Not that I’m a minimalist right now, but it’s something I’m slowly working toward. See, it all started when I moved to Bloomington, IN a few years ago for grad school. I brought EVERYTHING. I filled a decent-sized Budget moving truck with all of my furniture (couch, loveseat, chair, ottoman, dining set, mattress, dresser, entertainment shelf thing, bookshelf, vanity…probably things I’m forgetting), art, clothes, books, records…EVERYTHING. I packed my Camry full of stuff. I had a whole, furnished house worth of STUFF.
I did this because neither of my new housemates had any furniture and I thought it would be easier and cheaper to carry the trappings of my 28 years of life across several state lines, and it was fine. We had a nicely furnished, comfortable home with lots of kitchen equipment and gardening tools and knick knacks. And all through that year, I bought more stuff. I bought clothes for a new lifestyle. I bought shoes. I filled the house with more and more things.
And then disaster struck. Relative disaster. We had to move. I found a small 1-bedroom apartment that a lot of my furniture wouldn’t fit it. I had a storage unit for the summer, but it was double-booked so I was left with a truck full of my stuff, a limited time to move it all, and 1 friend who could help. I was screwed. I called my friend Alexa, who was in Germany, to beg her to let me use her tiny basement storage area for my things. I grabbed her hidden extra key and I crammed as much stuff as I could into her basement room, shoved my mattress behind her wardrobe, loaned her my coffee table and patio furniture for the summer…but I had to donate the rest of my furniture to the ReStore. I gave my couches to another friend (they came to me for free so I felt this was probably a good karmic decision) and said goodbye to everything except what I could fit at Alexa’s, and drove my packed Camry to Richmond, VA for a summer internship.
Flash forward to August, when I went to retrieve my things from the basement and discovered a bunch of mildewed clothes and moldy leather accessories. Everything stunk. I spent weeks trying to clean Frye boots and my great-grandmother’s scarves, hanging them outside my small apartment to dry in the sun. I had been forced to downgrade, but I still had SO MUCH STUFF.
My Mom and sister drove Mom’s hatchback to Bloomington for my graduation and to help me move back to North Carolina. I hadn’t done much packing (I’d been too busy with exams and grading undergraduate papers to do anything else) and I was sure we could get it all done in one night, but I was oh so wrong. They stayed an extra day to help me go through all of my stuff, which I now think of as my crap. I loaded a friend’s truck up for 2 separate Goodwill trips. I sold books and furniture on Facebook and gave away the rest. At the last minute, I ditched an entire laundry basket worth of shoes (there was another basket), making snap decisions. It felt good.
My neighbor, an older man, walked by and looked at my car in amazement. He went to college, he said, with a single suitcase. I felt ashamed then, looking at all my stuff.
We loaded my Mom’s and my car with everything that would possibly fit, leaving a little space for my sweet cat, Devo, to ride atop a pile of stuff in my car (she likes to sit up high and look out the windows on car rides). I loaded everything in my parents’ basement for the next 9 months while I lived at home, finished up some school projects and hunted for a job. I didn’t touch most of my stuff.
In September last year I moved into an apartment with a friend. I brought all the stuff from the basement plus my clothes and some of my sister’s kitchen things. I realized over the next couple of months that even though I had so many items of clothing, I had very little that I actually wanted to wear. Many things no longer fit my lifestyle; others were in less-than-perfect condition, hadn’t been worn in over a year, or didn’t fit quite right. I decided that I deserved to feel awesome in my clothes and to only have things that make me feel great. I deserve to have clean, well-fitting clothes with no holes, clothes that make me feel great and look great. I decided to throw out everything that didn’t fit that model, to make space for things that did. I stood at the top of the stairs and threw clothes down, releasing them from my life. It felt AMAZING. I ended up with several garbage bags of clothes that I was able to donate to Goodwill so that someone else could enjoy them.
Since then I’ve been on a mission to reduce clutter in my life and to make space for joy. A lot of this has to do with my wardrobe. I have always loved fashion and consider my clothes a source of creative expression. What I wear matters to me, and I love that I can shape the way I’m perceived through my wardrobe. I like things that make me feel comfortable and confident. My style has changed a lot since I moved to Bloomington and back. My job and the weather require different types of clothing. My body has changed a little and my ideas about who I am and what I like have changed a lot. I’m still developing my style, and I’m still discarding old things and shopping much, much less. I recently went full konmari on my wardrobe and donated 4 more bags of clothing and shoes, and I’m ready to go through books and papers the next time I get a free day. I am attempting a second capsule wardrobe (more on that later). Becoming more minimalist and intentional with my wardrobe, figuring out my personal style, and exploring a capsule wardrobe are key factors in my personal life this year. I’m going to be sharing more about this as I go along. I don’t know that I’ll ever be a fashion blogger, but we’ll see how it goes.
In the meantime, if you’re interested in capsule wardrobes, check out this (now defunct) blog by photographer and writer Caroline Joy Rector. I really responded to her style when I was searching for information on a capsule wardrobe, and I found her wardrobe planning document really useful. If you’re considering a capsule, I highly recommend checking her out.