Saturday, February 5, 2011

Flirting with minimalsim.

The idea of a minimalist lifestyle often strikes me as intriguing and appealing. I think I'm really a collector by nature but I'm seduced by the promise of a streamlined, carefree, uncluttered existence. There is something incredibly alluring, even heady and intoxicating, about the kind of mad, throw caution to the wind type of life changing plans that begin with- "First, I'll sell all my stuff and then grab a flight to (insert dream destination here) with just a carry on and a camera."

Or there's the fantasy of emulating the slim Parisian mademoiselle  who has such refined personal style her wardrobe consists of five perfectly tailored Chanel suits, a pair of vintage Levis and a fabulous cocktail dress, who looks perfectly appropriate wherever she goes.

The thing is, a lot of my possessions bring me a great deal of joy. Maybe not joy that is the equivalent of true love or lasting friendship, but many of the things I own give me an undeniable  frisson of pleasure when I use them or see them. But many of them don't. And some of the things I own (mostly pieces of clothing) seem to actively mock me and torment me with their inappropriateness. A quick glance inside my closet is enough to break your heart.



Why would someone who professes to love clothes as much as I, treat them this badly? Surely this is a symptom of having too much. What was intended as a walk-in closet has deteriorated into a stand at the door and peer-in closet.


Perhaps it would be more appropriate to say minimalism flirts with me. The lure of uncluttered surfaces and freedom from unbridled consumerism is terribly tempting. But I admire minimalism from a safe distance, sometimes wondering- "what if?" but never taking the plunge. Minimalism is like a spare, sleek, handsome stranger sending me come hither glances with a knowing smile. "Come on, loosen up baby," Minimalism cajoles, with an unidentifiable but distinctly European accent, "You don't need all this stuff. Let it go. Come away with me and I'll show you how to really live." But I fear I'm just not ready to end my dysfunctional long term relationship with all my stuff. What if it doesn't work out with my spartan stranger? Will I be left with nothing?

Lately, I've been attempting a romance with Minimalism on a casual basis- no commitments- and I'm still trying to salvage my current relationship with my stuff.
My New Year's resolutions this year included a pledge to eliminate (donate, recycle, give away or throw away) one thing everyday and five things for every new thing purchased. Thus far, this plan has been limited to my wardrobe because that's where I have the most excess, but eventually I'm anticipating expanding into other areas. My vow is to stick to the one a day/five for new items regimen for the whole of 2011. I aspire to own only things that I love.

The month of January was practically painless. I was able to eliminate items from my life without a second thought- ten year old faded black shapeless tank top with the hem coming down? Out! Light wash size 6!!! boot cut jeans? Gone! Easy. Even having to eliminate 15 additional items to offset acquisitions this month, (the wedge boots, brown Anthro shoes and a cotton cardigan- a late arriving Christmas gift from my father,) didn't cause me any undue concern. Even though the cardigan was a gift and not a purchase, five items left my closet and joined the donation pile in the garage. Admittedly, they haven't left the garage yet, but I plan on dropping a bag off at the Goodwill every month, I've just been too busy this week. There is no danger these things will sneakily find their way back upstairs to the closet; the things I chose to eliminate this month were remarkably easy to part with. I'm expecting this process to start getting difficult about the middle of March. I'm anticipating some real gut wrenching anxiety to set in around July. But at some point I'll find myself in the situation where I'm considering buying something new and this new thing won't seem worth the price of getting rid of five of my treasured wardrobe staples.  I'm looking forward hopefully to that day.

I don't think I'll ever get to the level of the French mademoiselle in my fantasy example but I would like to have only as many garments as I have hangers, only as many shoes as I have storage boxes, and only as many sweaters as I have shelf space to accommodate them. I'd also like to be confident in the knowledge that every item in my closet both fits me and flatters me.

I went back and forth for a bit on whether items purchased second hand counted as requiring a sacrifice of five items. I've decided, at least for this year, that they do. If what I really want to achieve is a really edited, refined wardrobe then stuff from the thrift store can't be considered a free for all. What doesn't require a five item sacrifice is anything I make myself, or the tools or materials to accomplish making my own stuff, or thrift store items that I intend to alter somehow. Making and altering clothes are creative behaviors I want to encourage in myself.

An additional closet full of clothes that do not fit me.
This closet is at least somewhat organized.

I have a closet full of clothes that I can wear but I'm not sure they flatter me, and I have another closet full of clothes I think are pretty great but don't fit me. What I'd like to end up with on New Year's Eve 2011 is a single closet adequately stocked with things I look great in and enjoy wearing. I know that this isn't true minimalism, but frankly, I don't want to have to live with only the number of shoes I really need. How many is that anyway? Five pairs? Two? The very thought terrifies me.

1 comment:

  1. I loved this post. I totally empathize with your struggle between competing desires: the urge to collect and the urge to simplify. I think I've written about this essential conflict, in some form or another, many times! Thanks for visiting my blog! Now I'm off to see the "after" pictures.