How do we decide what is essential in our wardrobes and what we can clear out?
Most of us put our clothes to the future use test: “Is there a chance that I will wear this someday in the future?” Coupled to our misplaced optimism about what may fit again in the future this criteria inexorably leads to a cluttered, bloated wardrobe. Like a Boa Constrictor whose eaten an Alligator we know something is wrong but we don’t know how to make it right without a serious surgical intervention.
If we followed an essentialist approach then the only question we should be asking is: “Do I absolutely love this?”
Answer ‘YES’ or ‘NO’ only. The yesses stay, the noes go.
There are remedies plenty online for an engorged wardrobe, two of the more interesting approaches are the capsule wardrobe and wardrobe minimalism. But I am more of an essentialist and try to design my life around the things that really count, by default eliminating everything else.
Figure out what is the most important to you, and get rid of everything else.
Disciplined adherence to this principle is sartorial Senokot allowing instant relief from our overstuffed lives. Do it and the wardrobe clutter is gone. We’ll feel freer, liberated and energised. Through our stylistic clarity we will have ascended to a higher plane of existence. Except we won’t because we can’t do it.
In a consumerist society we are taught that more is better.
As soon as we say no the mitigation kicks in. The reasons that we ought to keep this unloved item we haven't worn in...well, ever... pop into our heads and like the shouty person at the end of the Question Time table (the one who gets a clap because they aren’t an MP) we agree with them because they’re saying what we really want to hear. What we can’t escape, that in a consumerist society more is better. A truism we in the West are taught from childhood.
Why are typically rational people so irrational in their behavior?
This aversion to clearing out our old stuff has been studied by psychologists and even has a name - the endowment effect - referring to our tendency to value an item more once we own it. Think of the items that live in the murky. black depths of your wardrobe - the suit bought for so and so’s wedding, the dress you had to have for your best friends birthday bash (and haven’t worn since). It seems to increase in value the moment you think about giving it away. You remember the extravagant price you paid (only 5 years ago mind) and know in your heart that it can never go.
There is an experimental cure for this invasive condition that’s actually not to painful to swallow.
Instead of asking, “How much do I love this item?” we should ask “If I did not own this item, how much would I pay to get it?”
Now that’s an interesting reversal. How much would I be willing to pay to buy that horribly off trend wedding outfit on eBay? The £400 I keep reminding myself it cost to buy new? 5 years ago? How about £200, or £100...come on at least £50....no? A tenner?
That brings things into sharp focus.
Why not let these new values decide what stays and what goes? The old idea that more is better is counterfeit. Do this with everything in your wardrobe and divest yourself of the low value items. Finally you are losing the nonessential items, so that you can focus your attention on the few things that truly matter? Is this all leading to a climactic, life affirming conclusion with a nattily phrased takeaway? Yes, yes it is!
Ask “What is essential?” and eliminate the rest.
Not only are we addicted to the drug of more in our clothes consumption but we are pushers of more in a wider sense too. Our consumption spurs that of our peers and group pressurises those around us to keep pace. The pursuit of more finds expression in the amount of extra curricular activities our kids attend and the extra hours we put in at work and in the gym.
If we are not careful When the “more bubble” bursts - and it will - will we then realise that our time has been wasted doing things that had no value at all. Will we then wake up to the fact that that our overstuffed lives were in reality as empty as we’ve come to realise our wardrobes have been all along.