My interpretation of a “minimalist wardrobe” was recently challenged when my girlfriend Jenn Mapp told me about her 35 items. I have known her for years (pre toddler and infant, pre house), and have always thought of her as a “fashionista” in the best sense of the word. I rarely saw her wear the same outfit twice, she always looked fabulous, and she accessorizes better than anyone else. Yet, she decided to simplify her closet (thus her life), and pare it down to 35 items. And she loves the result – not just in her closet. Intrigued? Read on… After all, we all know of Steve Jobs’ jeans and black turtleneck uniform. President Obama has discussed owning shirts of just a few colors, to simplify his mornings. And most business men in effect have their own uniform (suit and shirt). Perhaps they are on to something… I may just have to try this myself…
• AP: What made you decide to reduce your wardrobe to 35 items?
• JM: For most of life shopping was my favorite pastime. Now I have a toddler and an infant, a full time job and own a small (but charming!) house. This translates to no time, minimal storage and considerably less discretionary income. Earlier this spring, while searching Pinterest for closet organization tips, I discovered several boards dedicated to the idea of a minimalist wardrobe. The notion of turning my massive, unmanageable closet into a curated collection of seasonal apparel just felt right. Within a few days I ruthlessly edited my clothes down to 35 items and consigned, donated or stored the rest. My life has improved immeasurably.
• AP: What are your 35 items? Does this include accessories, shoes, lingerie – everything?
• JM: I define “35 items” as the apparel hanging in my closet — business casual separates worn mostly to work. My 35 items do not include accessories because these are my signature outfit makers and without them this would not be a plausible fashion experiment – for me. Workout clothes, lingerie and sleep items do not count. However, my entire fashion collection now fits in one side of an Ikea Pax wardrobe. This makes me very proud.
• AP: How has your life changed since undergoing this fashion experiment?
• JM: In so many ways! Obviously I’ve saved money and time but I’m also happier and more present. You don’t realize how much energy it takes to manage possessions. Most tangibly, my fashion experiment motivated me to start a blog. I assumed #jennmapp would be a fashion blog cataloging multiple outfits created from 35 items but I’ve found that I am more inspired by the psychology of the process. Curbing the impulse to shop parallels instinctive behavior in every aspect of my life. My 3 year old son AJ has emerged as a noteworthy muse.
• AP: Any tips on how others could reduce their wardrobes?
• JM: Sure, how about a random numbered list? The internet loves a list.
1. Purchase or borrow an inexpensive rolling rack.
2. Assemble your entire wardrobe in one place.
3. Automatically move formal or cocktail attire, out of season clothes, ill-fitting or damaged items to the rolling rack.
4. Consider every item that remains. These will make up your current season collection. If you love it, you will know in one second – leave it in your closet. If you experience any hesitation towards an item, put it on the rolling rack.
5. Ruthlessly edit until you are down to a collection that feels right. You will need an adequate assortment of tops, bottoms and outwear. Consider your lifestyle. Depending on the size of your wardrobe, you may require several rounds of edits.
6. Store, repair, consign or donate the rest. Just do it.
7. Repeat every three – four months, filling in gaps as needed.
As I listen to Jenn in awe, she concludes: “You only think you need hundreds of items. You don’t! I guarantee you only wear 30 – 50 pieces as it is. Closet reduction is an excellent exercise in defining your value system. If you read this and are inspired to act, you are ready. Take the plunge. If the idea doesn’t resonate at all or seems inconceivable, well someone has to keep the economy afloat, right?”