How much clothing do I really need?

Every spring and fall I take all my clothes out of the drawers, closet and trunks, pile them on the bed and cull them down to just what fits…or will fit, or what I hope will fit. This biannual routine started years ago, when I moved into a single closet apartment and figured I could squeeze in more bookcases if I only removed the bureau and dresser. I think that bedroom was basically all bookcases.

I am a cord cutter from way back, it wasn’t until I saw ‘reality’ tv on the internet, that I saw obscene piles of clothing spilling out of American bedrooms, some still with tags and in bags. I was gobsmacked. I had met folks with clothing obsessions but they had always housed their clothing in endless closets and shoe racks; getting their endorphin rush by seeing them all lined up like unused art supplies. Since I have always owned books to the same degree I try not to judge but I started giving a good hard look at the clothes that I allow to live in my house. 

I had been mooning over all the tiny house websites and marveling at people who could make the hard decisions that had eluded me. Not being one who pays much attention to fashion, it was a good starter topic to practice some minimalism.  First I made some shopping rules….I like making shopping rules mostly for the pleasure of finding ways around them.

Rule #1 All clothes must fit in the storage space alloted. I have one bedroom closet, one cedar closet, one cedar chest and a very tiny dresser for things that don’t hang. So far my addiction to wool sweaters makes this challenging. New acquisitions accumulate on the outside of the closet as a warning to clothes cowering inside, that they can be replaced if they don’t pull their weight.

Rule #2 Unless dedicated utility clothing, holes or stains will not be tolerated. It gets a pass/fail through the stain remover wash then it’s into the rag bin. Can’t take the chance that I will throw it on and forget that it has to be worn with a sweater to cover the offense

Rule #3 Has to be worn once a year, or at least realistically; which covers special weather clothing, or any funeral/interview/grown up items that still fit. If I wear any new items right away it gets a year’s grace. If I haven’t worn it, why the heck did I buy it?

Rule #4 Everything must be wearable with everything else, more or less. This keeps me from adopting something that will pout in the back of the closet, because it needs companionship. It was fairly easy, once realized I was attracted to traditional styles and a limited color palette: blues, greens, tans, grey, black and sometimes crimson, this saves a lot of time when shopping. I call it my Grranimals for adults.

Rule#5 Don’t shop for clothes when you don’t need them. Like most American’s I don’t NEED to buy much stuff, but it’s fun, we are an acquisitional culture; we shop for sport, we shop for fun, we shop when we are bored. I’ve got a thiftshop habit, it’s just not in my DNA to pass one by.  I try not to look for clothes unless I am lacking something. Clothes gets worn out from wearing and washing, waistlines fluctuate, so when something gets culled, I add it to my shopping list.  I may be looking for a navy polo without a hole in the front, but if I happen to find a grey sweater that goes with it bonus points.

The hardest part of this system is keeping a balance between the number of tops and bottoms so they get an even amount of wear and tear. It always breaks my heart when I develop an attachment to an article and then wash it to death. Now things only get washed when they are ACTUALLY dirty, not just because they touched my body. I resort to setting up ebay searches for replacements, sometimes I get lucky, sometimes I get to double down and get the next size UP…or down if I am very lucky.

This season’s downsize is almost done, some of the pounds I misplaced have come home to roost for the winter; so for all the too smalls, a few more upsizes can be added to my shopping list. And I really need to make some hard decisions about how many sweaters I can manage to wear before the spring culling.

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