Minimalism can be overwhelming. If you’re like me, anyway. Read, read, read, research, learn…then do. I did that. I ALWAYS do that. But in this case, I decided to put down the capsule wardrobe, and just start working on getting rid of the things I did not need.
If you read some/most/all of the minimalist fashion blogs, they suggest capsule wardrobes of a certain amount of items each season, around a theme, or color palette. I thought about that. What a nice idea! But it wasn’t working for me. I’ve always bought things that all “go” together, and in certain colors (black, white or grey) with some olive/military green, and one or two accents here and there, so I didn’t need to organize my closet around a color palette; it was already there.
I’ve also tried challenges off and on, 10 items for 2 weeks, 30 items for 30 days, and I thought about doing 30 items for 3 months, but all that does, in my opinion, is get you to compartmentalize your wardrobe, which may be useful for some, but it’s not what I want to do. I WANT to have all my clothing in one closet, all together, so I can see what I have all year. I’m “lucky” in that I live in a fairly moderate climate most of the time (I don’t need more than one coat) and my life is ultra-casual (I don’t need “work” clothes). And what I’ve found is that when I do separate my closet and put away winter things, I forget what I have and/or don’t appreciate them as much. Also, I don’t WEAR the things I put away as much, because out of sight, out of mind.
So, I started my purge with that in mind: that I wanted everything to fit in one closet, and I want to see everything I own, all year. I moved the heavier cardigans and long sleeves towards the back with the jackets, and tanks/t-shirts towards the front.
I should have done this methodically. I wish I’d counted the number of items I had before my “big closet purge” and could compare it with what’s left, but I didn’t. All I know, is I have a LOT LESS than I used to, probably one third. And now everything is in one closet (or half of said closet, because I share it with my husband) where before it was spread out in another closet and in boxes.
All that remains is 100 items of clothing:
15 Dresses (9 black ones)
13 Pants/skirts/leggings (9 black)
6 Pairs of jeans
22 Short sleeve-t-shirts/tank tops (9 black & 9 white)
19 Long sleeve tops (6 black and 6 grey)
15 Sweatshirts, cardigans and jackets (7 grey)
10 Cashmere sweaters & cardigans (mostly grey)
I did NOT count my exercise clothes, or “home” clothes in this list. And I’ve obviously not included shoes or bags. I’ll talk about those another time.
I’m pretty happy with this number, actually. It seems “right” more or less, and something I can stick to or under (not that I was trying to aim to have a particular number of clothing items left, however). Although I have to say that as I was counting and writing the list of everything I have left, I was tempted to get rid of even more. But I’ve decided to stop purging for now, and just live for a while with what I have.
For example, I have four black short-sleeve t-shirts: one v-neck, one scoop neck, one cap-sleeve, and one crew neck (all James Perse). I don’t wear black t-shirts very often, but I’d like to go through another fall/winter and see what I grab to layer with, if anything. Whatever I don’t wear, I’ll purge.
There are also a few things in here that I’d love to replace when I can. I’m trying to find a more comfortable button-down shirt dress (uh…this one will do) to replace the chambray one from H&M I have now. When I do, I’ll donate the H&M one. Also, I’d like to replace my asymmetrical HELMUT zip/sweatshirt jacket this fall with a black blazer, so I’ll sell that when I find one I like.
My ultimate goal for this process is to get down even more to JUST what I need. Honestly, for my lifestyle, I don’t need much…to do that, though, I’ll have to be much more methodical, carefully paying attention to what I REALLY wear and what I don’t. As it is now, I THINK I don’t wear something very often, but maybe I do, and just don’t realize it. If in a year, for example, I don’t wear the black v-neck short sleeve t-shirt ONCE, then it’s time to get rid of it.
So, as you can see, this is just the beginning of my journey, but one that I’m very excited about continuing. I feel more free, lighter, already, although I do still struggle with balancing my “job” – shopping, essentially, and then talking about it – with buying less (can I just tell you how HARD it was to close out of the James Perse sale on Hautelook yesterday?? it was FULL of amazing pieces). That will take some time to figure out, especially when James Perse comes out with exclusive Birkenstocks. I mean…how can I resist those?
Kidding aside, I know I have a lot to work on still, but I’ve made a good start.
Who else is trying to get rid of STUFF? Why? What is your process so far?
(Stay tuned next week for The Minimal Closet : Am I A Shopaholic?) *cue dramatic soap opera music*
I actually just started this process. Although my wardrobe is pretty tiny (less than a 75 pieces), my clothes no longer fit my lifestyle. I’m trying to simplify, but those capsule wardrobes don’t work for me either. Your site has been extremely helpful in finding quality, versatile pieces that work well for my lifestyle. I’m excited to go along with you on your journey!
Lindsay´s last blog post ..What is Minimalist Dressing?
It’s great that you are finding your own way amid the very large crowd of people who want a very small wardrobe. That seems to be the key after all. What you need plus a few little luxuries, whatever those may be, to make you smile. Whether that’s a wardrobe of 10 or 100 pieces.
Your comment on shopaholics made me wince a little. Last week, I read Debbie Roe’s blog and yours back to back and remarked that some of the emotions expressed in her column were much like yours that day. In retrospect, it may have seemed like a judgmental comment, and I really didn’t mean it that way. I’m sorry. I enjoy your blog very much and never want to discourage you on your journey!
Grechen Reiter says
oh! i can’t wait to do this together!! although i’m jealous you’re starting with less than me 😉
and i love the question you brought up on your blog today: what is minimalist dressing? i have a whole other essay written about that, but for ME, minimalism is both in STYLE & in quantity of things. I like sparse and simple. and sometimes i feel a bit betrayed by ‘minimalist’ fashion blogs where it’s only style, and not quantity. you cannot tell me that 10 of nearly the same exact striped shirt is minimalist in any sense of the word. (sorry val!) but i’ve seen that there are lots of interpretations…
Grechen Reiter says
oh no! i didn’t see it as judgmental at all! i’ve been struggling with this for a while, trying to determine if i really am a shopaholic. of course, i am. but i have been in denial for quite some time. the excuse that “it could be so much worse” isn’t valid, but that’s what i’ve used for so long. i could have 5 times as many clothes or twice as many shoes. i could spend $100 at forever21 every month and then again the next because it all fell apart…of course it could be worse, but not for ME.
i pretty much hit the bottom earlier this year after moving and losing my best friend (my beloved ozzie) and i shopped a lot to make up for that. and i acknowledge that i shop for emotional fulfillment, or HAVE shopped for emotional fulfillment i should say. i’m trying not to do that as much now, but i know i will still do it…
so basically yes, i am a shopaholic, although technically, it is my job 😉 – but it’s been a hard thing to admit…
I totally know what you mean! I think it’s a mixture, but it is so ambiguous. There’s a lot of room for interpretation, which I can appreciate. I’m not the best with rigid rules. 🙂
Hello.. Just found your blog 🙂 I adore your style, very similar to mine. I adopted a minimal wardrobe about 4 years ago, as a former shopaholic this was HARD. Once i purged i found a reason to go shopping 🙁 i swung back and forth but i’m in a good place right now with 30 odd items but that could change! I read something the other day about the french stopping shopping once they had purchased the coveted item, no window (or internet shoppping) good advice i thought.
if this wardrobe feels good then go with it. There is no perfect wardrobe or number or anything. It’s a myth.
I am soaking all this in. I, too, am a shopaholic of sorts but feel most alive in an uncluttered environment. I love beauty and quality …and simplicity. My closet is the hardest part of this journey for me. My mouth dropped open at how much you’ve been able to shed, Grechen. It is incredible! I am trying to accept that I am not at the point where I can minimize to the extent that I would like. I am trying to think in terms of what is going to work for my lifestyle and career needs. I am originally from Canada, and definitely have a distinct seasonal wardrobes. I get excited every year to swap out my summer pieces for Fall, etc. I am sure that I can find a way to work within this kind of fun (for me) seasonal framework to minimize. I don’t want to feel like I am spending all my spare time managing my clothes in one way or another. Your journey is really inspiring, and thank you for sharing it online. I am excited to start thinking through all this intentionally and finding ways to improve. Grief does strange things, and what I once needed for comfort now feels like it is overtaking me a bit. I am aiming for a sense of self-control and balance. I may take me a while. 🙁
Grechen Reiter says
i’ve been thinking and writing about this for a long time (have lots of posts drafted!!), but one thing i know for sure is that i would NOT have been able to do this in my 30’s, or even a year ago. hell, even 6 months ago i wasn’t ready for this. but i am now. it’s like weight loss has been for me, it just had to click, and i had to make up my mind that i was ready to do the work to get where i wanted to be. you just have to be ready. so take your time. it’ll be worth it in the end. (if there ever really IS an end…)
if i still lived in atlanta we could be on-our-way-to-minimalism buddies! we seem to have a lot in common 🙂
at least we can try to meet up when i come back sometime, although visits always turn busy at the last moment!!
Grechen Reiter says
thanks for your comment sharron! and you’re so right, there is NO SUCH THING as “perfect”. but that is something i fought against mightily, and probably still do to some extent. i wanted to find the ONE pair of jeans i could wear forever, or the ONE white t-shirt. but why? granted, i probably don’t need 25 white t-shirts, but a few is okay, especially if they get worn.
i’d love to get down to many fewer pieces, and i’m sure i will over time, but i don’t want to take it TOO fast, else i burn out!!
I know! I’ll keep tabs on your travels in case you make it back up here while I am still here. I look forward to your minimalism posts and will think of them as a kind of accountability for my own baby-step progress.
After the second kid, I gave up on some items too small of course and also to simplify. I had many dress shirts and suits that were too tight or simply felt too rigit to run from work to daycare and monkey around with my little ones. I am keeping some select items in storage as vintage for my girl but most of it has been given to friends and donation. I feel there is more too go with shoes and skirts, perhaps my coats (New England) but I have not gone there yet systematically. Everything fits in 1.5 closets: one clothes, one coat.
In the laundry room closet, have some gentle stock piling (example: double my favorite sweater, an extra J Crew pair of jeans….) and this may be a mistake: time will tell.
I’ve had the same thoughts about some of the other wardrobe challenges. I guess Project 33 is really aimed at people who feel overwhelmed with a large wardrobe and need convincing that they can get by with a lot less. And maybe I am cynical, but I think some blogs do a tight color palette because it looks good on the screen. As much as I love to look at Vivienne Files’ two-color travel capsules, when I think it through, it doesn’t make sense to me to go on vacation and wear the same two colors the whole time… you will look like you’re wearing the same thing to travel companions and in pictures, so why not just bring one navy shirt instead of three?
On shopoholism – The Nife en l’Air recently had a really insightful post analyzing why she failed her shopping fast (http://the-nife.blogspot.com/2014/07/willpower-and-epic-fail.html). The key lesson, for me, was that if I want to dial back the purchases I need to stop window shopping so much, especially online. It seems kind of obvious, but I have a problem with browsing J. Crew’s sale section for no reason to decompress during a stressful work day, for instance. I can’t expect myself not to make unnecessary purchases if I’m constantly exposing myself to those things.
From that post: “Another point worth noting is this one: when I decided to browse the other sections of the Ecocentric website, I knew the probability of finding something I liked was high, so I knew I might want something. I simply thought I would resist. I am doing a shopping fast, I won’t buy anything. In other words, I underestimated the power of temptation, or, if you prefer, I overestimated my capacity to resist it. “I’m just looking”. Right.”
Grechen Reiter says
it may be a mistake, or maybe not…you’ll have to figure that out. the key point is that you are aware of what you’re doing, not just shopping “unconsciously” or to fill an emotional need – in my opinion, anyway. this is the most important step, so you’re on your way 🙂
Jessica @ Beautify My Life says
You would die if you saw my closet and how much is in there that I never wear. I think part of my problem (#humblebrag) is that I have a HUGE closet — actually part of our garage attic that was finished — that just demands to be filled. I did a big (for me) purge recently and brought a bunch of stuff to a consignment shop and GreenDrop, but I have a long way to go. I don’t think I’ll ever be a minimalist, but you’re definitely continuing to inspire me to do more with less. Keep up the good work!
Jessica @ Beautify My Life´s last blog post ..My early Fall 2014 wish list
Grechen Reiter says
i am pretty cynical too, cara, about a lot of it…especially the more i read. although there is a lot of value out there also, i think the real key is adapting that to your own life and situation and using what you need to, discarding what you don’t. that said, i do think that some is for “show,” because minimalism is a “thing” right now. which i wasn’t aware of…until just recently.
as for shopaholism, i agree somewhat on avoiding temptation. i do better when i don’t browse, generally, but i can’t do that, because this is my job – but even more than that, i LOVE to shop, browse and look at fashion that’s available to buy. i haven’t always bought more than i needed though, that comes only during times of emotional upheaval and general unrest. but…over time, and in general, you cannot always avoid temptation, you have to learn how to deal with it. Which is why i don’t think shopping bans work (as evidenced by many many articles, and the nife one you referenced above).
it is also true that what you focus the most on will come back to you. if you are focused on NOT SHOPPING and keep telling yourself you need to NOT SHOP, the universe hears SHOP and brings it on. you will be faced with more temptation in a day than you had in a lifetime up until now, and that is more than anyone can handle. an alcoholic is not expected to avoid being around alcohol for the rest of his/her life, maybe just in the beginning; they need to learn how to effectively manage the times they will be around alcohol to get through it and move on. we shopaholics have to do the same thing, and it doesn’t come from avoiding shopping altogether. an impossible task if you ask me…
Grechen Reiter says
lol at your humblebrag 😉
i would love to have a giant closet!! if only to be able to see everything more clearly and organized.
there’s no reason for everyone to be a minimalist!! i certainly don’t think it’s for everyone – it wasn’t for me a few years ago, i can tell you that! i want to be a minimalist because i get overwhelmed with stuff, and i know i was buying clothes, etc., to make up for other things i didn’t have, so looking at the STUFF i bought brought back feelings of inadequacy, anxiety and depression all at once. no good at all…
OMG Grechen, your statement about what you focus on will come back to you just kind of hit me. Not that I don’t realize that part of my shopping and looking at fashion-related things is partially because of my lack of satisfaction in other areas of my life (like my career for instance) but I feel like I’m constantly surrounded by temptation and pretty things that I feel like I need to buy. I do spend too much time thinking about how I shouldn’t be shopping and then I want to kick myself for buying yet another thing I probably didn’t need to or not being about to last a month when I put myself on a ban.
The hard part is how to focus on other things so much that shopping becomes less important. I haven’t figured that out yet.
Grechen Reiter says
you’re telling me!!!
i don’t have any answers, obviously, but i think that bans are not the answer. as i’ve discovered with “dieting” – deprivation doesn’t ever work. long term anyway..and not usually like you want it to.
So I was looking at my Stylebook app and it tells me that I have about 234 articles of clothing in my closet and this number doesn’t even include coats, bags, shoes, jewelry and the handful of items that I never got around to taking a picture of and putting it in the app. I’m still trying to process how I feel about that but happy or proud definitely wouldn’t be the adjectives I’d use.
I don’t feel like I have an overwhelming amount of clothes considering they all fit into my closet and drawers but I know there are plenty of things that I don’t need to have taking up space. I really like having variety but at the same time I wish I could live/dress simplier. I don’t know why it’s so hard to find that balance to where it doesn’t have to be such a soul-searching endeavor. We are all a work in progress I suppose.
It’s so timely that you are doing this. Thank you. It will be a year in September since I stopped working. And I was just thinking that it’s time to clear out at least those items I never wore but thought I might:). I don’t own all that much, it certainly fits in my closets and drawers, but even so the stuff I don’t use is kind of a psychological dead weight. I don’t think it’s about an absolute number, but about having a vital wardrobe that gives more than it takes.
Lisa´s last blog post ..Reviewing A Classic, The Bottega Veneta “Veneta” Large Hobo In Blue
But they are different colors/stripe sizes/brands, Grechen!!! 😉
Seriously, though, I think you’re absolutely right about minimalism being quantity as well as style. I see my 54-yr old self as not quite having that part figured out yet. I think one of the reasons I didn’t comment on the day you posted this is that I don’t want to face up to my closet and my shopping habit. (Hoping that honesty will move me forward…)
I did look up consignment stores in my area today and I actually found one where I get to keep the money! Well, some of it, anyway. The shop takes 60% of what I sell. Does that sound right?!? The way I see it, I’m getting 0% wear and 0% return with it all just sitting there, so, what do I have to lose?
What I have to gain is peace of mind, a more authentic self that meshes with my ethical values, and a wardrobe that I KNOW!
I’m checking out Lindsay’s post on minimalism. Thanks for your continuing inspiration and encouragement, Grechen!????
Having a job as a shopping/clothing blogger when you have problems controlling it sounds parallel to a recovering alcoholic being a bartender. But it IS possible, with support and meetings, which I kind of feel like your daily posts are for me, Grechen. Not that they have to be, in any way, shape or form! You are free to write about whatever you want to, of course, but I think you’ve struck a nerve in many of us in discussing shopping in excess of one’s budget or need.
Sorry for my redundancy! I’ll read all next time before I post!
I love the comments on this post and the post itself.
Shopping is easy. Eating is easy. They are a passive way of entertaining myself.
I find myself often trying to figure out what I want to fill my time with. What do I want to focus on. What do I want to replace eating, shopping, and mindless internet surfing with? Most of the time I just come with a long lists of “shoulds”. Now that is motivating – not!
I hope that makes sense.
Thank you for all of the great input.
Grechen Reiter says
thank you so much for your comment! everything you say is so true, and i wish i had the answers!! i still turn to shopping and eating to find fulfillment, even though i know i shouldn’t – and i do it less than before, but still…i think the key is really identifying WHAT IT IS that you’re missing, what you’re trying to do when you’re eating, surfing the web, etc., what is it that you’re trying to avoid by doing that?
again, i’ve yet to figure that out, but i’m trying!!