Happy Herbivore Blog

August 19, 2013

Minimalist Monday: Fashion and Wardrobe Tips (Plus How to Shop for Clothes during Weight Loss)

(*Although I started Minimalist Monday to share my journey to minimalism, I don't only want it to be about me and my journey, but yours too! So if you ever have a topic idea, please let me know!)

Today's topic is by request! I received this email a few weeks ago:

Really loving your minimalist posts — Can you maybe write another post about minimalist fashion? I have majorly cut down on my wardrobe, thanks to your post. I dress stuff up with costume jewelry now, and am so much happier — it is so much easier to keep everything neat. I have so much trouble not throwing out more stuff because I find I wear the same bottoms and tops over and over and kind of feel like why should I keep the other stuff?


Down-sizing your closet is awesome.

Why? Mornings are stress-free. You'll have more disposable income. Laundry is easier. You won't lose time "looking" for things and packing for a vacation is a breeze! (I, perhaps, was a little too extreme with my "I found my bikinis and passport! I'm ready for Belize!" I clearly forgot a cover-up and shoes! lol But in the end, that's all I needed. I didn't wear anything else but my cover-ups, bathing suits and 1 pair of shoes!).

But before we were minimalists, Scott and I had so many clothes. Our closet was always chaotic and overflowing, and we had more still in suitcases under the bed and in trash bags in the basement. Clothes and shoes were everywhere, no matter how hard I tried to keep things organized. 

I always seemed to be looking for my left shoe. I would tear through my closet looking for a sweater I wanted and after being unable to find it, decide the closet must have ate it (only to find it 5 months later in the middle of the summer when I no longer wanted it). Scott was always asking me where his belt was. He had at least 5 of them and they kept going missing. We were always losing stuff in our closet. 

Worse still, I would often stand in front of our closet in my underwear and cry that I had nothing to wear. 

I wore, at best, 20 to 30% of my wardrobe. 

But we kept everything. Maybe we'd wear it someday. We spent money on it. It's not hurting us sitting in the suitcase under the bed, is it? 

Everything changed when we moved abroad a few years ago. We were only allowed 4 suitcases and at least one of the four suitcases needed to carry other things (not clothes). Our new home abroad was furnished, but we still needed to take paperwork (vet records for the dogs), pictures of our family members, my computer, a few books, etc. etc.

Basically, I had to pack my entire wardrobe into a suitcase and a half.

Straightaway, I reached for those clothes I wore the most, but I also had to think about utility. Given such a limited amount of clothing, I needed to pick versatile pieces. (We were also moving to a small island in the Caribbean so there was no hope of shopping for new clothes or shopping "online" once we got there).

I became a minimalist with my clothes that day, even if I didn't know it. 

Basics came to mind. I chose items that I could dress up or dress down. I paid attention to a color palette so I could switch around tops and bottoms (this is a great practice for traveling). 


(*what I packed for a month in Europe backpacking — to research HHA!)

I packed a good bit of classic accessory pieces like necklaces and scarves that could create a whole new look (like my reader said she did).

After we were packed, I looked at the leftovers and wondered what to do with them. 

We could have put those items in storage, and that was certainly a consideration, but going to the storage unit place to get a quote finally shifted my mind. 

Did I really want to pay money, my hard-earned money, to store things I'm not going to use for months on end and I don't even really use now? (And if I'm honest with myself, I probably won't use in the future?)

I realized because storage was "free" at home, I stored. It was paying for the storage that made me second guess my storing habits. 

One of my minimalist students made this comment recently and I love it: Why was I using my home as a storage facility? 


The longer I thought about it and the more honest I became with myself, I finally realized the best thing I could do was to donate it. Just give it away to someone who will actually use it. What good are having 25 pairs of shoes if all they do is collect dust in my closet (sooo many of them were dusty!). Why hoard all these clothes I'm not going to wear? 

Just because I spent money on them? Well the money is already spent. Keeping the items doesn't really change that. Not wearing them doesn't put pennies back in my pocket. Let it be a lesson to buy more intentionally next time! (This is what I told myself). 

It took four trips to get all of our excess shoes and clothes to Goodwill. I was embarrassed by how much we had, and I didn't think we had that much to begin with! 

What I found most interesting is what happened once we moved. 

I wore everything. I never stood in the closet crying about what to wear. I started getting really creative and made new outfits. 

Looking back, I couldn't believe that I had (easily!) 8x the amount of clothes and always felt like I needed to go shopping. Or that I always wore the same things, the same few outfits, despite my overflowing closet.  

Now it feels like I never wear the same thing twice, even though I don't have a lot of clothes. 


(*our closet abroad — and bunny!)

When you have less stuff, you'll be amazed at how creative you can get with solutions. Sometimes I think "too many options" is a bad thing — and that was certainly my experience with my clothes and shoes.

I own probably two suitcases worth of clothes and shoes now, maybe a little more, but it's at least a quarter of what I used to own. I wear everything in my closet. Sure, some things get more use than others. For example, my sandals are worn more than my high heels, but I still wear my heels fairly regularly. 

So what does a minimalist wear? His or her favorite clothes and nothing else. Everything in the closest is worn and enjoyed.

I also don't have emotional attachments to my clothes anymore. 

I felt a small twinge of pain when I gave my wedding dress to charity, but I'm not going to wear it again and I don't expect a future daughter to either. It just sat in my closet for years. I didn't even look at it!

So instead of it sitting in the closest for the next 20 years, it went to a charity that turned it into a prom dress for a girl who can't afford one. That's the most beautiful second life my dress can ever have. I have my husband, I don't need the dress :) 

(*If you'd like to donate an old prom dress, bridesmaid dress, wedding dress, or other fancy event dress, check out donatemydress.org. And for my ultra minimalist (and budget-savvy readers), you can rent a dress instead of buying it!! I love Rent the Runway. Here I am rockin' one of the dresses I rented. I got so many compliments!)

Admittedly, not having emotional attachments to "things" has been one of my biggest struggles on my own minimalist journey. I'm continually working toward removing attachment from objects and only giving meaning and deep emotion and sentiment to people, relationships, personal growth, memories, celebrations, etc.

I find being more... conservative with my emotions in this way makes those memories and relationships with people more meaningful, more magical and more endearing. 

I have always tried to live my life for the experiences. Even before I was a minimalist, I was more into checking things off my bucket list — having those moments — than buying or accumulating things. This is especially true of money, which isn't always the BEST trait to have. Money always burned a hole in my pocket. I save up so I can go somewhere, and then I start saving up to go somewhere else. I guess I do collect something after all — passport stamps.

Anyway, I think that desire to have experiences and moments is why I travel so much, throw so many parties, make a bazillion friends online, and ultimately choose a career that involves being a public figure in some way. 

I guess I was always meant to be a minimalist :P

Yet I'm still imperfect in so many ways: I still have a few items I'm really attached to emotionally, like a stuffed animal my parents gave me (see bunny in the closet above). Bunny has survived every move and is the first thing I pack. If my house was on fire, I'd grab my bunny after my husband and dogs. 

I've worked really hard to get over my attachments to clothes and shoes. That's not to say there aren't things I would miss if I lost them, but gone are the days of crying when I accidentally spill bleach on my favorite pair of jeans. 

I enjoy my clothes and take pride in my appearance. I like to look nice. I love to feel beautiful. I like feeling sexy and confident and feminine — but I am not my wardrobe. Since living with less clothes and shoes, I also think more carefully about what I buy. If I don't like any of the jeans the store has, I'll wait. Another store, another day. I also practice the one-in, one-out rule


(*My closet today. I have so little that I have my tank tops hanging on hangers (which I love) and our second "coat" or "linen" closet is empty except for the crate Quaid was hospitalized in after spine surgery (we no longer use it and need to donate it to the ASPCA next time we volunteer, a blanket I just bought at Ikea for the fall when it cools off) and my winter coats, a network router for the internet and cable on the floor. Office supplies are in the bin). 

Gone are the days of "just in case" items. Gone are items that I hate to wear (like wool sweaters, too scratchy!). Gone are clothes that don't fit right. 

Speaking of which, when I was a personal trainer, I insisted all of my clients get rid of clothes that were now too big for them. It's all too easy to slip back into your old clothes if you've put weight back on. Only keeping your correct size keeps you really honest! If the pants are tight, you know you need to make a modification to your lifestyle.

Gone are thoughts like "well I'll wear it if..." or "maybe...."

I read somewhere recently that President Obama only wears a white or blue shirt. He doesn't want to worry about what he's wearing. Now that's minimalist! 

Point is, minimalism is different for everyone, and where to start can feel daunting, but your closet is a great place to start. You'll love having less in your closet! 

Lastly, another, somewhat related, question — how to shop for clothes during weight loss. 

When Scott and I were losing weight, we tried not to buy new clothes until we reached our goal weight. We were broke already and didn't want to waste money on clothes that we wouldn't get a lot of use out of. However, there was a point where I finally had to buy some in-between sizes. My old clothes were just too big and looked sloppy (not the impression I wanted to give while going on interviews — I was a student at the time.). 

Keeping minimalist is the way to go here as well: Stick to basics: black skirt, brown and black pants, a few basic tops. Stay within a color palette and try to pick solids instead of prints. 

Make use of the sales rack during weight loss (buy items that are very cheap and on sale — I loved Kohls, Target and TJ Maxx), but I generally avoid these places now because I find sales racks increase my compulsion to buy, and to buy something I probably wouldn't normally buy — a la "but it's a deal!" or "but it's only $5!" This is what got me in trouble in the first place. 


I like to really think hard about if I want and need something and when it's more than $10, it's not likely to become an impulse purchase. I also find when I spend a little more on quality items they last a lot longer, so I buy even less in the end. As much as I used to LOVE H&M, their stuff never holds up for me. I finally got to a point where I'd rather have two nice items that last years than a bag of clothes for the same price that last a few washes (But that's me! We all have to find our own balance!).

Anyway, back to the topic: when I had to buy clothes during my weight-loss journey, I also looked for items that would work with my changing body. For example, I found a black skirt that was pretty stretchy, and gave quite a bit, so I was able to wear it as my body went down several sizes. I also found a few dresses that were a little tight, but wearing them was still flattering, and they only looked better as I lost more. 

Also check out your local thrift stores and websites like Freecycle. Have a clothing swap party with your friends. If someone you know lost weight recently, don't be afraid to ask if they have anything they can give you. If it's an item you really love and wore a lot, consider taking it to a tailor. 

Bethenny Frankel also has great tips and insights for how to dress fashionably using what you have — and I love when she says "if you don't love it, get rid of it. You're never going to paint in it.

Finally, in researching for this post, I came across this cool thing: the versalette. Just goes to show you how creative you can get with a single item in your closet! 

Do you have any tips for shrinking your closet and living the minimalist (but still fashionista!) life?

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