Thursday, April 20, 2017

Minimalism In My Wardrobe

Ok so before I start here’s my internet disclaimer: These posts are only intended to convey my own personal experience. They are not meant to make promises, nor do they have any implied implications towards anyone else's anything. They are just my own story.

I loved Marie Kondo’s books, and am so behind her general ideas. But I didn’t wind up using them exactly to recipe in most of my home. However I did use them 100% her way, in my wardrobe.

First of all, Marie wants you to start your entire purging journey in your wardrobe. And that I did. I and I can see why she has people start there -- it makes a lot of sense.

Now to be fair, I’ve actually been on a few-year journey to downsize my closet.

I think I started my journey by accident with my first pregnancy. Before I got pregnant I had an entire room set up as a closet. My husband and I had a 4 bedroom house to ourselves. In our bedroom we had a modest reach-in closet. So since we had the space, I bought a couple ikea clothing racks and set them in our smallest bedroom and made a sort of dressing room. At that point I had a lot of clothes. I loved thrifting and clearance racks, so I wasn’t spending absurd amounts on clothes, but I did have a lot of them.
    Once pregnant I had such sticker shock from the maternity clothes price tags. We didn’t have a lot of money at the time, and so I really could not build up much of a wardrobe during those months of shifting body changes. I felt really thrown off initially. And I didn’t have the skills to know how to buy multitasking clothes, and things that mixed and matched. So most of the pregnancy I hated my limited wardrobe. BUT by the end of my mid summer pregnancy, I was two weeks past my due date and uncomfortable in EVERYTHING. So I was living in one of two dresses for perhaps a whole month? And while I was definitely feeling the end-of-pregnancy-frustrations, which at times I would wrongly aim at my lack of clothing…in reality I was actually in love with the zero effort of not having to try when getting dressed. I would throw one dress in the wash every night (me pregnant in summer = sweaty), and wear whichever was clean the next day. I found an extreme liberation in this no thinking dressing.

However, I lost sight of that lesson as I was trying to get used to my ever changing body after I had my baby. I was so fixated on “getting back into my jeans” that I wanted my whole old wardrobe back.

Over the years that followed I started to lean towards that old simplicity, and I tried different ways to get there. The capsule wardrobe caught my eye, and I tried that and liked it. But I was too “heady” about it. I over thought it and didn’t really reach a true comfort level in what I was wearing. I picked things that I thought other people (fashionable bloggers ect) might piece together, and things that could mix with each other. I didn’t really reach into my self to come up with this selection. I wasn’t looking for what sparked joy in me.
(FYI: At this stage, I didn’t get rid of the extra stuff, I put it into bins, trying to figure this out without the risk of loss.)
My Capsule from Fall 2014

But soon after trying that capsule wardrobe, another pregnancy and body shifting happened (during and post pregnancy), so I kinda just drifted through as best as I could there. (Clothes felt messy with such a surprisingly sick pregnancy, and many life trials after that pregnancy.) (I did try to give effort postpartum, even aiming at capsule wardrobe concepts, but it wasn’t really all I had hoped -- I lived, but ya know.) After I got to a stable weight I was ready to join up with Marie Kondo’s ways.
The vibe of my closet pre-Marie (clothes mostly pulled and on my bed already though.)

Her whole ideology is to keep only things that “spark joy.” And her theory is clothes are the easiest place to learn the sensation. She even wants you to start with specific types of clothes and go in a certain order. She starts with shirts/tops because they are worn closets to your heart, then you move on from there.

 She asks you to hold each item to your heart and see what you feel. I did this closing my eyes (I can’t remember if she instructs this or if that was just me.) And you just try to see what you feel. Is it joy? If so, you keep it.
This closet felt like a picture of my brain

Guys, at this point in my life (I was freshly, emotionally scarred by 10 months of painfully sick pregnancy (yeah I always have 42 week pregnancies, lucky me), mothering three young kids, and mourning the loss of my grandpa and brother - in addition to a bunch of secondary losses related to those) I felt like I had absolutely nothing to lose in terms of what clothing stayed or went. I had just lost all the pregnancy weight, and pretty unwilling to look at the concept of any more body shifting for a long, long time. I was in a mental space where I knew that clothes did not matter enough to stress over giving them away. But I was simultaneously in a mental space where I wanted to live my best life -- and personally I enjoy feeling good in what I’m wearing. I was also in a space where I knew there was no safety in keeping clothes around, and no real fear of the future should I need to buy a few more clothes. SO…I just trusted that this Marie Kondo system was safe enough to try and I did it.
I held each item up and just waited to see what happened.

This post might wind up sounding hilarious and over the top, but for me, doing this, when I did it in my life, was one of the most deeply soul mining things I have ever done. I was shocked by how deep this got and how amazing it really was for me.

I wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of what “sparked joy” would feel like. So I started with a piece I really loved, and held it up. With the shirt to my heart, and my eyes closed, I waited... and I started to feel an actual feeling. The best way I can describe it was I felt a warmth in my heart. And my mouth felt a smile coming to it. I was surprised to find something so tangible happening.

The items that didn’t spark joy, nothing happened at all when I held them. No matter how long I would hold them -- no response.
Generally speaking that is... There were items that actually brought up negative responses: sadness, regret, embarrassment, hard memories…things like that.

So after you do this, there is one more thing Marie Kondo asks you to do: thank your items for what they provided for you before you send them off. When reading her books, I wondered if her idea comes from any type of eastern religious concepts (She’s from Japan) -- I don’t know. She doesn’t really say that at all, in fact she has a story about where it came from and it was just kinda of a interesting incident that stuck with her. But when I read this “thanking" part initially my gut thought, “I’ll do all the steps but this. My things aren’t alive, I’m not thanking them.” I started going through my clothes I suddenly felt like I needed to go ahead and thank them like she said.  It just felt too hard to get rid of some of them without doing it, so I went for it. And what I found was that I was really just talking to myself and giving myself permission to learn and move on. Some of it was even grieving the leaving of different parts of my life, in a really beautiful way, that I would have missed out on if I had skipped this “thanking step.”

So here is a peak into my experience:

It’s been a while ago now, so I might not be able to share things in a clear or orderly way. But I’ll just share what comes to mind.

I was very surprised at how much I still could get rid of. I had already been paring down my clothes for years, and it had gotten more and more intentional. But somehow I was still able to get rid of a few garbage bags of just my own stuff.

Some of this was from around the whole house, but still!
I don’t know how I filled these bags…I thought I had already purged a lot before.

I remember picking up this button down shirt that I bought shortly after having my second baby.
 It was a thrift store purchase. It was a “this is a good fit for now” kinda buy. I felt nice it in at the time, but I hadn’t wore it anymore after she was a baby. And this year, when I held it to my heart I felt wistful and sad, an ache of memories gone.
 It was very clearly not joy I was getting from the shirt. But there was also very clearly a connection. And that connection was what had been keeping it in my possession for about 2 years longer than I had worn it. I knew this was time to let it go. And this was one of the most powerful thanking sessions of my closet cleaning. This was early in my closet cleaning and it taught me a lot about how I wanted to do this process.
    The heart feeling I had when I held it to my heart was so strong that it prompted me to be very deep and vulnerable as I thanked that shirt.
     I thanked it for holding me, while I held my baby. I thanked it for it’s sacrifice in being covered in milk, and spit up and pee and poop and supporting my day in these hard ways. I thanked it for being there for me -- for being the soft feeling on my skin while I rocked my brand new Ruby.  As I went on, I shed genuine tears. And I kept going, thanking and letting the tears fall, until the tears felt beautiful and grateful. And I was SO grateful for the chance to really appreciate those tiny small things. I felt a real release after I said enough things and I felt good as I set the shirt down in the donate pile.

I would have never gone to that place inside me had I not tried this process and really went for it. I would have missed cementing some beautiful things in my heart. After that shirt I knew I would be thanking my things. And I knew it was for me, not the things.

I was surprised how sweet it wound up being. Things as silly as socks wound up touching my heart and helping me feel blessed. Nursing bras brought more tears. (Not every one of them, some I was not at all sad to see go, but I still enjoyed saying an amused “Thanks for holding those outrageously huge nursing boobs up for me.”)

     I was also surprised to find that as I went through and landed on things that sparked no joy, and no deep memories, that I could still remember very clearly why I bought them, or how I got them. It was very surprising that I could bring all those forgotten things to mind. And it was really clarifying to see it all lined up together at once. I wound up thanking a lot of things for: giving me something to do (shop), or for distracting me from what I didn’t want to deal with/feel at certain points, or for helping me not be bored, for entertaining me, or for helping me pretend to be ______ (someone fancy, etc), for helping me feel pretty/skinny/special, or for being so cheap that I thought I couldn’t pass it up.
Hearing all that come out of me, all at once -- wow -- I wound up really confronting my habits. It was really awakening.
Having all that faced in one afternoon really stuck with me, and has been extremely directing in my shopping ways going forward.

I remember holding up a blue dress to my heart. I anticipated it sparking joy, because it was part of my capsule wardrobe. I loved the color and fit of the dress. It was pretty, I felt pretty in it. And I thought it was useful because it was layer-able as well. But when I held it up, I could not find joy there. I kept setting it down, and kinda trying to reset and retry. But no joy was sparked. I couldn’t figure it out, But as I held it, my fingers started to really register the fabric-feel, and it dawned on me that I never felt good in the dress --- I felt pretty when I looked in the mirror, but never good as in comfortable and at ease which, didn’t truly make me feel good about myself during the day I wore it. I liked how I looked, but I didn’t enjoy how it felt on, which subconsciously wound up getting misplaced onto me thinking I was uncomfortable with myself. So I realized when I chose that dress, I usually put it on with a subconscious bracing for an uncomfortable day -- not just physically, but in a subtle emotionally bruising way.
     It was that dress and that realization that really shifted my focus on what I like. I realized I enjoy my days more when my skin feels certain textures. Throughout my closet journey I wound up realizing I love natural fibers. First and foremost cotton. Which made me laugh -- I couldn’t believe I had ignored that part of me for so long. It would have been an easy one for me to see had I been willing to. My whole life, I remember my mom’s efforts to find 100% cotton shirts for my dad -- he couldn’t stand it if they were anything but 100%.
     I don’t feel quite as strongly about cotton as he does. I don’t mind other stuff mixed with my cotton. And I still have a few favorite items that are 100% non-natural fibers -- but they have a nice hand-feel to me. I feel comfortable in them.
     But after doing my whole closet, I saw that my favorite, favorites were cotton, and my favorite shoes were real leather. It was very interesting to figure this out with my heart. The realization was deeper than if I could have thought my way there. And it makes me very aware while shopping.
Examples: I almost bought a sweater the other day because it was 90% what I was looking for (style, color were just right), but that 10% factor of non-quality material helped me leave it on the rack and save time and money and closet space for the right sweater I will find someday. For the same reason, I’ve left SO MANY shoes on racks, not even picked up to try on because I’ve seen the shoes that I gave away and the shoes I’ve kept, and now I know “just cute” isn’t enough for me. And I’m willing to wait for something I know I’ll want to keep.

I wound up with very little left in my closet initially. But to be fair, that was to be expected. A lot of my clothes no longer fit me.
But I was unintimidated to have very little. I’ve really embraced the memory of having only 2 dresses I could wear and I have leaned on that memory when I want to think “this isn’t enough.”
And if what I have left truly sparks joy, then I just have a nice handful of joy.
This is from today, not my initially very small number. And I have a few more things in the laundry.
After my initial purge, I figured out that I did leave a couple tentative pieces. I think what happened was mostly that I think I just didn’t get a full sense of emotion, when I was in the process and I didn’t take that as “no joy” -- but I think I should have. So I’ve purged as I’ve gone forward with my journey, and those have gone.

I’ve been picking up clothes slowly now -- trying to find my real style (which includes good comfort and nice hand-feel.) Once again -- I was at a point where I literally had to buy clothes because I was a different size. So for me this process was kinda inevitable at some level. Some of the intensity is not Marie Kondo’s fault at all, just where I was at in size shifting.

As far as maternity clothes go, initially I DID NOT know what to say here. I’m honestly not sure I ever want to go through another pregnancy, but I’m also not sure I want to rule it out for certain.
    So when looking to keep going and make progress on my minimalism journey -- I had to decide that, for now I’m not in a place to know that part of my future, or even try to attempt thinking about it. Which prompted me to just treat my maternity clothes like the rest -- if they sparked joy they could stay, if they didn’t they had to go. So I have a couple things left. We’ll see what becomes of them. Maybe they will stop sparking joy and they will go move on (future irrelevant.) I’m not sure. But I’m happy I went through them, so that I’m not fixated on it. It was really bothering me until I just went for it and got it done. It’s at a place for me of peace and not stressing over “knowing.” And I like finding ways to get rid of any lurking stress in the background.

As for as the "after process” (mainly storing your things):
I’ve begun using Marie Kondo’s folding for my socks and bras and underwear. I really like it. (You can google and see videos of how to.) My socks, underwear and bras are in my largest drawer, and it does feel kinda boutique-y with her advice.
(As I’m writing this, I relize I should try it with my other two drawers. Because when I first did this I had SO MUCH room in my dresser it didn’t matter, now I could stand to try her folding.)
      Initially I tried hanging my clothes in her recommended way -- and it was pretty. And I liked it. But I don’t have the mom-time to keep it up -- I just put my clothes in willy-nilly, fast and furious, before Bronny starts scrubbing my bed with the toilet bowl brush or something.

But yeah -- I found this whole experience to 100% live up to her books title of “Life changing magic.” I’ve never felt so empowered to be me, as the week or so after doing that. I felt like I had given myself full permission to see who I am -- and be her. I was walking around thinking “I can decide” all the time and reveling in it -- and it was an “I can decide...without guilt" -- for some people that sentence might not be a big deal -- for me that was an enormous perspective shift. I was now deeply aware that I could be happy, and I could enjoy what I enjoy, and that doesn’t have to depend on a lot of stuff I used to think it did (both physical stuff, and philosophical stuff.)
     It’s hard to wrap words around it. And I would have NEVER expected the intensity level of it.
I don’t know if it had to do with all my surrounding circumstances more, or if the experience is always intense. But even now, about a half year later, I’m still in awe. And I’m still respecting myself more because of it -- which really impacts how I shop (but many more areas of life as well.)

I shop less, but with more intension. I know myself and I dress myself, not my imaginary self. (That was SUCH a trap I used to fall into -- before, if it was cute then I bought it, even if I’d NEVER had somewhere to wear it. I shopped for an imaginary life.) So I don’t grab anything unless I really enjoy it and see purpose to it.
When I shop (or plan to shop) I’m always thinking about how these items will fair inside my life -- like facing ketchup fingers. As well as the item's real comfort level, such as it’s play-ablity when I’m spending 90% of my time with my young kids. I’m shopping for what actually goes into my real day to day life. Because of that I also like to try to find pieces that seemlessly transition well to anything nicer I might be doing (going to church, the library, coffee…) So comfy and durable, but pretty. And if I can find things that can layer and multitask, then it gets bonus awesomeness points.

So these days:
Getting dressed is very easy. Even on days where I don’t try, I usually look somewhere between acceptable - to - “Hey cute outfit.”
Which…. before minimalism was NOT the case.
When I had my “dressing room closet” I honestly was always trying on clothes, trying to make outfits, but I usually just felt forced or lame when I left the house.
And after I had my second baby, I usually looked absolutely terrible -- ancient pjs or weird attempts at “clothes” that just didn’t work -- every day but Sunday (the one day a week I left the house).
     Now though, with having just a handful of clothes that I really get joy from -- I feel like me, and I feel put together and I can do it in about 3 mins, and so I get dressed much of the time.
(But reality check: I still have some “What the heck are you wearing?... half pjs, half “hmm…?” days --  I mean -- its just part of life I think. I’m NOT saying I look like a catalogue person -- I don’t. 
I also still have low self-esteem days where I just feel like a jr. high girl all over again and “have nothing to wear” because I feel ugly. That still happens. I’m human. But I’m just saying that with what I have now, getting dressed doesn’t take real thought to make a nice outfit.)

But why it’s so easy is that, my clothes pretty much can all go together. I've found since trying a capsule wardrobe a while ago, and then in doing the feeling-for-joy process, that I really personally mainly like neutral colors (black, white, grey, cream, nude-tones) as well as Navy or blue, with a small dash of red varieties (I don’t really have straight reds right now, but maybe wine-red or orange-poppy-red.) I don’t necessarily have only those, and I don’t try to make it happen that way -- it’s just what I have found to bring me the most joy. And it’s also easier to get dressed when you don’t have anything but stuff you really like in your closet.

Remember how I said, my closet looked like a picture of my brain? Honestly, my mind feels so connected to my stuff. Now that I have less…my mind is cleaner, and clearer, and more peaceful. It’s easier to find my thoughts, because it’s less cluttered in my mind.

(FIY: My closet’s physical makeover is still in it’s future. I want to move the clothes rod, and shelves, and figure out a door or curtains so it’s not just open. Why are reach in closet doors the bane of my design process? Eventually it will look even more clean and clear and peaceful in my closet’s layout.)
I really think each thing I owned was taking up real estate in my mind too. And so part of the thanking process really cleared up emotional and mental space inside me to let it go and be free of it.
That’s also why it’s easier to get dressed. I’m not fighting all the negative emotions I had attached to my clothes -- stuff like embarrassment, sadness, hard memories, guilt -- and trying to appease it in lame ways like wearing stuff I don’t like. That’s been released. And it’s good.

I don’t have a set number of clothes I’m trying to keep it to. I just know when I feel like it’s the right amount. I can tell when I started it was too little, so I added. And this past week I could tell I need to pull a few things out. (I’ve noticed that I always try to use the clothes I don’t like in outfits, as if to connivence myself that I should have bought them. But I never like the outfit that day. So last week I stuck those ones in the guest room to see if dressing got easier again -- and it has. So I’ll need to face facts and thank them, and send them.)
      For me -- with three kids and all that comes with that -- the less clothes I have the better I look and the better my house looks and the less I have to think or work.
     I could still stand to add a bit more to my collection (I’m severely lacking in summer things), but I’m going really slowly.
     I’ve wound up in a new place in terms of personal style and it has me really lost (so many life shifts at once, while getting to kinda a new age bracket = new me, but who is she?)  So I haven’t really figured my style out yet, not a lot of clothes feels like “me" -- so I’m buying very tentatively. But it’s kind nice to get to face that with this mind frame, it’s more purposeful.

With shoes, I have a few that honestly bring me joy, but that I might never wear again. I don’t know. (Like my nude heels -- I LOVE them. But with a baby, I never ever wear them. I might someday. But I might not. But joy still is there anyway.) 

Even if I am not wearing them all, I don’t have more shoes than I feel good about -- and they all bring me joy. So it’s a win. And it will be a win still if some stop bringing me joy and move on without me, or if I find a few more to add to fit whoever I’m becoming.

Bags/purses. I have VERY few left. I have the main one I’ve used ever since I’ve had kids which is a over one shoulder sling bag -- not the world’s most attractive thing. But SO practical it has my heart. I have one clutch still. And maybe a couple others? I can’t even remember. But very few. Because I accepted I just use the one I always use.

Belts and scarves -- very, very few. Maybe 3 per? I just realized I wasn’t ever using the VERY many I had collected and I wasn’t getting joy from them. I’d probably be willing to go to even less now, if I were to look. It’s like once I’ve tasted freedom, keeping things just in case feels cumbersome.

Marie Kondo says the reason we hang onto things we don’t need/don’t get joy from is: fear of the future or an attachment to the past.
(No one says you can’t keep things from the past that bring you joy. So don’t panic.) (Also, if you are panicking, no one says you have to get on this boat -- make your own path! Don’t join up with what isn’t for you.) 
     But I really thought about that fear of the future. And I really thought hard about that in terms of my personal faith. I want to trust God with my future, not my own stuff. Now---I don’t want to be wasteful and careless and own nothing in a detrimental way. Wisdom is needed. But what I kept coming back to (for my own mind’s sake) was this line of questioning: “Ok so let’s say the economy crashes and zombie apocalypse befalls me, will having this item help me? Can I save myself with it? Can I earn money with it? Can I sew something survival-y with it?” I would usually say nope to all of those. (I mean have you tried to sell clothes at a garage sale? You get like a quarter, and that’s without a zombie apocalypse situation.) And I can’t think of what I could need to sew with these extra clothes to survive. And I know I don’t need the actual clothing piece to survive.
     What it usually really was inside me, was just that hollow human “What if this is not enough?” without any real substance to the question.
I know I’ve lived with 2 dresses just fine. So what I have is actually abundance.
And I have nothing really to fear by not having even more, than the small abundance I am left with.

It gets profound guys. It really does. This stuff is heart level, soul digging, deep.

Personally, I have loved forcing myself to face this part of me. It’s not been a cake walk. But it’s been seriously lightening. My life feels less weighed down by not only my things, but my mentality tied to my things.
I’m not saying I’m perfect with it. I’m not saying I’m not still 100% “first world” and all that comes with that.
I’m just really happy I’ve made these choices.

So yeah -- that’s a pretty thorough look at me and my wardrobe perspective shifts.

Like I said -- I didn’t follow Marie Kondo’s method’s through my whole house -- but I loved her advice in starting with the clothes because it was SO clarifying for me getting all these concepts opened up here, helped me when doing the other rooms.

Stick around and I’ll share more of my minimalism stories in the other areas of my house.

What do you think? Feeling inspired?
Have you done this yourself?
Are you like “Mmmm. NO! Not for me.”?
Let me hear your thoughts.


  1. I want to do this! I'm worried about purging things I'll probably need later though, since we plan to have more babies. We don't have the budget for me to replenish my closet the way I'd like to if I got rid of everything I don't love. *Sigh*

    1. Yes, I got to the right point in my life for me to do this -- I couldn’t have done it before.
      But you can achieve something similar, by keeping the things you love from each size-shift-stage and store them away (in a way that feels calm and good) until you need them. And if you are too scared to take away anything -- just start by storing away everything but the stuff that sparks joy, enjoy those, and take it as life comes at you -- unpack as needed.
      You can look into Project 333 for more inspiration on trying this for a set amount of time.

    2. Thanks for the recommendations! I'm going to give it a try!

      I'm also trying FlyLady... I know at least 10 people who love it, and anything is better than the chaos I'm in now!

  2. I love your review of this book: I don't have time to read anymore! I have tried the capsule wardrobe but being a business professional meant have two wardrobes for my life- work v. home/weekend with a little overlap. I wish I could get it more streamlined because it does feel cumbersome 😕

    1. Yeah I can see how that could feel that way. It's not something I have personal experience with. But I do remember reading this blog post which might give you something to think about.

  3. i like your topic, look great, thanks for sharing


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