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Minimalism

Thoughts about Fashion and Minimalism

Joshua Becker & Ruth Carter - Two Well-dressed Minimalists at Ignite Phoenix #16 (Photo by Tom Stokes, Creative Commons License)

Joshua Becker & Ruth Carter – Two Well-dressed Minimalists at Ignite Phoenix #16 (Photo by Tom Stokes, Creative Commons License)

About a month ago, a friend asked me to comment on Joshua Becker’s post 8 Reasons Successful People Are Choosing to Wear the Same Thing Every Day. This article brings up a lot of good points – if you have a personal uniform (i.e., Steve Jobs and his turtleneck and Mark Zuckerberg and his gray t-shirt), you save time and energy getting dressed in the morning. And you save money by not having an expansive wardrobe.

It appears the capsule wardrobe is catching on – a wardrobe of interchangeable pieces. Some people who are trying to be more minimalistic with their wardrobe do Project 333 – wearing a wardrobe that consists of 33 pieces for a 3-month period. I understand the concept of these ideas, but they’ve never appealed to me.

Being a minimalist has never been about limiting myself to owning a specific number of items but limiting myself to possessions that add value to my life. When it comes to the role of fashion in my life, I love this quote from Joshua Fields Millburn of The Minimalists:

Now nearly everything I own is my favorite thing. All my clothes are my favorite clothes. All my furniture is my favorite furniture. All my possessions are my favorite possessions—all of which I enjoy every day of my life.

I love wearing clothes that make me feel good – soft fabrics, comfortable cuts, and items that make me feel beautiful. If I’m not seeing clients, my everyday outfit tends to consist of jeans, a t-shirt, comfortable shoes, and a hoodie or cardigan if it’s chilly. When I’m speaking, I’ll trade in my hoodie for a blazer. If I’m seeing clients, I may take my outfit up a notch to dress pants, a button-down shirt, a tank top, and dress shoes.

Here are two of the things I do to make sure I’m mostly keeping the clothes I love:

1. The Hanger Flip. At the beginning of the year, I reverse all the hangers in my closet. When I put a garment away after wearing it, I flip the hanger back to the proper direction. After a few weeks, I can see what garments I’m wearing the most. By fall, I can usually tell what I should get rid of because I can see what I haven’t worn through the previous warm and cold seasons.

2. Select the Day’s Outfit in a Vacuum. I don’t open a drawer or step into my closet in the morning until I’ve decided what I want to wear. I don’t use visual cues but rather my knowledge of my wardrobe and that day’s calendar to select my outfit. It forces me to go with my gut feeling about what I really want to wear instead of getting lost considering all the possibilities.

The size of my wardrobe has diminished substantially over the last few years and I love it. (There’s no reason to own 15 sweaters when I consistently wear only 4 of them.) I love that my wardrobe is simple and filled with mostly classic pieces and awesome t-shirts. It makes getting dressed every day so much easier. I know that everything I own fits, serves a purpose, and feels good against my sensitive skin.

Closet Clean-Out 2015 Update

At the beginning of the year, I started my annual closet clean-out and I reversed all the hangers in my closet. The idea is that when I wear a garment, I’ll flip the hanger back when I put the item away. At the end of the year, anything that is on a reversed hanger is something I haven’t worn in the last year, so it’s an item that should be given away. This is something I’ve been doing for years, and every year I have fewer items and it’s easier to let go of things I don’t use anymore.

Part of my Closet - June 16, 2015

Part of my Closet – June 16, 2015

Last year, I thought I cleaned out a lot of my wardrobe, but when I moved last October, I challenged myself to replicate Ryan Nicodemus’ “packing party.” By the end of it, I had 10 boxes of stuff to give away and probably 2 of those boxes were filled with clothes.

A few days ago I stepped into my closet to assess how this year’s clean-out was going. The first thing I noticed is that most of my hangers have already been flipped back, which is a significant difference from past years. This is the smallest my wardrobe has been since becoming a minimalist. It might be the smallest it’s been at least since I stopped wearing a uniform to school. And I’m not going out of my way to wear things just because their hanger hasn’t been flipped yet. On most days, I decide what I want to wear before stepping into my closet.

I looked at the top of my closet and I noted that I have 6 pullover sweaters. This is a lot less than the 12-15 sweaters I used to have, but still – 6 sweaters?! What do I need with 6 sweaters?! Remember, I live in Phoenix. It’s pretty warm here most of the time. I took a quick glance through them and moved 2 to the charity pile.  It wouldn’t hurt to go through my jeans (I got a few new pairs for speaking engagements) and my accessories (which I rarely wear).  I definitely have more t-shirts and running shirts than I need, and I’m ok with that.

My annual clean-out isn’t about shrinking my wardrobe as much as possible. It’s about getting rid of things that don’t make me happy. I never want to feel uncomfortable in my skin, in my clothes, or in my home. When I get dressed, it makes me feel good because I feel comfortable and pretty in my clothes and I value myself enough to treat myself to fabrics that are super soft and garments that complement my personality.

I thought about challenging myself to do a capsule wardrobe – limiting myself to 33 items for 3 months – but I don’t think that would be much of a challenge compared to how I dress myself now. Instead, I’m going to continue my clean-out process and be honest about what brings value to my life when it comes to clothes.

Day 9/90 – WordTasting Tour

Day 9 of the 90 Days of Awesome is in the bank! What made today awesome? The WordTasting Tour stop at Changing Hands featuring Colin Wright, Josh Wagner, Skye Steele, and Joshua Fields Millburn of The Minimalists!

Two Pasty-Pale Minimalists - with Joshua Fields Millburn

Two Pasty-Pale Minimalists – with Joshua Fields Millburn

I became familiar with The Minimalists at the beginning of my journey with minimalism. I came away from their talk at SXSW buzzing with ideas for de-cluttering my life. I saw them again during their tour following the release of Everything That Remains, which inspired me even more. I also ripped off Ryan Nicodemus’ packing party idea when I moved to my new home.

The WordTasting Tour was a fantastic experience to connect with other minimalists and aspiring minimalists and to meet others in the minimalist community – like Colin Wright. He moves to a new country every 4 months and lives like a local to learn new cultures and see the world from a different perspective. Each of these authors is an incredible wordsmith, and they were accompanied and complemented by Skye Steele’s music. This guy is wicked talented.

With Skye Steele

With Skye Steele

I walked away from this event inspired, not only to be more dedicated to minimalism (remembering that things are just tools and focusing on the activities that add value to my life and allow me to add value to others’ lives) but also to my writing. Joshua Fields Millburn has an eloquent saying: “Love people and use things, because the opposite never works.” But I think the most profound thing I heard at this event came from a poem by Josh Wagner: “Shut your mouth and scream.” As a writer, this line spoke to me. It reminded me to quit dicking around and do what I need to do, say what I need to say.

In case you missed it: Day 8 of the 90 Days of Awesome – I almost met The Namby Pamby!

Bad Minimalist – Too Much Paper Clutter Again

Grrr . . . . I feel like a bad minimalist.

One of the piles of paper on my desk right now

One of the piles of paper on my desk right now

Paper has taken over my life again. I have stacks of it in my office, the home office, and my kitchen – notes, receipts, documents to be filed for tax purposes, business cards, and probably a bunch of stuff I can recycle. It’s the one thing I don’t have control over in my life. I can stop buying stuff, but I can’t stop the paper traffic in my life. I can only minimize and manage it.

I’ve been traveling a lot this year and it started piling up before I left town for The Undeniable Tour. I was so busy for the weeks leading up to the trip that everything that didn’t have to get done before the Tour got put in a pile to be dealt with when I got back.

When I got back after being on the road for two weeks, I had piles of mail that arrived while I was away and everything I brought back from the road. Two weeks was a long time to be away from clients; I felt like I spent at least two weeks trying to catch up again. I somewhat got a grip on the day-to-day influx of paper (mail, business cards, receipts, bills) but I still had the piles from the previous weeks. And then I had to prep for my trip to speak at Ungagged in London so everything that I could put off until after I returned was put in a new pile.

Bah! Too much paper around me!
And don’t get me started on how bad my email inboxes are right now.

In my early days of embracing minimalism, I gave myself a 30-day challenge of processing paper through my life in 24 hours or less. It was a great experience that took diligence but it gave me a clean workspaces. Clearing of my desk and counter and creating a de-cluttered environment helped clear my mind. I felt less anxious and distracted. It helped me see that I only need to do one thing at a time and trying to multi-task makes me feel insane.

I need to be more disciplined about the paper in my life. It would be foolish to let it pile up all week, telling myself that I’ll take care of it over the weekend. That is total crap and I know it. Sometimes I’m so tired by the weekend that I don’t do anything but lay on the couch and watch movies between naps or I have events and activities that take up all my time. I think I need to think about paper like flossing my teeth – I don’t like doing it but it doesn’t take that long and the long-term effects are worth it. It’s definitely a suck-it-up-buttercup task.

So what’s the plan? I have a good system for staying organized and mostly clutter-free when I chose to use it. I’ll have to have a conscious effort to get rid of the excess paper in my life and keep it that way. Thankfully I promised Rosie and myself that I’m not traveling this summer so I’ll have time to tackle this project and work on making it a habit. In regards to my email, I’m turning my inbox clean-out into a post for Attorney at Work so hopefully that will motivate me to get it done and stay aware of what’s is/is not working in the process so I can pass those lessons along to my readers.

If you go through periods where your paper clutter gets away from you and you have to make it a big to-do to get un-cluttered, I’d love to hear what works for you. Likewise, if you’ve slayed this dragon, I’d love to hear any tips you an offer for how you stay paper clutter-free.

Traveling without Tech

London from the top of St. Paul's Cathedral!

Hello from London!

I spent last weekend at an SEO conference in London called Ungagged. (Yes, poor me, I had to accept a trip to London to talk about social media law.) Initially, I thought the trip would give me another opportunity to practice minimalist packing, but it gave me a much richer experience of traveling without a cell phone.

Before I left for this trip, I contacted my wireless provider and added a small global package to my phone. Unbeknownst to the clerk or me, they gave me a plan that doesn’t work in the UK, so when I arrived I had a cell phone that was worthless as a phone. I could still connect to the hotel’s Wi-Fi, but otherwise, my phone was an oversized pocket watch that was set to Arizona time with a built-in camera.

Whenever I wasn’t in the hotel, I felt like I was back in the late 1990’s when I had to go back to the computer in my college dorm room to check my email. Actually, it was better than that because I had a pager in college so there was always a chance my hip would start vibrating. I bopped around London virtually tech-free. Many times I left the hotel without taking my phone with me and when I did take it, it was only to be able to take photos.

St. Paul's Cathedral

St. Paul’s Cathedral

I loved walking along the Thames River, looking at the various shops. I navigated only with the recommendation from the concierge – not even a map or a guidebook to direct me. I figured if I got lost, I’d stop at a shop and ask directions. It was quite freeing to travel untethered to my phone – nothing to distract or direct me. I simply followed the streets and whatever whims moved me. As I walked along I thought, “This is what being a tourist used to be like.”

My hotel was located near St. Paul’s Cathedral which has a dome that towers above much of the surrounding skyline. When I wanted to return from whence I came, all I had to do was turn around and head in the opposite direction. If I moved in the general direction of cathedral, I knew I’d get back to my hotel eventually. I was never afraid of being “lost” in the city.

It was so wonderful and relaxing to leave my phone behind and enjoy London. I suspect I got to see and experience more of the city merely because I wasn’t distracted by notification chimes or tempted to bury my head in my phone. It’s definitely a practice I want to adopt more often.

Minimalist Travel Update – Doing Laundry on the Road

Golden Gate Bridge!

Golden Gate Bridge!

A few days ago I wrote about what I’m doing to separate my dirty clothes from my clean clothes during The Undeniable Tour. I roll my clothes to save space in my bag. At the end of each day, I flip my shirt inside-out and roll it up with my socks and underwear I wore that day and put the bundle back in my bag.

I did my laundry on Day 8 of the tour while I was in San Francisco. I had worn each article of clothing I brought with me except for my bathing suit and my yoga pants. I took those out of my bag along with my blazer and sweatshirt and took my suitcase down to the laundry room.

Rolling my laundry worked out great! As I tossed each bundle into the washing machine, I held on to the edge so it unrolled as it went in. I loaded the machine in about a minute and I had no issues with laundry sticking together.

I will definitely keep doing this for the rest of my trip. Rolling my dirty clothes keeps my luggage tidy so I can easily and quickly get ready in the morning, which is a huge asset when you’re living in a hostel and have to get dressed in the dark if you’re awake before your roommates.

Minimalist Traveling – Managing Laundry

All Smiles in Santa Monica

All Smiles in Santa Monica

I am on The Undeniable Tour and living out of a suitcase and a backpack for two weeks. I only packed what I knew I would need for a week with plans to do laundry at one of the hostels where I’m staying.

When I packed my bag, I rolled most of my clothes which makes it easier to maximize the space in my bag. Rolling takes up significant less space than folding. One of the downsides of rolling your clothes is you can’t have a clean clothes and dirty clothes pile in your bag and it might be hard to determine what you’ve worn – especially things like socks. I didn’t want to create a mess when it came to sorting out my clean clothes from my dirty clothes come laundry day, so here’s what I did at the end of each day.

  • Take off shirt from the day and flip it inside out (inside out = dirty; right side out = clean).
  • Lay shirt flat on the ground.
  • Put dirty socks and underwear on shirt.
  • Create a mini bundle of dirty clothes by rolling up shirt with socks and underwear in it.

My suitcase is still filled with rolled up clothing, but come laundry day it should be easy to manage because all I have to do is shake out each bundle with an inside out shirt into the washing machine and turn it on. That’s my master plan at least. We’ll see how it goes.

I’ve been traveling with rolled up clothes for decades. I’m surprised it hasn’t dawned on me to roll up bundles of dirty clothes before. It’s definitely made it easier to get ready for each day because my dirty clothes are segregated from my clean ones.

Traveling definitely helps me see what things I really use in my day-to-day life and makes me question if certain things actually add value to my life or if they’re just taking up space. And for those of you who read my Burning Books post, I started the tour with 6 books. I’m currently down to 3.

Burning Books

No, I’m not advocating the burning of actual literature, but it is one of my sub-themes for The Undeniable Tour.

These are the Books that Started The Undeniable Tour with Me.

These are the Books that Started The Undeniable Tour with Me.

“Burn your books” is something I got from the movie, “Wild.” Reese Witherspoon’s character walked the Pacific Crest Trail and started out with way too much stuff in her pack. It was so cumbersome that she could only walk 5 miles a day. Along with cleaning out the superfluous stuff in her pack, an experienced outdoorsman advised her to tear the pages out of her books as she was reading them so they wouldn’t add weight to her pack. I’m doing something similar for my trip.

As I was packing for my trip, I put 6 books in my bag. Yes, the aspiring minimalist took 6 books on a 2-week trip. But I swear there’s method to my madness. Two of my books are copies of Flash Mob Law which are gifts. They won’t be coming home with me.

The other 4 books are from my “Read Me” box. When I finished my “packing party” I had a banker box of books that I’d been holding onto because I wanted to read them eventually. I made myself a deal – I had 1 year to read these books. If there’s a book in the box at the end of this year, I can’t be that motivated to read it so I should get rid of it. I threw 4 of these books in my bag. Most of them are thin and paperbacks – easy to tote around in a suitcase or backpack.

I tend to read a lot when I travel – it’s a great way to fill down time. I think every hostel I’m staying at has a book exchange where you can leave books you finish and grab new free ones if you’re so inclined. Instead of actually burning my books when I’m done reading them, I’ll be leaving each one behind wherever I finish it. I like that I’ll be passing along my books to fellow travelers.

My first book is Lilith’s Love by Dan Shuarette. I won this book at Podcamp AZ years ago and I’m finally getting around to reading it. I’m only about a quarter of the way in but I’m enjoying it. Check it out if you’re interested in vampire fiction. (And I’m someone who has no interest in Twilight.)

Hopefully I’ll finish all my books on this trip and I’ll be going home with a lighter bag than when I left.

Minimalist Packing for The Undeniable Tour

The last time I wrote about incorporating minimalism into packing for a trip, I was only going to be away for a weekend. I could write out the list of all the activities I would be doing and determine exactly what I needed to bring in terms of clothing. I ended up using every garment I packed.

Now I’m getting ready to go on a two-week road trip that spans from San Diego to Seattle, with temperatures that are expected to range from the mid-40s to the mid-80s and weather that includes sun and rain. This is also a trip that includes five speaking engagements, other professional meetings, a handful of meetups with friends, and working out. How do I pack for that?

The good news is I will be staying at hostels that have on-site laundry, so I really only have to pack for a week, and bring enough layers to accommodate the weather. I looked at a few videos online by minimalists who are on the road a lot and people who live out of a backpack while traveling for suggestions. Here is a partial list of the things I will take with me:

  • My Hustle Your Face Off shirts - made by Brand X Custom T-shirts

    My Hustle Your Face Off shirts – made by Brand X Custom T-shirts

    2 pairs of jeans – 1 pair that’s heavier weight for colder climates

  • My Legal Rebel Chuck Taylors – for speaking
  • Hustle Your Face Off” shirts – for speaking/meetings
  • Black blazer – for speaking/meetings
  • Hooded windbreaker
  • Zip-up sweatshirt
  • Legal Rebel Chuck Taylors

    Legal Rebel Chuck Taylors

    2 tank tops

  • 2 short-sleeve shirts
  • Running shoes
  • Yoga pants
  • Running shorts
  • 2 or 3 running shirts
  • Bathing suit
  • Pajamas
  • Undergarments and socks

Since I’m going to be staying mainly in hostels, I will be taking a few specialty travel items like a padlock (to lock my backpack in a locker when I don’t want to carry it around), and extension cord, a camping towel, and gallon-size bags. I learned the hard way that it is important to have what you need to get ready for a day in one place for convenience and courtesy purposes.

When I stayed in a hostel last month, I didn’t lay my stuff out for the next day as well as I could have because my roommate and I realized that we were setting our alarms for the same time so I expected there to be no problem with turning on lights and making noise. Unfortunately, we were in a four-person dorm and we got a third roommate around 1:30 in the morning. I felt bad for our new roommate because I needed to turn on the light and dig around in my suitcase to take a shower, get ready, and pack my things while she was trying to sleep.

My plan for this trip is to put at least my shirt, socks, and underwear for the next day in one bag, my toiletries for the morning in another bag, and drape my jeans and camping towel across the foot of my bed before I go to sleep at night so it’s easy to grab what I need to hit the shower and get dressed in the morning.

I’ve never incorporated minimalism into my travel plans look quite like this, so I’m curious to see how well it works out. My goal is to pack lightly and still be comfortable at all times.

Closet Clean-Out 2015

Glimpse into part of my Closet - January 31, 2015

Glimpse into part of my Closet – January 31, 2015

For anyone who has been following my minimalism project, you know I just got rid of 2 boxes of clothes during my “packing party,” which was inspired by Ryan Nicodemus of The Minimalists. Even so, it’s a new year and every garment is potentially on the chopping block again.

For me, minimalism is about getting rid of the things that don’t add value to my life. It is a constant process. Just because an item added value to my life last year, it doesn’t guarantee that it adds value to my life today. And if that’s the case, and that item should find a new home where it will be useful again.

On January 1st, I went into my closet and flipped every hanger so instead of curling towards the wall, each hanger was curled toward the center of the room. When I wear a garment and it returns to the closet, the hanger will be flipped back to the traditional position. I also took each pair of my shoes and flipped them so the toes were pointing towards the room rather than towards the wall. When I where a pair of shoes for the first time, I flipped them around when I put them away. It takes only a few minutes to flip everything around, and by using the system, I can see at a glance what garments and shoes I have and haven’t worn this year.

Historically, when I’ve done an annual wardrobe clean-out, it also included a checklist for garments that are folded like sweaters, workout gear, and T-shirts. I decided not to do that this year but instead will keep I mental checklist of what I have worn. The items that I don’t wear often will end up at the bottom of the piles and back of the drawers and I’ll decide by the end of the year if anything would be better off being donated to charity.

I got rid of a lot of clothes during my “packing party.” As a result, I seem to enjoy the clothes I have that much more and it appears I’ve flipped a lot more hangers to date then I did last year. It’s a very rare that I find myself rediscovering a garment in my wardrobe because I forgot that I owned it. It definitely makes me happier knowing that the things that I have actually help me be more comfortable and add value to my life.

I’ve considered trying the capsule wardrobe – creating a 3-month wardrobe based on mixing and matchng 24-33 garments. That might be something fun to try when I get back from all my spring travels.