Let’s start out with a
big ole’ bad minimalist confession:
I did the one thing I asked us all not to do: I compared my minimalism against someone else’s. I can’t even lie and say that this happened weeks ago.
*Moments ago* I was innocently observing a peers’ apartment video and seconds later I was comparing and competing. It didn’t make me feel good. I was instantly discouraged and convinced that I’m not doing enough. I’m a bit of an activist, and extremely impatient so it took everything in me to sit down and write instead of driving to Goodwill to donate all my pots and pans. (Sorry Clay, we’re just going to have to eat raw eggs for breakfast now.)
This is an appropriate confession because I’m about to show you pictures of my own closet. So let my bad minimalist confession be a lesson to us all.
Don’t compare your progress. Minimalism looks different for everyone. There are no Joneses to keep up with. This is not a new ladder we have to climb. Quantity doesn’t matter. We already are enough.
You likely have more or less clothes than I do. Both are okay. All that matters is that we each find our ‘goldilocks’ amount to suit our own individual lives. I’m happy to stay that I’m getting closer to that each year. Occasionally I’ll waver between thinking I have too many clothes and not enough. My current wardrobe is the closest I’ve been to the just right feeling of “not too much, not too little”.
Also I’ve realized that
it isn’t that I don’t have anything to wear, but that I don’t have the right things to wear.
Though photographing my dresser drawers and posting them for the world to see has been a very eye opening process. In some cases it’s made me realize that some areas are more minimal than I thought.
I mean, I knew that I only had one pair of pants, but it didn’t really sink in until I had to write the caption and reveal that I only own 1 pair of pants. I’m feeling kind of crazy about that, but I’ll discuss this later on. So maybe it wouldn’t kill me to buy another pair of pants, or another sweatshirt when I find the right ones.
Until then, this is what my side of the closet looks like:
Pajamas and tank tops. Not very exciting. (All exercise shorts function as my pajamas, and I rotate between two tshirts so I do own more than 1 pair!)
Also, Clay didn’t care about posting pictures of his underwear drawer on the internet, but I’m not brave enough to do the same. So I took the underwear out of this next drawer as well and I leave you with socks…
You probably remember this from last weeks post, but we absolutely fold our socks the KonMari way. It takes 2 seconds and folding our clothes this way is worth the effort to be able to see everything in one glance.
As far as the sports bra goes, I exercise 3-5 days a week, do one load of laundry once a week, and still find 1 sports bra to be sufficient. I sweat, but not profusely. So adding another would be a luxury, but I’ve been living with just one for years and still haven’t had any traumatizing issues. :)
Next up is my ‘valet’ drawer where I keep all of my accessories and such.
First I’ll start this drawer tour by reiterating that clothes that do double duty are just the best. That brown and white blanket scarf has about 5 uses that range from beach cover up to lightweight blanket. I go backpacking with it. I take it to the beach. I travel with it. And I rag a lot on H&M but I got this scarf from H&M over 10 years ago in college and it’s one of my favorite things I own. Also the black and white vinyasa scarf is from lululemon and it has armholes, and it snaps to form and infinity scarf. There are a ton of YouTube videos on other ways to wear this scarf. I love it because “I can dress it up, or down!”
Jewelry is sneaky. It’s so tiny and takes up almost no space so it’s easy to overlook. Case in point:
My bad minimalist confession
is that when I look at this picture I see 4 pairs of earrings that I don’t wear, ever. And I just went through all of this a few weeks ago! So don’t feel discouraged if you find yourself hoarding things. It happens!
Though I love a small wardrobe’s outlook on jewelry that it should be limited to a few quality pieces. Maybe I’ll slowly turn over that leaf but right now most of my jewelry is from Francesca’s or Kohl’s. :)
As far as jewelry storage goes, I’ve had many different systems over the years. Jewelry boxes make the most sense, but my last one broke beyond repair. Instead of buying a new one I rescued this utensil organizer from our own donation box. (I wish it would fit in our kitchen drawers but it doesn’t and seems to work well here.)
STORING ITEMS WELL
This drawer also reminds me of more Marie Kondo wisdom. In her book she says that
we can promote tidiness in our homes…
if the items that spark joy for us are stored in a way that sparks joy as well.
Aside from a desire to have things ‘look nice’ I think my house is tidier because of this. When my nicer things have a home, especially if it’s an attractive home, I am more likely to put things away.
Heres a personal win: getting rid of unnecessary, unloved items has freed up so much space which allows me to properly store/display the things I do love. 5 years ago this drawer would have probably been stuffed with shirts I didn’t wear. I wouldn’t have been able to afford the luxury of dedicating a whole drawer to accessories, let alone lay them out in a way that allowed me to see everything with one glance.
when we put things away as we use them
which is why my wallet lives in this drawer. When I come home for the day, I empty my purse or backpack completely. This seems counterintuitive and inefficient, but I have found it to be the opposite. This is some ‘slow movement’ wisdom but I love setting my intentions for the day and loading my purse accordingly. I also love that my purse never reaches that black hole level where it’s just a stressful mess of receipts and loose change and old bananas.
When we store our possessions with care I also believe it protects their quality. Again this is an appreciation thing, a respectfulness thing (and a sustainable fashion thing too!).
I’ve destroyed so many purses over the years, but after turning off my weirdo alarm and following Marie’s advice I’ve found this bit of wisdom to be true. I own ONE black purse which I bought at Target for $48 5 years ago. This is currently my only purse, which I travel with, and tote around everywhere but it’s just now starting to show wear and tear.
“YOU LOOK POOR”
For some reason I’m embarrassed to show you this drawer. But here it is. Even my own minimalist husband looked at this drawer and said “wow, you look poor”.
(Rude! (On so many levels!) But also yikes! He’s right.) I know it’s sparse. So sparse that I put a picture frame in there to help take up some space. But this is my ‘goldilocks’ amount right now.
1 pair of funky, fun, shorts. 1 pair of hiking, casual, everyday, multi-purpose shorts. And 1 pair of black shorts that I think I’ll give away, but I’m waiting until summer to make that call. (Here’s the truth: I mostly wear exercise shorts in the summer. Because I’m at the lake, or I’m hiking, or I’m outdoors and not trying to make a fashion statement.)
As far as pants go, I technically only have 1 pair of true pants. I feel crazy! I promise I don’t wear that 1 pair every day of the week. I also have 2 pair of black leggings (1 is actually leggings and 1 is a legging/exercise tight hybrid that I wear in multiple situations). There are also dresses, and sweatpants and shorts.
This 1 pants thing wasn’t a weird minimalist goal. As jeans and pants have worn out over the years, I never replaced them because I realized I’m content with just the one.
Anyways, here’s proof that I do own more clothes…
And this is what I love about minimalism:
when we eliminate what doesn’t matter from our lives, it enlightens us to see what does.
So I might not have a drawer full of ‘regular’ clothes, but I do have a drawer full of active wear. …exploring clothes! Clothes meant for skiing and hiking and running and camping and being outside.
Everything in this drawer is 3-6 years old and not everything in here ‘sparks joy’. I would have to spend thousands of dollars at the Patagonia store to make that happen. But these clothes are functional, they fit, and although the clothes themselves don’t evoke joy…wearing them in their intended habitat, outside, sparks enough joy to last a lifetime.
So I’m sorry, but I’m not going to be your minimalist fashion blogger. I do care what I look like and how I present myself to the world, but my threshold is likely lower than yours because I wear exercise shorts as regular shorts and call it good.
If fashion matters to you on a deep level, here are some really great minimalists who can give you what you want:
- https://www.suttonandgrove.com/ (Husband and wife team, Jill & Luke Matthews. Both have great instagram accounts with all the chic streetwear pics)
- https://www.jesswithless.com/ (great thrift store hauls)
- https://asmallwardrobe.com/contact/ (vlogger, great content, advice, etc.)
And while athlesuire is my favorite, I’ve learned that wearing yoga pants every day is not good for my soul. To all the millennials and stay at home moms out there, I get it. I currently “work from home” so I could definitely wear sweatpants all day, and have, but actually getting dressed is the single best thing I do for my mental health everyday. (More on that in another post.)
THE REST OF MY CLOTHES
Here’s a quirk: I like to spread the hangers out. It gives everything room to breathe, and makes it easier to find exactly what I’m looking for. Smooshing them together takes up a fraction of the space, but somehow makes it feel more congested.
The KonMari method for hanging clothes in a closet is to arrange them aesthetically so they rise to the right: Long, dark, heavy items on the left. Short, light items on the right. I also think she recommends hanging items based on sleeve length.
BAD MINIMALIST CONFESSION
I do not understand this one Marie Kondo. This method does not work for my clothes. Some of my light items are longer, some of my darker items are shorter and some of the heavier, lighter colored items are sleeveless. Maybe I’m doing it wrong somehow, I don’t know.
My solution is to hang things by length alone. (I’ve also seen others hang their clothes by color.) Longer items to the left, shorter items to the right. That’s it. It doesn’t create a perfect Instagram worthy shot, but it does work in real life which is way more important to me.
(And let’s be honest, sometimes I hang things up in the wrong places but somehow life miraculously goes on.)
AND WORK CLOTHES
Uniforms/signature styles are great because they take the guesswork out of getting dressed and cut down on decision fatigue. I personally love that choosing an outfit is now a straight forward, stress-free process for me. I’m no longer late to an event because I couldn’t figure out what to wear. I don’t have clothes that only coordinate with a certain pair of pants. I can pack for a weeklong vacation in minutes, and know that I will wear every item of clothing I pack. (A lot of the benefits overlap with the benefits of a capsule wardrobe, but the difference being that I don’t have more clothes stored away somewhere else.)
Lots of people get this and have created their own go-to look: Steve Jobs, Jerry Seinfeld, Obama, even The Pope!
We all have certain types of clothes we wear more than others, so in some sense we all naturally wear some kind of uniform.
She also reminds us that men already do this. “To state the obvious, a work uniform is not an original idea. There’s a group of people that have embraced this way of dressing for years—they call it a suit.”
I’ve tried wearing the same thing every day. I loved the efficiency factor but found the repetition to be too much. So I gave up on the idea. Then I started to notice that the clothes that were left at the end of the week were the bright, trendy clothes. while the clothes in the laundry were the basic, neutral clothes.
I realized that I was still buying clothes that I thought I should like, clothes I used to like, or I was trying out a new trend because it looked good on someone else. So got honest with myself about who I am, not who I was or wanted to be. My clothes started to reflect that, and thus my uniform emerged.
I’ve never worn the same exact outfit for a week but the clothes I feel the best in tend to be the same:
Black. Neutrals. Basics.
This kind of wardrobe is sort of a minimalist stereotype for a reason. Because these things are versatile. They are easy to mix, match, and layer without much thought. It’s also easy to “dress them up or down” with colorful accessories.
(These same principles can apply to your work clothes.)
More importantly all of my clothes, especially the dressy-ish clothes, must be super comfortable. If I wouldn’t wear it on a 10 hour flight riding in the middle seat then it’s not comfortable enough and not worth wearing. As a result a lot of my clothes are lightweight, made of cotton, and flow-y.
For example this kimono thing is basically a glorified robe. But it’s a robe I can pair with a dress, heels, sparkly accessories and then wear to a wedding.
If adopting this uniform method appeals to you, here are a few encouragements and tips:
- Start by wearing all of your clothes throughout the next week (or weeks) and pay attention to any themes you love regarding style, brand, color, fabric, etc.
- Focus on building a wardrobe that suits your job requirements and lifestyle.
- Introduce new styles or trends in small doses. If you like that shade of red, try to find it in a scarf or something small first before spending $120 on a jacket you might not love later.
- Find versatile, lightweight pieces that are easy to mix, match, and layer. Find clothes that work well with each other.
- Don’t google “work uniform”! Don’t overthink it!
BAD MINIMALIST CONFESSION
I totally did google that once. And I did overthink it at first. I spent way too much time shopping, trying to find the perfect uniform. I was willing to buy 5 of the same shirt, like Matilda Kahl, before I remembered that I don’t like that sort of rigid repetition. So don’t waste too much time on this like I did. You know what you like, wear that!
- Lastly, be confident!
No one will notice if you wear the same clothes on a daily or even weekly basis
Especially if your outfit isn’t overly flashy or dynamic.
In the realm of work clothes, I’ve never owned a pant suit in my life. All of my past jobs have either provided me a uniform or have allowed me to wear my own clothes. So I was fortunate in that sense; my everyday clothes were also my work clothes.
If your work environment doesn’t allow street clothes, I do believe it’s possible to stay professional but also maintain a more minimal wardrobe.
Clay wears the same suit every day (different shirt, different tie) in a business-professional environment and no one has ever called him out on it. At first I thought, maybe the rules are different for men, or maybe people are just too polite to say anything, so I asked the people I saw on a daily basis. Even though I would wear the same jacket or shirt in the same week
turns out, no one noticed; not my co-workers, not my friends.
So just for fun I googled “I wore the same thing for a week” and lots of blogs came up with a mostly unanimous conclusion: no one noticed their outfit repeats either.
The clerk at the grocery store doesn’t care. Your dog doesn’t care. Maybe your partner notices, and maybe your family. Maybe.
Still don’t believe me? Try it for 3 days or a week. Report back and let me know what happens!
As we conclude this series on clothes I realize I’ve left a few holes: outerwear, shoes, etc. This post is already pretty hefty, and I’d like to move on so follow me on Instagram (or Facebook) and I’ll finish that part of the tour in my ‘stories’ this weekend!
You can find the link to my instagram feed in the pop out menu on the right —->
Before I launch into the series conclusion, I want to first thank you all for being here. These posts seem to be gaining traction so I just want to sincerely thank you for reading! Thanks for the emails, and comments! Thanks for asking good questions and wanting to know more.
It makes my day each time one of you sends me pictures of your de-cluttered closet or casually mentions that you sorted through your sock drawer.
You’re just the best. So thanks again for your support, “likes”, and encouragement. It really makes a difference!
SORRY FOR EAVESDROPPING
And now, let’s wrap up “Mindfulness & Clothes with a story…
The other day I noticed a woman sitting in the airport on her phone. She was in her 50’s or 60’s sitting with what appeared to be her fun, happy family. At one point I happened to glance over and out of the corner of my eye I noticed that she was casually scrolling through a clothing catalogue online. Her family was chatting away and her daughter actively attempted to engage her mom in the conversation. Occasionally the mom would look up or say something but her index finger never left the screen. This went on for at least 20 minutes. Then I saw the daughter roll her eyes and quietly stopped including her mom because her mom never once put the phone down. I was floored. Granted there might have been a whole backstory as to why the mom proceeded to stare at her phone, but from experience there are all sorts of times when there isn’t a valid explanation.
It’s easy to point fingers at the mom and say “what a shame” but my point is actually that we’ve all been the mom on some level. Not that shopping always overtly interrupts family time like that, but I hope you see that our clothes do take up time and energy. Shopping alone can take hours, but what about returning the things that don’t fit, laundry, choosing an outfit, sorting, “where is that scarf anyways?”, trips to the dry cleaners, organizing, packing, hauling the ‘winter bin’ out, “does this look like me?”.
Some of this is just a byproduct of being human, but some of it can be controlled and reduced and even eliminated. Like that time when Clay and I spent an entire day sorting through a giant pile of clothes asking ourselves what sparks joy because we had accumulated too much. Perhaps if we owned less to begin with we could have taken that time to go for a walk in the woods. We could have invited friends over, or watched a movie.
I realize that not every waking moment needs to be action packed; but how we spend our time matters.
Remember that Anne Lamott quote hanging out next to my t-shirts? “100 years from now? All new people.” I don’t want to waste this precious time, these moments I’ve been gifted.
Luckily, Clay and I haven’t relapsed. We haven’t had to waste another afternoon unearthing the ‘summer clothes’ tote from the basement. We haven’t had to do another massive wardrobe purge, or spend an afternoon reorganizing our closets.
I’m all for having fun with my clothes and expressing myself, but I realized that I was putting too much importance on them.
My clothes are not my identity. I don’t want to be late for work, or a coffee date because I couldn’t figure out what to wear. I don’t want to spend 15 minutes or more trying to decide on an outfit. I don’t want to care so much what other people think. I want to spend less time thinking about finding the perfect jacket and curating my wardrobe.
I want to be less like the mom.
So let’s get rid of all this excess baggage the KonMari way.
“Thank you, greed and comparison. Thank you, materialism. Thank you, R.E.I, Anthropologie, and Ann Taylor Loft. I’ve spent the last 4 years trying to minimize my need for all of you. Most of the lessons I’ve learned in the process, I’ve had to learn the hard way. Still, thank you for all you’ve taught me. I’m sure we’ll meet again, but for now…good bye.”
NOT OPTIONAL: ASK ME A QUESTION! TELL ME YOUR THOUGHTS!
I’ll respond and answer any questions you have in my next post! So ask away (it’s anonymous!) I’m dying to know what you loved about this series, how I can improve, and what topics you value the most, etc. So please, please, please, let me know!
And as always, if this post or series has added value to your life in any way please like, share, or send me hearts and warm fuzzies! :)