Jennifer Scott did a Tedx Talk on her form of minimalism in the wardrobe. She talks about how we constantly add to the wardrobe yet don’t throw out things that are currently in the wardrobe. Despite this paradox how many of you have those mornings before work when you think “I have nothing to wear”? The struggle is real to find an outfit that feels comfortable but also looks good. We often have to end up picking something last minute so we’re not too late, and for the rest of the day end up feeling slightly uncomfortable in our choice. My partner – who wears a suit everyday – still has the conundrum of picking out what colour SHIRT (he only has one choice to make!) he’s going to wear that day.
So why does this inverse relationship exist between the number of clothes and the ease with choosing what to wear? Behavioural economics will tell us that it primarily relates to the notion of choice. Research shows that increasing choice actually overwhelms our brains, and too much choice has a negative impact on us. So how do we overcome it then?
Well Jennifer proposes a 10-item wardrobe. She advocates for having a small high-quality wardrobe that is in heavy rotation. There seems to be quite a stigma in Australia about wearing the same clothes. But this isn’t the case in all cultures. Look at any European film; the main lead women characters wear only a few items consistently. It allows them to demonstrate their own unique style everyday. Whereas American films are all about having a different outfit in each scene!
Let’s just think for a moment about what a 10-item wardrobe for Summer / Autumn could look like:
· 2 pairs of pants
· 1 pair of jeans
· 3 dresses
· 4 shirts
· 2 pairs of trousers
· 2 pair of shorts
· 4 shirts
· 2 jackets
Seems reasonably do-able? You are also allowed some ‘extras’ on top of your 10-item wardrobe, such as: t-shirts, blazers, and special occasion wear like for weddings or specific occasions.
I’m not going to stand here though and say that I have a 10-item wardrobe (maybe one day!) but I do a wardrobe cleanout twice a year. To make things easier, I turn all my coat hangers to face the ‘wrong way’. When I wear an item, then it is turned back the right way. This helps me identify what clothes are not being worn regularly. This cleanout has four rules that a piece of clothing has to pass before it gets to stay in the wardrobe:
1. Does it fit me today: don’t wait till you lose/put on that weight and think ‘then it will fit me’. The rule stands for ‘does it fit me TODAY’.
2. Is it age appropriate: there are some items that can last decades and still be timeless, but that tiny leather skirt you bought when you were 18 is probably not appropriate to wear to your friends 30th birthday anymore.
3. Is it my true style: I find as my wardrobe starts to shrink, it also starts to develop. You know the typical clothes that you feel most comfortable in and that look good, so I keep items that follow that trend. If you think that biker jacket looked really great in the shop but you’ve never worn it, it’s probably not your style.
4. Has it been worn in the last 6 months (you can tell by the coat hanger flipping trick!): this is the best rule for the bi-annual clean up. If you haven’t worn it in the last 6 months then it’s got to go.
On top of this, I also enforce the rule that if I buy something, then the equivalent in the wardrobe has to go. Realise that RIGHT NOW you have enough of everything, so anything you buy is excess. So for an easy example, if I buy a new pair of socks, then I throw out an old pair. If I buy a new top, I know that I need to throw out a top at home. This requires a little more thought now in the buying decision. So rather than just impulsively buying items, I now think about what will be sacrificed for this new piece.
So you may still be asking ‘why bother?’. Well despite having a lot more room in the wardrobe and not having to squish everything in, there are some real benefits to having a condensed wardrobe:
· When you need to get dressed for work, you should now be able to pick 2 items and they’ll go together.
· You can let your true style shine through that is classic and unique to you, not like everyone else.
· You will save money because you won’t be impulse buying.
· A clean wardrobe means a clean mind.
· You’ll always be able to look presentable and not default to your ‘active wear’ even though you’re not exercising.
See how you go with de-cluttering your wardrobe!