Journey of a Fashionable Minimalist: Episode 4 – Exhaustion from downsizing

This post is part of a 12-part series called Journey of a Fashionable Minimalist, telling in part my decluttering and minimalism journey, as someone who has always been interested and invested in expressing herself through outfits and accessories, and other related things I’ve learned through minimalism. A new episode is posted monthly. Read all posts in the series.

An assortment of necklaces, bangles and rings laid out on a light purple bedspread
A handful of jewellery I decluttered years ago

In the last episode of this series, I mentioned that I went on a spree of donating or getting rid of things I didn’t need. I found it very liberating at first. It felt wonderful – it felt like I had less of a weight on my shoulders. I realised that I had a lot more than I needed, and removing the excess felt great.

At some point this became very exhausting. I realised exactly how much I had. I was throwing trinkets in the bin, feeling great about it, only to realise I had more tucked away in a corner. I tried to be very good about my excessive collection of costume jewellery – selling it in bulk on Gumtree. It was sort of successful, but I later found that it was a lot of effort to get very little back. I was pretty successful in selling some of my old graphic tees and vintage-style tops on eBay, but otherwise I don’t think I made a lot of money back. It was nice to be able to sell the clothes instead of simply donating them. But this process was exhausting – and I’m not gonna lie, six years later it’s still exhausting.

Realising the amount of stuff I had piled up over the years made me feel rather hopeless. In the previous episode I explained that minimalism is not a destination, but a journey. The mistake I made here is not understanding that sooner. I aimed to see some kind of light at the end of the tunnel, and I was so convinced there was one, yet I couldn’t even visualise what that looked like. It was like I was constantly in the dark, not knowing what I wanted. Even though I was donating bag after bag of things, throwing out useless clutter, discarding delicate memorabilia that was associated with vivid memories anyway – I felt like I was going nowhere. I wasn’t happy with the progress I made.  I could brag forever about getting rid of 20 bags of stuff, but for some reason or another – I couldn’t look at it as progress.

The issue I want to highlight here is that sometimes you have no idea how much stuff you have or how much it’s weighing you down. I could barely find direction or focus in my life. Even after downsizing so much of my stuff, my stuff was still staring me flat in the face.

Downsizing your belongings can be a very, very long and arduous process. I don’t lie.

What was easy to declutter and what wasn’t?

Looking back, I recognise that some parts of the process were easier than others. I found it so easy to get rid of memorabilia because I had a habit of collecting things that were associated with negative memories, or I didn’t even take care of or store the memorabilia properly. It’s interesting because Marie Kondo (admittedly, not a minimalist, but a tidier-upper) suggests tackling the sentimental stuff last because it’s unable to be replaced. I found myself tackling it almost head-on, and becoming very good at it.

I don’t agree with Marie Kondo and other minimalist folks who suggest that clothes are, and should be, easiest to declutter. Because I love expressing myself through clothes so much, I put a lot of value in my clothes. A lot more than other people. And many minimalists will stand by the idea that you shouldn’t get rid of things related to your hobbies or the things that you enjoy, even if they take up space. Getting rid of other things will ensure you have more time and space and can enjoy those hobbies. I suppose, for me, that’s clothes.

“A closet full of clothes and nothing to wear”

Despite liking clothes, it was around 2015, two years after I started my minimalism journey, that I began to dislike my whole wardrobe. Because I had grown up hoarding things, inheriting things, and having limited opportunities to purchase the clothes I wanted, I felt so separated from myself, and I felt like my wardrobe was constantly full of shit.

I didn’t feel like I was expressing myself well, and I didn’t feel like the clothes I had were reflective of my style at that point in time. I wanted to move on and try other clothes. I felt like everything in my wardrobe that I put on made me feel “ugh” about myself. I hadn’t cared about this so much before – or maybe I just hadn’t noticed? In the past I liked what I wore, but a lot of those clothes suddenly became uncomfortable or I’d look at photos of me in them and it didn’t feel right.

When I realised this, I had already spent days writing lists and adding relevant tags as a wardrobe inventory of the clothes I owned in an app I used to use (called Wunderlist). I liked this process, but it became exhausting because I refused to add items that I didn’t like, and even without adding them, I found out that I had over 250 items of clothing. It even got to the point where I had donated or gotten rid of clothes before I even had a chance to log them in my inventory.

Scrolling through my inventory, seeing a large list of clothing – most of it being items I wore on a daily basis, even though not all of it was accounted for – it became apparent that downsizing was not what I needed. I had a problem and I needed something else. I needed to redefine my personal style, but I didn’t really know how.

I hope you enjoyed this episode of Journey of a Fashionable Minimalist. Next episode I’ll be discussing some of the things I did to try and overhaul my personal style – was it a success or not? Wait until next episode to see!

🗒 There are 12 parts in this series, and one will be posted on the second Friday of every month until December.

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