When I started to adopt minimalism in my life, one thing I noticed was that everyone who classified themselves as a ‘minimalist’ always dressed a certain way. There was a certain, preconceived aesthetic to being a minimalist. Pinterest was full of pictures of everything from all black to all white outfits.
If I’m honest, I like both color palettes, but not one over the other. I’m also quite a fan of gray.
Remembering that my wardrobe did not dictate my success as a minimalist was an important metric that I needed to remember. Simply because I had more clothes in my closet didn’t mean I COULDN’T be a minimalist right?
Not at all.
You can be a minimalist and still have a closet full of clothes, as long as those clothes bring value and importance to your life and are not mere impulse buys because you ‘liked the way they looked’ or they were on sale so you bought three different outfits. If you wear them, go ahead, keep it. There aren’t any hard or fast rules here.
So, I left my clothes in my closet, a vast array of neutral colored V neck t-shirts, countless pairs of jeans and a bunch of clothes that I hadn’t worn all school year.
I decided to leave them, let them do their own thing until I finished school. I at least had the time now to try an experiment. In the two and a half months I had remaining in school, I could keep a tally and see how many times I would wear each item of clothing. A purge of donating and tossing was inevitable, I could sense it, so I thought that making a list would make ditching these clothes easier when the time came.
Long story short, I left the clothes in my dorm closet for the final two months and only wore a handful of items. I took note of everything I didn’t wear and when it came time to move home, packed them all up in a Rubbermaid container and threw it in the back of our van.
Moving home, I set the container out in the middle of our living room and immediately went to grab the remaining contents of my upstairs closet and spread them all out, prepared to do a great deal of purging. It was a colossal mess.
I went through every single item.
I had tried doing things like this before, figuring out what I needed and choosing to donate some stuff, but never on this magnitude. The main reason why this time actually worked was that I had finally seen the benefits that this kind of practice would bring. I was focusing instead on what I was keeping, while before I was more focused on what items I was throwing away. I had finally learned to void myself of the emotional attachment to my clothes. They’re just pieces of fabric and string after all.
Let me tell you, I got rid of SO MUCH stuff.
I’m talking SO MUCH stuff that I think my mom started to get a little worried that I wouldn’t have any clothes left over. I sorted my things into a keep pile, one to donate and one for clothes that were in such disarray, no one could use them anymore. Then I repeated the same process, going through each item one by one. If I wasn’t intent and excited to keep a certain item, into the donate pile it went.
By the end of the afternoon, the donation pile outsized the keep pile, which made me feel good inside.
Having an excess of clothes that I never wore or hadn’t worn in months just didn’t feel right to me. Not as if I was wasting them, but it felt like I wasn’t fully appreciating what I owned. That didn’t sight right.
Most of the clothes in my closet I never wore anyways and there were even items I had brought to school that were never worn all year. I guess, up until then I hadn’t really noticed what I was using and what I was neglecting. I would save clothes for the ‘just-in-case’ incident. Learning to let go of things in that regard was difficult, realizing that ‘just-in-case’ was often cover for ‘never’.
By controlling the clothes I owned and the clothes I wore, I could show some sense over the whole process, which gave me the comforting feeling of being in control of my own decisions. I knew that the changes stemming from this situation would extend further, to birthdays, Christmas and BOGO sales at the mall, but I was confident to keep my standing. Afterall, getting rid of all that extra clutter of clothes somehow made me feel good inside.
There were clothes from past relationships, items I had been gifted and pieces of clothing that I had associated with emotional value. I was stuck in the methodology of thinking that the items themselves owned the emotional value. Nope. That was a challenging thing to break out of for sure. But it’s the memories we have that provide the emotional value.
My goal was never to restrict the clothing I wore. I think that the mindset of restriction is already the wrong approach to be in if you’re looking to adopt a simpler wardrobe. Restricting or depriving yourself of wearing certain things merely so you can fit into an aesthetic often doesn’t work. It looks forced, unnatural. Not for me. I decided to fabricate my own look, my own aesthetic that I wanted to adhere to. I also didn’t want to break the bank and as a college student, I was already as broke as anyone could imagine.
Adopting my wardrobe and aesthetic as a lifestyle choice rather than a mundane necessity allowed me to properly justify decisions I made when picking out clothes. For most of the following summer I had the pleasure of wearing a uniform for work, so I had ample time to determine what clothes were truly meaningful to me. I made a list and wrote down things that reminded me of the clothes I was keeping and from there, I was able to curate a look and a wardrobe that I could control and feel good about.
I had finally been able to think intentionally about what I owned, and I felt like I could finally wear what I wanted to because it made me happy. No longer did I feel like I was wearing certain outfits merely to satisfy anyone or to reassure someone that their idea of a cool T-shirt they got me really was cool.
The important thing to remember is that I didn’t pick a simple wardrobe to fit into a ‘minimalist’ stereotype of always wearing black or wearing black jeans and a gray shirt. Quite the opposite. I didn’t want to fit a stereotype, I wanted to create my own archetype, something that I was completely in control of. I was doing it for myself and that’s the most important part.