Minimizing, decluttering, simplifying... these are sexy words in more than just a niche crowd these days. I feel like every third post I see on Facebook is about minimizing one's wardrobe. And I get it. I've spent soooooo much time working on, writing on, and living into the minimal impulse to varying degrees.
A bit of context...
A few years ago, my 27th year of life, I went radically minimal (in the wardrobe department) and wore one single dress, un-accessorized, for one year. I sought out to challenge the ways my identity was constructed through clothing, what sustainability means for consumption, how our perception of others is so often based on external presentation, and what "fashion" ultimately meant for me going forward, among other things. I blogged my way through the year (on a blog that is no longer live but I'm slowly re-publishing some of that content here). To say it was life changing would truly be an understatement.
That year changed so, so much for me. I learned, first hand, just how much happier I was living with less. It was incredibly freeing. Honestly, it's a significant piece of the puzzle that has allowed us to adopt the necessary mindset for me to be a SAHM (with a grad student husband). Over the course of my one-dress year, my husband and I realized that we could really get by on much less than most and be truly happy. Happier than ever!
And then, on the final day of my "One Dress Protest," I finally saw those two much anticipated pink lines.
My body QUICKLY changed. And before I'd even finished going through what all had been packed away the previous year while I wore my one dress, my wardrobe was ill-fitting. So my clothes sat for another year as my body grew, stretched, and changed shape.
After Adiah, my daughter arrived, my body didn't return to it's pre-partum shape (not so surprisingly). A couple years later I got pregnant again, but I lost that baby. In the couple months I was pregnant, though, my body had already started the quick early weight gain I now know is just my norm. So... more weight... I didn't lose. And then I got pregnant with Walden. My body stretched and grew, again. And now I'm 11-months post-partum with a completely different (or so it feels to me) body than I had prior to having my children.
It's been 4 years and I've bought so little clothing for myself, what with all these changes in my body shape and function. I've not wanted to buy clothes for a body I felt was in constant flux, and I especially haven't been willing to spend money on clothes that might not fit a few months down the line.
Oh, and also prior to having Adiah I was a full time Pilates instructor. I taught Pilates or was in the studio running a teacher training or was at the gym working out with my personal trainer (professional trades are the best) between 40 and 60 hours a week total. Ask me how many hours I've spent exercising (outside of walking) in the past 4 years...?! Less than I did in one week pre-kids. Of course my body is different. And while I truly, deeply miss being so physically present in my body... it's just not happening right now. Goals, goals, so many goals, so little time.
(As a side note, it's at this point that I try to remind myself that there is enough time, it's just that I've chosen a slower path for there to be "enough time." I need to establish the rhythms and rituals of my life to incorporate healthy bits of exercise, but honestly, I just can't seem to seize the opportunity at present. Some day.)
All this has meant I've lived out of probably 3% of my wardrobe for the last 4 years. And yet, it's all just sat there for... one day. The day I finally decided to go through it.
So, with the backstory details out of the way, here's what I'm working with: a closet full of clothes from my pre-kids, fittness-instructor-body, not-SAHM life; a body I accept just as it is and appreciate for all the magical things it has done and is still doing over the past four years, and a desire to rid myself of the excess, finally, to let go of what doesn't fit or support my lifestyle.
And... here's how I've done it so far and where I'm at in the process.
This picture illustrates where I started (the only things it's missing is what I keep in the drawers of my dresser: bulky sweaters, some pajamas, t-shirts, underwear/bras, socks, and Pilates attire that I don't hang).
The initial wardrobe go-through was daunting, but probably the easiest step in the process. I took garments out in sections (all the sweaters, then all the jeans, so on and so forth), because doing everything at once just doesn't happen -- that's an unrealistic project in my world.
I tried on every single item. I removed what didn't fit or wasn't close to fitting (which meant taking out most of my pants, which no longer fit my post-partum build). I removed what had a hole or a stain that I couldn't get out (this did away with a great many t-shirts dating back to college). And I kept what I liked reasonably enough (this filtering tool took out much of what I felt was "too young" for a now-mom of two).
That got me to this:
At this point I knew this wasn't what I wanted or needed to get down to, but it was a good start. So then I had a little fun. Before going on to the next step of paring I added in the sweaters from my dresser so all that isn't pictured (below) is: some pajamas, t-shirts, underwear/bras, socks, and Pilates attire that I don't hang.
So then I attempted to "KonMari" my closet. Essentially that means a certain way of going through everything and then keeping what "sparks joy." Imma be really honest here: I seriously struggled with this. And why, I think, is very important. I don't just want less. I most of all want to consume less. I also want to keep what is functional because tossing/donating things is really not a sustainable model either.
So in essence, what "sparks joy" and what I'm willing to wear just aren't synonymous.
One of the issues I have with the KonMari method is what to do with all the discarded, perfectly fine garments. What I know for certain is that all too often the clothes one drops at a giveaway center just end up in a landfill somewhere. It's unfortunately not a responsible way to get rid of things, so every item I get rid of feels like a burden. In so many ways keeping it all all these years has been an effort to avoid that work, the work of ridding myself of what I knew would be gotten rid of.
That said, looking at an item and asking myself whether or not it "sparks joy" just felt horribly foreign. It felt frivolous and not respectful to the garment, or our earth. It felt irresponsible.
Honestly, if I truly and honestly KonMari'd, I'd have about 4 items left. The KonMari method would leave me with so little and have me toss out so, so much. Of course, then I'd feel justified (and would truly need to do so) in going out and purchasing more stuff. All this to say, my experience illuminated for me how KonMari is ultimately for the privileged. Consume, joy, toss, repeat. It does very little to curb one's consumption habits. Sure, I do think it encourages some to consume less.
Isn't there a better way?
Back to my own process, though. Next, I put all my clothes (that'd I'd gotten down to after the first major go-through) back again, effectively starting over. Instead of using the KonMari method, I filtered my choices of what to keep in my wardrobe with the the filter, "What would I buy today, for what I think I paid for it?" That got me to this:
This was by far my most minimal outcome.
I think this is what KonMari was supposed to have gotten me, but that method, as I said, left me unsatisfied. I needed a filtering system that helped me hang on to not just what sparked joy in my life, but what served a purpose and seemed to be something I'd actually wear.
This (see photo below) is likely where my wardrobe will land, I think. Here's my closet with what I like and actually wear, plus what I'd wear if the right occasion presented itself, or what I'd be willing to wear before replacing it if my preferred items were to wear out.
It's more than what I'd rebuy, it's more than what "sparks joy," and it's more than I need, for sure. But for now, this feels like a reasonable end. I will say, the vast majority of this is still stuff I bought pre-children and thus, pre-breast feeding. So still, I feel like much of this won't be worn for hopefully another couple years. Even out of this I think I'll be wearing less than half until I'm no longer breastfeeding off-and-on all day every day.
So where to go from here? Well, here's what I hold myself to: wear out what you own, replace mindfully as you need. It's as simple as that.
Would I love to toss it all, one-fell-swoop, and replace it with a handful of hyper-intentionally consumed handmade wool, cotton, linen items that exude "me"? Umm... YES! A thousand yesses. But, that's just not that responsible. I can't let myself get caught up in that fairy tale. Slow and steady, Kristy (I often tell myself). And then it makes future opportunities for intentional consumption that much more glorious (i.e., intentional). Because... I do like clothes, and I'd like to have a style, and I even like "shopping" from time to time.
But this way I get to do it in a way I can feel really good about -- about my family, my bank account, my peace of mind, and ultimately the earth.