There are many places to start when embarking on a minimalist living journey. But where to begin? I think the best place would be to focus on where you struggle the most. I find that if you tackle your biggest problem area in the beginning it makes all the rest that much easier. For me, it has always been my wardrobe.
I can’t even tell you how much money, space, and time I’ve wasted over the years on my personal appearance. Especially in regards to clothes. I have a bad habit of shopping when I’m bored or if I’ve recently seen a movie where an actress looks particularly chic. It also doesn’t help that anytime I’m using my social media accounts, tailor made ads for my shopping interests show up on my newsfeeds.
Even though it’s been three years since I made a commitment to living a simpler lifestyle, I still find myself being sucked into the consumerist merry-go-round. Recently, my husband and I sold our house so that we could pay off some of our student debt and also have a down payment for a slightly newer home (ours was from the early 50’s and proving to be a constant money pit). We were stunned when our house sold for full asking price in just four days. We were even more shocked when the buyer proved to be extremely motivated and requested that we be out of the house in just 30 days. Originally I thought, “No big deal. We’re minimalists! Moving will be easy since we don’t own much stuff.” Then we started packing and I realized I had gone off course from my simple living commitment.
There were so many boxes. Tons of boxes! Just full of stuff that I thought we used often, but then realized we didn’t. The hardest part was cleaning out my closet and realizing that I didn’t have a minimalist wardrobe like I had bragged about for the past few years. Sure I only wore the same staple items week to week, but I also managed to accumulate things that really had no place in my clothing space. For example, I had a very pretty lacey black dress that I originally held on to because, “what if someone gets married? Or I have a fancy birthday party to go to?” The truth? I owned the dress for six years and only wore it once.
The little black dress wasn’t the only thing I found. I had jackets, scarves, jewelry, and more than a couple of handbags, all of which I couldn’t remember the last time I really used or needed them. Since we had to be out of the house so quickly, I stuffed them all in boxes and paid a mover to move them. It was discouraging and honestly I felt defeated with a wounded pride. This whole time I thought I was doing so well. But I learned an important lesion: Out of sight doesn’t always mean out of mind. Having to pack up all of those clothes was frustrating and stressful. It took up space in our new tiny apartment and worse, I had to pay someone to move it!
Now we have found a new house and plan to move into it at the end of November. I’ve made a resolution to clean up the mess I accumulated, so that we don’t go through the stress and hassle of moving it all again. As I mentioned earlier, I believe focusing on the areas where we struggle most is the best place to start when trying to make positive changes. So for me, the first thing to tackle was my closet. If you find yourself in a similar situation, feel free to either copy or use the method I follow for decluttering as inspiration on your own journey.
Step 1 – Count every single item in your wardrobe (this includes jewelry, handbags, underwear, etc.) and write it down on a piece of paper. It may seem tedious, but for every pair of socks write out “socks.” Don’t just write “12 pairs of socks.” Do this for underwear, earrings, and so on. The reason you write it all out is so that you can visually see exactly how much you own. After doing this exercise, I discovered I was at 78!
Step 2 – Take that number and try to get it down as low as possible. There are no hard and fast rules on the number of items you should own to be considered minimalist. The idea is to own only pieces that you need or which have deep sentimental value, such as wedding rings or family heirlooms. Below is an image of what I’ve currently reduced my wardrobe down to. Feel free to use it as an example or modify as needed. If you feel like you still need more guidance with setting a goal, there are several resources out there. Just check the resources tab at the top on this blog for ideas on where to start.
Note: Obviously, the clothing you wear in the summer will be different than what you wear in winter. There are two things you can do about this: (1) Sell/donate clothes as they go out of season and replace with appropriate pieces, ideally purchased secondhand. (2) Have a dedicated storage container and rotate your wardrobe as needed. Personally, I use the second option because I’m in favor of spending less money.
Step 3 – Maintain. As time passes, you may be given wardrobe items as gifts or you may come across an item that you feel you couldn’t live without. When this happens, make a commitment to yourself that for every new item that comes into your possession one old item is either gifted, donated, or sold.