This is a bit of a rambling, longer post. Just a heads up!
I recently read an article about buying and purging as bad shopping habits, and it made me contemplate my own approach to maintaining and expanding my wardrobe, and wardrobe minimalism. It made me consider how much we end up beating ourselves up just to follow what works for others and have it not work for us. It made me remember how stressed I was about what it means to have a minimalist collection.
I’ve already covered my own suggestions for avoiding shopping fails (part 1 & part 2) and my own concept of what a capsule wardrobe means to me, but before I read this article I didn’t spend too much time thinking about what it means to “fail” at building a capsule collection. I wanted to discuss this, and my thoughts about it in my blog, because I think the author makes some excellent points to consider when choosing to have less rather than more, and because I think we need some self-compassion when it comes to minimalism, curation, or ownership of things.
- She experienced cycles of purging and shopping to replace what she had purged when she tried to follow the advice of others who talk about minimalist or capsule wardrobes:
For years, I fixated on artfully designed capsule wardrobe pins, authoritative lists on the X number of items every woman should own, and cool blogs dedicated to minimalist style. And I tried to copy them…
…At the same time, I’d start rummaging through my closet, looking for pieces I could get rid of. Not just to make more physical space in my closet, but to “edit” my collection…
…But inevitably, it would turn out that the investment boots looked weird with anything but one dress. Or I’d get sick of wearing that one plaid shirt all the time. Or I’d suddenly see a picture of some enigmatic girl wearing skinny jeans and immediately feel the need to go put mine on — only to remember that I’d dumped them at Goodwill two months earlier. It felt like the only solution available was to simply buy another pair of boots, or another plaid shirt, or a new pair of skinny jeans.
2. After reading The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo (see my thoughts about it here) she realized that this approach wasn’t for her:
I was excited and intrigued when I first opened the book. But less than halfway through, everything Kondo was saying seemed a little…stupid, not to mention completely impractical. Not everything I own inspires joy and is of use to me all of the time. But I wouldn’t throw out my okay-but-not-amazing vacuum just because my current apartment has wood floors instead of carpeting, though that’s what Kondo would suggest. Nor would I get rid of my high-speed blender just because I haven’t felt like making a smoothie in the last few weeks.
Suddenly, I couldn’t see why my clothes should be any different…After years of trying to figure out my style, I realized that one of the most defining things about it — one of the things that makes me me — is that I change my mind a lot.
3. Her solution was to abandon purging items she doesn’t like right now and to be more spontaneous in the way she approaches her wardrobe:
This past year, I started doing things differently. Instead of trying to mastermind an entire season’s worth of ensembles, I didn’t make a plan. In fact, I didn’t do anything at all. When I found a piece that I really wanted, I’d get it. Not always, of course, and not with total abandon. Usually, I’d wait a few days to make sure the item in question wasn’t an impulse buy, and that it could work with at least three or four other things in my wardrobe. I tried to avoid buying anything that was too similar to anything I already owned, unless the new one seemed like a significant upgrade. And instead of doing massive purges that I ended up regretting, I started moving stuff that I was tired of looking at into the spare closet. At least half the time, I’d end up pulling it out and wearing it again a few months later.
This is the core of her argument, as I understand it. Please correct me or add anything you feel is missing by leaving a comment. The article really made me think about my own sense of failure when I discarded so much and ended up buying so much, only to mostly discard it yet again. I felt stressed and unhappy, and I looked at how other people seemed to have it all figured out and judged myself. You might say fashion or clothes are frivolous, and maybe they are. Yet, they help us develop a sense of belonging, feel confident, reflect our values, and even rebel against something. They obviously hold some meaning.
Reading blogs written by people who seemingly have it all together made me less kind to myself during my own process of discovery, and sometimes I need to remind myself that people choose what they write about and what they don’t write about (or show on Instagram or don’t show on Instagram). So, in case anyone out there is stuck in that boat, here’s what worked for me and freed me to enjoy the process, and I hope it helps you find out what works for you.
A Call for No-Judgment Minimalism/Curation/Possessions: Make Your Own Wardrobe Work For You
Here’s my unsolicited advice to anyone who cares or is working on figuring out their wardrobe, minimalist or not.
Making something my own can sometimes make me feel a little guilty. I think to myself that I don’t know more or better than other people out there. I feel like if I don’t follow exactly what they say than I am just not doing it right. It can make me apprehensive about the whole thing. In some cases it makes me feel a little dumb.
I say, that’s OK. Doubting myself is certainly something I do, sometimes a lot more than I care to. But this is exactly when instincts should kick in, because having spent some time with yourself you must have an inclination of what isn’t likely going to work for you, right? That’s what I tell myself. I know myself. You know yourself. You can modify anything to make it fit your life and have it serve a purpose you set out for yourself. I wanted a small curated collection of clothes to avoid making too many choices each morning. It felt like it was weighing me down. You might choose it for a different reason. Make your curation of stuff work for your purpose. There is no right way, and there is no perfection to be had.
So, the first thing that I did differently than the author of the article was that I knew I’ve never been successful in adopting any approach that was pre-subscribed by others without making it my own somehow. I think a big stressor for me when I started to think about creating a curated collection was the idea that I needed to have a specific amount of clothes, and that I needed to decide what to buy well ahead of time. I knew I would fail in both categories.
For one thing, I never saw a need to be so rigid as to stick to a particular number of clothing and that’s it. To me this would spell disaster since I would inevitably see something I liked, but then would have to get rid of something else in order to keep it. However, if I truly loved every piece I owned, that would really be terrible because I would have to get rid of something I actually enjoyed having. So why would I limit myself in this way? Just because this helped someone else reach their goal doesn’t mean it works for me.
Another issue is the need to plan once and stick with it. I have a year-long shopping list because it helps me organize my shopping and thought process, but I would never dare make it once and then leave it and stick to it without any modification. In fact, I modify it all the time. I also don’t try to shop all at once at the beginning of a season precisely because I know I might change my mind. And boy, do I. Again, why do I have to follow another person’s method?
What I think actually made me enjoy having a curated collection is that I made my own “rules” and made sure that they worked for me. Of course this didn’t happen immediately and I made terrible shopping decisions along the way. I think that the author reached her own equilibrium by trial and error as well. If there’s any take away here I think it would be that you should look at what others are doing, but adapt it to your own life and circumstances. You have your own reasons for creating a collection of clothing, and your own comfort zone, so make it work for you in whatever way it does.
Here’s what I am getting at. I feel like we should strive for nonjudgemental curation. By no judgment I don’t just mean just the manner in which we see each other (hopefully with kindness), but also the manner in which we see ourselves. So what if an approach to building your collection hasn’t worked for you? That doesn’t mean you failed or can’t strive for your particular way of owning your possessions. Let’s take the stress out of what can be a fulfilling way of presenting yourself to the world by means of your possessions by simply allowing ourselves to find a way of making it work without the rigid rules of others.
One Final Note: Changing Your Mind Isn’t a Problem
I change my mind about what I own and what I want to buy all the time. To me that just seems like human nature, and I am not going to criticize myself or other people for it. I guess I see the issue as being that of either not leaving oneself much room to change one’s mind or making decisions too impulsively, or maybe just making a mistake to be sorted out later. Let me explain what I mean.
I see discarding as a process of as a process of ridding myself of that which doesn’t serve me anymore. I don’t do it because something isn’t trendy anymore (though, I don’t think I ever buy something just because it’s fashionable right now), I donate clothes when they aren’t what I am interested in wearing anymore. For whatever reason, if I an not drawn to a shirt/pants/skirt/dress/whatever in my collection I usually decide it’s time to let it find a better home. But before I chuck it, I make sure I have no second thoughts about it.
Meaning, if I am not sure about it I usually keep it. In fact, I have about three dresses I am debating right now. That is to say, I try to make sure I leave room for myself to change my mind. There’s no rush and I certainly hate the idea of ridding myself of something just to turn around and buy it again. I choose to be less impulsive when discarding, especially when if I am not sure what I feel about something. That’s how I’ve been able to minimize the downfall of shopping, discarding, shopping. This approach may or may not work for you, but you will figure out what will. I trust you, and you should too.