purchase Limit : Have I met, exceeded, or come in under this requirement?
2. Budget : Was it reasonable?
3. Exceptions to Rules 1 + 2 : Did I struggle with exceptions? Did they throw off my budget? Was it not as important as I thought?
4. Exchanges + Returns : Did I limit the number of impulse purchases or have a lot/little buyer’s remorse?
5. Gifts : Did I receive any losers? Was this a big deal?
6. Add, Remove : How successful was this? A challenge? A relief?
7. Documentation : Were these cathartic? Did it help?
8. The Reality : How many times did I fall off the wagon? Was it hard? Was it worth it?
9. Remove : Any success with selling items? Did I keep after it?
10. Goal : Did I stick to my new motto (Buy less, choose well, quality first) and am I on track for the rest of the year?
Thinking forward : I’d like to continue on the path I’ve been going for the last six months and make certain changes moving forward to better zero in on those things I’ve struggled with.
It’s solidly autumn here, the temps are dropping in the evenings, and cozy layers are coming back in style. With these changes I’ve had an opportunity to think about (or rethink) my approach to achieving a seasonless wardrobe. There are definitely items that I love having for fall, especially warm colors like ochre, rust, ox blood, and tall boots. Oh, wait. Tall boots. I love them but they’re really a three season item and I tend to keep them out of storage from late autumn through early spring. Who cares!? The big issue here is how many pairs of tall boots I own. Remember that embarrassingly honest audit I did a while back? I have 10 boots to my name, only 1 of which are ankle height, and this doesn’t include the pair of waterproof dog walking boots or the pair of snow boots. The shame! This month’s task is to tackle the tall boots situation. Here are my thoughts :
Would they be comfortable to walk in for an entire day around a foreign city playing tourist?
Do they show excessive wear?
When was the last time I wore them?
Is there enough variety of items in the closet that they “work” with?
Could they be considered repeats?
Should they pay a visit to the “shoe guy” for a quick tune up or repair?
After answering these difficult questions (I do so love shoes), and making my four piles, I’m proud to announce I now only own 7 pairs of boots. The toss pile went right in the trash, the donate pile has been carted out to Goodwill, and the repair pile has be taken to Caesar. I did decide to tuck away in storage 2 pairs for the future only because they’re in great shape, are repeats of pairs that are more worn, and could save me the cost and trouble of finding a replacement when the current pair dies. I’m deciding to look at this as an investment, and not hoarding. We’ll revisit this situation next purge and see if it was worth keeping them.
I’ve survived my first season of the challenge and am now embarking on another seasonal closet change. Here are the numbers :
Started with a total of 409 items
Number of bins stowed away in June : 3
Number of bins stowed away this time : 2
Additions : 7
Whew! So much better already, but there’s still lots to do since I’ve not yet reached my goal of 100 total pieces. Last month we went over how to approach purchasing additional items to fill holes in the wardrobe, but not the nitty gritty of such an experience. My first step when buying clothing is to look in my own closet. A lot of times I’ve already got something that fits the bill, and if I don’t there’s a chance a little soul searching will show I don’t really need it after all. If it really is something splurge-worthy I’ll give consignment shops a look and see if I can’t find what I’m itching for at a much lower price.
Oftentimes I can totally score a name brand, perfect condition, sometimes with tags still on it item that suits my needs. Occasionally, however, it’s something that can only come from one of a handful of places. This is where those annoying retail emails come in handy – signing up for all my go-to retailers’ emails, stashing them away for a day such as this, and combing through them when I’m looking for something in particular. Is there a super awesome coupon? A big sale coming up soon? Can I wait to purchase this until it goes on sale or clearance?
Welp, I’ve survived three months of this nonsense, I mean challenge, and have learned a few things along the way. I suspected I wouldn’t much miss things that were out of sight in the trial separation closet, which is precisely what happened, making it easier to pare things down even more. Also, I had some success with selling items online and via consignment; there were a few items I felt worthy of refreshing and had great success with repairs. Lastly, I realized there are a few holes in my closet. For instance, I love wearing blazers vs. cardigans so tossing all those jackets that didn’t fit the bill and weeding out a number of button front sweaters I never wore freed up space for another blazer or two. Same thing with dresses and skirts; I love to wear a variety of dress silhouettes but am so very picky about style and fit of skirts. Weeding out those skirts I didn’t love and the few dresses I hadn’t been thrilled with allowed more space and opportunity to wear the ones I do like.
That brings me to my next hurdle in this challenge – purchasing additional items that are wants, not really needs, more like could haves. There are big, slightly terrifying questions that come to mind when I think about adding to my closet :
How much to spend on this item?
Quality, fabric, material, color?
What will it be paired with (and should work well together with)?
How do I want it to fit (or how do I want to feel when I wear it)?
Will I know when to stop?
With all of that in mind, I sat down and thought about what advice I’d give myself if I were talking to someone else. Maybe thinking about all those questions above, and going into this shopping endeavor with answers to those questions in mind, might leave me feeling prepared. A few things I’ve found helped in the past are :
Only purchase items that look good on you, not on someone else, including the mannequin at the store and the models in the ads. Buy for your shape! Not the shape you hope to have, not for the weight you wish you were..
You should never have to talk yourself into a purchase. No matter what.
There should be preexisting options already in your closet to pair with this item. There aren’t? Then what’re you buying this for?! Put that thing back right now, girlfriend!
Give yourself twenty-four hours to think things over (especially with big ticket items)
Don’t buy anything that doesn’t fit comfortably, or make you feel like “you” when wearing it.
If there’s a mark or stain and you try to remove it post purchase but it won’t come out return the item. That spot is permanent. Even better : don’t buy it in the first place.
We really only love things in the store, if you aren’t absolutely in love with it in the store you’ll not love it any more at home. Don’t buy something you’re not tickled pink about.
Having only my spring/summer wardrobe in the closet feels great, especially after doing a serious purge while changing things out. The next task to tackle is getting rid of the losers that didn’t make the cut into my closet. After combing through all the those items looking for stains, tears, or just plain old worn out pieces, I tossed everything that was beyond repair and made two piles, donate and sell. The items that aren’t quality brands or are difficult to sell will be carted off to my local Goodwill. Easy. The items that might be sale quality will be listed on eBay for thirty days.
After the thirty day mark I’ll reassess what’s left, relist the most viable items, pack the remaining pieces up into a polka dot bag, and send them off to ThredUp, a buy/sell clothing website that more or less does all the work for you. The key with selling items is making sure they’re in (at the very least) good condition, clean, free of marks or tears, and, if listing them yourself, ensuring they have decent photos. The most important part is caring for these items that you don’t even want anymore. Have respect for the people that might own these things next by folding them, stacking them neatly, and placing them carefully in their respective bags, mailing envelopes, or boxes. When shipping out a sold item fold and place it carefully in a lightly padded envelope or roll in bubble wrap and place in a sturdy box. In short, treat these things as though you were about to purchase them yourself. For items that aren’t the most desirable labels or trends I order a bag from Schoola and send them off to raise money for a local high school.
As for everything I decided to keep that needed a bit of mending, I did a delicate cycle on cold, hung things up to air dry, and took the damaged pieces for a little TLC. I found that having 9 items repaired by a local tailor, and 2 pairs of shoes brought back to life by my favorite shoe guy, Caesar, I only had to shell out $37 which fits nicely in my monthly budget of $150 for all clothing and accessories related costs. To toss these items and purchase new ones in their place would never have been such a small cost, and besides, these are items I know fit me well and I love to wear them, making the repairs all the more worth it.
Check out the #passthebag campaign and help kids around the world go to school by giving away your unwanted clothing and accessories items with purpose.
Going into this I knew there would be things about the challenge that were… challenging. The trial separation has gone well and resulted in XX items being welcomed back into the closet and XX items being set aside for donation or sale. Small wins are wins nonetheless. Looking back on the past two months I’m noticing something I expected and am still surprised about : a trend. Naturally I wear the same few items repeatedly and neglect the majority of what’s left.
Of the “what’s left” category in the closet I see four distinct sections : body shape/weight fluctuation, boredom, weather, and special occasions. My weight and shape don’t change drastically, however, I like to eat pasta and wear stretchy clothes sometimes, but not always. I’ll get tired of wearing the same style/color/type of item and have a few wild cards to change things up. I own rain boots, rarely wear them, but when I do I’m SO HAPPY I own them. We attend several black tie/gala/fundraising events a year that require formalwear. These things are handy to have but not absolutely necessary in large quantity. To tackle this I’ve come up with a breakdown of what I wear, and how much I wear it :
80% work : luckily I can dress casually in clothes that take me from day job to happy hour with little to no change
15% sleep, curling, bocce, gardening, walking my dog, etc. : when I can wear whatever I darn well feel like
5% special occasions : black tie events, galas, fundraisers at the Art Museum, weddings, etc. : those times I need to look real nice, think gown or cocktail dress, clutch, fancy shoes BUT also those odd days for rain boots or snow goggles
With this in mind I embarked on another closet purge with the addition of another trial separation. For formalwear I will purchase a dress at a great price (read : very discounted/clearance/second hand) and try to wear the item four times (to different events, of course) before selling it. For curling clothes or things I wear around the house, to work in the yard, or walk my dog I’ll buy new and wear it to death, making the cost per drop to pennies. The hardest part is everything else. Items I can wear to work and play include sensible pieces that are versatile, comfortable, and most likely seasonless, but also include quite a few wild cards that might not be my style, fit, or favorite pieces. Big life questions :
Are there any formal pieces I’ve worn several times that could be sold?
Have my 15% items been worn to death, are they worse for wear, or stretched out?
Do the wild cards fit comfortably, are they versatile, can I put them in regular rotation?
As it’s now late into July, and the weather is finally becoming consistently gorgeous, it’s high time I finally pack away the last of the cold weather items. This brings me to my first round of purging since beginning the challenge. Here are some questions I’m asking myself as I put away the off season items and pulling out things for the upcoming season :
Did I wear this at all since doing my last closet change?
Was it comfortable and/or fitting correctly when I last wore it?
Can I wear it any other season?
If I were out shopping today would I buy this?
Does it bring me joy?
Are there duplicates? Do I need multiples of this item?
Do I feel confident when I wear this? (Do I pull, tug, retuck, tweak, itch, or do anything distracting when I wear this?)
Is the material difficult to clean, keep unwrinkled, or hold it’s shape?
Does it have tags on it?
Am I keeping it only because of fond memories attached to it?
Also, I spent time looking through everything closely to check for stains, tears, or inconsistencies. Ultimately, I’m looking to make four piles : trash, donate, sell, repair. Everything I’m keeping for this season gets loaded into the closet; everything I’m keeping from the off season gets loaded into a bin for storage.
Here’re my totals for the purge :
Cardigans – 1
Blazers & Lightweight Jackets – 7
Sweaters – 7
Long Sleeve Tees –
Short Sleeve Tees – 9
Sleeveless Blouses – 11
Sleeved Blouses – 9
Button Front – 4
Dresses – 18
Skirts – 10
Shorts – 4
Jeans (this includes black) – 1
Solid Color Pants – 5
Capris & Crops – 2
Scarves – 6
Belts – 2