Clothes are stressful.
I spend far too much time rummaging hopelessly through drawers, becoming unhappy as I fail to find a matching – let alone flattering – combination of items.
This has only got worse since I lost a lot of weight (thanks to sobriety, lack of meat-eating and, er, quite a large dose of daily stimulants). Nothing fits. I look bad if I just throw on my usual clothes. So I spend ages getting stressed out, trying to find something clean and acceptable.
It makes me very unhappy in the morning: a time when I am not exactly brimming with joy in the first place.
Disclaimer: I completely understand that some people enjoy putting together an outfit every morning. Some of my best friends are basically living in giant, unorganised wardrobes and still look amazing every day. The decision of ‘what to wear’ is a fun one, not a stressful one.
I am not one of those people.
I will gladly wear a handful of simple outfits for the rest of my life, if I can wangle it.
- I want a wardrobe where everything goes with everything, so that I don’t need to make decisions early in the morning
- I want clothes that fit and are flattering
- I want clothes that are simple enough that I don’t feel self-conscious
- I want clothes that are easy to wash and put away (no linen, silk or any material that spontaneously crunches itself into a million creases)
- I want room in my wardrobe and drawers so things don’t fall out and make me unreasonably angry
There are many things from my school days that I am very glad to be shot of, but my uniform is not one of them.
Once I’d cut the itchy tags out, I quite liked the oversized jumpers and easy-care grey trousers. Being able to wear the same thing every day was a simplicity that I appreciated even then.
(I truly don’t know how American kids and parents with ADHD manage school day clothing. It makes me nervous to think about.)
In fact, a uniform is pretty much what I’m aiming for here, drab as that may sound.
It will be a bit more varied (and cleaner, I hope) than my old scuffed-shoes-and-baggy-polo combination, but hopefully it will retain its virtue: lack of mental load.
Back in the days when I bought women’s mags on the regular, there was a lot of talk about capsule wardrobes.
These, if I remember correctly, were painstakingly assembled little piles of black, white and neutral material that magically looked pretty and put together in any combination.
Everyone with a capsule wardrobe looked vaguely French. They could go travelling with a carry-on suitcase (I can do that!) and always look put together on the other end (oh, never mind).
Googling ‘capsule wardrobe’, though, seemed to redirect me exclusively to very expensive-looking shopping sites or barley-disguised advertorial pieces, rather than the Cosmo articles I vaguely remembered.
Remembering the current mega-fad for minimalism I – hesitatingly – typed the phrase “minimalist wardrobe” into the s’engine.
Quite a few ADHD coaches suggest living a more minimalist life to reduce stress from clutter and decision fatigue.
Minimalism, as a ‘lifestyle’ concept, is something I’ve instinctively shied away from.
I don’t dislike the aesthetic, as such – and I can definitely understand that less clutter is less stressful – but the culture surrounding minimalism is… well, it’s a bit wanky, isn’t it?
Still, it seemed likely that the tribe of floaty ladies had the answers I needed, so I waded into their sparsely-styledcorner of the blogosphere.*
First thoughts: so much beige. So much cashmere. So much silk. These people must do nothing but very careful laundry.
Second thoughts: I am not the intended audience of these blogs. These are people who already have their shit together, at least to an extent.
I can tell, because they throw out terms like “your dressy Winter wardrobe” in a way that suggests I have such a thing.
These people do not simply put on more and more clothes as the winter progresses until they become sad, woolly spheres. These are women who know how to ‘style an LBD with a winter jacket’. Erk.
Third thoughts: I think our motivations are quite different.
Common ‘goals’ from the blogs:
- Inner peace
- Stop being late for work
- Stop starting blankly into drawers, hoping something that fits will materialise
- Have enough wardrobe space for Mum’s stuff when she visits
Or, actually, does that equate to much the same thing?
I will summarise the many ‘start your minimalist wardrobe’ blog posts I diligently skim-read:
Keep the item if it:
- Fits you
- Gets worn regularly
- Makes you look good
- Goes with other stuff in your wardrobe
- Doesn’t spend 90% of its time in the laundry basket because it’s too difficult to wash properly
- Is broken but you are actually going to fix it
Get rid of anything that:
- Doesn’t fit
- Fits but somehow just looks weird, so you always end up changing at the last-minute
- Doesn’t go with anything else you own
- Doesn’t ‘give you joy’. Not quite sure what that means, so I’m translating it as ‘somehow needs ironing three seconds after you ironed it’.
Anything frayed, torn or stained beyond easy fixing
Nice dresses you only wore once, etc. Facebook marketplace is way easier than eBay these days, by the way.
Dump ‘em at the charity shop (UK) or thrift store (US) – or, even better, at a women’s shelter or homeless charity.
Don’t donate crap, though. I did a short stint at a charity shop, and I can tell you that they throw away anything that is more trouble than it’s worth. Don’t give them threadbare or dirty clothes.
How’d I do?
I’ve ended up throwing away/setting aside for donation about 70% of my clothes. I didn’t have a huge amount of clothes anyway. I’ve always been quite good about having clear-outs at the slightest provocation. It’s soothing.
I’ve emptied out and thrown away the rickety ‘chest of drawers’ (i.e. plywood and canvas) that keeps threatening to fall over. I’ve replaced it with a smaller and less alarming set of drawers which is now full of knickers, socks and misc. sports wear (this does not give me joy, but is probably necessary).
My wardrobe is now about one-third empty, instead of overflowing.
I haven’t thrown out some of the stuff I should have done – mainly because they were given to me by my mum or grandma. Those I’ve folded up tight and shoved in a bag under the bed.
Next step is hauling these sacks of donatables to town. Sweepstake on how long that’ll take me to get around to? [Update: more than a month so far! Woop woop.]
Yeah, this is the difficult bit.
I guess what you need will massively vary on what kind of life you lead: the blogs I found seemed to belong to women who had very casual work lives, for instance (not a trouser suit among ‘em).
Some of the articles I read told me to make an ‘aspiration board’ on Pinterest, so I tried that. I gave up very quickly. God, I hate Pinterest.
I was also told to make a colour palette, which sounded like more fun but also quickly got thrown out. I get annoyed enough trying to make this blog coordinate.
I’ve ended up with a vague colour blur in my head: white, black, grey, blue. I know that these colours go together and look nice on me.
I also know that I need simple material, so I can chuck everything on a normal wash and tumble-dry without bollocksing it up.
I am trying to buy clothes that are unlikely to suddenly trigger my touch sensitivity: nothing scratchy, or with big seams, or tags that I can’t easily cut out.
I can’t, despite my inclination, spend too much on this. I’m staring down redundancy and my phone and laptop are both on their last legs.
- Vests/tank tops
Black, grey, skin-toned
White, black, grey, black-and-white striped
After some research I decided to buy men’s v-neck t-shirts. They are generally thicker, easier to wash without going all weird, and fit my broad shoulders/small boobs nicely. Your mileage may vary.
- Long-sleeved tops
White, black, grey
Had to visit the women’s section for these because I like crew necks
- Jeans: black skinny & light blue ‘regular’
Regular for me is boyfriend cut (I hate boot cut) but whatever works
- Trousers: smart
Already had nice pinstriped trousers, luckily
- Skirt: smart
Ditto nice pencil skirt
Still looking for a suit jacket/blazer that I don’t hate. I always feel like I’m dressing up in ‘grown-up’ clothes, even though I’m fast approaching 30.
- Denim jacket
I really missed having one of these and it happened to go with my new ‘palette’. Although it’s slightly rule-breaking as it won’t be acceptable with blue jeans.
- Jumpers, various
I’m not giving up my oversized knit-wear, sorry.
Non-wired t-shirt bras
- Comfy knickers that don’t cause that weird double-bum thing in tight jeans
Seamless/flat-seamed Seriously, I can’t go back to normal socks now, the seams drive me mad.
- Thermal tops/leggings/tights.
It is nippy.
I imagine I’ve forgotten a few important items, but they’ll make themselves known as and when I miss them.
This whole process will repeat itself come summer: I have a big drawer full of summer dresses, most of which will probably need chucking.
Still, that’ll be easier. Right?
* Minimalist blog I didn’t hate: