Journey of a Fashionable Minimalist – Episode 1: Hoarding, where it all began
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.
I don’t love the word “fashion”, but I have a thing for expressing myself in the clothes I choose to wear and how I accessorise myself. When I was a child and through my early teenage years, I didn’t care too much about what I wore. My style was mostly defined by what clothing my parents chose for me, until my mid-teenage years when I became more adamant about what I wanted to wear. Into my twenties, I had the freedom of purchasing my own clothes, and I began to develop my personal style.
My style has definitely changed over the years. I believe I’ve changed as an individual, and when I change, my wardrobe tends to change too, to reflect the changes in my life. My personal style grows with me as I grow as a person.
To me, fashion is not just about looking good and presentable. A lot of people have said they would love to have my wardrobe of clothes; a lot of people point out that I have a lot of clothes; time and time again I’ve been commended on the the way I dress myself. But I believe fashion is also about expressing oneself – feeling confident, feeling good, and feeling at peace with the state of one’s wardrobe – not just looking good. I should know – after years of living in high heels and short skirts, for example, I injured my leg (and it wasn’t quite the same again) and imagining trying to withstand toe pain while tugging down a tight miniskirt and trying to cross my legs properly is something that screams fashion over practicality or comfort – and I just don’t stand for that kind of shit anymore.
Several years ago, in around 2012, I discovered the concept of minimalism, putting value into experiences, and being able to live with less physical things. I was alerted to the fact that I owned a lot of things, but especially clothes, and that a lot of the things that I owned were not necessary to live with – or even to just live.
This series bridges those two worlds and recounts my journey and the things I learned about minimalism, and fashion & style. I hope that this series is useful not just to those who might label themselves impulse buyers, shopaholics, fashionistas or otherwise, but to those who are in fact the opposite – minimalists who might see themselves as unstylish or dull, or even those who only fit into one of these two worlds.
I come from a family who were not extremely well off, but certainly not rich, either. My mum and dad knew what struggling financially felt like, and they tried to get me to understand that money was to be spent wisely, and only when necessary, and saved whenever possible. They taught me well, but I will admit that I spent most of the money from my first job unwisely – on candy from the school canteen and on cheap costume jewellery whenever I got a chance to go to the shopping mall.
The way I treated money over the years, especially with regards to clothes, is a haphazard amalgamation of what my parents taught me about saving, what I learned about time equalling money, what I learned from my husband about being willing to spend money on quality, and a lot of my own mistakes. I say haphazard amalgamation because I’ve often experienced extremes of dipping into my savings to pay my credit card bills (admittedly, and thankfully, I have never been in credit card debt), or realising I was spending so much that I became frugal and returned and re-bought an item to save a couple of dollars.
On top of trying very hard to save money, my parents tended to hoard a lot of things and our house was not tidy. For personal reasons I won’t go into details about my family, however, if you have read Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, many scenarios in that book resonated with me very strongly. I know the book has been mentioned and recommended to death – but I myself did not read it until recently – and I can’t deny that I nodded my head at so much of what Kondo wrote. I also had the habit of hoarding things since when I was a kid. Everything I owned had some kind of sentimental value attached to it, and I couldn’t bear throwing anything away, even if it was a trinket I stored in a box, even if it was a broken costume bracelet that was completely tarnished, even if it was a book I had read but didn’t like.
My mum taught me to always look well presented. To this day, I find it difficult not to put effort into my appearance and into what I’m wearing. If I don’t do it, I feel almost naked. I’ve been doing it for so long that there’s no question about it. Like any part of your routine, it has become a part of it. It must be done.
When it came to getting ready in the mornings, I had an enormous selection of clothes. Many dresses (mostly black), so many t-shirts (90% band tees, 5% nerd tees), many skirts (also mostly black, but mostly mini skirts). Too many shoes to be able to remember or even count. At first, I didn’t see this as a problem. I went to one of my three clothing racks, picked out an outfit, and went about my day.
Then I started to notice some problems.
Some of my clothes went missing. I remember putting them in the wash a while ago. When I say a while ago, I mean almost a month. In our family we did washing once a week. Everyone’s clothes – my parents’, mine, and my brother’s – went into the wash, often in separate loads depending on colour or fabric. My mother knew what to do. I attribute my laundry separating skills to her, in fact. But after three weeks, you’d think that the clothes you wore would have gone through the laundry again. But I’d often find that after a couple months, my clothes were still in the laundry pile.
Another problem was that I took longer to get ready in the morning. I would stand there and put on several different outfits and adjust my clothing and accessories until I was happy with it. But it would take me far longer than necessary. Sometimes twenty minutes to half an hour. Even as someone who put a lot of effort into her appearance, I felt that my efforts did not always make me feel good about myself. I didn’t understand why. All I knew was that I could not make up my mind.
I started finding clothes that I forgot that I owned. They would fall to the floor after being squashed by the burden of a hundred clothes hanging from a clothing rack. Several times, the clothing rack collapsed and I had to ask my mum to help me set it back up.
I started noticing things that bothered me.
I didn’t like all of my clothes. In fact, I felt an urge to buy new clothes, because I didn’t like the ones I had. I had liked them at some point, just not anymore.
I noticed that there were clothes in my room that didn’t belong to me. Either they were put there by mistake, or I’d ask my mother about it and she said she didn’t have room to put it anywhere else, so it would have to be in my room for now.
She didn’t have room.
She… didn’t have room.
So suddenly these things were on my property, in my area. I didn’t own my parents’ house, but it didn’t seem like a lot of things in my own room really belonged to me.
Other clothes were given to me without me knowing.
Why would I have inherited clothes without knowing? Where did they come from?
Stay tuned for next month to read episode 2. ☺️ I hope you enjoyed this first episode of Journey of a Fashionable Minimalist! I tried to make this episode as short as possible and keep it slightly exciting for the next episode. I’d love to hear your thoughts so far!
🗒 There are 12 parts in this series, and one will be posted on the second Friday of every month until December.