MY STYLE JOURNEY (I): Minimalism

When I first approached minimalism as a concept three years ago, Marie Kondo's world-changing book was but a twinkle in our collective eye. In my mind, minimalists were people who collected modern art, had monochromatic kitchens, and dressed only in black and white. I secretly suspected they were all terribly unhappy with the lack of texture, color, and flavor in their lives. I not-so-secretly fancied myself beyond such a lifestyle, imagining that I had my own, artistic form of order and style. I was the kind of person that claimed clutter made more sense to me -- that I could "find things better" when they were in disorganized piles. I'm just eclectic, I thought. Why would I want to pigeon-hole myself into some mundane form of living? Basically I was special-snowflaking all over the place. And it enabled me to avoid the process of actually confronting my possessions.

By this time, the concept of building a wardrobe around an established palette had already caught my attention, thanks to my obsessions with Color Me Beautiful and What You Wear Can Change Your Life. It was Anuschka Rees' blog Into Mind, though, that awakened me to the capsule wardrobe process: maintaining a functional, minimal closet with a clearly defined style. Suddenly minimalism stretched beyond the bounds of black and white. I realized it was not just a design concept, but the manifestation of a lifestyle choice: to value more and buy less.

My initial capsuling attempts were earnest to be sure, and I received a lot of feedback from friends who were likewise seeking a quick-fix for their closet problems. But it wasn't until I was staring down the barrel of a hiking backpack, wondering how I could possibly fit three months' worth of clothes into that tiny vessel, that I fully understood the benefit of embracing minimalism. After much deliberation, I took about 20 pieces of clothing, and I never regretted packing as light as I did. There's nothing like The Trip of a Lifetime to make you take fashion less seriously. You don't need eight dresses to appreciate the streets of Venice or fresh cherries from a Bulgarian orchard. One of my favorite moments on the entire adventure was sitting on top of a hill in Ireland, in a borrowed mechanic jumpsuit (yep, you read that right), listening to the bleating of nearby newborn lambs. Oscar de la who?

My discovery of The Magical Art of Tidying Up came on the heels of my return from this adventure, and it offered me an extra push toward the discarding process. I followed the KonMari steps just as the book proscribed, and you know what? It worked.  

To illustrate: Over the course of last year, I rid myself of eight grocery bags of extraneous clothing, and I've since replaced maybe six individual items. I went from someone who couldn't choose a favorite color to someone whose home decor now matches the colors hanging in their closet; from someone burdened by multiple "kitchen sink" shoulder bags to someone who empties out their purse each day after work; from someone who put off laundry as long as possible to a weirdsmobile that actually enjoys ironing. I am now extremely discerning about what comes into my home (so much that poor J, who hasn't read the book yet, gets the third degree each time he pulls out his wallet....) I've learned to throw away most paperwork without a moment's processing. Every book I read in the past six months was borrowed from a friend or the library... and somehow I'm reading more than ever.

Trimming my possessions down to the most important items granted me the time and energy to actually engage with them. Ridding myself of books I didn't immediately want to read kept me hungry for literature I was genuinely interested in at that moment. Culling my closet gave me a clear picture of my style trajectory, making shopping less tempting and more defined. With less "stuff" to entertain me, a world of new experiences opened up: teaching myself guitar, inviting friends over for brunch, painting watercolor croquis... Seems totally counter-intuitive, right? You'd be surprised.

If you're currently struggling with buying or holding on to too many "things," if you find yourself ever in need of more storage space, or if you've always admired that friend who looks ever-stylish yet lives in an apartment without closets, consider embracing a more minimalist lifestyle.  I've copied some resources below which I found helpful on my journey thus far -- and keep in mind it is indeed a journey you're setting out on here. It has taken me three years to accept that, yes, I can live with just 25 hangers. And it's worth noting that I still don't consider myself a true minimalist. I simply found the right balance of "stuff" for me, then left it at that. Don't compare, and don't be afraid to tweak the process to make it work for you. You're not a pigeon, after all. ;)

  • Minimalist Wardobe (Paris To Go) - This girl is the queen of clothing charts, and I love it! My wardrobe is nowhere near as compact as hers is, but it's something to aspire to.

  • Recipes: 10 Ingredients, One Bowl (Minimalist Baker) - A great way to cut down on your kitchen supplies (which is most definitely the least-minimal area of our home right now, thanks to J), these recipes all require just one bowl and 10 ingredients or less. I've made the (vegan) banana bread cinnamon rolls at least six times now, and they're always a hit.

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