Why You Don’t Need a Spreadsheet of your Clothes and the Lies They Tell You About Minimalism

Originally published on The Minimalist Wardrobe.

It started with a pair of shoes.

I bought a new pair of shoes, and the comments followed shortly thereafter – about owning too many shoes, about not being the right kind of minimalist.

Building a minimal closet can be a difficult journey.

I originally became interested in ethical, sustainable and minimal style after going through some health issues and needing to simplify my life. From there, my journey included coming to terms with the fact that my closet had likely enabled exploitation in the past, budgeting to afford ethical and high-quality fashion, finding the most sustainable ways to dispose of the things I no longer needed or wanted and, frankly, obsessing about the number of things I was “allowed” to own.

Minimal style upends everything you think you know about your personal style and your place in the world. It makes you abandon your quintessentially American value of consumerism and replace it with intentionality. It is exhilarating and exhausting.

But back to the shoes. I had been documenting my closet journey online and mentioned purchasing a new pair of shoes to my followers. What swiftly followed were comments and messages about how I already owned too many shoes and how I was supposed to be getting rid of things. People messaged me to tell me they were unfollowing me. I had messed up.

I took it hard. Really hard. I considered quitting blogging. I questioned if people were right – how could I talk about my minimal style when I still owned 30 pairs of shoes? I reflected upon all of this – no, I ruminated about it. I wrote a blog post about my shoes, obsessed with defending my purchase. And I realized a lot of things during this time.

I had fallen into the trap I didn’t want to fall into – justifying every closet addition or subtraction I made to anyone other than myself.

Fashion was no longer a joy; it was a source of guilt. And that wasn’t who I set out to be, or what my blog was supposed to be about. My experience with fashion and reducing my personal impact had always been about positivity and light and living my values and having more space to breathe. Until it wasn’t anymore.

I didn’t have a perfectly documented spreadsheet of how many items of clothing I owned like so many other bloggers I followed and admired. I didn’t have a true capsule wardrobe of 30-50 items – and I still don’t. If you’re reading this, it is possible that you’re in the same camp. You’re interested in minimalism and minimal style, but you aren’t quite sure how to get there or feeling like the traditional capsule concept is too limiting for your life, but thinking you have to adhere to it to be a “real” minimalist.

This is a lie.

True minimalism, I believe, isn’t about owning a set number of things, but the right things for your life and nothing more. I deleted the wardrobe spreadsheet I had been building in my spare time. I was never a spreadsheet person, anyway.

It was after describing this experience and my reflections on it to some of my close fashion friends that the real beauty began. They were proud of my journey. They offered supportive words and comments. One of them emailed me a gift card to get a coffee, which made me laugh.

Because here’s what minimalism is really about: It is about people. It is about consuming less so we have more room in our homes for our family and friends. It is about shopping for high-quality products so other people can have safe jobs and earn fair wages. It is about connecting with a community that cares about the planet and humanity. It is about spending our money on what we need, or what matters to us. In some cases, that might be a new pair of shoes. And that’s okay. Your journey is your own.

If you are an aspiring minimalist, but you are afraid you don’t own the right number of things – please, still join us and let your voice be heard. As far as I’m concerned, you are not just welcome in this community, you are wanted.

xx

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Comments

  1. Cute denim pants. Thank you for your inspiration! You are right, it is about people, about us sharing our journeys towards a simpler lifestyle. I am not about the spreadsheet either and love clothes too much to adhere to a capsule wardrobe with a set number…so it is a relief to hear that I’m not the only one walking in these shoes!!

  2. Thought provoking as always. I think it’s definitely a journey. I find that, even those I follow that might be considered to have that capsule wardrobe, are still often tweaking items or finding items they love to add. Thank you for always sharing your thoughtful and honest perspective.

  3. Oh my gosh! Thank you for this post. I had similar responses on social media to the point where I shut it all down because I couldn’t handle the negativity and judgement coming from so many so-called “kind people who were embracing minimalism in a friendly community” (!!). You’re spot on. Minimalism is about finding that sweet spot of what you need in your life, not what other people say you need. If that means you absolutely love and wear every pair of shoes you own, then keep all 30 pairs!! ????
    Great read, and thanks for lifting the veil on the misguided perceptions among people and those who feel the need to evangelise their minimalist perfection to others. Ditch the spreadsheets and feel the love! ????

    • Thank you so much for reading! I’m sorry to hear you experienced that too, but there are so many of us who have a welcoming approach to minimalism – we all have to stick together!

  4. Thank you for this post! My approach to minimalism is exactly like yours. I greatly reduced my closet, but I am nowhere near “real” capsule wardrobe minimalism, and I am fine with that; it’s my journey. And I want to say something about the minimalist fashion crowd on Instagram…although I really appreciate the outfit selfies and styling inspirations, it doesn’t look like they are really simplifying their lives. Clothing still plays this huge role, and it’s so interesting to me to see certain signature pieces “take off” within that community (e.g. the Only Child Alta Top, or many of the Elizabeth Suzann pieces). It still makes people feel that they just HAVE to have certain items, because everyone in the community has them. Not saying this is true for everyone, but there is definitely a self-made pressure from within the minimalist crowd. I can feel it myself too! I so badly want the St. Agni mules because they look amazing on the people who wear them! Are they compatible with my lifestyle? Well, not really…

    • You make a great point! There is definitely a difference between minimalism as a lifestyle, and minimalism as an aesthetic (I am aware that I lean toward the latter, despite certainly having reduced my wardrobe quite a bit.) As with any fashion inspiration, I try to take what everyone else has with a grain of salt. Certainly is difficult though.

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