Somehow I narrowed it down and packed my whole life into a dorm room which I shared with a roommate. Now, here I am four years later in a bigger dorm room to myself, and I’m finding that all that sh*t I got rid of before college, has simply been replaced with new sh*t. And while I’m pretty persistent about cleaning out my closet and “spring” cleaning every few months, I found that I wasn’t actually reducing the amount of excess in my life when tossing out one sweater just meant buying a new one.
This is not to say that I have all this stuff and I’m not happy. I have a good life. But if I’m being honest, I’m definitely not the happiest I could be. When I open my closet I see reminders of what could have been, rather than what is. I see shirts I bought that I wore maybe once, shirts I bought that I never wore at all, dresses I’ve held onto because I used to wear them all the time but don’t any longer. I see all this stuff that had potential to look cute or make me happy, but didn’t. But the truth is, I don’t even see it unless I look for it because when I open up my closet, what my attention is really directed at is the same sweaters, the same shoes, and the same pants I always wear. The items that get worn every week or other week.
Last week I went on a hike with my boyfriend in below freezing and acceptable weather (you know, Ohio weather) and I wore my hiking boots and a ridiculous amount of layers. Snot was dripping onto my nose and freezing onto my scarf. It was not pretty at all. Truth be told, I looked ridiculous (if I were on the sh*t or chic list, I’d be the former). But I remember thinking, I actually don’t give a single damn how I look because my feet are warm, and they’re comfortable. I can climb rocks, jump from ledge to ledge, march through snow, skate on ice. I can be a total nature-lovin’ badass. It felt so good to walk around in shoes that don’t cause me pain and trade in comfortability for style. And don’t get me wrong, I love the heck out of my painful-toe-squishing boots. But the problem is, I was choosing to endure this pain daily instead of wearing shoes that fit me. And I owned not one but several pairs of shoes causing me this pain. All of which were ultimately the same color and style.
I wanted this time to be different. I grabbed a large black garbage bag, opened all my drawers and closet doors and got real with myself. Everything I knew I could toss, I tossed it. But everything I had second thoughts about, I tried on and took a real hard look at myself.
Do I like this on me? Can I wear this daily, not just to one specific occasion? Can I make it into more than one outfit? Do I already own something just like this (color & style)? Will I like this in a year from now? Two years from now? Does this add value to my wardrobe/life?
Most of time, the answer was no or “maybe.” But the thing about “maybe” is that it’s just a “no” with a puppy dog face. Yes there were plenty of things that I tried on and remembered just how cute they were, or convinced myself I could make it work or start wearing again. But the truth was, if you took those “maybe”‘s out of my closet without telling me, I probably wouldn’t even notice they were gone.
While several items I gave away had run their course of being worn, most of my pile consisted of barely touched apparel. Impulse buys. Things I convinced myself I needed in order to be happy, not things that actually made me happy. Going back to the painful-toe-squishing boots, those were shoes I tried on in the store. Shoes I felt the pain of immediately and decided to purchase anyway because they made me feel #stylish. And those were the boots I chose to wear instead of the ones that welcomed all my toes with their own personalized space.
Getting rid of stuff is easy. Getting rid of the amount you actually should is not. The excess in my life was becoming so prevalent to me every time I’d hear someone ask me where I got my clothes or tell me how much I love to shop. It made me feel like shopping is what defined me. Not my adventurous spirit or good taste in music or passion for justice for creative abilities. But how much I owned. It’s like when I see I women who have drawyers and countertops flooded with makeup products. I understand being skilled at makeup is dope and you need products to get better and try different things. But when you have five different palettes that are all various hues of brown and neutrals and then 10 more for your more “daring” looks, it’s excess. And for me, clothes are my “makeup.” I love them. Being stylish is in fact a part of who I am. But it’s not the whole part. It’s not even the main part. And my love for clothes doesn’t have to translate to my love for ALL the clothes. I spent so much time convincing myself that my immediate wants were my definite needs when in reality, if I would have waited even a month to buy some of those items, I probably would have found that I actually don’t like them all.
As humans and especially as women we are programmed to always feel like we’re flawed. And the remedy to ridding of that flaw is to spend money we don’t have to buy things that deep down we don’t really want (let alone need). As I’m getting older I’m finding that a huge part in being a strong woman is resisting negative influences. Often they are subtle. They are the girl in your office that rocks the wardrobe of your dreams. They are the Instagram post of the girl with perfect skin. They are the words of your parents and friends asking you if you lost weight. They are the Cyber Monday and end-of-season sales. They are the men who tell you you’re hot because they saw you for two seconds at the bar. They are the people telling you that you’d be prettier if you straightened your hair. They are the products that come in sets instead of individually. They are the iPhone chargers that change shape every year. They are the free gifts and discounts that come when you spend $150 or more.
So, what makes me happy? Hiking makes me happy. Driving with my windows down makes me happy. Singing along to music with my boyfriend makes me happy. Dancing like I don’t have a care in the world makes me happy. Camping makes me happy. Taking silly pictures makes me happy. Sleeping makes me happy. Rocking a bomb outfit with my hair on fleek makes me happy. Playing with puppies makes me happy. Drinking mojitos like every day is Saturday makes me happy. And I don’t need to go into debt or have excess amounts of “stuff” to do any of those things. And this is not to say that I’ve become a “true” minimalist and narrowed everything I own to its simplest fraction, I’m just better and more cautious of the abundance in my life and when it stops having meaning.
I’ll end with a quote I recently heard:
“Love people and use things because the opposite never works.”