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Minimalist Musings: The Purge

Minimalist Musings: The Purge

Every good minimalism story starts with a purge, right? Purge. Then you will have the perfect, modern, stream lined house you could imagine. No clutter, no unnecessary items. A capsule wardrobe. Fold the clothes you have left in the Kondo method, and you’ll never have a messy drawer.

WRONG.  The purge is a necessary part of this journey because you need to remove some of the shit, to get to the good stuff, but the purge will not instantly make you a minimalist or solve all your problems. With all of the excess material possessions still around you, you most likely won’t be able to focus on what’s important to you.  As you clear out the clutter, you can begin to feel the physical changes of lightness that comes from removing some of these possessions. You literally FEEL a difference. I didn’t realize it for a while, but let me tell you after a year, I miss nothing I purged. I don’t even remember what I go rid of. 

So where do you start? There are so many “how to’s” out there it can be overwhelming. Try to find one that aligns with who you are. Are you an “all in” kind of person? Once you put your mind to something there’s no hesitation and you go for it? Maybe you should try a packing party like Ryan from The Minimalists. Pack everything up in boxes, like you’re moving and for a month only unpack the things you need. After the month, reassess if you really need anything that’s not unpacked.  Are you a once you start you can’t stop person? You’ll literally destroy the house before you’re finished? Maybe the Marie Kondo method is right for you. Put it all out there so you can see everything and decide with everything side by side.  Are you up for a challenge? Maybe Project 333 is for you.  Create a wardrobe of only 33 items and wear only those for three months.  Are you a toes in the pool kind of person? You like to slowly wade your way in? Maybe try a combination of these methods or try them in one room or category of thing at a time.

Me, I’m as lazy as they come. My family regularly teases me for being a sloth. I have the habit of starting a project with gusto only to get exhausted half way through and quit. Leaving the project unfinished (usually on my bedroom floor) for days or even weeks on end. Confession time: I am a packrat and borderline hoarder. I am the queen of “what ifs” and “maybe I’ll need it someday.” This was not a one and done thing for me. It was a slow progression, but once I set the intention, I found it liberating to focus on this journey.

Almost every list or blog I’ve seen focuses on clothing first. So that’s what I did. Objectively this is probably easier to assess and sort than things you may have more of an emotional attachment to like childhood toys. Here are some of the collective tips I found most useful to guide me on my journey.

Have I worn this in the last year?

With many of my clothes I play the two year game. Most places you will see much smaller times frames for me, in the three month, six month or one year window, maybe I didn’t have a wedding to wear my fancy dress to, or maybe there wasn’t enough snow to snowboard. I’ll keep my ONE fancy dress and my snowpants. If I haven’t worn it in two years? I probably never will. I got rid of lots of “work out” t-shirts from this one. How many free t shirts from high school and college are you still hanging on to?           

Am I holding on to this because I got it on sale, because it was expensive, because it was a gift? Have I even worn it at all? Do I even like it?

I found many things in my closet that fell into this category. I bought it, not because I loved it or felt good in it, but because it was on sale.  Or I kept it because it was expensive, even though I never wore it, I might.. Someday. Letting it go to charity shops or second hand stores, knowing someone might find value in it, helped me let it go.

Does it fit? Is it you?

This seems like a basic question, but ask yourself anyway. I found a handful of things I was holding on to because I thought one day, I’d be the person to wear those items. Knee high leather boots with a three inch heel that hurt like hell to wear and I could barely walk in? Maybe one day I’d be that sophisticated woman who could rock those and walk ten blocks home from a great date in {Think Carrie Bradshaw skipping and swinging her hair down the sidewalks of NYC}.  I was finally able to be honest with myself. I am not that woman. Nor will I ever be that woman. I really don’t want to BE that woman. This question really helped me identify what I like to wear and what I don’t.


Keep a donate box in your closet.

I started doing this after the purge. I had a few items I wasn’t ready to donate. I was scared I would instantly miss them and find the perfect moment to wear them in as soon as they left the boot of my car. For these items, I felt it was easier to put them in the “purgatory box.” If I thought of them, or wanted to wear and item from this box, I could. If put an item of clothing on that I instantly hated or didn’t feel great in, instead of throwing it across the room to sit for a good while until it eventually found its way back into my drawer, it went into the box. If I hadn’t thought or worn this item in four or so months, the whole box went to goodwill. I’ve only ever taken one item out of this box. It was a top I bought on sale that never worked right with my bust or my bra straps. I tried in vain to make it work with my outfit and bra, but to no avail. It went into the box and to goodwill, where it’s hopefully bringing value to someone. {Pro tip: I also have one of these boxes in my kitchen. Things seem to magically find their way in there.}

Figure out a uniform that works for you. 

I would quite happily wear running shorts and sassy tank tops everyday. It’s what I’m most comfortable in and I feel great in them. One of my best friends actually calls this the Hannah uniform! Unfortunately this look does not work for all occasions. I do have pieces that work together and are of a similar color palate. Figure out what works best for you. Many capsule wardrobes suggest blazers and pencil skirts. Those pieces don’t work for my life. If it doesn’t work for you, get rid of it. Sorting out a pseudo uniform will make dressing everyday easier, and if all of your pieces start to fall into a pattern, everything will mix and match.

It’s ok to take your time.

After the initial purge of clothing, several bags of things went to goodwill, a few things went to friends, but I still had quite a lot of clothing.  If you’re honest with yourself during this process and continue to be mindful about your clothing, over the next few weeks and months, you will find when you put something on that doesn’t feel great or doesn’t suit who you are, it will be easy to throw into the purgatory box.

Don’t BUY anything!

If you’re a Pinterest addict like me, it can be easy to fall into the trap of seeing what a “minimalist” wardrobe is or the 15 items you need for a perfect capsule wardrobe and thinking that you need it to go out and purchase those pieces. Don’t. Work with what you have. Let yourself become comfortable with the items you have and how they work together. You may be surprised how well they work out! After a month, if you truly believe there’s a piece that will add value to your wardrobe, then be intentional about it, know exactly what you want, make sure you love it, then purchase it.

Treat yo’ self!

This shouldn’t be a miserable experience. There may be a little pain initially in letting go of some of these items, but pain equals growth.  Make the experience a little more fun by having some coffee or wine and playing some fun music or listening to an audiobook!

Have you purged yet? What did you find most helpful? What was the silliest thing you were holding on to?

Thirty, Sometimes Flirty, Not Always Thriving

Thirty, Sometimes Flirty, Not Always Thriving

Minimalist Musings

Minimalist Musings