I would love to gain readers, but some of you don’t belong here so I’m going to kick you out. (Most welcoming intro. sentence. ever.)
Sorry to lay down so much tough love, but…
- You do not have my permission to read this post if you haven’t read about my bean bag genes, how we minimized our clothes, and our heavy motivation for having a small wardrobe. These posts are meant to be read in order so that you understand the full arch of our journey. Otherwise these pictures lose their meaning and I’m just a weirdo posting pictures of my sock drawer. So please, do the work and read the preceding posts first. You can come back later. We’ll still be here, I promise.
- Also, you do not have my permission to read this post if the phrase “minimalist wardrobe” is or will be something you have google image searched. Further, if that phrase (or similar) is the title of one of your Pinterest boards, then these posts are not for you. Minimalism has a lot to offer, but you do not need a stylized clothing rack, or an all neutral wardrobe to make it work. So please, do not measure your identity, value, or progress by comparison (I’m super competitive so that advice is for me, and all the other winners, er…I mean, people…who struggle with this). I don’t want this content to be anyone’s new yardstick. Minimalism is not a new ladder that you have to climb. There is no right or wrong way to downsize and no Jones’s here to keep up with. You are already enough.
I hope you understand why I’m enforcing these prerequisites. I don’t want you to miss out and I don’t want you to miss the point.
This series is here to highlight all of the things that have propelled Clay and I in the past 4 years. Because living minimally and mindfully has really been working for us, like “we’re living our best lives” kind of working, and I think there might be something here worth sharing. That’s all.
So if you’re curious, like-minded, or craving more time, freedom, money, etc. then maybe you’ll find something of value here. (Gawkers here for the pure entertainment of it all are also welcome because, I get it.)
With that, I have one more preface:
get comfy because there’s a lot of content here.
After The Great Purge of 2015 my side of the closet looked like this––
I don’t have before pictures, but you saw the pictures of it spread out in my living room so just pretend all of that is crammed in here. The usual wall to wall hangers and over stuffed drawers. (By the way, those are large plastic drawers that I covered in fabric when I was in college because I thought it was cool–– it wasn’t.)
We didn’t have on hand storage solutions, so we took a tip from Marie Kondo:
use whatever boxes are lying around before buying anything new.
It didn’t make for a picture perfect closet, but it was functional and we saved time and money.
After getting rid of all the excess, we immediately noticed a difference in how quickly we were able to get ready. Everything was within reach. We didn’t have to try 3 things on before finding something that worked. We rarely lost track of where clothes were. And laundry didn’t seem to pile up as quickly.
Downsizing also allowed us to fit all of our clothes, every season including bulky winter-wear, in one closet. No more hauling out the big storage tubs from the basement and spending the afternoon switching it out. So much time saved! This is still one of our favorite victories.
Which is why I’m not a fan of:
“A capsule wardrobe is “a mini wardrobe made up of versatile pieces that you love to wear.” Each season, you clear your closet except for a set number of pieces. Caroline Rector’s golden number is 37 items, but it varies. Your capsule collection is made up of a combination of items you already own and love to wear, as well as new, quality items that you can shop for once a season.” (paraphrased via whowhatwear.com)
I haven’t tried them, so take my opinion with a grain of salt…but on paper they seem to require a lot of work and careful planning, which therefore requires extra time that I’d rather spend NOT thinking about my clothes. I also don’t love the idea of shopping that often, or having off season clothes stored away somewhere. I like it all in one place, especially when I lived in Michigan where the weather fluctuates daily. Owning less and thinking less about my clothes is what works best for me.
Still capsule wardrobes promote the same values I’m boasting about here. They encourage mindfulness, give you less options so picking out an outfit is a fuss free task, and the avg. American might shop less using this model. So it might work for you! Try it and let me know how it goes! You can read more here: Project 333
EVEN MORE TRANSFORMATION!
Over time our ability to discern what “sparked joy” changed dramatically.
We got better at knowing ourselves and became more honest about what we liked and didn’t like regardless of whether or not it was a gift, how expensive it was, or how nostalgic it made us feel. (Though this will always be a work in progress, and some things take longer to say goodbye to than others).
So fast forward 3ish years and this is what my side of the closet looked like, circa 2018––
Can you feel the difference between the first image and this one? Both pictures depict a minimalist closet. Both are victories. The second picture is a breath of fresh air though. Things have even more room to breathe now. There’s white space. It feels calmer.
I used to defend my messiness by claiming that I preferred my room that way. “Having everything a bit disorganized keeps me on my toes! Clutter promotes creativity.” And so the excuses went but I don’t believe them anymore after this.
Of course, the camera angle helps. We relocated our nightstands into the closet to act as dressers. And eventually the gift box organizers were replaced with actual storage bins. However, there’s a deeper transformation that can’t be explained away and it’s tangible.
(It’s worth mentioning that there are a few more dresses and shirts hidden to the left, but literally just a few.)
PRESENT DAY, CLAY
Apologies that I don’t have any pictures of what Clay’s side of the closet looked like, but his transformation was equally tangible. To make up for it, we’re going to start by showing you his end of things.
The big ‘win’ here is that this is how it always looks every day; no staging was involved. I even did the laundry so that all of our clothes would be represented in accurate quantities!
Clay has given away so many ties over the years but I still think he has 3 or 6 too many. Of course, he begs to differ. Which brings me to my first point:
don’t give away other people’s stuff without their explicit permission.
Clean out your side of the closet and yours alone.
If you’re knee deep in life-giving change but your partner or sister or best friend isn’t tracking with you…that’s okay. Their system still works for them. So unless they ask for help, we can’t force our convictions on them. We won’t win anyone over that way. We can only pour our heart and soul into lengthy blog posts and hope what we say resonates with at least 1 person. ;)
Clay and I are both 200% on board with minimalism, but we’ve had to stop ourselves from purging each other’s things from time to time. Ties (and socks) just seem to be a hoarding weakness here.
With Clay’s permission, I present to you the sock and underwear drawer. Since we’re on the topic of excess– if you find yourself with too many socks, (assuming they are all in good condition) don’t toss them. No second hand store wants to sell your gently used socks. So it’s best to just wear them until they break down and recycle them at that point.
Also, I hear some weirdo alarms going off so let’s address that–
Yes. Clay has not one, but TWO pairs of banana boxers.
And YES we absolutely fold our socks and underwear and you should too!
Getting dressed for the day is one of the first things we do each morning and it can cause so much stress for some of us. Tidying up in this way eliminates a lot of that, because we don’t have to start the day stressed before we’ve even walked out the door. So it starts right here folks, with socks and underwear.
I admit, this is one of the Marie Kondo tips that I was skeptical about at first. But we’ve been doing this for 4 years now and it’s awesome. No more balling the socks up. No more searching through the pile to find the pair you’re looking for.
Same goes for t-shirts pants, shorts, etc.
“Seems like a lot of work.”
Yeah. It kind of is, I’m not going to lie. The benefits are more than worth the extra few seconds it takes to fold. When I open up a drawer I can immediately see exactly what’s there. I don’t need to lift up the pile of shirts to find the blue one.
Using the KonMari method also keeps your drawers looking like this ALL THE TIME. I never have to organize or tidy our drawers and refold everything.
If done correctly it should be easy to grab any shirt and it shouldn’t disrupt the other shirts when you take it out.
I was going to post a tutorial of my own, but why re-invent the wheel. Here’s an instructional cheat sheet if you don’t have Marie’s Life Changing Magic book but want to learn how to fold this way. Also a YouTube video. And another YouTube video.
- Folded clothing should be able to stand up on it’s own. Every article has a sweet spot. So if it’s falling over, keep trying.
- If it takes awhile to catch on, be patient. You’ll get faster eventually!
- Folding this way also gives you extra time to appreciate your clothes (remember from pt. 1?)
- It also allows you to smooth out the wrinkles, and inspect your clothes for wear/tear.
Quantity does not matter!
I included quantities in captions mostly to help distinguish what was there (and you were going to count it all anyways)…but counting your clothes to stay within a set limit is not what minimalism is about.
Clay and I once bought 24 hangers, divided them, and had a rule that we could each only keep whatever would fit on our 12 hangers. Eventually we realized that life doesn’t work that way. The trial and error is part of the journey and you will find what works for you. This will always be an ebb and flow kind of thing. There will always be something to get rid of, or re-evaluate.
Over time you’ll find your own sweet spot though; 8 pairs of boxers and undershirts is Clay’s. We do laundry once a week but even if we miss a day he has a back-up pair. @thelaminimalist has 30+ pairs of underwear because she only does laundry once a month. (Definitely follow her on Instagram, she often has good content!) So find what works for you!
You might also notice that Clay only has 1 pair of jeans and 1 pair of khakis. This is by choice, so don’t give me that look! This is what works for our lifestyle. Clay wears a suit all day, comes home and puts on sweatpants.
He wears khakis for nicer occasions, his suit for really nice occasions, and jeans for everything else. If our lifestyle changes and he needs another pair of pants, then he’ll get another pair. But for now, this is it!
Minimalism should be a freedom thing, not a suffering thing.
If you’re suffering, then you’re doing it wrong. In the same breath, I’ll also say that our threshold for what needs to be replaced has changed over the years.
Undershirts for example, are just undershirts now. By that I mean that after 6ish years of marriage I’ve learned that the pit stains on Clay’s undershirts are here to stay. I no longer need to buy crisp, new shirts every 4-6 months. No one else knows they are there (well, until now) and these underarm stains do not define me. Not as a laundress and not as a human being. So I co-exist with them now and no matter what state they’re in, we only replace them when we start to see holes.
Whatever your ‘pit stains’ are, ask yourself if it’s truly worth buying new. If it is, then buy it! Don’t suffer.
Find quality, versatile clothes that do double duty.
These items might cost more money but if you take time to find the right pieces it will really pay off in the long run. So try not to rush it or you might end up buying something that isn’t quite right.
Clay has 2 pairs of shorts (not including his exercise shorts).
The blue one is a pair of Men’s Patagonia Baggies which have THREE uses: exercise shorts, hiking shorts, and they are also Clay’s swimsuit. The brownish greenish pair are also Patagonia and can be worn hiking or with a dress shirt and they feel appropriate in either situation.
“You can dress it up, or down!” … is one of the most overused phrases in the Brink’s household.
Another KonMari win is that because Clay and I both fold this way, all of our clothes are folded the same. This might be specific to us, but before this, our clothes were folded differently depending on who did the laundry. So I’d have to refold or rearrange my drawers to accommodate that. Anyone else have this problem? No, just us? Okay.
And the closet.
forces allows us to get scrappy and creative at times.
The cardboard dividers in our drawers came from furniture packaging that I saved for various reasons. One day I realized that they would be perfect to divide our drawers, and voila.
I love it! This kind of resourcefulness has saved us a lot of time and money over the years.
The tie hanger debate is another example. Our last house had a tie hanger built into the closet which we loved. However, since the move we’ve had to come up with all new systems. The ‘valet’ drawer doesn’t have room for all of Clay’s ties, and rolling up a tie every day after work is not something he would actually do. One day he just started hanging his work ties over the railing like this. And it bothered me at first because it didn’t ‘look good’.
I looked at other solutions but I know myself, and I know Clay. We could buy a nice tie rack for the apartment but then it would sit in a corner for weeks because no one would want to install it. And then when we move, we’ll have to patch the wall, buy paintbrushes and paint and repair the holes. We could buy a special hanger for ties, but we’ve tried those in the past and he doesn’t have the energy to hang them up properly. That’s a lot of work just to hang some ties, right?
I’m not trying to bore you with tie-talk. My point is that
lasting tidiness will only come if you can commit to rituals that work for you.
In other words, know your own laziness.
Don’t buy a fancy entry way organizer if you’re just going to wind up throwing your keys and junk mail on the kitchen counter when you get home anyways. First ask yourself if you will actually have the energy to utilize it or not. Be honest.
Sometimes, it is worth the money and the effort. But sometimes it’s not.
An actual tie hanger is just not worth it for us. Clay’s method might not ‘look good’ in a magazine but it cost zero dollars. It works for Clay. The ties stay tidy. And it’s better than having his ties on the floor or thrown on top of the dresser.
That’s it. That’s all there is to show for now. There is no secret bin of clothes hiding under our bed. We both agree that we still have too many clothes, but you already knew that.
So now remember! no googling minimalist wardrobe to look at stylized images. Keep editing and curating and it will naturally look good because 1. it’s your stuff and 2. it’s the stuff you love.
Next week I’ll do my closet. And we’ll talk about fashion, sustainability, uniforms, work clothes, accessories and a whole lot more.
See you next week &
PLEASE keep the questions and comments coming my way! It helps to know what kind of information you’re looking for and what topics you’re interested in.
& everyone give Clay a big round of applause for letting me post pictures of his underwear drawer on the interwebs. :)