I got the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up a couple of months ago. In it, author Marie Kondo gives advice on how to de-clutter your home and, thus, your life. I found her advice to be sometimes extreme, and sometimes just plain weird, but I have to say, reading the book motivated me to clean through my living space. I didn’t do everything at once as she advises — I tackled first a drawer, then a second one, then my whole desk and wardrobe, over three weekends.
I got rid of five big bags — two going to a charity shop, three going to the bin. I didn’t do anything too extreme, like get rid of things of sentimental value. I kept several things that I barely even wear. I didn’t seek to end up with a beautiful, airy, minimalist wardrobe; I mainly wanted to make space, get rid of things I definitely don’t use or things that are too old, and make more room for the things I want to keep. I didn’t keep just two jeans and five tee-shirts. I kept a lot of items.
But I learned that I do, in fact, need to buy some clothes — but not the ones I used to think I did.
See, I have “enough” clothes — my wardrobe was not overflowing before — but even after being cleared, it’s still fairly full. But many of the items I have given, many of the ones I kept, and many of the ones I thought I wanted, are definitely not things I actually need. To put it simply, my style is usually quite classic, but I don’t have enough basics; I buy whimsical and quirky clothes that I plan to wear on “special occasions,” and I forget to buy things I would like to wear daily.
I realized I have five coats. Do I wear each of them? I wear one regularly (gray with black leather sleeves), because the others are just too bright, funny, or “out there” for me right now. I dream of walking around London, where I live, in a classic beige trench. Have I considered buying one? Sure, but then I walk into a shop, and I end up buying the one that’s black and white with polka dots because it’s more immediately eye-catching, and I still crave a classic trench I could wear every day.
I have no white T-shirt. I have one pair of black jeans, but no standard blue jeans. I have leopard print shoes, but no black shoes. I have three “little black dresses,” but none that I would wear in daylight. I have a vintage black purse with pearls, but no simple, casual wallet. I have a blazer that’s gray with purple paint stains all over it, but I have no simple cardigan.
Partially because I don’t have clothes I actually want to (or can) wear daily — it’s difficult to rock my green polka dot dress when I work in a conservative office where I’m only allowed suits in gray, black or navy blue — I end up wearing the same things all the time. I also had no idea how many clothes I had hidden under the piles and piles of items in my wardrobe until I tidied it up. I had a couple of shirts I hadn’t seen in a few months that I could actually wear to work, but forgot I had.
I still buy things I love to see, but don’t want to wear. And many of my clothes reflect who I was four years ago — when I wanted to be noticed for my funny sense of style, when my style icon was Zooey Deschanel, and I was working somewhere casual where nobody minded what I was wearing. It doesn’t reflect who I am now that I am a bit older, when I like different things, and work in a very conservative environment. My lifestyle is just too different from what it used to be and my purchases were not always reflecting that.
And because of that, I end up spending money on things I don’t need. And I don’t mean just the funny vintage dresses I’ll wear once a year because I don’t go out enough to justify buying them. I mean practical things that I am convinced I need and that I actually already have. After I tidied up the drawer where I keep my tights and socks, I realized I need to stop buying black tights — I have over 20 of them. But when one is ripped, I wash it and put it back without checking. After a few weeks, I can’t find any tights I could wear, so I just buy more, because my 20 good tights are buried under five pairs with holes in them…same with pens, post-it blocks, underwear, eyeliner.
That was a few weeks ago. Though I enjoy having a clearer space, I think I need to re-do this process again and get rid of a few more “funny dresses,” before I buy things I actually need. I came up with a list of items that match my style and my needs — things I would still love wearing at work, but are basic enough I would actually use them otherwise.
I can’t keep buying shirts with interesting patterns and messages when I’m not allowed to wear them at work, and I only end up wearing jeans and a jumper most of the time during the weekend. I can’t keep buying red lipsticks and complain about having to buy a mascara when mine runs out. I can’t keep buying black tights when I have so many that I can’t find because my drawer is too messy. I haven’t bought anything since I cleared my room, and I know what I will buy next will likely be a pair of jeans, a trench coat, and some plain T-shirts. I’ll now think twice about buying things, and won’t spend any more on things that don’t go with my lifestyle.
Violaine is a 27 year-old French national, living in the UK for the past 7 years. She is currently working for a university supporting students with learning difficulties and mental health issues.
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