While on Christmas break, I really took a break. I spent my days catching up on TV and sleeping late. I watched the entire “Insecure” series in two days, caught up on “How to Get Away with Murder”, and even fit in a few movies. There was one movie in particular that really affected me long after it was done. This movie was previously recommended to me by my brother, so when I scrolled through the Netflix titles it stood out. The movie is called Minimalism. It is a documentary examining the minimalist lifestyle from the perspective of individuals striving to live meaningful lives with less.
Minimalism is based on the principle that more stuff (clothes, cars, bigger homes, lavish furnishings etc.) will never bring happiness. It connects to the idea that happiness comes from within and that material possessions are just things. In the film, Minimalism, Joshua Fields Milburn and Ryan Nicodemas minimize their possessions to only what adds value to their lives and brings them joy. They showed their small living spaces with just the essentials, how they traveled across the country spreading the message of minimalism with only a light bag with two outfits to last them months. These men were true minimalist in a way that was a bit too extreme for me. Yet, there was something that resonated as a desire within myself.
I wanted to experience living more, rather than owning more. I loved the concept of getting rid of the things that weren’t essential to make room for the things that were. I wanted more time, joy, contentment, and freedom. While I knew this would be a gradual shift for me, the film definitely ignited a desire for a more meaningful life. One that would allow me to live on my terms. I imagined a life where I could work less because I was consuming less, a life where I used money for more experiences than I did for material items that would clutter my space. It was truly inspiring and led me to learn more about the minimalist movement.
While the story of the two minimalist Josh and Ryan was powerful, I wasn’t going to immediately put my house up for sale, sell all of my possessions, and go live in a tiny bare apartment to show my commitment. That’s just too much. However, what did seem possible was living with less clothes. The film included a five-minute segment on Courtney Carver of the Project 333 challenge. The 333 challenge was an experiment Courtney tried back in 2010. She challenged herself to dress using only thirty-three items for three months. Now what was really shocking was that these 33 items included footwear and accessories! Ummm a girl needs options when it comes to shoes. In the documentary, Courtney talks about extending the challenge beyond the three months and all that she gained from it. She describes the ease of getting dressed in the morning, the space within her closet, and the feelings provoked by this concept of “being more with less”, which is also the name of her blog.
Simplify Your Wardrobe
I was inspired by all the stories shared and believed starting with the project 333 challenge would be the perfect start towards a minimalist lifestyle. I was ready to take this challenge on and identify those items that would make up my wardrobe for the entire year (because of course I couldn’t be normal and just think about the next three months as the project suggests…always an over achiever).
Now I know this isn’t for everyone, but I like to take big steps towards something if I believe it will bring peace of mind or happiness. The idea that I could live with less and create space both mental and physical made my heart leap. As someone who is happy to make the annual donation to Good Will, I eagerly got my large trash bags ready.
I was really trying to pair my closet down to only 132 pieces (that’s four seasons or four three-month intervals for the year). It sounded totally doable until I entered my large walk in closet and counted over 150 hangers, jam-packed closet organizers and shelves housing footwear, and a six drawer dresser measuring five feet long housing all of my jeans and essential wardrobe items I hadn’t bothered to count. And you can forget about including the handbags and accessories. What was I thinking? How was I ever going to scale down to only 132 pieces?
Looking back, it probably would have been easier if I focused on 33 items that I knew would be essentials for the upcoming three months, rather than planning for the year at once. But hey, hind sight is twenty-twenty. Nevertheless, I did get started with clearing the junk that was taking up precious closet space and this allowed me to make progress towards eventually having an annual wardrobe of just the necessities.
By going through this process I learned a few tricks to help you move towards creating a more minimal wardrobe.
Tips to get you through the closet decluttering process:
- Get your trash bag/donation box ready and start filling them: Start with the pieces you know don’t fit, colors or styles that you no longer like, or those you haven’t worn in a year. Chances are you know those pieces without even stepping into the closet. And if you haven’t worn it in a year, you likely won’t be wearing it again. So go on and let someone else enjoy it.
- If you are undecided about a piece of clothing ask the following: Would I buy this today? When am I going to use it? Does this bring me joy? It is okay to keep a few sentimental pieces, but limit yourself on how many. Throw out those painting/yard work outfits: How often are you doing dirty jobs? You only need one of these outfits.
- Organize your space: Find an organization method that is functional and beautiful so that you’ll want to keep your closet organized. Checkout the KonMari method for a complete guide to declutting and detailed organizing tips. Home girl tells you how to fold everything. Even your bras!
- Limit the number of hangers: This is hard, but if you limit how many hangers you have in the closet and don’t allow yourself to add, you’ll be forced to make some hard cuts. A great tip is to invest in the really pretty hangers so you won’t be tempted to add those plastic or wire hangers you have lying around, as they would ruin the look of your newly decluttered closet. It isn’t very minimalist of you to get new hangers, but do what you need to to make the space beautiful.
Before decluttering I often felt like I had nothing to wear and found getting dressed in the morning time-consuming. Since pairing down to the items that I enjoy wearing, I find myself making different combinations and take pride in setting up different outfits for the week.
After having done all this work and making some progress towards a simplified space, wardrobe, and overall life, I really want to keep making progress towards minimalism. While I don’t believe I’ll ever be like Josh and Ryan, I do want to make getting dressed in the morning just a little easier, I want to only own articles of clothing that I love and look great in. Most importantly, I want to continue to pursue a life of being more with less, so I adopted new rules to live by.
New Rules to Live By:
- If it will bring someone else more joy than it brings me, why not be a giver. I always feel great when I can donate items, whether to an organization or to an individual. During the purging process, a friend randomly texted asking where I purchased two particular pairs of shoes that I had worn maybe once in the two years…. and bought over eight years ago. The shoes were in great condition (because I never wore them). I asked her shoe size and if she wanted them. It felt great to hand them over and know that they would be enjoyed and put to good use.
- Follow the one in, one out rule: I’ve even heard it as “the one in, two out” rule. If you are bringing a new article into the magnificent closet then you must say goodbye to another. This ensures I keep the same number of pieces and don’t go back to cluttering my space. It also makes me consider if that new piece is really worth buying, because I’ll have to say goodbye to something else.
Packing up huge bags full of clothes, shoes, and accessories to donate felt great. But what was I really trying to gain by doing all of this? Well, I was trying to gain control of something; Not just the chaos in my closet, but that of my life. I wanted to not have to think so hard about a simple tasks like getting dressed in the morning. Getting rid of clutter and creating more physical space allows room for mental space. With mental space comes clarity and peace. Who couldn’t use a little more peace in their life? So I will keep aiming towards a minimal life and continue working through this, one article of clothing at time.
Moving Forward: Is there an area that needs minimizing or simplifying in your life? What is taking up precious mental space or peace of mind? Can this be physically removed like extra pieces of clothing or junk? There is no time like the present.
Please share comments on what areas you are trying to minimize or declutter.
Want to know more about the individuals I mention in this post? Check out their websites at:
Josh and Ryan of The Minimalist at http://www.theminimalists.com/
Courtney Carver of Project 333 at https://bemorewithless.com/
Marie Kondo author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up can be found at https://konmari.com/