What Minimalism is Really About

January 22, 2012

Two weeks ago, I decided to try an experiment in which I would stop wearing all the white clothing in my closet. I didn’t get rid of it, but simply set it aside and pretended it wasn’t there to see if I would miss it or not. My reasoning was that, although I like white, it isn’t very practical (because it stains easily and has to be washed separately), so it would make sense to eliminate white clothes as a step in working towards a more minimalist wardrobe.

I suppose the results of this experiment aren’t surprising: I don’t really miss my white clothes, and feel much less attached to them than I did before. But I’ve also realized something else.

For the past couple weeks I’ve really been thinking a lot about minimalism. And ironically, when I think about minimalizing my wardrobe I tend to think not only about getting rid of things, but of buying more things. After all, a standard piece of minimalist advice is to color-coordinate your wardrobe so everything goes together, right? But my clothes don’t all go together! If I get rid of everything that doesn’t match my chosen color scheme, I wouldn’t have enough left and would actually have to buy a few more things.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what colors look the best on me, what kind of clothing is the most practical, exactly how many sweaters I want to own, and so on. And I have to admit, I might even have bought a pair of shoes. (It doesn’t help that it’s pretty tempting to buy things right now, since everything in France is on sale until mid-February!)

In France, stores only have big sales twice a year: in summer (July-August) and winter (January-February). These are the only times they’re legally allowed to sell things at a loss, so they can get rid of old stock to make room for the new season’s merchandise.*

I soon began to realize that if I really went all out with this whole minimalism thing right now, I might end up spending quite a bit of money. And then I began to think that maybe minimalism isn’t really about having a perfectly color-coordinated wardrobe.

I think minimalism is really about knowing what’s really important to you, and arranging your environment in such a way that it’s easier for you to focus on those important things. And if I think about what’s really important to me, I know I’d rather save my money (which is scarce in the first place!) for things like travel rather than spending it on new clothes. One of my goals is to save as much money as I can, after all! If “minimalism” is distracting me from the things that matter the most to me, I must not be doing minimalism right.

So, maybe my clothes don’t all go together. Maybe I can’t just throw on any shirt I have with any pair of pants, but so what? I have enough to get by, and I even have more than enough. So I’ve decided that, even if it would make my minimalist wardrobe “work” better, I’m not going to buy any more new clothes for now. Any other minimalism experiments I do during my stay in France will simply involve making the most (or the least?) of what I already have. I’ll wear the clothes I have until they get worn out, and then I’ll replace them with more practical colors and fabrics.

******************************************************************************************************************

By the way, I recently discovered Tessa Zeng’s blog “Rethinking Style”. The blog seems to be just getting started, but this girl has some really cool ideas about making the most of the clothes you already have! After reading a few posts, I realized I was able to wear several of my shirts as skirts or scarves. Thanks for the inspiration, Tessa!

*Photo from 20minutes.fr

  • Yyd

    Je pense personnellement, que Tu peux porter ce que Tu veux, une belle fille reste une belle fille même avec les vêtements les plus moches du monde ! Et comme Tu est très belle, Tu peux donc porter ce que Tu veux.
    Mais c’est juste Mon avis hein… 🙂 !

    • http://www.janafadness.com Jana Fadness

      Merci beaucoup, c’est très gentil ! Je ne pense pas que mes vêtements soient môches (sinon je les aurais pas achetés), c’est juste qu’ils sont pas coordonnés au point de pouvoir porter tout avec absolument tout. Mais j’ai décidé que ça n’a pas tellement d’importance pour le moment. =)

      • Anonymous

        “j’ai décidé que ça n’a” => “j’ai décidé que ça n’avait” 😉

        Tu utilises le passé composé donc l’imparfait suit.

        Bonne continuation.

        • http://www.janafadness.com Jana Fadness

          Merci pour la correction ! On vient juste de discuter ça dans mon cours de français, pourtant… ^^;;

  • Pakt

    And the winter has just started… You need more clothes!

    • http://www.janafadness.com Jana Fadness

      Yes, as a matter of fact I think I might be forced to buy a warmer coat. ><;; It is really cold in Paris!

  • Daniel Hill

    “…
    minimalism is really about knowing what’s really important to you, and arranging your environment in such a way that it’s easier for you to focus on those important things.” You have put into words what I’ve been trying to unlock about minimalism for years now! I think I can now truly start using the minimalist philosophy to my advantage 🙂

    • http://www.janafadness.com Jana Fadness

      Wow, this comment makes me really happy! I’m so glad I was able to write the words you needed to read. 😀

      • Daniel Hill

        It’s even in my Anki deck to remind me on my language learning journey 🙂

        • http://www.janafadness.com Jana Fadness

          Really? Wow, I’m flattered… @@;

  • Anonymous

    I’m sure I’ve never had as many white clothes as you, but I too figured at some point they were a hassle, although it was a years long process.  A girlfriend one time gave me a pair of white (linen no less) pants.  They didn’t last long.  She didn’t either.  In fact, surprisingly (maybe not so surprising) the pants outlasted her.

    Tighty-whities…got rid of those as soon as I could face up to my mom to tell her not to buy them any more.  That was decades ago, fortunately.

    White dress shirts went away years and years ago.  They’d get stained and for some reason would lose their white shine after a while.

    My last white t-shirts (the dry-fit, non-cotton kind) are in the drawer.  Stains and all.  I’ve been banned by my wife from using them in public.  They’ve been relegated to workout shirts.

    Colored clothes hide the marks of life better.

    • http://www.janafadness.com Jana Fadness

      “Colored clothes hide the marks of life better”– what a great quote! And it’s so true. I still have my white fleece, because I can’t really afford to buy something to replace it right now (saving money to travel is more important to me than having the ideal wardrobe!), but it does keep getting stained and it’s kind of annoying. But I guess a minimalist wardrobe is something you have to work towards little by little, just like you did. Thanks for sharing! =)

Previous post:

Next post: