Always seeking more? Sometimes, the path to happiness lies in seeking less – as I’m discussing in a new series of blogs on the benefits of slow consumption and minimalism for mental health. Welcome to living with less. This week: living with less clothes.
Living with less clothes
Whenever I’ve moved house, I’ve been struck by one thought in particular. Christ: I have a lot of clothes.
This always surprised me, given how often I feel like I have nothing to wear. How could those two things be true? But when I actually thought about it, it wasn’t all that strange.
I’m twenty-six now – so let’s call that a decade of shopping. Most of it mindless, impulsive, and not particularly enjoyable. Shopping for jeans still strikes fear into my heart.
That’s ten years of questionable purchases. All the clothes that were just a passing fad (see: gypsy skirts). The things I bought to look like a certain sort of put-together woman (see: literally any shoe with a heel on it).
All the stuff I bought because I was bored or lonely or had an event to go to – or just because I felt thin at that moment in time and wanted to buy something. (How fucked up is that?)
That’s ten years of accumulating clothes. I made occasional good choices, obviously – but most of it was crap.
Clothes can feel like more than just clothes
I carried it all around for years, though. Our clothes can feel like so much more than clothes: they’re a record of who we are, where we’ve been, and who we want to be.
But as I’ve become increasingly interested in the mental health benefits of living with less stuff, I’ve confronted my wardrobe. Bag after bag has gone to the charity shop. And, as a result, I’ve never felt better about my clothes.
I have the space to hang them neatly. I can see almost everything I own. And, as an added bonus, they mostly all go together.
Don’t get me wrong – I understand that letting go of clothes can be scary. If I donate this dress to charity, I might need to wear it to an event later. What if I have a job interview, and I need these smart shoes?
The reality? This almost never happens. When the interview comes around, you still won’t wear the outfit – because if you don’t love it, why would you wear it when you need to feel confident?
Letting go of clothes can be emotional, too. I lost a jumper on holiday in Copenhagen – and my boyfriend was somewhat bemused when I burst into tears. It wasn’t an expensive jumper: my Dad had bought it for me, so it held a sentimental value. But that’s fine. It was just a thing. It wasn’t a memory.
Getting rid of clothes isn’t right for everybody. But it is right for me. I’m not fully there yet, and it’s an on-going process. And I’m by no means a hard-core minimalist with a twenty piece capsule wardrobe – I still have a full wardrobe!
What matters is that looking in there (or the prospect of packing it all up) isn’t a source of anxiety any more.
I’m living with less clothes – but also less stress.
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