I used to be one of those people who saw something on sale and bought it in every color. When I found a dress, pair of pants or top I loved, I would do the same – the more, the better! I would mindlessly shop on a Saturday and search the sale racks for things I didn’t need, but were “too good to pass up.”
My closet was full, my dresser drawers were breaking, and I couldn’t even account for most of my shoes. I forgot about things I owned, left the tags on multiple items and constantly took things to consignment stores – only to buy more.
It was insanity.
I vividly remember packing up my childhood house prior to my mother putting it on the market. I was on my way to start a new life in New York City, blindly moving into an Upper West Side apartment with one closet. Obviously, I thought it was necessary to pack everything I owned and send it on over. Endless boxes and several luggages later, I had an overflowing closet full of everything I could possibly need – yet only stuck to a few pieces.
I had purses in every color, shape and size. I had shoes I never wore. Don’t even get me started on the “seasonal” items that barely saw the light of day.
During my time in New York, I moved twice and got rid of a lot. Some of the pieces I sold broke my heart, but I needed the money more than I needed the fashion statement. I started by selling the old pieces I didn’t feel great in and the navy items that clashed with my everyday blacks. I started to realize that over the years my style has remained the same: classic, minimal, and grey scale.
Yes, there are many ways to dress up a basic ensemble. I also learned that the costume jewelry, uncomfortable heels, and impractical handbags only took up space and weren’t necessary for me to complete “the look.”
It was time to embrace minimalism.
Now, I’m not one of those people who counts the number of pieces I own or commits to getting rid of two items when I bring in one – no. I believe life is all about balance. However, I stick to a look yet have only a few items that are outliers (a green dress, a bright bag, or a chunky necklace).
Thinking about decluttering and discovering your signature look? Here are a few questions to ask yourself to get started.
What do I feel best in?
I have a lot of black tank tops and leggings. They’re versatile and practical, whether dressing up or down. I believe in quality over quantity, so I find a brand I like and toss them when they start getting old.
Whether going out with friends or running errands, I love a basic black dress. I have many. Sundresses, work dresses, everyday dresses. People often ask me why I get dressed up, and my response is simple: “I’m only throwing on one thing. It’s easy.” No effort, yet I feel chic and polished. It doesn’t get much better than that (oh yeah – and my favorite black dress was $8 and from H&M. No one would ever guess).
What do I really wear?
Going back to leggings, this brings me to jeans. I can’t stand them. I stand at a petite 5’3, so it’s a challenge finding jeans that both fit and feel comfortable. I would much rather wear an oversized shirt or throw a long tank over my leggings instead of feeling restricted in jeans. I only own two pairs as of today.
Jewelry was a big thing for me, too. Most of my jewelry is simple or sentimental, and all of the other boxes and bags of statement pieces gathered dust. I stopped buying cheap, and started thinking practical.
What colors do I gravitate toward?
It’s clear I prefer blacks, whites and greys, but I also like pops of color. My favorites are red and green. I don’t restrict myself to these colors, but the majority of my wardrobe can be worn interchangeably with all of my pieces. It’s like a game of mix and match.
I remember how proud of myself I was when I packed for a trip home for the holidays. Everything I wore worked together. Boots, flats, leggings, skirts, tops, dresses. This was when I had my “a-ha” moment; I realized I didn’t really need as much as I owned.
What brands suit my style and budget?
I got on a Henri Bendel handbag and jewelry kick while living in New York. They always have amazing sales, so I enjoy getting a new handbag or monogrammed tote every season or two. I also have stayed true to budget brands such as H&M, Old Navy, and ASOS, who year after year come out with little black dresses and basic pieces that fit me. Gap is one of the only brands that consistently has “short” jeans that fit me – I just pick up the number, hit the register and go – I don’t have to waste any time, and I know that they’ll fit.
It’s great to discover new brands, but also important to know your body and your style, whatever your budget may be.
I don’t like to spend a lot of money on clothing items (I’d rather splurge and buy nice shoes or a bag), as I have a tendency to spill coffee or sit on something that may stain – yet another reason I wear a lot of black. City life can also do a number on your clothing, so I try to avoid getting myself into a situation where I ruin a $200 top that I couldn’t afford in the first place.
As I reflect on my path from excessive spending and hoarding to getting a rush from cleaning out my closet, I am grateful to lose fashion FOMO. I used to constantly compare myself to fashion magazines, women around me, and the latest trends, but now I wouldn’t trade my signature style for any other.
Being happy with yourself, and your outfit, is one of the greatest gifts of all – minimalist or not.