Simplicity Series: In your closet

The idea of minimalism goes far beyond your home, but that’s where we’re starting. More specifically in your closet.

Clothes are a vital part of day to day life; everyone wears them, and everyone needs to. (Or so we’re told.) Some like to use clothes as a tool, wearing more durable and useful clothes for whatever hard work their day brings them. Others use their clothes as protection from the environment or weather. Most popularly, people use clothes as a form of self expression.

Personal style is a large part of who we are and we begin forming it at a very young age. As you go through different phases of likes and dislikes over the years, you tend to accumulate more than you end up wearing. I know, we’ve all heard the speech a million times, yet when we go to purge our wardrobes, we’re faced with nothing we’d like to actually part with.

You should be wearing the clothes you own very often. Unless it’s a seasonal piece, such as a winter coat or tiny summer dress, you should be pulling it out at least once a month. This brings us to the first step on the journey to a simple closet; decluttering.

Decluttering is less about the skill than it is about the mindset. It’s not hard to take something out of your closet and give it away, right? It’s an act that requires no muscle, no brain, and no money. The difficult part is getting yourself to part with your clothes. We often work ourselves into a sentimental attachment with physical things more than we should.

Decluttering is simultaneously the easiest and most difficult step in the process. It’s easy because there’s a certain logic to the process, meaning you can use reasoning to purge your things. For example, if you set your standard at two weeks you could toss anything you haven’t worn in two weeks. It’s difficult because we tell ourselves lies like, “Oh I’ll wear this when I find something that goes with it.” etc. You should not keep an item unless you are eager and willing to wear it at any point in time.

After decluttering, the next step is gatekeeping. This is perhaps the most difficult aspect of building a simple wardrobe. Gatekeeping is closely monitoring what enters your closet.

I like to keep all clothes that I purchase consciously made. This means purchasing locally made clothes, or clothes from companies that only produce them in the US. A great documentary to watch which fully covers the subject of fair trade clothing and foreign sweatshops is The True Cost.

In the documentary, Andrew Morgan, the director, shows how fast fashion is affecting the Earth and the way we live on it. Since the workers are paid higher wages and the production process is more high quality, sweatshop free clothing tends to be more expensive. If you can’t afford to splurge on this, you can help out just as much by buying your clothes secondhand.

Though the clothes you buy may come from brands that used sweatshops, your money is going to the secondhand stores instead of directly to these companies. Often times the secondhand shops have great causes for your money to go to.

Another way to monitor what enters your closet is by developing and defining your personal style. When we have too many styles, less clothes get worn and can’t be worn together. If you keep a consistent style and perhaps a consistent color scheme, your clothes are more versatile and are likely to be worn more often.

Do you know that feeling you get when you wear your favorite shirt or sweater? The way you feel when your most treasured skirt is clean and folded? That’s how I believe you should feel about all of your clothing. If we only purchase the items that we absolutely love and that will last us a long time, every outfit you wear can be your favorite outfit.

The closet is a very small and easy place to start your progress in simplifying your life. Your appearance should reflect the way you live and view the world. When you become a pro at expressing yourself through your clothing, you can actually improve your relationship with yourself along the way.

To read more about simplifying and building your closet, you can look at Erin Boyle’s “growing a minimalist wardrobe” blog series. She explores different fair trade brands, identifying your personal style, and keeping away the clutter with a ¬†positive attitude.