#FashionFriday: Lessons in Minimalism, Why Buying Less Can Add More to Your Closet

Photo by Elissa Merola August 29, 2009

Photo by Elissa Merola August 29, 2009

“Ain’t no stoppin us now, we’re on the move!” — these are the lyrics I’ve been joyfully singing to myself all week as Anita and I prep to vacate our Columbia Heights apartment and migrate to our swanky new U street digs. We’re so excited about our new spot, but my mom is the one who’s particularly thrilled; having described our CoHeights apartment as, “comparable to a shitty college dorm.” Harsh words, but truer words were never spoken.

Now, we’re moving to the palatial pad of our dreams, but before we get to live out our fairytale roommate ending, we have to go through the tortuous process of hauling all of our stuff from point A to point B. I don’t like the process of packing for a weekend trip, let alone a lifetime. Needless to say, Saturday’s move sounds about as fun as a prison shower.

It’s not until you’re forced to evaluate everything you own that you realize just how much shit you’ve accumulated, even in a short period of time. Anita and I discovered gadgets and gizmos brought over in our move more than a year ago that were never even used once. A fourth coffee maker, when did I even buy that? A second iron still in the box, where was that sneaky devil hiding this entire time? The anthology from that 20th century American poetry class junior year, why did I take this class let alone keep the damn book? These questions (plus far more embarrassing ones that I’ll keep to myself forever) seriously occupy the mind as you pack up your belongings..

Americans love “stuff.” From an early age, we’re almost indoctrinated into believing that the more we have the happier we’ll be, because the accumulation of material goods is a measure of success. Maybe the culture of celebrity is partially to blame for that. The people the tabloids obsess over are the very people constantly peddling us more stuff and if they aren’t peddling it, they’re aggressively flaunting it. The more wealth you amass the more stuff you can buy; thus, stuff = wealth. I’ve never liked that idea, and once I started packing up all my “stuff” getting ready for this move, my love for a minimalist approach to life only grew stronger.

Growing up, I spent every summer at my grandmother’s house in a tiny French town called Aix-les-Bains. There wasn’t much to do there and I knew nobody my age, so my brother and I wound up spending most of our time with family. Even though she was in her 80s, my grandmother got up every morning and put on a knee-length skirt, perfectly pressed blouse, and a pair of loafers. Her closet wasn’t filled with elaborate quantities of clothes, but she looked splendidly put together and so chic, without ever looking tired or boring, every day. It’s because the few items she owned were exquisite. She and I didn’t necessarily get along, but my minimalist philosophy was definitely born watching her, day in and day out, each summer.

Wrapping your head around maintaining a minimal closet can be really difficult, especially if you abide by the “I like having a lot of options” philosophy. But I propose that fewer options isn’t necessarily a bad thing. How often do items just sit endlessly in your closet? Hardly ever worn when you bring them home from the store. When you buy less, you end up buying pieces you truly love; pieces you WANT to wear over and over again. I don’t know where the phobia of being seen in the same outfit multiple times originated, but it’s just silly and everyone really needs to get over it. A standout piece will always be a standout piece, even if you’ve worn it before. The wow factor and fabulousness of an item does not dissipate over the course of times worn.

The best part about downsizing your closet is that once you start to buy less stuff, you can start to pay more for what you do purchase. Instead of going to Zara and spending $400 on four cute (but fairly standard) sundresses, you can spend $400 on two really well-made dresses by up-and-coming mid-range price designers or just one amazing dress by a higher-end brand. It may sound like a drag, but that’s how you build a collection that you’ll want to keep for years and years as opposed to accumulating clothes for a season and then never wearing them again. Minimalism is for the long haul.

Once you start focusing on acquiring a few key pieces at a time, you can also turn your attention to what ought to be the most important aspect of everyone’s purchasing decisions: fit. I don’t understand why this goes overlooked so often, because it’s more important than brand, seasonality, style, and pretty much everything in between. You could buy a $1,000 dollar dress, but if it doesn’t fit correctly it’ll look cheap. The reverse is also true, you could find a $50 dress that fits so perfectly it looks expensive. I’m a fit freak. If I put something on and it doesn’t make me say “wow” when I catch that first glimpse in the mirror, it’s not coming home with me. I always think back to my grandmother’s skirts, sitting perfectly on her waist. Fit is the best way to start whittling the unnecessary things you buy just for the sake of swiping your credit card.

None of this means that you have to reduce your closet to a museum-like state of empty space. Unless that’s your thing, in that case by all means, reduce to the bare minimum! But there’s something wonderfully harmonious about having less “stuff” around you. Clutter has been scientifically proven to increase levels of stress — and that includes an overstuffed closet. It overloads your senses and impairs your ability to think creatively. Once you give it a try, you may find that the “less is more” philosophy is the key to calm you’ve been ignoring for way too long.

#FashionFriday: New Year’s Resolutions for Your Closet & the First Weekend Mini Mix of 2015

We may only be two weeks into the new year, but I already feel like 2015 is filled with prospects for growth and happiness. After spending three weeks basking in the glow of Miami’s delicious weather and vibrant atmosphere, I came back to DC excited for what’s to come over the next 11.5 months. There’s nothing like 85 degree weather to really brighten up your perception of the world – especially when cold winter days await for the next two to three months. I shiver at the very thought.

As is almost always the case this time of year, my social media feeds have been flooded with typical New Year’s resolution fodder. Everything from January detox diets to inspirational declarations to completely futile statements have made their way to my news feed in one way or another. It’s certainly the time of year that prompts us all to re-evaluate our typical behaviors and habits, in the hopes of identifying and modifying those least beneficial to our lives.

That being said, not all resolutions need to redefine the course of your existence. Sometimes the smallest changes end up contributing the most positive effects on our everyday lives. Which is why I think today’s segment will be particularly helpful for those of you who don’t want to make a grand declaration for 2015.

Any of my friends will testify to the fact that I am an obsessively organized human (to the point where it may even borderline qualify as OCD, as opposed to just attention to detail) ESPECIALLY when it comes to my closet. I don’t expect anyone to follow my lead in microfolding or organizing by color, cut, and style, but purging your closet and figuring out an organizing system that works for you personally can help you feel much happier about the state of your home. For that reason, here are my 2015 New Year’s resolutions for your closet:

1) Buy space-saving hangers

Hey, absolutely nobody is judging you. I’ve had periods of time in my life where every single one of my hangers was either from the dry cleaning business around the corner or found in some corner of my childhood home. But the truth is you’re wasting a lot of valuable space with bulky hangers and potentially ruining your clothes by leaving them wrapped in dry cleaning plastic for too long. So, head to Amazon or your local target where you can buy great, thin space-saving hangers in bulk. Your small closet and silk blouses will ultimately thank you.

2) Treat your nice things kindly

As soon as things get a little hectic with life and work, it’s normal to let simple tasks (like putting your clothes away) fade into a distant memory. So instead of driving yourself insane attempting to keep absolutely everything in its right place, try to take better care of your higher-end pieces. If you have a sequined dress snagging the fabric of the items on either side of it, place it in a garment bag. Those beautiful pumps and purses you spent a small fortune on? Store them in dust bags to keep them looking perfect. These small efforts will reward you in the long run by keeping your nicest items looking their best, extending the lifetime of your investments.

3) Stop buying things you don’t love

This is a lot easier said than done. Sometimes you really just feel like buying something for the sake of that little high you get every time you swipe your credit card and take home a new item. Don’t. Stop it right now. Wonderful as it may feel in the moment, you ultimately end up hoarding things you never really wanted or needed in the first place. As you’re analyzing an item you think you want, give some strong consideration to the following questions: Where will I wear this? How frequently will I wear this? Do I already own an item very similar to this? Will I feel the harsh pang of devastation if I walk away from this? If after answering those four questions you conclude that it’ll add significant value to your closet, go forth and purchase. But otherwise, leave that dead weight item behind!

4) Purge

Hoarding is bad. I don’t care how sentimental a piece of clothing is or how aggressively you cling to the notion that ONE DAY you’ll wear it. If something has been sitting in your closet for 6 months without ever being worn (gowns, interview suits, bikinis are exempt) there’s a 99% chance you’re always going to pass on wearing it — because you don’t really love it. I personally purge constantly. I like keeping my closet as minimal as possible! But if you don’t innately love to throw things away, start slow. Purge your closet every six months of those items you know deep, deep down you’re never going to wear. Donate them to Goodwill, consign them to a local re-sale boutique, or sell them yourself online. In the end, having a closet filled with carefully-chosen items you love is way better than holding on to tons of meh items taking up precious space.

5) Organize your clothes your own way

There is no one specific way to organize your clothes that’s better than the rest. Some people, like yours truly, create elaborate categories (and even sub-categories) within their closet. Long-sleeved dresses| Short sleeved dresses| Skirts| Formal pants| Dark jeans| Bright Jeans| Silk blouses| Party shirts| Etc.| Etc.It seems crazy to some people, but it works perfectly for me. The most important thing is to come up with a system that you think you’ll actually stick to. Even if that just means picking your stuff up off the floor and finally putting it away – that’s a great place to start.


 

Weekend Mini Mix 1/16/2015