Let me tell you the biggest lesson I have learnt. Just because it's cute, doesn't mean you should buy it. Gamechanger.
Before minimalism my clothes shopping was erratic. I would go out with, at best, a vague idea of what I wanted. Of course, this is never what I returned with. I have never been one to buy obscene amounts of clothes. After all, working as a wildlife conservationist means I will never earn the big bucks. But I also wouldn't say that my buying was intentional. I have wasted so much money on clothes that I didn't need. That didn't match anything else in my wardrobe. Even that which I could barely fit into. I have owned more than one pair of 'standing only' jeans in my time. So tight that sitting down is not only uncomfortable but also a high risk activity with rips being a very real threat.
Minimalism crept into my life at the beginning of this year. It was sparked by stumbling across some YouTube videos on the subject. It wasn't instant. It wasn't dramatic. But it was there. I started viewing my possessions with new clarity. I didn't need all these things. A niggle at the back of my mind led to gradually increasing declutters. An amazing amount of possessions were sustainably removed from all corners of my caravan home.
My wardrobe was the first to be delved into. I have now lost count of how many times I have decluttered my clothes. This process made me face some hard truths. One of the hardest realisations is that I had no idea what my style was. I could plainly see the mismatch between what I thought I should be wearing and what I actually wore. This was immensely frustrating. I gave up in despair more than once as I clung to items, frantically wondering whether they fit into my style. I needed some help so I turned to the internet. There is so much inspiration on creating capsule wardrobes which was my end goal. The amount of information in itself can be overwhelming. Rather than trying to adhere to all this advice, I cherry picked the following 3 elements that worked best for me...
Create a wardrobe to match your lifestyle
Obvious, right? Actually, not so much. Since I started this process, I have been hugely surprised that many women's wardrobes (including my own) can be strangely mismatched for their lifestyle. At one point, my wardrobe was packed with 'going out' clothes. With numerous dresses, skirts and jackets that I could only really get away with in a bar type situation. This did not match my life. My lifestyle involves working from home in a caravan with socialising mostly consisting of highland walks, casual coffee dates with the occasional lunches. The kind of life that involves lots of cat fur, muddy puddles and deciding to do yoga stretches at a moments notice. I rarely step foot in a bar anymore. So, these outfits were the first to go.
Set rules for yourself
This is more fun than it sounds. Its also extremely useful. Years of experience have taught me what just doesn't suit me. Pastel colours, for instance, make me look terminally ill. Although this information floats around my brain, I find myself often ignoring this and purchasing items that just don't make me shine. Writing all of this down solidified these rules. It meant I didn't even bother to browse those lilac items.
I got even harder with myself. I wanted a wardrobe that was versatile and cohesive. A true capsule wardrobe. Setting some sort of colour palette was important to me. I do love colour, and still have more than one bright item for when I feel particularly garish. However, I now have my base colours. I mix some neutral greys and creams with my favourite blues and greens that just make me smile.
I also decluttered those items that were only for 'special occasions'. I think all women have these in their wardrobes. Those fancy dresses that can only really be worn to a similarly fancy event, like weddings. The problem for me is that my life really isn't that fancy. I'd clung on to these dresses just in case. I hated the fact that they went unworn for months on end. Instead, I would like to invest in some items that could be worn to a wedding but also to a lunch with friends. Clothes that are versatile. I've found myself enjoying the creativity of this and its a real pleasure to reinvigorate items to get the most possible life out of them. I'm a proud outfit repeater.
Find your uniform
When I first heard about uniforms, I was a bit suspect. I envisioned the likes of Steve Jobs, who famously wore the exact same outfit for days on end. No, this would be a dull life for me. However, this concept doesn't need to be taken so literally. Instead, take its essence. Find those clothes that always make you feel your best. The shapes and colour combinations that you feel your most confident in and find ways to blend this with different outfits. For me, its all about jumpers and trousers. Not always. I still have dresses and a skirt in my wardrobe that I love. But this combination is always a winner for me. I particularly like my trousers to steal the show and burst personality whilst my top half remains more neutral. Its made dressing so much easier and completely boosted my confidence.
That's it. Although there are countless other tips and tricks out there, these are those that worked for me. I have a year round capsule wardrobe of 45 items (including shoes but excluding sleepwear/activewear). This still seems like a lot, but considering the average women's wardrobe consists of 103 items this is relatively conservative. The number really doesn't matter though. This is what feels comfortable for me right now. You will find that at some point during your decluttering something will click and you will have reached your magic number. For me, anything under 50 seems to be my sweet spot.
I still love my clothes. If anything, I love them even more now. I will continue to be intentional with my shopping and have regular declutters to keep my wardrobe shining. Minimalism is a lifestyle, not a destination. For me, I am now comfortable and confident in everything I wear. This just feels great.