I can’t remember exactly when it hit me, but there came a point in time when I looked at my closet and realized that the majority of what I saw no longer reflected me or my lifestyle. In fact, it was more like looking into a time capsule.
There was a Forever21 bodycon skirt I got in a flash sale and used to throw on before a night out at the bars. There were some loud, printed polyester pants I’d worn to a music festival and then never again.
That’s not to say there is anything wrong with owning a bodycon skirt or a pair of fun festival pants. If those are your go-to staples, all power to you! They just no longer fit me or my lifestyle as a 28-year-old woman who has a 9 to 5 PR job, aspires to hit the gym two or three times a week, enjoys a glass of wine at home every now and then and whose ideal Friday night is a Netflix marathon in my PJs. Hello, late 20’s!
So, here was my dilemma. I had a closet crammed full of clothing pieces that held several happy memories, but no longer saw the light of day. What now?
Time to Cleanse
It was time to remove all the items in my closet that I was only hanging on to because of nostalgia, or the possibility that I might one day find an occasion to wear them again.
I set up a Poshmark account and listed all these items for sale. Whatever I wasn’t able to sell, I brought to Crossroads, my favorite thrift store. And whatever didn’t make the cut there, I donated to Goodwill.
I was just starting to develop a curiosity for ethical and sustainable fashion at the time, so I didn’t want to completely replace everything in my closet. That wasn’t an option for me, or my bank account. I needed to figure out how to do this in a more sustainable way.
Instead, I identified the holes in my wardrobe – the staples I felt I were really missing, like a classic white button-down shirt, a reliable pair of black denim jeans that fit and flatter my body shape and a pair of loafers that would serve double duty for work and the weekends. All of these items are classic pieces that would stand the test of time and would play nicely with other items in my existing wardrobe.
My first step was to scour Poshmark and my local thrift shops. I always prefer to shop second-hand if it’s an option. If I can’t find what I’m looking for, then I’ll shop in-store. While hunting these essentials down, I’ve developed a thought process I often refer to when I’m on the fence about a purchase:
Pay Attention to What Your Clothes Are Made of and Consider the Quality of Materials
I’d never really given much thought to the materials listed on the tags of my clothing, until recently.
Polyester, cotton, nylon, rayon – what was the difference and why does it matter? The thing is, the production of synthetic fabrics such as polyester, rayon, modal, spandex and nylon requires numerous chemicals and solvents.
Natural fiber clothing is generally more sustainable than synthetic fibers. Think about it: since natural fibers are plant materials, they decompose much more quickly. Better for the earth, better for you.
Even though cashmere, wool and silk tend to have higher price tags, they are 100% worth it. These are the fabrics that will hold up over the years and that you’ll likely treasure more, because they are a bigger investment.
Imagine How That Item Will Pair With the Rest of the Items in Your Wardrobe
Before learning about minimalism, I only used to consider a clothing item’s style, price and brand when I shopped. But now I take into account the versatility of the piece. How many different outfits can I make out of it? Can I dress this up or down with the help of a few accessories? Where would I wear this?
Ask Yourself: If I Walk Away Now, Would I Really Regret it?
And be honest with yourself. I’m a sucker for a good deal. End-of-season sales are my kryptonite. But at the end of the day, I have to ask myself: do I really love that item of clothing, or do I love the price? Quite frequently, it’s the latter and I realize it’s not something that I really need or even want.
Building your ideal minimalist wardrobe doesn’t have to happen overnight, and it shouldn’t. It’s a gradual process that requires you to make thoughtful, conscious decisions about what you choose to invest in. I am by no means a perfect minimalist. I’m still learning the ropes and I absolutely still struggle and shop impulsively every now and then, but I’m more aware of what I want vs. what I need.
And while I still go to music festivals from time to time (hey, I’m not a total grandma), I don’t buy specific “festival attire” just for that occasion. I work with what’s already in my closet. That’s the fun part about being a minimalist. It inspires you to get creative with what you already own and love.
To all the aspiring minimalists who are on this journey with me, I hope you’ll consider updating your wardrobes in a sustainable way. Check out your local thrift stores, organize a clothing swap with friends and coworkers, invest in natural, high-quality materials, gut-check whether that item you’ve been eyeing is really something you need and, most importantly, have fun with it!