Simple Living: Minimalist Wardrobe

I’ve mentally written at least a dozen posts since the last time I actually sat down to write.   But 2 things stopped me: 1) I needed a break from writing in general.   School took a lot out of me (a lot more than I expected) and I needed to not be in front of my computer for a while.  2) I needed to spend some time reconnecting with people and catching up on things I hadn’t had a chance to do in a while.  But, rejoice!, because I am now fully rested and reconnected and excited to share with you my latest minimal conquest…my wardrobe!

A lot of discussion has been had about building the “perfect capsule wardrobe”.   For those of you who may not know a capsule wardrobe is the basic essentials that you need to have in your closet.  The rest of your clothes would be things that you change out seasonally but your capsule wardrobe is the high-quality, classic stuff you wear all year around.  I did some reading on building a capsule wardrobe (and if you’d like to too I recommend this, this, and this!)  Then I came home last night and attempted to tackle my closet aaaaand…I definitely don’t have a capsule wardrobe.  And at this point, I’m not planning on having one.

“But, Becca!” I imagine you saying in a shocked and slightly aggrieved tone, “Don’t you love having less?  Why would you have so many clothes?”

Well, gentle reader, it’s true I do love having less.  I love it a lot.  In fact, this whole minimal idea took root in my head because I walked into my closet 3 years ago and thought “this is not the closet of a faithful person”.  I felt I had too many items I wasn’t wearing that were in excellent condition and that could help someone else look good, get a job, feel good about themselves, or stay warm.  Since then I have instituted lots of changes to keep my closet in check.  I cannot even count the number of times I’ve cleaned out my closet.  (Seriously, it’s a high number and I’m bad at math).  I have a hanger rule; no new hangers allowed.  If I run out of hangers I have to get rid of something I already own (this rule has been helpful but not often necessary).  In fact, I so regularly clean out my closest that my friends ask “what is left in there?”  A lot.  Let me tell you.  A WHOLE LOT OF STUFF.  In fact, currently there are 75 things hanging in my closet.  Which is more than double the 33-37 rule of most capsule wardrobes.

At first, I was pretty concerned about how many articles of clothing I still have in my closet (especially considering that does not include the stuff I have boxed away in tubs for other seasons) but I’m feeling pretty confident about my clean out now.  Let me explain how I got there.

First I took everything out of my closet and put it in piles in the living room based on the frequency of wear and also how much I love it.  I have a couple of dresses that I love but I don’t wear more than 4 times a year.  Still, I’m keeping them…at least for now.   I also had a lot of stuff that would look super cute, if only I would wear them.  But I don’t  and I’ve had them long enough to know that I won’t so they don’t get to stay.  This meant saying good-bye to all kinds of things- pants, dress tops, skirts- all things that were only good in theory.   I also got rid of anything that was worn beyond repair or faded beyond respectability.  Also anything that doesn’t fit, which can be tricky to gauge sometimes.  I am not a fan of keeping lots of clothes that are too small for you especially if they are several sizes too small and you’ve had them for more than 2 years.  Mostly I try to think about who could wear this if I donate it.  I have lots of work clothes that I have bought over the years thinking it would help me to dress more professionally.  It never works because that just isn’t my style and it isn’t required of my job.  But if I donate those clothes that gives someone else a chance to maybe look good on a job interview or look more professional in their own line of work.  And that makes me way happier than having that outfit in my closet gathering dust.

Weather in Texas makes my wardrobe choices a little tricker in some regards.  It can be 80 degrees in the morning and 30 degrees by mid-afternoon, so Texas winter requires layers.  But it never gets super cold in my part of the state so it’s not like I need heavy jackets or sweaters.  The core of my wardrobe consists of jeans and tank tops and cardigans for layering.  I can throw a tank top under a dress or sweater to make it a little thicker and I can pull a cardigan over a dress or shirt in order to do the same thing to it.

I put away anything that was the wrong length, texture, color, or thickness for winter.  I have one tubby full of stuff for spring/summer and one small one for fall.  In a month it will be too warm for sweaters so those will get packed away and I’ll pull out more t-shirts and dresses.  It’s a pretty straight-forward system and one that is pretty exciting since every few months I get to feel like I’m shopping all over again in my own closet as I bring back out pieces I love and have packed away waiting for the right season.

So how do you tackle your own wardrobe?

You have to start by taking everything out of your closet.  Yes, this is messy and it sorta sucks.  Sorry.  It is by far the hardest part so just suck it up and do it.  Pull each item out and put it in the appropriate pile: love it, like it, leave it.  Love it is for stuff you love wearing, you feel beautiful and confident in when you wear it, and you wear it at least once every other week.  Seriously.  You should love it that much.  Like it is for stuff that you wear with great frequency but it’s not necessarily a love it item.  For me this includes tank tops and cardigans because I use them with almost every outfit but I’m not obsessed with them or anything.

Leave it is for stuff you love but NEVER WEAR (probably because you love it in theory but it fits sorta weird or it’s super complicated/expensive to clean or it’s not quite the right size anymore….whatever.  Be realistic here.)  Leave it also needs to include things that you shouldn’t or can’t wear anymore.  Items that have holes that you can’t fix or are super faded and worn (you might be able to find other uses for them, like cleaning cloths!), or items that you bought but never wore or that you used to wear but don’t love as much anymore.  Those all go in leave it. Know what else goes in leave it pile?  Anything that you have multiples of needs to come out of your closet.  You do not need 6 jackets (sorry…you don’t).  You do not need 10 all black t-shirts (do your laundry more often and this won’t be an issue).  You do not need 20 pairs of jeans (seriously…that means for almost an entire month you could wear a different pair of pants each day).

The leave it pile can be tricky and I respect that, but if you’re serious about having a minimal closet you gotta be brutal about what you keep and what you donate, give away, and toss.  So for a little inspiration I give you-

Reasons to have a minimal wardrobe:

1) Easier to get ready in the morning.

I have just the items I need and love so I can’t make a bad choice.  Plus I know everything goes together because I was an intentional shopper (post on this soon to follow!).  

2) Less mental energy spent on decisions early in the morning.

I don’t have to expend any mental energy to look good heading out the door in the morning!

3) I’m not spending money on lots of clothes, so I have more money to spend on things I do love, like hanging out with friends or books.

And frankly, I’d rather have books than clothes.  I don’t know what your book equivalent is but you could be enjoying more of it!

4) I’m not having to clean or maintain an extensive wardrobe.
5) I’m not contributing to or being controlled by the consumerist idea of “I’d be happy if…”

Having that perfect dress won’t magically make your day better.  Sorry.  Our days are better because we have attitudes of contentedness and peace, which we do not get from constantly lusting after more things or trying to achieve some kind of crazy physical appearance standard. 

 

Simple Living Series: Get to know your stuff

When I started packing all those things up to move last time I was amazed at how much stuff I had bought and then forgot about.  You know the stuff I mean; the back of the closet, still in the bag, hidden in the shame of an impulse buy stuff.  I found candle holders, picture frames, an antique jewelry box, a ridiculous amount of t-shirts (thank you, youth ministry), and some shoes that are super cute…and uncomfortable.  And to my eternal shame most of those things got boxed up and moved to the next location anyway.

Our cluttering stuff tends to break down into a few groups.

  1. Stuff We Use
  2. Stuff We Love
  3. Stuff We Wish We Used
  4. Stuff We Wish We Loved

Stuff We Use

This category is pretty self-explanatory.  It’s made up of the stuff you actually use every day or at least 4 times a week.  So things like my computer, my hairbrush (or most toiletries in general…although not all so don’t get crazy.), and my purse.  (Ok Jesus Juke moment:  I feel like I should say my Bible.)

Stuff We Love

This category is for stuff that we love!  That shirt that just makes you feel so confident.  That coffee maker that gets that blissful first cup to you sooner.  That awesome piece of art that makes you smile every time you look at it.  Basically anything that just makes you happy- it goes here.

Stuff We Wish We Used

This category is awkward because this is the category that gives us guilt.  This is the category for the unused exercise equipment, the unused cleaning gadgets, and the unused cookware.  This is the category of “I know I should but…”.  And everybody has got it.  We have the best intentions and we buy this stuff in a fervor of get-it-done attitude (I am looking at you yoga stuff).  But the next day the fervor passes and the stuff gets relegated to the back of a closet fueling our self-loathing when we stumble across it every so often.

Stuff We Wish We Loved

This category is for the stuff that we bought because we thought owning it would make us better or happier.  Like that cute top that somehow was going to help you change your entire wardrobe but you never wear it because it’s not comfortable.  Or those shoes that are just gorgeous but pinch your toes.  Or that china set that was just so elegant in the store but that you are afraid to use.  This is the stuff that you hoped would be the glass slipper that would whisk you off to a happily ever after but it doesn’t seem to fit just right.

2 things before we go any further.  Yes it is possible for an item to fit into more than one category simultaneously and no not every little thing will definitely fit into a category (so please don’t waste precious time trying to come up with stuff to mess with my system).  But most things, probably 95%, will fit into at least one of these categories.  Frequently we just haven’t thought about which category a particular item falls in.  And we can’t decide what to do with a thing before we know which category it calls home.

So your minimalist challenge for the day is this:  get to know your stuff!

Look at all the items in your home.  Walk around, look in the back of closets, under beds, in the garage.  And ask yourself these questions about the things you see:

  1. Do you use it?  How often?
  2. Do you love it? What makes it so awesome?
  3. What would your daily life be like if you didn’t have it?

That’s it!  So go introduce yourself to your stuff and try and figure out which category it fits into.

Don’t worry I’ll wait.  Take your time! 😉