Curating the Minimalist’s Closet

“Make things as simple as possible but no simpler.”

Albert Einstein.

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The Marriage of Reason and Squalor, II by Frank Stella, 1959.

While I don’t consider myself a minimalist in any profound sense of the word, at times I do aspire to certain qualities of the movement. One reason might just be the pure exposure to this lifestyle trend, which nowadays pervades social media, wellness blogs, and the New York Times Best Seller list.

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Twin by Robert Ryman, 1966.

But although minimalism is surely a passing fad for many internet bandwagoners, lesser cynics argue that the growing movement indicates a response to a changing world that is increasingly more excessive, expensive, and precarious to navigate. Literal interpretations that result in neutral palettes and trips to goodwill, while often worthy efforts, only scratch the surface. For those who immerse themselves in this way of life, minimalism represents the manifestation of a broader vision that focuses on allowing material possessions to hold less power over our lives.

“That doesn’t mean there’s anything inherently wrong with owning material possessions. Today’s problem seems to be the meaning we assign to our stuff: we tend to give too much meaning to our things, often forsaking our health, our relationships, our passions, our personal growth, and our desire to contribute beyond ourselves.

Minimalism is a tool to rid yourself of life’s excess in favor of focusing on what’s important—so you can find happiness, fulfillment, and freedom.”

– Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus aka The Minimalists

More than ever, what we choose to buy and own says more about how we live, what we care about, who we are and who we want to become.

One offshoots that I’ve somewhat successfully incorporated into my life is the minimalist closet.

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My capsule wardrobe from Spring 2016.

Advocates of the minimal wardrobes point to many BENEFITS that result from a smaller, more composed collection of clothing:

  • A smaller environmental footprint: Buying new stuff means making new stuff means more miles for transportation and shipping, manufacturing, and overall energy use. By consuming less you make less impact on the earth’s natural resources. Emphasizing quality over quantity helps us avoid fast-fashion pieces that can wear out quickly.
  • A healthier checking account: Because you’ve made such conscious choices concerning how to organize what you wear, you’re less likely to seek therapy through retail and purchase new items impulsively.
  • A better sense of personal style: Limiting your options and eliminating the noise from your closet helps cultivate and embrace what you like to wear and what looks and feels good.
  • More time: Minimalist dressers spend less energy worrying about what to wear and have more time to pursue, discover, and enjoy the things that are important to them.
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Yayoi Kusama.

A minimalist wardrobe can take many forms, and really, there are no hard and fast rules. But a few STRATEGIES have become particularly popular for those who want to mindfully pare down:

  • The “Capsule”: A seasonally curated collection of anywhere between 30-40 items rotated and updated 2 to 4 times per year. For inspiration try: Un-Fancy, Be More With Less
  • The “French Five Piece Wardrobe”: A collection of staples, kept fresh with the addition of 5 new items purchased bi-yearly. The idea here is to punch up a classic look by purchasing seasonal clothes that you love at the best quality you can afford. See it in action at: daarboven, WhoWhatWear
  • The “Uniform”: Iconic, ambitious, confident and bold. Steve Jobs in an Issey Miyake black mock turtleneck. Tom Wolfe’s head-turning white suit. Ironically, a surprising number of top fashion designers and editors, whose businesses depend on evolving trends, rely on wardrobes based in repetition (among these: Vogue’s Grace Coddington and Anna Wintour, Vera Wang, Karl Lagerfeld, and Michael Kors). Call it the epitome of style for those fiercely independent and prone to decision fatigue. And you can, too: Writer Alice Gregory on her turtlenecks and matchstick jeans, Matilda Kahl, Art Director, on how she created an office uniform of white shirts and black pants
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Author Fran Lebowitz’s daily outfit consists of a jacket, men’s shirt with cufflinks, Levi’s jeans, cowboy boots, two gold rings, and tortoiseshell glasses.

Some of us enjoy playing with our style while others find it anxiety-inducing and/or tedious. But for both camps, minimalism can help improve the experience of getting dressed. A super important thing to note from The Blissful Mind:

“Decluttering your home and closet doesn’t make you a minimalist. After all, you could declutter everything only to replace it with new stuff.”

Ultimately, whether diving head first into a lifetime of basic black, or just experimenting with wearing and purchasing fewer items for a season, these exercises should inspire us to do more with what we have and think more carefully about the relationship we have with our material possessions.

 

“If some people get upset because they feel they have a hold on some things, I’m merely acting as a gentle reminder: here today, gone tomorrow, so don’t get attached to things…”

“…Now, with that in mind, I’m not against collecting stuff.”

Maude, Harold and Maude.

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Inspired by The Minimalists, I’m working towards simplifying my life by freeing myself of some of the things that I own. Starting with my clothes. God I had so many clothes, and it feels awesome to not worry about owning them anymore. Our tendency to assign meaning to objects can really slow us down. These associations can make giving or throwing things away difficult or even feel agonizing, but it also creates the lightness we experience when unburdened by their emotional weight.

What I appreciate about Joshua and Ryan, who write The Minimalists, is their holistic approach. Minimalism isn’t just cleaning out your closet and donating a bunch of garbage to Goodwill. They encourage eradicating materialism and exercising mindfulness in all areas of our lives – from personal relationships, to physical fitness, personal style, decision-making, money management, setting goals (or more specifically, why not to), to discovering your passion and purpose. 

Now, with that in mind, I’m not against cleaning out your closet and donating a bunch of garbage to Goodwill. 🙂 It feels good to start.

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