A great reminder of the Parisienne value of quality, not quantity, in one’s wardrobe:
This is not where I say fashion is unimportant. I love to dress with stylish flair. But, I’m no slave to fads. And, for the sake of the planet and a clutter-free home, it’s high time we shake off that faulty “more is better” mindset that we’ve been acculturated with by decades of Madison Avenue marketing savvy. Just how many outfits can you wear at one time? One, of course. And, how often does doing laundry fit into your routine? For most working apartment dwellers without a compact washer & dryer in their unit, it’s a weekly trip to the basement laundry room on a day off from work. So, for the sake of convenience, you will probably find a week’s worth of outfits will meet your needs. Anything beyond that will just tempt you to let laundry pile up until the chore feels overwhelming.
Love to dress stylishly? Crave variety? Do what Parisiennes do and achieve that novelty by choosing quality mix-and-matchable garments in a simple color palette of your two or three favorite neutrals and two favorite colors (for my Snow White dark hair and fair skin my favorites are black, pewter, and white, with red or teal), in shapes that perfectly flatter your current body (no hoarding clothes that don’t fit) and then accenting them with accessories you love. For my weekly laundry routine, my job as a teacher, my at-home yoga and going out on weekends, I only need:
• 7 tops
• 7 bottoms (5 pants/skirts for work and 2 drawstring pants for lounging/exercising at home)
• 7 panties–all black
• 4 bras (2 black, 1 nude)
• 1 robe
• 6 shoes (1 clog and 1 dress boot for winter, 1 flip-flop and 1 wedge sandal for summer, Vibrams for exercise, and cushy house slippers for my hardwood floors–all in black.*
• 1 purse
• 1 lightweight jacket
But, what about the seasons?, you may be wondering. Fair enough, but instead of having two completely different wardrobes, taking up twice as much room in your closet, think layers. Wear your short-sleeve and sleeveless tops and skirts bare-legged and bare-armed with sandals in summer, then add long-sleeved tops, tights, over-the-knee socks (as leg warmers), gloves, scarfs, hats, vests/sweaters/jackets, and knee-high boots when pumpkin spice latte weather hits. Does this mean you need seven vests/jackets/sweaters? No. Three or four in your neutrals will give you plenty of mix-and-match variety. The more extreme the temperature swings in your locale, the more layers you may need. For example, here in Seattle, I might wear a shrug or vest over my long-sleeved top (2 layers) with a light scarf and fingerless gloves in autumn, but in winter I might wear a summer tank as my base layer, a long-sleeved top over that, plus a vest (3 layers), a heavier scarf, a beret, and fingerless gloves layered over texting gloves. So, I also keep the following in my wardrobe:
• 1 winter coat
• 1 beret
• 1 winter scarf that works with everything
• 6 tights–all black
• 7 knee-high or over-the-knee socks–all black
• 3 shrugs (1 black, 1 dark gray, 1 white)
• 2 vests (1 faux black leather, 1 faux mink fur)
*Ok, currently, I also have Sketchers combat boots, Børn “steampunk” ankle boots, and Dansko Mary Janes, also (still, all in black), but that’s because when you work standing up your feet get sore if you wear the same two shoe styles all season. Your job or unique lifestyle may increase your need for certain items and decrease your need for others.
Have you ever noticed that with all the possessions that have come and gone from your life, there are very few at any one time that are actually your “go-to” items? “Go-to” items are the ones you reach for frequently because they always work for you. Often, they meet multiple needs, such as how an iPhone comes to replace many tools and toys, such as a wristwatch (Clock), a CD collection and stereo (iTunes and Pandora), print books (Amazon Kindle and the public library’s Overdrive app), talk radio (Stitcher), and perhaps even a laptop (I’m drafting this post with one thumb on my iPhone in the WordPress app), in addition to replacing a landline phone.
One of the most life-changing ideas that I have encountered (via Tim Ferriss’s The Four Hour Workweek) is the 80/20 Rule, or Pareto Principle, named for the Italian economist credited with first recognizing it.
The 80/20 Rule states that just around 20% of your efforts, or resources, create about 80% of your desired results. For example, in my middle school library, about 20% of the collection results in about 80% of our circulation (in our case, popular fiction–especially fantasy). Likewise, you probably wear about 20% of your wardrobe 80% of the time: your favorite shoes, your favorite jeans, your favorite leather jacket, etc. Chances are you reach for them because they are just right for you (fit, color, style) work for many occasions (work and weekend, casual and dressy), and go with many other items in your closet.
So, for those seeking simplicity, frugality, and a closet that does not resemble an overstuffed sales rack at Filene’s Basement, this one’s for you.
But, how do you quickly identify that 20%? You could come up with scientifically sound methods–but let’s apply the 80/20 Rule to this, too: instead of spending hours over the course of weeks trying to track what you reach for in your closet, try my 4-Stars shortcut. That is, if on a 5-star scale you would rate something in your life at least 4 stars (likely a top 20%) in terms of how much satisfaction it brings to you, than it’s probably worth keeping in your life. So, going back to the wardrobe example, take a look at your closet (clothing, shoes, accessories) with fresh eyes and ask yourself, “Is this a 4- or 5-star item for me?” If so, hang onto it. If not, stop hoarding it and donate it to charity where someone else may decide it’s a 4- or 5-star item for them.