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Joshua Becker

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.

Minimizing My Life

I mentioned earlier this year that I wanted to simplify my life and part of that plan was doing a major closet clean out of everything I don’t wear. I was recently inspired to put a lot more energy into and expand this project.

I attended an amazing session at South by Southwest (SXSW) called How Minimalism is Changing Entrepreneurship. This session had an amazing panel featured minimalists Joshua Millburn, Ryan Nicodemus, Courtney Carver, and Joshua Becker. They shared how being minimalists improved their professional and personal lives.  It helped them promote what they valued and remove things that detracted from that focus.

I know that I think more clearly and I feel more focused when my space is less cluttered. I get more work done in less time when I have fewer distractions. During the session, my head was buzzing with ideas and I was frantically writing notes on how I would put these ideas into action when I got home – like turning off my email and alerts on my phone when I’m working on other projects.

The bottles & travel mugs that were cluttering the cabinet.

The bottles & travel mugs that were cluttering the cabinet.

Incorporating minimalist ideas into your life takes self-discipline. While I was at SXSW I was thoughtful about which free shwag I picked up. One of those items was a Nalgene bottle. I wanted to get it to replace the plastic bottle I’d been using. When I got home and was looking for a place to put my new bottle, I realized I had a shelf filled with travel mugs and reusable water bottles that I’d gotten for free. I pulled them all down, put them in a bag, and put them in the closet with the rest of my items I’m donating to charity. I filled my new bottle with water and put it in the fridge to chill. (Yes, I’m using it.)

The thought of cleaning out my life has been so overwhelming that it’s prevented from cleaning things out in the past. During the minimalist session, I started breaking down areas of my home into manageable pieces. My plan is to tackle one section, drawer, or shelf every week. I wrote it all out and it will take me about six months to get through it all, and I’m ok with that.

Garments that have been removed from my closet since January 1st.

Garments that have been removed from my closet since January 1st.

My first project was to clean out my closet rod. I’m in the process of cleaning out my wardrobe by reversing each hanger until I wear the garment it’s holding. When I flipped my hangers, I removed 21 items from my closet because I knew those were items I probably wouldn’t wear again. I put them in the hall closet in case I was wrong. I went through everything that’s currently in my closet and tried on everything that I didn’t know for certain if it fit. I’ve lost 12 pounds since I started law school so some of my clothes were just too big. And there were some items that just didn’t fit my personality or my life anymore. I also found some garments that I thought were too big but actually still fit. I removed another 20 garments from my closet and put them in the hall closet.

I have no plans of becoming a complete minimalist who only owns 100 possessions or someone like Andrew Hyde who gave up everything except 15 things. I just want to get rid of things that serve no purpose in my life anymore. It might be hard to get rid of things that hold sentimental value, but it’s just stuff. Giving an item a new home doesn’t take away the memories it has for me and it’s not doing anyone any good if it just sits in a box.

I’ll keep you in the loop on my progress.

The Minimalism Project Update – One Month Later