In the 70s, a famous slogan was written for L’Oreal hair colour by copy writer Ilon Specht: “Because I’m worth it.”
The current trend of curating your closet is, in many senses, another level of these messages, because now, simply having enough money for clothes isn’t enough – now we are supposed to love everything.
So we curate. You may call this clutter clearing or minimalism or some other name. I have enjoyed doing Courtney Carver’s Project 333 which I write about here. But what I began to notice is that I found myself – after downsizing – continuing on to refine and curate in search of those ‘love’ items. I may have not been increasing the total number of clothing I owned by much but I was still – even unconsciously – on the search for the perfect curated closet.
In some Facebook communities on minimalist fashion I’ve read how people feel they haven’t been successful in downsizing the items they own because they don’t have anything in their closet they love. Think about this for a moment: even after downsizing we look in a closet full of clothes and feel we need to keep working on it.
Presumably we loved the things we bought (for the most part, the majority of it, anyway) when we bought them. Why do we fall out of love with them so fast?
When beginning the downsizing the wardrobe process, we get rid of the obvious things: you know the ones. They don’t fit, they are shabby from wear or washing, or they are for a part of your life that is finished. They may be gifts that didn’t suit you but you couldn’t part with, trends that didn’t suit you, or fast fashion mistakes. Those are relatively easy to let go of, once you start.
Now the closet is at least somewhat more deliberate and streamlined. But is it curated? Do you love everything? You may have found that you’ve unwittingly raised the bar for yourself.
We are told that we should only keep clothing that ‘sparks joy’ to use a current catch-phrase (because we are worth it?). I accepted this as a worthy goal until I began to realize how much anxiety it was creating. Not because of the search, but because of the guilt it creates at finding I have clothes that are not worn out, still fit, but I no longer love them. Because this mindset keeps you attuned to more buying, to ‘get it right – to have the perfect curated wardrobe. And I don’t know about you, but I am so tired of this. I’m ready to get off of the treadmill.
When I started to see my own cycle, I began to rebel and think about a new goal. That new goal is ‘good enough’. In fact, when it comes to clothing, I think ‘okay’ is really good. I have a closet full of clothing that is ‘okay’. It is good enough – and I don’t feel cheated at all that I am not wearing things I love everyday.
I love them just enough – just the right amount for an inanimate object that doesn’t have feelings, and is, after all, a consumable. It is always one wearing away from being unwearable.
Why? Because in these clothes I can be myself. I can do whatever needs to get done without being concerned about wrecking my best clothes. The majority of the clothes I enjoy wearing everyday are work horses. I like to have things that are easily replaceable, which means for me, a closet of basics.
I do have a few things in my closet that I really, really like – they are my Divas. I used to feel guilty that I wasn’t wearing these more than I do, because, you know “I’m Worth It.” Sometimes, having that special jacket or dress for special occasions is fine – it actually makes the times when you wear it stand out more in my memory.
Love is for Things with a Pulse
I love my family and friends. I love my pets. They are long term loves that define me and will be with me forever. And then there are shorter term loves which are equally important to the human condition: we fall in love with a gorgeous sunset, a baby or a puppy we meet on a street. Maybe we fall in love with a piece of music, or drink in the beauty of a flower or tree, or a colour.
There is often much to admire about clothing: the fabric, the colour, the workmanship, and yes, some of those will be works of art, one of a kind items to be treasured.
If and when those stray into your life – wonderful! To seek it out and make it your goal can cause dissatisfaction and anxiety. I want to keep my energy more for loving people and less for loving things.
I would like to reduce my attachments to things. I appreciate what I have, but it is often a source of anxiety when it is lost or misplaced and I recognize that not owning them would free up my energy to love my life, and not my things.
Fitting This in with Real Life
It is late December as I am writing this, and chances are pretty good that you are about to receive some new items of clothing or jewellery. Giving and receiving will probably not end – and I am not sure it needs to. We need people to create and those to purchase, and everyone who creates wants to sell – including writers who introduce us to new ideas.
But we can be more discerning. Just because a writer says something, doesn’t mean it is true. It is worth stepping back frequently for a bit of sanity and clarity, and to realize that even if you try to avoid them, we can’t easily escape a continual barrage of marketing messages which are aimed at producing dissatisfaction – that we are worth it to have the very best.
The rebellion is in acknowledging that joy from things is fleeting: the real joy comes from cultivating relationships with family, friends and even people you encounter during your day, from seeing beauty in nature, in reading uplifting words, and seeing other people’s creation and interpretations of this life.
We can do this without getting caught up in the craziness of the marketing messages.
I began retirement in January. I really thought I’d wear pretty much the same thing I wore to work, mostly dresses and jackets. After a few weeks I realized I needed to rethink my wardrobe. Making soup stock while wearing a silk dress sounds so sophisticated. It isn’t funny when, even while wearing an apron, you find grease spots on the dress. What I really needed was my weekend wardrobe expanded.
I don’t know about you, winter dressing seems a lot harder than summer dressing. I wrote a piece on my summer capsule in August (Tiny Wardrobe Magic: 40 outfits from 10 pieces) and thought I had this figured out. Then I found myself doing a lot of buying this fall. Granted, some of that shopping had to do wanting to make some bigger purchases while the money held. Some (maybe a lot) of it had to do with turning 60 in November and contemplating retirement. Most of it was feeling uncomfortable in my clothes.
I have an idea that with our short winters, I could theoretically have (at least) a three-season wardrobe. The office I worked in was always warm so I wore short sleeve tops or dresses under a jacket or cardigan year around.
The first full week at home I thought I was going to freeze. That set off my search in earnest for a new look. I confess I also convinced myself some new long sleeve purchases were really winter ‘underwear’ pieces that didn’t count. Also, that I’d wear them on their own in spring and summer. We’ll see about that. It explains another part of my shopping spree.
My next goal was more about dynamic moving. I don’t want to live in movement restricting jeans. Now I need to make more of an effort for activity. Curling up with a book is pretty tempting when it is pouring outside. But I’m not a t-shirt and leggings woman. I could have gone with skirts over the leggings but I got rid most I owned. I decided dresses were more versatile than skirts. I’ve settled on a compromise – tunic tops. They look good with skinny jeans, or with a dress or skirt underneath. They are acceptable enough (for me) to wear with leggings so that I don’t feel under dressed for a quick errand or an afternoon walk.
A dynamic wardrobe can also being about acknowledging change. I want to keep pace with who I am now. Recently I read about changing your name, or your clothes, to mark majour life passages. Retirement certainly qualifies. It invites a certain sense of authenticity and keeping pace.
To put these ideas firmly into practice I decided to do a winter capsule retirement challenge. I also wanted to stop myself from more searching and buying. In short, my goal is to to decide on a style and feel more comfortable in my skin.
Doing a 10 x 10 challenge (where you only wear 10 items for 10 days) is a chore but also an effective visual tool. It helps me focus on what I feel good in. I always come out seeing just how much leverage I can get with a small selection that is carefully curated. I didn’t take any great pains on the photographs, which should be evident. Until you try this you don’t realize how much works goes into those gorgeous shots on some blogs. ‘In focus and not too obviously posed’ was my main goal. Publishing the posts on Facebook was mostly to keep me honest and attentive.
I’ve done a few 10×10 ‘challenges’, but I got too caught up with rules on this one. I actually ended up with eight garments and two pairs of boots, but my goal is to have 2 capsules of (roughly) 20 items. Outerwear (shoes, boots, coats, bags, etc., is another 10-15 items. I’ve been following Project 333 for a few years (read about it here and here). The items I chose themselves were not ideal either, but what you learn from doing this is valuable. Here is what I chose and how I wore them. (2 jackets, 4 tops, 2 pants, 2 boots).
Even with two of the items being boots, there are more than 10 outfits here. I won’t claim it is as versatile as my summer wardrobe (of 40 outfits with 10 items) but it is something to work on. There are some pieces here that I love the look and feel of.
1. I love the white jean jacket. It is like a denim jacket but very soft twill, wonderful for layering. It is not too bulky under my outwear, often a trench coat, and makes a change from a blazer.
2. The chambray shirt is similarly very soft and fluid. I felt like it needed to be tailored a bit but I think the jeans I choose were just too low to allow graceful tucking in. I can confirm that after washing it no longer needs to be tailored.
3. The white patterned top is fun to wear and it made a somewhat sedate (*boring?) collection more exciting. And I just discovered that the linen blazer living on the ‘maybe’ pile because so few colours went with it is almost an exact match for the paisley pattern.
What didn’t Work as Well
Both of the bottoms:
a) I should have looked at the long term forecast. Part of this capsule experiment was done on a five day trip away from home and the mild weather changed, dramatically. The knickers with short boots (bare legs) happened outdoors only once! The rest of the time whenever I wore the knickers I also had on bicycle shorts, long socks and long boots! I also wore the long boots with my jeans, wading through snow.
b) These jeans (which as I wrote about in my daily Facebook posts) need a good rest between wearings. They stretch out with body heat and get baggy in the knees and bum. The reason these are in such great shape after almost 8 years is air drying but I didn’t have the time to do that with nothing other than knickers to wear. I will plan on at least 2 pair of jeans for winter.
c) A higher waist pants works better for me if I want to tuck something in. These low rise jeans were a limiting factor.
2. I didn’t include a dress. At the last minute I took it out of my case to keep the 10×10 ‘rules’. A dress or skirt gives me more options. A dress can be worn with just leggings and a short boot. Skinny jeans can create another look. Tops can be layered over or under the dress, depending on the sleeve. I find sleeveless ones are the most versatile.
3. I only wore my black cardigan coat with 2 outfits but there are more possibilities there. It would look great with the denim shirt underneath.
What Makes a Dynamic Retirement Capsule?
So, what does this have to do with dynamic retirement, you ask? I don’t want to be age-identified by what I wear. I’ve always loved biker jackets but when I was young I needed to wear long tops to hide my bum. (There was absolutely nothing ‘wrong’ with my derriere, mind you. I just felt exquisitely self conscious if it wasn’t covered.) Now I don’t care about that. It is one part of now or never, and another part not really caring about what someone else might think. I want to feel cool. If it has taken me to age 60 to be brave enough to be cool, bring it on.
Retirement dressing is a matter of self-esteem. No one can tell you how many items of clothing you need, and what they should be. Dressing well, to your standards, is still important in how you feel about yourself. At the same time, retirement also can mean owning fewer things so it is an opportunity to take stock. There is power in letting go of the visible reminders of a life you don’t lead anymore, and it makes room for the life you have now.
Although I don’t miss the work I did, getting dressed and going to the office everyday had an appeal. Dressing as well as I did when I went to an office everyday is important in retirement, especially in a time of transition. What I wore on the weekend is what I’m wearing now — nice jeans or leggings and a nice top. I don’t want to exist in shabby clothes or exercise wear because I’m at home. Nor do I want to fall into the trap of shopping as something to do. So, while putting together capsules takes a bit of time, I consider it a great investment that frees up my energy to enjoy doing other things.
For me ‘downsizing’ is a good thing. It can be an opportunity to get more clarity about what fits the time and place you are in life because, “the only thing that Is constant Is change” (Heraclitus). What suits you changes over time, and there is no need to drag the past with you.
In the boomer circle, some of the main reasons women downsize their closet are as follows.
1. Moving House
My experience with a living space downsize has been that the smaller the digs, the higher the incentive to get current with what is needed and used.
I lived in a large house and my possessions ‘crept’ to fill all available space.
Moving to a smaller home or apartment makes it more challenging to find places to store ‘extras’, when there is only one bedroom, no attic, garage or basement as a convenient storage space. (Out of sight = out of mind – can you relate to this?)
2. Changing your Occupation
Personally I don’t like the word ‘retirement’ but it is true that changing what you do everyday will happen at some point. If the ‘downsizing’ is a big enough change, chances are good that you’ll need different clothes.
Decades of being self-employed and then going back into a corporate environment was challenging. It took me a while to figure out what to wear and still feel like me. I now have a more polished and grown up wardrobe that is in keeping with my values – mainly that I can move freely.
Whether you are leaving a job, changing a job or stepping down from going to a work place everyday, you may find that what you’ve worn for many years no longer suits you.
3. Having a Smaller Footprint
This is more about a desire to live deliberately with less (perhaps less of everything and not just clothing.) People of all ages can express a desire to life with less, and, rather than label it, I believe it comes from a desire to closely examine your values and find a way of expressing them.
The Gains of Downsizing
What I have gained from downsizing my closet is time, peace of mind, freedom and clarity.
With fewer clothing choices, I don’t have to think more than a few seconds about what to wear. With carefully chosen items, things go together with also reduces decision fatigue.
Peace of Mind and Freedom
There is peace of mind and freedom from rejecting the overt and subliminal messages about who we could, and should, be. I want to get off the advertising treadmill and do something else with my time than obsess over being fashionable.
Potentially there is financial freedom in downsizing your closet. It is only a potential though, because you could spend the same amount of money on fewer high quality items. A small, carefully selected collection of clothing can give you excellent value for your money.
A lot of women I talk to have done ‘shopping therapy’ for most of their adult lives and are questioning
the idea of shopping as recreation. The pleasure is short lived and the results have to be lived with for, potentially, a long time. It is often an outing with friends, about the thrill of the hunt and finding that great bargain, and about treating ourselves because we are ‘worth it’. There is freedom in saying no to shopping as a fun activity.
Although my closet is small, what I have gives me a lot of options. It makes me extremely aware of how little I really need. Every three months I pull together a Project 333. This is where you create seasonal capsule wardrobes. The number of combinations that can be created with a small number of clothing is impressive. To see how many combinations I created with summer with 10 items of clothing read my article Tiny Wardrobe Magic: 40 Outfits from 10 Pieces.
At the end of the season, seeing what was worn frequently and what got little wear is apparent. Sometimes there is a good reason (that sweater for spring and a few cooler summer days didn’t see much wear.) Sometimes though, the reason I didn’t wear something s because I only thought I needed it.
And you know, that’s okay. There isn’t a test at the end and the person who stuck to their capsule wardrobe the best doesn’t win. It is about living living more consciously. We can reject the marketing messages were are surrounded with. Did you know that fashion marketing began in the Flapper era of the1920s?
I’m no stranger to doing a capsule wardrobe: it is how I’ve packed for trips for years. I’ve been a fairly light packer all my life and could pull out my 4 or 5 time-tested outfits and put them in my suitcase with no problem. The problem was the rest of my closet because after taking my capsule out, you could barely notice that anything was missing from my closet.
It came to a point where I began to ask myself, what is wrong with the rest of the clothes in my closet, and, more importantly why do I still buy more? The closet de-cluttering sessions I did regularly worked only temporarily and, tired of doing the same thing with the same results, I heard about Project 333 and decided to give it a try.
Project 333: a Capsule Wardrobe with a Difference
A capsule wardrobe is a minimalist approach to getting dressed. Project 333 takes seasonal differences into account. It is a capsule wardrobe for 3 months (usually following the change of seasons) with 33 items.
From doing Project 333 (from Be More With Less) I learned that the outfits I was packing for a trip was my real wardrobe, taking seasonal differences into account. I don’t really need more than the half a dozen tops/t-shirts, 2-3 sweaters/jackets, and a few different pants and dresses plus outerwear and shoes, and having more than than makes my life more difficult.
What goes into your Project 333? Everyday clothes for work or after, outerwear, shoes, jewellery and accessories. Not included is underwear, sleep wear, things you wear around the house (like for gardening and cleaning), and workout clothing. Courtney suggests wearing workout clothing only for exercising and gardening clothes just for gardening. Everything else is put away, out of sight until the next round of Project 333.
I’ve taken other courses on capsule wardrobes and minimal wardrobes, but found that doing Project 333 is much deeper than finding the season’s pivotal pieces in the right colours, or just decluttering. It is about finding what works for YOU. If are feeling overwhelmed by your wardrobe decisions, Project 333 is a great way to learn more about yourself.
Also called Barefoot Shoes, minimalist shoes are a special category of minimalism because they have a different meaning than what we usually mean by minimalism.
With minimalism the goal is to have fewer material things. Minimalist footwear could mean owning fewer pairs of shoes, or owning shoes that were as small as possible.
But in this case, minimalist shoes means minimal interference with the natural function of the feet. It refers to footwear that allows as much free movement of your natural, unshod foot as possible, while offering protection from injury (stepping on sharp things and having something heavy dropped on your foot) as well as protection from extreme heat and cold.
Minimal footwear allows your feet to behave as feet while still offering a buffer between the unnatural detritus found in the modern world that can cause injury.
Katy Bowman, Whole Body Barefoot: Transitioning Well to Minimal Footwear.
There are 4 main components of minimalist shoes: the sole, the heel, the toe box and the upper.
1. The Sole
Regular shoes are generally rigid and, sometimes, thick. Minimalist shoes have flexible soles and are usually thin enough to feel the contours of the ground through them and allows the foot to respond to the terrain. Ideally the soles are flexible so you can fold it.
2. The Heel
The next important thing about minimalist shoes is that the heel is non-existent. Just calling them ‘flats’ is misleading because many ‘flats’ have a very small rise. Minimalist shoes have a zero drop or a neutral heel. This is important because it allows your body to initiate movements from neutral, or an aligned position. A heel, even a small one, pitches the body weight forward and small adjustments are made in the joints to counteract it. These compensations have a physiological cost.
3. The Toe Box
Minimalist Shoes also have a larger toe box than traditional shoes, because toes are meant to move in all directions while moving, but most traditional shoes shape the toes into some fashionable shape that is considered attractive.
4. The Upper
The upper part of the shoe is why flip flops and slip-ons do not make good minimalist shoes. The upper must secure the shoe to the foot without requiring the wearer to grip their toes or tense the shin to keep the shoe on while walking.
3 More Reasons to Wear Minimalists Shoes.
To regain foot mobility. The greater the mobility in your feet, the less likely you are to have knee, hip, lower back, pelvic floor, and psoas pain/problems.
To regain lost calf and hamstring length. Your muscles adapt to whatever position you put them in most often. Wearing a positive heeled shoe (and also prolonged sitting) shortens the sarcomeres in the hamstrings and calves. There are a number of reasons why a person might want to reverse this, such as performing better on the ‘sit and rise test’ (how easily can you get to the floor or even touch your toes?), you want to squat, you have urinary incontinence or pelvic floor pain.
To get a better booty. When you don’t use the back of your legs much there usually a corresponding lack of development in the gluteal muscles, and you end up with a flat butt.
Transitioning to Minimalist
If you’ve worn rigid soled shoes with a narrow toe box and a heel (even a small one) all your life, make your transition slowly.
1. Begin by lowering the height of your heel a bit and get used to that.
2. Don’t trade in your shoes for flip flops (or any other shoe that requires toe grip to keep them on your feet, because you are just trading in one problem for another.
3. Be aware that your walking gait pattern will probably change so be mindful of doing hard hiking, pounding on city pavement or running while wearing minimal shoes until you build up more mobility (and strength) in your feet.
Well into our second year of living in a much smaller space, we’ve decided that our ‘this will do for now’ approach needed to be reviewed.
Even though we have scaled back several times, the furniture we kept was re-purposed, too big for the space and encouraged our hoarding tendencies. I also realized that we do not have things which go together, stored together.
For example our TV is sitting on an oak chest (making it very difficult to get anything out of the chest, by the way) while our movies are in a bed-side table re-purposed as an end table. So we don’t watch our movies and probably we do not need anything that is being stored in the oak chest. Right now it is just a place for things to be put away and forgotten about. We also ended up with these two pieces which kept some office supplies and books, but contained, frankly, too much junk.
Although the goal of minimalism is to have less stuff, I don’t think there is anything inherently wrong with replacing things with those that are more functional and beautiful. We gave away the larger dresser on the right, and the smaller dresser is (temporarily) in the bedroom.
We replaced it all with this sleek setup from Ikea (Hemnes) that holds our greatly reduced office supplies in the cabinet with the solid door, while more decorative things are in the glass upper portion. I really wanted a lighter feel and this is white stained pine.
All the movies, music and a considerable number of work-related CDs and DVDs are in the drawers below the television. The best part of this is that I don’t have any other hidden stashes. What we have is out on display, and we can better appreciate the fewer treasures we choose to keep without going through the stress of trying to find things when nothing is edited and organized.