Since I’ve received a couple of questions recently on the Minimal Closet series, I’m devoting this post to answering/addressing those. Prepare for randomness!!
If you ever have any questions, or want me to try and address something specifically, please do leave a comment, or email me directly if you prefer. While I absolutely don’t consider myself an “expert” at this, I’m happy to give my opinion, and in most cases, I’ve gone through things myself, so I can share my experiences. But please don’t take these as instructions, or rules for what you “should” do. Adapt my suggestions and advice to your life and situation. Then, let me know how it goes!
Two “size” issues here. First, the size of your wardrobe. Actually, I really don’t think number of clothing items, or the “size” of your overall wardrobe is that important. I want mine to be small, but minimal is relative, it’s not a number; minimalism is an idea that you can live with LESS. And less to you is completely different than less to me.
minimalism is an idea that you can live with LESS.
I’m never going to tell you how to create a capsule wardrobe of 30 items, or try to get you to live with only 10 items of clothing for two weeks (I tried that, and couldn’t do it). What I have done, and what I try to encourage you to do, is get your closet to a size you can manage, full of things that make you smile and enrich your life. If that’s 50 things, great! If it’s 150 things, also great! What’s important now, is that the things you keep and the things you choose to buy from now are things that MATTER to you.
Now, the other size. Your body size. I mentioned when I wrote “how to purge,” that I finally got rid of a few pairs of size 32 jeans that I’d had for nearly ten years. When I bought them they fit (but only for a short period of time), then I kept them because I always wanted to fit back into them, and finally recently, I had to get rid of them because they’re too big. I could have gotten rid of them five years ago and not had them taking up my space and attention for so long. So why didn’t I?
They were my “skinny” jeans. You know, the ones you keep around to motivate you to lose weight? Bullshit. That never worked. I never looked longingly at jeans I used to fit into and thought “I should go for a run and get better about eating less!” I thought, “shit, I spent a lot of money on these and now I can’t wear them anymore. I loved these jeans. I’m so weak for gaining weight and not being able to control myself with food. I want some jelly beans.”
I never looked longingly at jeans I used to fit into and thought “I should go for a run and get better about eating less!” I thought, “shit, I spent a lot of money on these and now I can’t wear them anymore. I loved these jeans. I’m so weak for gaining weight and not being able to control myself with food. I want some jelly beans.”
I could be an unusual case, but nothing EVER motivated me to lose weight until recently. I lost weight (queen of yo-yo dieting? that’s me!), definitely, but I never managed to keep it off until last year. Things just had to click for me, and keeping my “skinny” jeans around didn’t factor into that at all.
For that reason, I could never encourage you to keep anything around that doesn’t fit your body RIGHT NOW. That also goes for things that are too big (if you have things you love and that can be tailored to fit you now, then definitely do it!). If your weight fluctuates during the month and you need a couple of sizes, that’s different, but don’t keep your size 32, or 34 or 28 jeans around to remind yourself that “you’re not that person anymore” or to “shame” yourself into not ever getting that “big” again. You ARE that person, but you are not that BODY. You are YOU and you are beautiful, no matter what your body looks like. Honor your soul and the body that houses it by dressing it in clothes that fit now.
You ARE that person, but you are not that BODY. You are YOU and you are beautiful, no matter what your body looks like. Honor your soul and the body that houses it by dressing it in clothes that fit now.
If you’re in the process of losing or gaining weight, you’ll obviously need to buy new clothes or tailor the items you have. As I was losing weight, and after I lost weight (I lost about 40 pounds early last year) I bought WAY MORE THAN I NEEDED, which is one factor that led me to purge my closet and get it down to a more manageable size. I was so excited to just be able to FIT into the clothes I wanted to that I bought WHATEVER I tried on that fit (which was a lot), whether I needed or even wanted it. It fits, yay! Here’s my debit card, yay!
Looking back, if I were to have to replenish my wardrobe after a weight change now, I would figure out some extravagant budget for myself, save up, and just SHOP like hell one day to get all the emotional shopping out of my system. From that point on, I’d try to construct a wardrobe for myself (because you’re basically re-building it) full of things I love and that fit my new body well, choosing quality pieces while not going overboard.
Overall, if you’re buying the highest quality you can afford, even as you’re losing weight, you should be able to tailor certain pieces like jackets and trousers within a size or two. Even jeans – sometimes the only thing that really needs to be taken in is the waist, depending on where you lose weight and how your body shape changes.
This sort of follows the same rules as losing/gaining weight, but as I mentioned in one of my earlier Minimal Closet posts, you probably shouldn’t plan a big closet purge if you THINK you’re going to be transitioning careers, are trying to get pregnant, or whatever in the near future. If you do want to make your wardrobe smaller, but aren’t sure what will happen in the next few months, just put everything you’re inclined to get rid of into boxes and put them somewhere out of the way for a while.
If you already have a minimal closet and you’re transitioning from a casual or creative field into a more conservative field, where you’ll need to wear suits, or at least separates (blazer & trousers), and will have to purchase more work-appropriate clothing, I would just recommend that you be very deliberate about what you choose to add to your wardrobe. Think about mixing and matching trousers & blazers for maximum effect, adding interest with different blouses, shoes & accessories.
Dressing for the office is absolutely not my forte, so I’d defer to other blogs for that (maybe Corporette or Wardrobe Oxygen?), but in a way, I do have separate wardrobes, even though I don’t go out of my house to an office. I don’t normally wear jeans or skirts while I’m working at my desk, or if I’m going to be home most of the day; I will change into “street” clothes when I go out. You could treat your transition to a more corporate office that way: creating a capsule wardrobe for work that doesn’t intersect with your existing wardrobe.
When I was in graduate school studying economics (yes, I did that), one of my professors favorite things to say was “sunk costs are always sunk.” Out of all the things…I remembered that one vividly and still think about it all the time today. The idea is that once you’ve spent the money, time – whatever it costs you to receive a good or service – you can never get it back. Technically, you can get your money back if you return something to a store, but you can’t get your time back, or all the thought that went into buying it, and you certainly can’t get back all the hidden costs of buying something you didn’t end up using or needing in the first place.
I’ve said this, and I’ve heard you say it, that it’s depressing looking at all the stuff we’re getting rid of, thinking of all the money we wasted and could have used on something else. But that’s a waste of time. It’s always a waste of time to look back (I have a shirt that says “do not look back, you’re not going in that direction”), unless you do it quickly and with the mindset that your goal is to figure out what you can do better NEXT time to avoid the same situation. Learn from your “mistakes” and move on.
Easier said than done, yes, but necessary. Sunk costs are always sunk. You can never get back the money, time, or angst all of those clothes cost you. You might be able to sell some of them and get a little money out, but it will pale in comparison to what you put in.
As you’re purging your closet and deciding what to get rid of, do NOT think about how much you paid for something and decide to keep it based on that factor alone.
Still. Sunk costs. As you’re purging your closet and deciding what to get rid of, do NOT think about how much you paid for something and decide to keep it based on that factor alone. It does NOT MATTER how much you paid for something if it doesn’t work with your wardrobe and in YOUR LIFE AS IT IS RIGHT NOW. Accept that you’ll never get that money back, make a note of the items you’re getting rid of and vow not to re-purchase similar ones.
Have you dealt with any of these issues while trying to keep a Minimal Closet? How have you handled it?
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Great post. On the size of clothes point:
I do keep clothes that do not fit because I have a daughter and she my like my “vintage” clothes. If she does not, does not size like me, then it will go as soon as she is a teen. I always wanted to wear my mom’s clothes but she fled a war zone and left everything behind.
I do think sunk cost is important to take into account. Letting go regardless of what it costs is hard. I tell myself that someone will be super happy to find a nice shirt via a charity so there is maybe good karma ahead:)
Grechen Reiter says
excellent points, both, Mona. Thank you!
A helpful and timely post for me–Thanks, Gretchen!
“‘…I spent a lot of money on these and now I can’t wear them anymore. I loved these jeans. I’m so weak for gaining weight and not being able to control myself with food. I want some jelly beans.’”
That is exactly what happens, Grechen!
The rest of this post is ringing with truth, too. It’s like you’ve read my mind again.
Grechen Reiter says
right? i don’t know who came up with the idea that you should keep your “skinny” jeans around to motivate you. maybe it does work for some people, but it never did for me…
Great post! I do find it quite depressing to think about all the money I spent on things I dont’t ever wear. I read something once on a minimalist blog about only feeling guilty once. Don’t let those items stay put in your home, making you feel guilty everytime you look at it. Just get rid of it, feel guilty once and move on! (and as you said, make a mental note of not buying similar stuff again…)
I kept mine, but I kept them in storage.
I knew I would fit them again someday, but having them stare me in the face daily would hardly have been encouraging. Being able to shop my closet (or rather, “skinny clothes” storage box) when I dropped the weight helped prevent me from wanting to shop the mall and buy everything that made me look/feel good (which is everything, when you’re on a self-esteem high).
Awesome post, I can really learn a lot here :).
Would you be willing to talk about how you lost the weight? Thanks,
Grechen Reiter says
good point, thank you! i love that: “feel guilty once” and move on. i have a tendency to feel guilty for much longer…but then again, i also like to punish myself. or, i used to, i have really tried to move beyond that lately 🙂
I go to extremes with wardrobe purging. I’ve gotten rid if half of my wardrobe at a time and many times gave away impulse buys within a week of buying something new. I’ve also tallied the amount of money that went down the drain and beaten myself about it but it doesn’t seem to enlighten me to make better purchases that I will keep.
My current wardrobe is around 110 items including shoes and bags. I have about 20 items that I can’t bare to part with because of the amount of money I’ve spent on them and the little to no return I would get back from selling them. My Jerome Dreyfuss twee bag that I’ve NEVER use, chloe Susanna boots that I hardly wear, Band of Outsiders leopard coat that I’ve worn like 3 times since I bought it 2 years ago….the list goes on.
The only thing that is keeping me from shopping now is moving to the country! I no longer care to own anything that is fashionable, only comfortable practical clothing and shoes. I’ve never been a bag person and now I only need 2. A small purse or clutch is totally useless to me. Yet I still hang on to the more fashionable items just because I spent so much money on them. If I am able to get half of the money back, I would sell them at an heartbeat.
That really points to the “emotional cost” of purging garments, Mona. I have pieces that I’m attached to because of the memories I have of wearing them.
It’s NEVER worked for me, either! I’m much more of the “beat myself up over my weakness” variety.
Grechen, you made so many brilliant points in here, that I don’t know where to start. And not only smart, common sense, attainable advice, but “touch my heart” points!
The part where you said, “What I have done, and what I try to encourage you to do, is get your closet to a size you can manage, full of things that make you smile and enrich your life,” made me shout, “YES! That’s exactly what I want for my life!” And in ALL areas, not just my closet.
And the other thing that made me smile, and, I SWEAR, my new motto ( I’ve shared this with my hubby and my girls) is:”Do not look back, you’re not going in that direction.” So concise. So TRUE! Forward with the purge! (Wait! Isn’t that the name of some creepy post-apocalyptic movie out now?!?)
Grechen Reiter says
what? “forward with the purge?” – that would be a scary movie!!! 😉
i love that saying about “don’t look back” – it’s so true, but i’ve spent most of my life looking back. regrets, worrying, remembering…and it’s done me absolutely no good at all….