Several years ago we were living in Madison, Wisconsin, and some Danish friends of ours road-tripped across the US and stopped at our house along the way. I can still remember showing them around our house when they sheepishly asked if they could peek inside our “Big American closet”. What happened next set me on a path toward minimalism and I’ll tell you all about it in today’s episode…
So as they requested I took them into the large walk-in closet in our master bedroom, and their oohs and ahhs were hilarious. But what I remember most is the shame I felt as I stood there looking at my packed closet—hangers pressed so tightly together that you could hardly move things; sweaters packed 10 high across the shelves; more shoes than I could ever possibly need crammed into an organizer on the back of the door— and at that moment I made a very conscious split-second decision to make sure they did NOT find out about the closet in the guest bedroom that looked more or less the same.
Over the next five years, I took a long, hard look at my relationship with stuff and downsized dramatically. The accumulation of stuff was once something that made me feel good. It was comforting. But when I realized how much of my time, energy AND MONEY that stuff was taking up, I began to assess the relationship and plan my exit strategy.
In 2017 we downsized from a 2200 square foot house in Madison to a 1000 square foot loft in Downtown Minneapolis. 10 months later we downsized further, putting 9 boxes on an airplane to Denmark and unpacking them in a 750 square foot flat. The tiny, one-door wardrobe that now houses my clothing AND SHOES is roughly 1/15 the size of that walk-in closet I had in Wisconsin (not even counting that guest room closet which we once again will ignore), and yet I’ve never found it easier or more enjoyable to get dressed. Finally understanding the concept of curating a wardrobe has been life-changing for me, my confidence, and my budget, and since I know this is not a rare struggle. This is something that so many of us struggle with largely due to today’s fast fashion industry and consumer culture….. I want to share with you a few of the methods that have helped me make this shift.
First is the idea that the more stuff you own, the more energy it takes up. Trust me on this one, especially when it comes to your clothes. You’ll do more laundry, spend more time folding them and putting them away, and whenever you clean your closet it will take you longer to sort through it all. You will literally waste hours of your life sorting through your excessive clothing collection. And this goes with your entire house. The more stuff you own, the more time you spend keeping it clean and organized, taking care of it, or eventually moving it around, packing it up, or spending time and energy to find a new home for it. Less stuff quite literally equals less stress and more mental bandwidth.
Next up is what I call the 4.0 method. I think I originally learned this on the Young House Love Podcast, and it was life-changing for me in so many ways. Think of your wardrobe as a GPA (grade point average). You want to maintain a perfect 4.0, right? A clothing item that is a perfect 4.0 means that it is the right size and a flattering fit, and also that you feel great when you put it on.
When you are sorting through your clothes or going shopping for something new, give the item rating between 1.0-4.0. Is buying that 3.5 sweater worth it if it will drag down the GPA of your entire wardrobe? Or would it be better to wait until you find a sweater that is actually a 4.0? This has helped me stop doing so much impulse shopping and has actually made it more enjoyable to shop because it has become so easy to say no.
The next tip is to consider the long-term investment. Think of this as the “cost per wear”. I hate math and I’m terrible at it, so I’m going to walk you through an example to demonstrate what this looks like. Let’s say you buy a simple white t-shirt at Target for $12. But you only wear it 4 times before it waffles in the wash and starts to fit weird. Your cost per wear is $3.00 (12 divided by 4).
But, let’s say you instead invest in a basic white tee from Everlane. The shirt will cost you $30, but you’ll wear it at least twice a month — so twenty-four times a year — for the next 5 years. The cost per wear is $.25 (30 divided by 120).
While buying more expensive items can mean more cost initially, the amount you spend over your lifetime can be reduced dramatically if you invest in quality over quantity.
My final tip for today is sort of a motto that has really helped me, and it goes “You can wear your favorite outfit every day if you only own your favorite outfits.” Of course, we all need a good pair of Netflix Sweats, but for the most part, why do I want to spend money on or give closet space to an outfit that makes me frumpy or self-conscious….even if I”m just sitting at home in it?! Once I committed to stop buying clothes I didn’t love, I found that I loved each piece I owned even more which meant I never had to settle for an outfit that made me feel bad about myself. Getting dressed becomes much more fun when you genuinely love and feel good in each piece of clothing you own.
So, as always, let’s recap these quickly so they are fresh in your mind. My four tips for clearing the clutter from your closet are:
Reducing my wardrobe down to a fraction of what it once was, was a huge undertaking for me and what I learned through the experience didn’t stop with these four tips. I actually created a workbook called The Minimalist Wardrobe. It’s an instant download you can purchase on my website, and page-by-page it will walk you through the process of cleaning the clutter, defining our personal style, how to donate items ethically, how to easily sell unwanted items online to make a profit, and how to ultimately start dressing your best with less. I put a lot of love into creating that eBook and really believe that it will teach you what you need to know not only to tackle your closet — which I think is a great starting point — but also to take the concepts that I teach you and use them to simplify your entire house or even your life. You can learn more about it at LearnFromDani.com, or head over to today’s show notes at PlanPodcast.com for a direct link.
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