The Freedom of Stuff-Forgetfulness

My husband and I are accidental minimalists.  We ditched half of our belongings before moving to California and then cut our stuff in half again before trekking cross-country again.  We recently packed everything we need for a year of living abroad into two suitcases, 2 carry-ons, and a backpack.

Surprisingly, it wasn’t that hard.  We’ve learned a lot over the last two and a half years about what we don’t need to still live well.  Also, I watched a documentary on minimalism once, so that makes me an expert, right?

A quick Google search will uncover a plethora of articles on the benefits of “less is more” and a rising tide of counter-articles based on the idea that minimalism can lead to idolatry of nicer things instead of just lots of things.

Based on my clearly established expertise on the matter, here’s my two cents.

  1. Less stuff makes life easier.

It means less to pack when you’re moving, less options in the closet to paralyze you, and less risk of buying things you don’t really need and letting them clutter your home.  

  1. The freedom of stuff-forgetfulness is better than minimalism or maximalism

Tim Keller wrote a short read on “The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness.”  It’s a great exposition of what true humility really means and the joy that comes when you stop connecting every experience to yourself.

Likewise, there is a great freedom in just thinking about our stuff less.  Personally, I’ve found that one way to do this is by simply having less stuff.  In order to have less stuff, I’m more thoughtful about my buying decisions so that I don’t buy useless stuff, but that doesn’t mean I have to obsess over every item in my home (or currently, suitcase).  

The Parable of the Rich Fool in Luke 12 provides apt warnings against both forms of idolizing stuff–both the quantity and the quality of it.  After reminding the crowd that “one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions,” Jesus goes on to tell the parable of a rich man with many quality goods and grains to whom God says:

“Fool!  This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?  So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12: 20 – 21)

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that in the very next verse Jesus exhorts his disciples:

“Therefore, I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on.  For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.” (Luke 12: 22 – 23)

There’s not a perfect number of items in your closet or kitchen utensils in your drawers, but when your decorations take up more mental space than the incredible glory and majesty of our Creator, that’s when it’s time to reevaluate.  For me, it meant shipping off a few boxes to the Salvation Army.  For others, it might mean taking those thoughts hostage and redirecting them towards the things we are called by God to think about.

 Either way, it’s not the stuff that matters as much as the place we give it in our lives.

This post is the third in my “Misplaced” series–click on the words to find my thoughts on misplaced kindness and misplaced attention.  I’ve got a few more up my sleeve, enter your e-mail below if you’d like to follow along.

Capsule Closet Part Three | Seven Months Later

 

I started my journey towards a capsule closet 7 months ago. I’m far from the finish line, but here’s what I’ve experienced so far.

1. It’s slowed down my decision making process

Our clothing budget is $10/month.  For both Luke and I.  Luckily for me, Luke refuses to buy clothing until he literally has one grey t-shirt left with a minimally acceptable amount of holes in it so I get more than my fair share of the budget.  But still, you can do some simple math and realize that I’m not buying a whole new wardrobe at one time.

The result?  I’m very strategic about what clothing I buy.  As in, I made an entire inventory list of what I already own, wrote out a list of my “ideal capsule closet” and then created that closet on Pinterest (55 items total, excluding pajamas and t-shirts for working out), marked “Tried” on the items I already own and then added the items I’d still like to an Amazon wish list and Google shortlist.

The unintended consequence was that I also became more thoughtful about other non-clothes related buying decisions.  I’m typing this blog post out on a brand-new laptop, which took me 4 months to narrow down the options and purchase.  I went to Target to go on a mini-shopping spree and couldn’t bring myself to buy anything that I wasn’t already planning on buying.  This might sounds like a tortured existence for those who love to shop, but I’ve found it so freeing.  I’m completely in control of the purchased items that I bring into my life as well as the money going out, which feels great.

2. Easier to get ready/pack

Less clothes = less options = way easier to get ready in the morning.  Couple this with the fact that literally everything goes together (no more fashion missteps!) and I’ve gotten my morning routine down to a speedy 6 minutes.  Plus, creating a capsule closet has killed my habit to “contingency pack” where I bring 5 more outfits than necessary on a trip “just in case.”  When all of my items go together and layer perfectly, I can actually bring just what I need.

3. I love thinking about fashion

I was never into fashion growing up.  We mostly thrifted for clothes, which can be awesome, but typically just meant searching through racks to find something that looked passable in society.  I never thought much about  what styles fit me best or what colors to put together.  Now that I’ve become hyper-strategic about my closet, I’ve found myself really enjoying the process.  Instead of picking the least ugly option from a predetermined set at Goodwill, I’m dreaming up what kinds of clothes I’d love to wear and then trying to find them.

4. I’m happier in the clothes I wear

I’ve eliminated all the items that I don’t love to wear which means every shirt in my closet is my favorite shirt. Plus, since I’ve been thinking more about body types and how clothing fits, I’m narrowed my closet down to items that really fit me well, which is always a good boost for the body image self-esteem.

5. Cascading decision effect

Luke recently coined the term “cascading decisions” in our household to refer to the domino effect that some decisions can create.  In this case, my decision to create a capsule closet has led me to decide to be slower to buy  anything which means less knickknacks around the house and less coffee impulse buys on the way to work.  It means easier getting dressed decisions in the morning which means leaving earlier for work and a quicker commute to the office (also aided by less coffee stops).

I’m far from a full-blown minimalist but the benefits I’ve experienced just from minimizing my closet makes me excited for other cascading decisions to come!

Capsule Closet Part 2

Chloe here, reporting in on what might be the most fun project of my summer thus far.  The last time we talked, I had embarked on my journey to a capsule closet and passed the milestones of clearing out the clutter and selecting a color theme.

I’m happy to report that I’ve applied the same techniques to my shoes, and currently have a shelf of loafers that are waiting to be donated.  The footwear has definitely been the most challenging part of this process.  I want comfortable shoes that I can wear to work and around town that go with all my outfits.  It’s a tall order, but I’m taking a page out of my husband’s wardrobe style guide and going with grey flats.  They go with my base colors (white & black) as well as all the accent colors (pink, blue, and purple).  I’ve kept all my nice heels and am investing in some new walking sandals to replace my current ones.

Since it is physically impossible for me to do anything halfway, I made aCapture Pinterest board not only with the items I’d like to add to my closet, but also the ones I currently have to give a good birds eye view of how well things are coordinating.  You can check it out here: https://www.pinterest.com/chloejsayers/capsule-closet/

I thought there would be a lot of items I’d have to buy to round out my closet, but I was pleasantly surprised.  Only 7 items on my Amazon wish list, none of which will break my clothing budget (if I don’t buy them all at once 😉

This is really the first time in my life that I’ve strategically thought about what I want to be wearing.   Who knew learning how to dress oneself would take 22 years?!

Major lessons learned:

  • Stick to a few colors so everything matches
  • Only keep clothes that fit well and that you feel good in
  • 1 high quality piece for $50 > 5 low quality pieces for $10 each

Any tips you’d add to the list?

 

Capsule Closet or Bust

A few weeks ago, I posted about trying to start creating a capsule closet and was surprised with the response. Evidently, a lot of my friends and family are on the journey themselves or are interested in slimming down their wardrobe.

The first thing I did was simply weed out the clothes that don’t fit great or I don’t wear often. I honestly didn’t think this would be a big pile since I got rid of a ton of clothes to move to California. However, I filled an ENTIRE garbage bag with shirts, skirts, and dresses that I simply don’t wear.

This next step was crucial: I didn’t donate them right away. Since removing those clothes from my closet narrowed me down to about 60 items (which sounds like a lot, but doesn’t feel like it), I eased my transition by keeping that garbage bag of clothes nearby for a few weeks to make sure I really didn’t need those clothes.

Here’s the crazy thing. I never opened that garbage bag. Not even once. Okay, that’s a lie. I just opened it up TO GET RID OF ANOTHER PIECE OF CLOTHING. I really didn’t miss those clothes.

The second step in my journey towards a bonafide capsule closet was picking a color scheme. If I want a core set of quality items that can be mixed and matched, then I need a few base and accent colors to ensure that each piece is versatile. Picking the colors was fairly easy. Base colors = black, white, grey. Accent colors = pink and blue. Surprise just for fun color = purple. The pink and blue go with each other and each of the base colors. The purple is because we all need a little purple in our lives.

The best part about this journey so far? Simple packing for trips. I’m filling a suitcase to head back to the Mitten & PA for a family reunion and wedding, and it took 10 minutes tops. Usually, I’m a chronic conditional over-packer. “But what if I need this outfit? Or it rains that day and I need this one? Or that one?” With a limited number of bottoms, tops, and dresses, I can pack exactly what I need and know that it will all match. Actually, I can pack less than what I would typically need since items can be worn multiple ways.

Overall, I’m super excited to be on this journey to a less chaotic closet. Because life is hard enough without 500+ options in the morning.

Next steps:
Invest in good shoes that go well with my color selections (sandals & work shoes)
Catalog what pieces I already have & which ones I need
Slowly purchase items/replace poor quality ones to fill out capsule closet