A few years ago, I had a closet full of “nothing to wear.” Back then I shopped more than I do now. That wasn’t the only reason though. I also kept everything, even items that were too small or too big, worn-out, completely hideous, or absolutely uncomfortable. Now I know what I own. Precisely. Let me explain!
How it all started. No, I’m not a minimalist.
It started with a nifty little video about minimalism by Matt D’Avella a few years back. Until then, I had already applied minimalism to a few areas in my life, without knowing the term. I had kept my digital space clutter-free, simple, and minimal. I had always been a fan of clean, basic, Scandinavian interior which I would describe as minimalist as well. But where I didn’t succeed in being minimal was in my wardrobe.
In hindsight, I’d suspect it to be a lack of confidence that led to many, many purchases over the years. In false hope that those clothes would improve confidence, or self-worth, would impress others, or somehow make me more attractive and happier. They didn’t, of course.
My wardrobe was filled to the limit with stuff that I didn’t like or wear much. It had only torn a big hole in my wallet. After seeing Matt D’Avella go through his minimal — extremely minimal — wardrobe, I thought: man, that dude’s crazy. Well, at least that was my first reaction. Until I thought about it some more.
I did an experiment. No, still not a minimalist.
On that day, I tried a funny thought experiment. One you might want to try as well. I asked myself how many pieces in my closet I could name. From memory. This is going to be easy, I anticipated. It wasn’t. I didn’t even remember a third of it.
If I can’t remember it, why would I need it? The answer is most likely: I don’t.
I decluttered. No, I’m not bored.
The next day — still a little perplexed — I ventured into my wardrobe and somehow just started to declutter. No real plan in place. I went through each drawer, every rack, every inch of my home, and I was petrified, to be honest. How in the hell had I accumulated that many clothes?
To be fair, it wasn’t even much by some other people’s standards. But to me, it was outrageous. Not because I didn’t enjoy nice clothes, but because one thought immediately popped into my mind: how much money did I spend?
The answer: I could have bought a pretty nice new car instead. Or two.
While decluttering I noticed how many pieces didn’t fit me anymore, how many were torn or broken. And the rest was hideous. Well not all, I kept a few pieces in the end. Within a couple of days, I sold numerous items. I gave away pieces to my brother and my cousins. They were happy. Everything else, I donated or threw away.
“So, what now?”, was my next question. I was left with a pretty empty closet. No more clothes on the floor. No pile-up in front of the washing machine. It felt relieving, I have to say. But the one thing I didn’t want to do, was to go out and buy new clothes.
I don’t buy much. No, I’m not broke.
So, I didn’t. Really. I wanted to see how far I’d come with these remaining pieces. I didn’t have everything I needed, but then again, Matt managed to wear the same outfit for years. To this day, I still own many of the clothes that remained in my closet back then. They’ve become part of my go-to pieces.
I thought of it this way: it’s not like I couldn’t afford new clothes. I wanted to value clothes again. I had completely lost the connection to my belongings. A line from a German movie was stuck in my head:
My great-grandparents had 47 things. My grandparents had 200 things. My parents had 650 things. Now, we have on average 10,000 things. 10,000!
Hard to value anything when you have 9,999 other things.
I keep a list of everything. It works for me.
I started to keep a list of all clothes I had left at this point. A simple note. With bullet points. And yes, I still do. I have a list of all the clothes I own. It’s neatly organized by category: pants, shirts, sweater, you get it.
Why would I do that? First of all, I love notes. Secondly, it gives me a way to oversee my purchases and keep my spendings in check. Thirdly, I love to see which pieces stay on the list for a long time. Because this way I remember my favorites. I know where they’re from to replace them once they’re worn out.
And finally, I know how many pieces I own overall. That includes clothes, shoes, and accessories like hats, bags, sunglasses, and more. If you’re curious: all in all, it’s 98 pieces right now. Sounds like a lot. But it isn’t. You’ll find that this number is pretty low when you count everything — even underwear and socks.
The bottom line
This simple list is a treasure. Since I keep it, I’ve hardly bought anything. I wrote down every piece. I enjoy replacing a worn-out item. Shopping is a joy now. Although it takes more time to find the perfect piece. I don’t impulse buy. Sale racks don’t even tempt me. But most importantly, I value every piece I own. Finally.