Like many people, I have way too many clothes that I never wear. After taking stock of my home when I began going zero waste, the closet was the most crowded place in my apartment. I suffer from “just in case” syndrome, and it makes me keep random stuff I know I will probably never need. Homecoming dress from sophomore year of high school that doesn’t fit? Well I might need it if I miraculously shrink 2 feet and have to wear a bright red dress!
As I have said many times before, eco-living is a mixture of different lifestyles and practices intertwined. My personal mixture is veganism, zero waste, and minimalism. The latter was the not so hard for me to incorporate into my life, because minimal thinking closely relates to zero waste principles. And so, I set out to clear my life, and apartment, of the unnecessary stuff. The closet seemed like an easy place to start, so I challenged myself to try 1 month with a minimalist wardrobe.
What was the challenge?
For this month, I did not follow any particular challenge, even though I know they are out there. My goal was simply to go past my comfort zone and “just in case” attitude to rid myself of some clutter, and, honestly, some of the day to day anxiety concerning my wardrobe. Ask any person that has seen me try and plan an outfit. I change my mind a million times, trying to think of all the scenarios possible. Is it casual or semi-formal event? Will it be cold later? What is everyone else probably going to wear? Which shoes would match this outfit? I get overwhelmed just thinking about trying to pick out an outfit!
Solution: Get rid of the plethora of options. If I take 30 T-shirts that could be matched with 10 pairs of shorts and take it down to 10 shirts and 5 pairs of shorts, I’ve already reduced my options and therefore my anxiety about choosing a combination.I just have to make it work with what I have. I realize now how superfluous this sounds as I type it out, but it has been an ongoing issue in my life. It has given me way too much anxiety and way too many clothes.
Initial clear out
First, I took out all the clothes I kept for sentimental reasons. Like the ironed-on decal shirt I made with my best-friend in high school. I knew it would never be worn again, and I have the pictures of us wearing them together, so why should it sit here, take up space, and collect dust in my closet? If it was not something I wore regularly and only held it because I felt guilty giving it up, I took it out.
Next went the “just in case” items. If the only reason a piece of clothing was sitting in my closet was because there was one situation where it would be worn, I took it out. Most likely, the situation would never come or I had a suitable alternative I could use for the occasion. Some clothes I didn’t even have an occasion or scenario in mind, but yet there it was. Not anymore!
Finally, I packed up the things that didn’t fit right or that I didn’t feel comfortable in. There went the bright red dress! I realized I only kept these in the hope that one day they would miraculously work with a certain outfit. But, if they weren’t comfortable now, why would they be in the future?
A week later…
After the first clear out, I felt like I had gotten rid of a lot of stuff. But when the initial shock wore off, I gave my closet another once over. There were some items I had kept because they were trendy, and I had worn a couple of times for going out. But after thinking about it, they weren’t really my style. I figured I had other items I could wear that would work just as well and match better with my wardrobe. I also realized I had kept some clothes because I had asked myself “What if … ?” which is really a “just in case” scenario in disguise. So, those got tossed in the tub as well.
In the end, I had one tub and one basket full of clothes that I didn’t miss at all. If they weren’t in my closet, I didn’t think about them or worry about having to add it to my list of outfit choices for the day. I didn’t find myself once think that I could have worn something I had packed away. This month made me realize that I am okay working with the clothes I have, no matter what they are. And the narrowing down of options actually reduced my stress instead of increasing it. I still had a good amount of clothes, so it wasn’t exactly “minimal” but it was still downsized quite a bit.
The biggest hurdle for me was being okay with the idea of not having the exact item I thought I needed. I had to remind myself, no one else will care about what you are wearing as long as you are wearing something. The fact is, they are just clothes!
Sometimes you have to really look at each piece individually to see how silly you are for keeping it. Take that homecoming dress for example. It sat in the “formal dress” section since I wore it that one time and I glanced over that section during every closet clean out. My reasoning? If I ever need a formal dress, I will have options. But, when I finally went through this long-lost part of my closet for this challenge, I realized it probably hasn’t fit me for years! After going through my clothes to donate, I picked out a few to keep that I knew would work with many items I had kept and that fit me very well. I also got rid of some more pieces I hadn’t worn all month and wouldn’t miss. Overall, I think this challenge was a success and gave me a new perspective about what I think I “need” in life.
Have you tried a minimal wardrobe challenge? How did it go, and what did you learn?