Minimizing My Life: My Closet

“I mean…I just can’t figure out my style. My look. And it’s really bothering me.”

My poor, dear husband had to endure me drone on and on, lamenting over my wardrobe. It was a trite, one-sided conversation and I’m fairly certain he had tuned me out as we drove down the 101 on our way home from my 40th birthday trip.
Regardless of how insignificant the topic, it was something that was truly bothering me. Whether we want to admit it or not, our clothes matter to us. We want to, need to, feel confident in our own skin and part of that in-our-own-skin confidence correlates directly with what we wear.
So there I was 40 and stressed over what to wear. I officially hated everything in my closet and wanted to donate the entire contents to Goodwill. When I mentioned something along these lines, my husband suddenly returned to the conversation. He was sweet, as husbands can sometimes be during these types of conversations. He told me that I always looked great and there was no need to get rid of every piece of clothing that I own. Of course, I knew that his resistance to a closet overhaul had less to do with my looking great and a lot to do with the amount of money dressing me from scratch would require.
I had a diverse set of issues when it came to my closet. There was too much; too many clothes and shoes and scarves and bags. It felt cluttered and I found myself stressed just standing in front of the racks. Much of the contents were cheap, bought at big retail stores, clothes that I was fairly certain were made by 10-year-olds in Bangladesh. I quickly decided most of the closet had to go. It was also filled with a lot of items that I had not worn in the past and would never wear in the future. My closet was full of items that were good purchases…until they weren’t.
A few years went by and the whole “figuring out my style…finding my look” struggle raged on. A little purging had happened after returning home from our trip, but I was still frustrated every time I walked into my closet. I realize that this is a First World problem. (By definition: a relatively trivial or minor problem or frustration.) Shouldn’t I just be happy that I have clothes to wear and a closet to put them in? Yes, but I am a First World woman who still gets frustrated when she’s trying to find something cute to wear for dinner out with friends in L.A. and has a closet full of clothes and NOTHING TO WEAR.
Then I started to read.
  • I read The 7 Experiment: Staging Your Own Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker where she chose only seven items from her closet to wear for an entire month. Extreme, yes. But it was a lesson in overabundance. We have so much, much that we do not need. Better to wear things that you love, that you feel good in. Get rid of the rest.
  • In Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist talked about having a rainbows worth of clothing but finding herself drawn to everything white, black, gray and blue in her closet. About how she was “more inspired by a near-uniform, a narrow set of parameters that make me feel most like myself.”
  • I read articles about people like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg and President Obama wearing the exact same thing every day to help with something called “decision fatigue.” Closets with nothing but black turtlenecks (Jobs), gray t-shirts (Zuckerberg) and blue suits (President Obama). One less thing for them to have to think about. There’s a reason why these men are so smart and successful.
Slowly I started pulling all of this together. I needed to minimize my closest like Jen Hatmaker, just maybe somewhere around 30-40 pieces instead of only seven. I was drawn to grays and blues just like Shauna Niequist so why keep all of the pinks and reds and greens. I wanted to waste less time on worrying about what to wear every day. I might not be Mark Zuckerberg but maybe I could dress like him. (You know what I mean.)
It has been a process. The suggested first step in minimizing your wardrobe is to completely clean out your closet. The husband helped as I pulled out, tried on, and emotionally examined each piece. He was patient and in the end, helped carry down 4 bags of perfectly fine clothing. Even after all of that, I still have a lot to get rid of. Pieces I just can’t let go of for one reason or other. Like I said, it’s a process.
I have stopped shopping at places like Target for clothes. No more Target impulse purchases. (Not in the clothing department anyway.) Nothing against Target, you know I love me some Target, but instead of buying tons of cheap clothes I’ve decided to simplify by purchasing fewer, higher quality pieces. Pieces that will last longer than one season. Pieces that don’t keep me up at night worrying about where they were made or who made them. Not to mention that my Target bill isn’t nearly as high as it used to be.
Navy blue has become my signature color. I’m drawn to it. It’s my neutral. It makes me happy. When I shop I breeze right past anything that isn’t a shade of blue. Mix in some gray and white, eight pairs of jeans, and my new favorite camel-colored hobo bag and that’s all I need to be happy. (Yes, I still need to pare down my jeans. Baby steps.)
My clothes, my style, what I choose to wear matters to me. I take pride in looking good and feeling confident with whatever I have on. But I no longer stress about it. I don’t waste energy on deciding what to wear. I don’t feel the need to wear something in order to impress other people with my outfits. Now no matter what my plans are, no matter what I’m wearing, I’m happy. I’m happy with wearing a simplified uniform. I have this new navy blue monogrammed sweatshirt that I’ve worn two days in a row. I’m wearing it right this second. Fewer items worn more often creates less laundry. I’m trying to figure out how to minimize all of the closets in my house.
Less stress. Less laundry. Fewer decisions. Fewer clothes. Fewer purchases. More time. More confidence. More happiness. So far minimizing my life is giving me more of what I want.

Some websites for you to check out:

  • Road Twenty-Two. They employ previously incarcerated women to make really nice t-shirts out of the Bay Area.
  • Aeon Row. They make a few basic black and white pieces out of recycled fabric in the USA and are reasonably priced. When you buy something from them they send you a postage label to return an old piece of clothing back to them for recycling.
  • PoshMark and Mercari. Both are apps where you can sell your old items. Especially good for selling high-quality items and designer brands. Have bought and sold on both. Might as well make a little money while purging if you can!

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