Two seemingly unrelated things happened recently: I came across an article about summer wardrobe essentials, and re-watched the 2012 documentary, “The World According to H&M”, which exposed exploitation of labor, tax evasion, troublesome business partnerships, and the high cost of cheap clothing. It was the combined forces of both perspectives that compelled me to put into writing something that’s been marinating in my mind for over a year now: a story about streamlining. Allow me to present, My Minimalist Wardrobe.
My current inventory includes:
6 pairs of trousers, 10 t-shirts, 2 button-down shirts, 3 sweaters/sweatshirts, 3 jackets/coats, 1 black suit, 2 pairs of sneakers, 1 pair of trainers, 1 pair of sweatpants, 1 swimsuit, 1 belt, 1 hat, 1 pair of sunglasses (hand made), 1 Vaude messenger bag, and 1 Swiss Gear backpack.
Total: 35 items
Until about a decade ago, things were completely different for me. I was quite the peacock and loved dressing up. New clothes used to spark true joy in me, even if the feeling was fleeting. At any given moment, you could find in my closet ten pairs of pants, fifteen button-down shirts, and seven different coats (undoubtedly my favorite clothing item). Though I collected mostly from second-hand stores and flea markets, the constant purchasing drained my bank account. Those times are in stark contrast to the days of today. The past year my purchases totaled one shirt and a new pair of sneakers (which I actually needed to get married!)
The original motive behind my minimalist approach was more a case of necessity than desire. The building I lived in underwent a major renovation, which enveloped almost everything I owned in a stubborn layer of dust and my soot-soaked, bulky wardrobe became a nuisance. I made a game-time decision to get rid of most of what I owned. Of course, one doesn’t require such drastic reasons to desire a minimalist wardrobe. Want to give it a go?
Acceptance. Acknowledge the fact that you own too much. For a while, I was in denial about this inner knowing. I had a large enough closet to make its contents appear underwhelming, but in truth, I owned a lot of things. Ask yourself, what in your closet hasn’t been worn in over a year? (Stricter folk can implement a three month rule).
Select. Perform an initial selection. At the end of the day, most of us fall back on our favorite twenty to thirty items. This initial selection is meant to weed out the items you’ll clearly never, under any circumstance, ever wear again. In fact, you might even be willing to pay a large sum to ensure there isn’t any photographic evidence of you wearing said items!
Donate, give away, sell. I don’t care how you make it happen, but items that can’t pull their weight need to be thrown overboard ASAP. You can recycle them, sell them to your local vintage or consignment shop or leave them neatly on a bench near your home. Don’t delay. Any procrastination will lead to concession, and they’ll eventually be pushed to the back of the closet, taking up valuable real estate.
Store. Items you haven’t worn for a long time but feel particularly connected to or feel you should keep for a rainy day, should be stored separately. You can enjoy the benefits of weightless minimalism while being spared any potential feelings of regret.
Detatch. Try not to be too sentimental. The items I found most difficult to offload were those that held various memories, even though they no longer fit or were in a progressive state of decay. I’m happy to report however, the memories remain with me today, almost two years after I disposed of the sentimental items.
Multi-task. Be sure to get multiple uses out of what remains.
Get practical. Keep mostly practical items. I own ten t-shirts because that’s the item that serves me the most.
Shop small. Buy from small stores selling local or lesser-known brands. At some point, you’ll need to buy something new, and here-in lies the problem for the conscious consumer. There’s a reason I mentioned the film “The World According to H&M”; almost all textile products sold today are manufactured by conglomerates and are sourced from third-world countries. I make an effort to purchase clothing that was ethically manufactured.
Prioritize. Always reach for quality over quantity, but be reasonable. There are items that are worth investing in, such as shoes, coats or suits. I purchased my suit from a local designer nearly five years ago, and it cost me $800. Items of lesser quality and finish don’t last as long, and therefore, cost you more in the end. Conversely, I have no idea what possesses someone to spend hundreds of dollars on a t-shirt. That seems completely impractical unless you’ve got money to burn.
I usually feel most comfortable wearing trousers and a t-shirt. Seeing as I’ve never been a huge fan of the actual purchasing process, I’ve adopted a new habit over the past few years: when I find an item I love, I buy two. Only after the first pair is completely worn out, do I pull the second pair out of storage.
Simply put, I don’t own clothes that I don’t wear. I don’t have long debates every morning about what to put on, and the incessant need to treat myself with new things has all but waned and disappeared. In other words, a minimalist wardrobe saves you money, space and a notable amount of time. It considerably simplifies your life, allowing you to focus on what truly matters, which is of course, napping.
Amit Noyfeld's book "The History of Speed" can be purchased here.