More I think about simplicity, the more beauty I see in it all. More I travel, more I think of simplicity as a necessity for a healthy planet. There are war crimes currently happening in Aleppo while I blog about clothing. I made a tiny donation but I could have given more if I didn’t spend away my money on unnecessary luxuries. I am in India right now and my world is churning upside down. I had the misfortune of watching a vet pull out a plastic bag after cutting open the stomach of our cow. While I write about shunning cheaply made things, most people in my country cant even afford that. There are dogs starving on the streets. There are children living in landfills. All the things I would have said with conviction are on a shaky ground ….. This post is the last post of my simplify series. I will no longer incessantly talk about decluttering and downsizing. I hope to consume less and inspire by example than put out theoretical concepts. I reached THAT point. A few things worked for me and my closet :
1. Let go of the unessential. I define the word – essential.
Minimalism is not defined by what is not there but by the rightness of what is, and the richness with which this is experienced. — John Pawson
Forget the numbers. There is discussion on how much is necessary or how much one should buy per year or how much to spend. 5. 18. 20. 30. 33. 100. 333. There is no one size that fits all. These decisions are very personal and should be kept that way. I know what I don’t need and I took on a declutter mission. I could be frugal and hold on to it all hoping for a way to use it. But donating unused stuff made me happier. I stored a few items for backup. The end result is physical space, tiny home and mental clarity.
2. Simplify Choice, but have options : Uniforms
This was the favorite part of it all. The process of finding my personal uniform was very fulfilling for me. I like a few silhouettes and colors. And I am very happy sticking to them. Why complicate a perfectly good thing ? I have slight variations of the same thing to keep it exciting for me.
3. Simple, not sloppy
” Look, I own 2 pairs of yoga pants, 5 oversized t-shrits, one hoodie and one pair of flip flops. It all fits in my hand luggage.”
– Anonymous relative of mine.
I have my definition of sloppy and try to stay way above it. I have not given up on all the wonderful elegances that are a part of the civilized society. Thoreau is my idol but I wont eat rice and beans everyday. He had a cause that justified giving up everything and living in the woods. I don’t. I like the civilization as it stands today and very much want to be a part of it.
4. Minimal Aesthetics
Color has nothing to do with minimalism. Nobody can accuse the Buddhist monks of excess because they wear saffron orange robes. But let me justify the cliche. I don’t like print and bright colors. I was born with this aesthetic and could never fit into the Indian color scheme. Wearing plain blue clothes makes me happy. In the past, I actively tried to expand my color palette and silhouettes because I was told that I looked boring. I no longer listen to such advice. I don’t need to buy things I don’t like to fit in. I learnt to say ‘no’.
5. Pursue quality and craftsmanship
I am in it for the long run. I will pay for durability and for expertise. Yes, making clothing requires expertise. I took my Stella McCartney dress to a bespoke tailoring boutique. Tailors huddled around to notice the construction details and were impressed. I never had to worry about the dress loosing its structure because she fused the lining, used a certain woven wool for the fabric, used extra panels, added two hidden zippers so that the design needn’t be compromised to enable my getting into a fitted dress. Its a craft and I highly respect the designers that are good at what they do.
6. Consume less
You need not give anyway everything you own. You do not even need to declutter. Need not only wear neutrals. Need not count things. Dont need to stop shopping for a year. Dont need to start a blog. The easiest way to simplify one’s life is by conditioning the mind to want less.
7. Understand and adopt the idea of ‘chic’
The idea of ‘well done casual’. Wearing well made, beautiful and simple garments everyday. I refuse to waste resources on things that get used very little. I refuse to buy expensive party clothes that get worn twice a year. But I will invest in high quality sweatshop free denim that get worn everyday or a durable woven wool dress designed by Stella McCartney or well constructed black ballet flats. I am not adept at dressing-up the basics for evening wear but am trying to learn it.
8. Signature Style
I am not a fashion blogger. I don’t need to make unique innovative outfits. I optimize my life around getting the most out of my time. Some folk achieve this through finding a unique dressing formula that takes out all the decision making. I have 3 formulas instead of one. Its makes shopping a breeze : Go to an online store that sells sweatshop free clothes. Click on dresses. Apply the blue filter and look for size small. Do they have a shirt dress or a shift dress ? Is it in natural fabrics ? Do I like any ? If yes, buy. This process takes a few minutes. It simplified the shopping process for me.
9. Develop a personalized system
I have a capsule wardrobe system in place. Warm weather dressing. Cold weather dressing. I have it down to colors I will wear, fabrics I like and silhouettes that are weather appropriate. This system of rotation prevents me from falling into a rut or getting bored of what I own. It helps me shop better. It makes sure I never have “what should I wear” moments that lead to impulse buys. I took the time and effort to figure it out and am now reaping the benefits.
10. Minimize Wardrobe turnover
I am hardly doing myself a favor if I am constantly buying and culling. Durable items negate the need for me to constantly shop for replacements. Finding ways to not get bored of durable clothing requires some creativity. I am trying.
11. My Failures
12. Learn that style is more than clothes.
Improve posture. Eat for glowing skin. Exercise for toned body. Dance is all about the silhouettes you make. It teaches poise and grace. Read on a wide range of topics and have fascinating conversations. A red lipstick can be a mood changer. A dark berry lipstick can be seductive. A smile can do the same. Body language helps. Fragrance is pleasure. Learning to pair my clothes in different ways encourages me to be creative. Clean and pressed clothes look good. Worn in clothes can be charming depending on how they are worn. Buy fabrics that age well. Accessorize.
13. Save some iconic pieces for the archive : The 1-5 %
I sometimes tire of a few well loved pieces. I put them away for a year and bring them back in. They feel fresh again. Shop your own closet is an under rated concept. Our grandparents didn’t have attics because they were all hoarders. They did because they were frugal and wanted to be self sufficient in the long run. We live in the age of convenience and easy access. We dont need to hoard too much but 5% is acceptable by my standards.
14. Stop chasing perfection.
This month, my husband accidentally chopped off six inches of my hair. It looked awful. I initially panicked and eventually gave in. And life goes on. Finding the perfect leather jacket is an endeavor. The leather on my brown satchel currently looks like a dead animal’s skin. Some of the things that I used to think matter a lot : the perfect aesthetics, the perfectly matched outfits, the perfectly toned down color palette, the perfect proportions, the Pinterest approved minimal accessories, the tumblr approved definition of Garçon, pristine clothing ….. don’t matter as much and drain energy that can be better spent. Make the effort, but don’t chase perfection. (Unless you are a fashion blogger, and making outfits is a end in itself.)
15. On cataloging purchases
Being accountable helps. I highly recommend reading the book : Radical Simplicity. The author quantifies the world ‘consumption’ in terms of what you take from the planet. A house thats 400sft Vs 1000 sft Vs 2000 sft, comes with vast difference in carbon footprints. Every furnishing, every spoon, every wine glass, the lawn that could have housed trees, every gadget, …. comes with a footprint. Mindless consumption got me here. And I intend to turn the wheel backwards.
I wont get into the right-wrong discussion. My version may not be the ideal but its made me happier. It saves me time. I can pack up everything I own in 6 hours and move. It flattened the curve of my carbon footprint that would have been increasing otherwise. Its working for me.
This blog post was 2 years in making. I am rather happy about how I re-wired my brain and detoxed some of my old habits. Going into the future, I want to become a blogger who advocates slow fashion and promotes craftsmanship. If you are reading this blog, I assume you have been on a similar path to mine. Were any of these points relatable to you ? Anything that I havent tried that worked out for you ? Please do share.