How many times have you said “I have nothing to wear” even when your wardrobe is overflowing with clothes? Many of us, women in particular, are guilty of buying too many clothes, way too much stuff we really don’t need.
Over the years, as I kept revisiting my habits, I started buying way less stuff but I still struggled to let go and declutter my clothes. Today, I just want to write a bit about my story decluttering my clothes..
When I tell people I am from Venezuela, they always tell me two things: oil and beauty pageants – Miss Universe the one that most people remember.
I grew up in a culture where the looks were very important; I learned we had to pay attention to my appearance, that meant dress well, wear make-up and perfume, keep my hair nice, match my clothes and accessories as much as possible.
As a young adult, trying to live up to those standards, I had to spend a lot of time and money (I didn’t necessarily have) buying clothes, matching shoes, belts, handbags etc, it was always about having variety, the more the better.
Keep in mind that I don’t come from a wealthy family (nor I was buying designer/expensive clothes). In South America, these behaviours are quite normal, regardless of the social status. Our culture, in particular for women, is very focused on beauty and we have learned that as the norm.
I remember some male friends always said: “When it comes to presents, we are not giving you a gift but a problem”, because each time someone gave us, let’s say a new purse as a birthday present, then we (women) would immediately say: “Now I need to buy a new belt and a new pair of shoes to pull off this outfit!!!”.
I don’t think this is exclusive to Venezuela or South America, but certainly it is part of our cultures.
Moving my clothes
In 2009 my husband and I decided to move to Australia, and I had to carefully select what to bring with me. I must admit it was hard to get rid of most of our stuff. I feel, there is a part of me that’s somewhat attached to my belongings, specially clothes. These physical objects are part of my story and my identity, they perhaps offer some good memories, comfort and safety.
In terms of the clothes, I gave away few items, and sold a couple of specific garments, but I still had heaps of clothes to bring. I have always been the kind of person that takes care of clothes and wear them (or at least keep them) for long time in good condition – I still have some pieces of clothes that I bought 15 – 20 years ago!
In the end, thanks to special conditions as permanent migrants, we managed to bring 10 suitcases in total. Around 80-90% of the content of those suitcases was clothes, shoes and accessories. I was so happy – at least I could keep good part of my “beloved” clothes.
So here I was, on the other side of the world with a wardrobe full of clothes, but most of it I could only wear in summer, what a bummer! Of course, I come from a tropical country and the weather is warm all year around, I had very little clothes for the winter months here.
Guess what? I had to make the “sacrifice” to slowly start buying more clothes for the cold weather: jackets, beanies, scarves, gloves, sweaters, cardigans and so forth.
My wardrobe kept overflowing with clothes!!!
Around 2016, learning more and more about the environment, I came across this concept of minimalist lifestyle and I was intrigued.
I started reading about the subject and decided to watch “Minimalism: a documentary about the important things“.
The concept made total sense to me, we have so much stuff cluttering our lives, taking up space, distracting us from important things. We spend ours cleaning and organising stuff we don’t even love or need in the first place.
Note: If you haven’t watched it, it is quite good and it is currently available on Netflix.
However, as much as I loved the idea, I didn’t do much about it. As usual, it is easy to agree with something and it is quite different to act on the information and make real changes.
Mari Kondo came to my rescue
Probably around 2017, the name Mari Kondo started to appear randomly in different resources (she wasn’t on Netflix yet) and I learned she had a book called “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up”. Some friends told me they had read the book and and they loved it. Finally, after several months I decided to borrow it from my local library.
The book is relatively small, so I read it quite quickly. Because my mind is quite methodical and she offers a system to go through the stuff, I was in.
I must admit, the book has some ideas (some weird ones too) that I wasn’t necessarily planning to implement, but I took what I found useful for my particular situation.
My main focus was decluttering my clothes, but I also applied her instructions for other categories (I still need to do other ones which I have been procrastinating).
I am not going to write details of her process, you can find some info on YouTube, Netflix or borrow the book at the local library. All I am going to say is: I followed the steps and for the first time in my life, I managed to significantly reduce the number of items in my wardrobe.
One of the things that I wanted to understand, from the pile of clothes I was donating, was the amount of clothes I had bought vs the clothes I had received from other people. My mum loves clothes and she tends to give me heaps of garments, sometimes I like the items and I need them, sometimes I don’t.
I was under the impression that perhaps, good part of the clothes I was not wearing and I had been collecting during the years, I hadn’t actually bought them.
I kept some stats during the process, and in the end (drum rol please!) I got rid of 152 items (clothes, shoes and accessories). 73 of those items I had bought (48 %), the rest were all presents from people.
For someone who in the past had done decluttering and found it hard to get rid off 5-8 pieces of clothes, 152 was a massive success!!!!
Ironically, in case you are wondering, I let go good part of the clothes I had brought from Venezuela in 2009!
From this experience, these are some of the things I realised:
- Regardless of the amount of clothes, most of the times I end up wearing my favourite items, the garments of clothes I really love.
- When the clothes are so packed in the wardrobe, I can’t hardly see what’s in there. I found clothes that I actually like and ironically, I had lost them in my own closet.
- What’s the point in having a wardrobe full of garments I don’t like “just in case”. In case of what? When am I going to wear them if I don’t like them?
- I always ended up keeping presents I wouldn’t wear, because I felt it would be awful to get rid of something that someone picked with love for me. I learned the real value of the present is in the exchange, that moment of gratitude of the recipient and the love of the giver. The actual item is secondary.
- I want to keep clothes that make me feel good, that I like and appreciate. I can easily achieve that with less clothes. A crowded wardrobe on the other hand prevents me from finding that.
- I was wasting a lot of time, money and effort to fulfil that old belief: “I need variety, I need more” and of course it was never enough. Last year, I wrote a post about hedonic adaptation that explores that topic, I recommend it if you haven’t read it.
- It feels lighter to have less clothes.
After my decluttering process, I had a pile of clothes and other items to re-home. Of course, my plan was not to send any of these items to landfill.
Some of the items I gave to my mother. I had few garments that were worn out, I sent them to the SCR Group, a company that takes these materials and give them another use (even as industrial rags). I also sent them some clothes in good condition.
The rest went to local op-shops. I was a bit bizarre when I went again, a couple of days after I donated a big bag of items, and I saw so many of my former clothes all over the place. I am sure several people were happy to take them home and give them another chance.
I love the concept of re-gifting. Rose Lounsbury in her TED put it in a way that I really like:
“Let go of the things that are not beautiful to you, so they can be beautiful for someone else.” – Rose Lounsbury
Of course, the idea is not keep buying and re-gifting stuff, as we keep depleting our planet from valuable resources in our quest for more. But I like this concept, in the context of living a life with less stuff and doing the changes required to transition into a different mindset.
Is it my closet a minimalist one now? Did I completely transform my approach to clothes and I don’t care about what I wear anymore?
The answer is No. I think I still own more clothes than I really need but it is a work in progress. My wardrobe is way less tight and crowded, I can easily see what’s in there. I am very vigilant to what I bring into my closet and I focus less on what I want and more in what I really need. I have been also buying most of my clothes from the op-shops.
Last year, I read Courtney Carver book “Soulful simplicity” and she reminded me of her Project 33. For those of you who don’t know, Project 33 is a minimalist fashion challenge where you wear only 33 items or less during a season.
I have never been very keen with the number 33, but I have been experimenting with the Capsule Wardrobe concept. I have a section of my wardrobe that I wear mainly for work and it goes with the season. I haven’t been super strict with the numbers, but it is limited and I must admit it works quite well. It saves time to select the clothes, and it still gives variety I feel I need.
I am keen to continue trying this concept and reducing even more the clothes I own. If you want to learn more, Courtney has heaps of information about this topic, you can also ask Mr Google. Pinterest has great posts too.
I think I will always like clothes, but I certainly don’t need to overdo it anymore. My goal is to keep reducing the amount of items I own, I certainly won’t need to get rid of 150+ garments!
Well, that’s it for today. I hope you have found some inspiration and useful resources. Do you struggle with decluttering? Are you keen to try something different?