Downsizing My Wardrobe: My Path to Owning Less

Minimalism

Do you think you have too many clothes and accessories? Well, that’s the same question I ask myself every now and then. Although my wardrobe was never overcrowded with clothes, shoes, and all sorts of fashion accessories, that didn’t mean I only had one pair of everything, such as shirts, dresses, jeans, shoes, etc.

Last year, I had 6 dresses I could wear for both work and leisure, a few pairs of pumps and high heels that I bought on sale, a pair of pink slippers I wore nearly everywhere (I still have it!), which I also carried to work on rainy days, and a pair of warm hoodie.

Although not many, I had a collection of accessories. Earrings and watches were my must-haves. I felt naked without them. Other accessories such as bracelets and necklaces were mostly given by my friends. I didn’t wear them very often, but I had them for many years.

Other than all of the items mentioned, I also owned a black scarf, 2 pairs of sunglasses, two pairs of socks, 2 pairs of sneakers, and several more things.

Does it seem like I had a lot of stuff in my closet?

 

Getting rid of my wardrobe collection

Last April 2017, I gave up 90% of the clothing and accessories I owned. Although there weren’t too many to begin with, giving them up (after having them for many years) somehow gave me a great sense of relief. Some of the things I had were from 2009!

I must confess that although I like shopping, I rarely spend money on material things. I usually spent my money on travel trips, food and entertainment. That’s because I like buying experience more than material things.

But I did have an array of clothes in my wardrobe, with many of them kept from my days at university. I also received some nice blouses and dresses for my birthdays. Most of my clothes were still in good condition. Therefore, I continued to keep and wear them.

Since I hardly gained weight, I almost never had any problem fitting into any of my old clothes. Most of them stayed with me for over 3 years. I must admit that every time I bought new clothes, I felt very good. Well, at least for a little while. Even with my new clothes rolling in, the old ones remained in the closet.

When it came to my footwear, I tended to buy more than one pair of shoes whenever I had the chance to do so. My feet are extremely small, slim and narrow. And because of that, finding women shoes that truly fit me can be quite a challenge. Perhaps I should opt for customised shoes instead. They’re usually very expensive, though.

Some of my friends suggested me to shop for shoes at the kids department stores. I thought that could work, too. But I hardly stumbled upon anything I like.

These gumboots (which are not mine) are actually too big for me.

Fortunately, there are many shoe brands out there that offer shoes in small sizes. You can even find women shoes in EU35/UK3/US5 these days. You’ve just got to get them before they run out. Since they’re limited, they sell faster than hotcakes!

While most of my things were still in good shape, and many of them carried sentimental values, I didn’t want to let them go. But I knew I couldn’t take them all with me, wherever.

I was ready to set off for another adventure – hence my strong urge to find new homes for the things in my closet.

There were some clothes in my closet that I rarely wore such as my party dresses. At one point I figured that they needed to leave my closet, especially now that I’ve reduced my late-night activities at local bars and occasional parties.

Chances are I might not even bother to party at all while I travel. Even if I do, I probably won’t go out very often. No, I’m not trying to be anti-social.

But before I hit the road, I packed a skater dress in my travel bag, decent enough for every occasion, be it a party or a movie date. I can wear it to local bars and restaurants, perhaps while I go out with the new friends I make along the way.

I could’ve also packed my high heels and paired them with my skater dress. But I didn’t. Despite spending one whole year working in corporate last year, I never wore the high heels I bought on sale a couple of years ago. In fact, I could count the number of times I actually wore them. Lesson learned. I will try to never ever impulsively buy anything on sale!

Converse sneakers
When you work for a startup, you usually get to wear sneakers to work.

Despite my short stature, I didn’t force myself to stand like a model wherever I went, or walk like a cat in order to feel confident whenever I pulled off a feminine style. The matter of fact is I feel very comfortable walking in flats. Lack of practice as some might say, but it was the choice I made, probably due to lack of motivation to wear high heels. So I gave them away.

After I had given away my clothes and accessories, I realised one thing: I didn’t miss them much from then on. I  just hoped they’d make a perfect fit for someone else.

Do you remember when was the last time you donated your old clothes and accessories?

 

Looking for the right travel gears

Since I knew I was going to leave for another new adventure, getting the right travel gears meant a lot to me. From thermal clothes to water-resistant hiking boots, I carefully shopped for everything needed for my trip.

There were a lot of things I had to put into consideration when selecting my travel gears: the right clothing material to suit the weather of my next destination, the durability of every product I intended on buying, as well as the level of importance of each travel item, the types of activities I’ll be doing and so forth. All those things mattered.

After taking account the criterias of the travel items I was looking for, these were some of the new things I bought:

  • 1 x thermal shirt and trousers
  • 1 x Wed’ze base layer
  • 1 x snow hat
  • 2 x fleece jackets
  • 1 x sock
  • 1 x swimming goggle
  • 1 x headlamp
  • 1 x keychain torch light
  • 1 x snow glove
  • 1 x ¾ trousers
  • 1 x hiking boot

Apart from the things I purchased, I also packed my friend Iury’s old base layer from Wed’ze. It’s red, and a size bigger than the blue one I bought.

It’s not like I’m going skiing or snowboarding anytime soon, but these base layers are good enough for my first winter experience. Made of polyester, these reversible base layers provide excellent warmth, depending on which side they’re worn against the skin.

Me wearing my Wedze base layer in Kariotahi
You can wear a base layer on its own if the weather isn’t too cold for you.

Although my travel clothes aren’t the most fashionable in the market, they’re practical. I was sure that they’ll keep me toasty in cold temperatures. When I was planning my packing list, I tried keeping everything I had to a minimum.

It may not look like I have a lot of travel gears, but packing them, along with other things into my 28L Osprey backpack, was quite a challenge. Yet, I managed to fit them all in my backpack. Woo-hoo!

I was aware that I may need to buy more warm clothes in the country of my destination.

 

Adapting to my new surrounding

As mentioned earlier, packing all of my travel gears into my tiny backpack was quite a challenge. I could’ve picked a bigger bag, but I aimed not to carry anything less than 30L. Since the Osprey Escapist was only available in two sizes at the store I visited, 28L and 32L, I purchased the lightest one for my travel journey in 2017.

I was quite nervous about the cold weather in New Zealand. In Asia, people are crazy about air-conditioners, and they’d turn on the lowest temperature as much as possible.

Honestly speaking, air-conditioners tend to make me sick. I was worried that the cold weather in New Zealand will make me sick, too. All of my friends kept telling me that the quality of an air-conditioner is nothing like the naturally cold air in spring, autumn and winter. They were absolutely right.

Temperatures below 20 degrees celsius really make me feel uncomfortable. It took me more than 3 months to adapt to the cold weather. It wasn’t even winter at the time. Even with the heater on, I felt Jack Frost nipping at my nose.

Eventually I got acclimatised. Even though I’m slowly getting used to the cold, I still feel a little uneasy once in awhile, especially when the temperature drops. As some of my friends had said to me, “Some days are better than others”.

I figured that if I wanted to survive the cold weather, I should start looking for better clothes. Not just any clothes, but good, warm clothes. I tried to avoid cotton as much as possible.

 

Shopping online while travelling

I felt like a cry baby whenever I complained about the cold. It got into my nerves and other people’s nerves, too. I know I shouldn’t let the cold stop me from enjoying my trip. I have to enjoy every moment, even when it’s 0 degree celcius outside. I have to learn to live with it. Once I overcome this, I can start dreaming about my trip to countries like Russia and Canada.

They say you have to dress like an onion in order to survive the cold. That’s not just a good tip, but it’s also basically common sense.

Layer, layer, layer. Even travel experts will tell you that. So I dressed in multiple layers, but I was still feeling very cold.

What else to do? I took lots of hot drinks and soup every day to keep my body warm and toasty. I even had my winter jacket on while I sleep. No matter how many layers I put on, or how much hot food and drinks I consumed, the cold still bothered me.  

The coldest parts of my body were my hands. And whenever they started to feel icy, that was when they turned pale white. And that hurt. A lot.

I read many articles on winter survival. One of them stated that if you fail to warm up other parts of your body, your hands and feet will get very cold. In my case, my hands are way colder than other parts of my body.

Maybe what I should have had were good pairs of socks and gloves. I visited plenty of travel sites that recommended the best gloves and socks to buy on Amazon. I tried buying some of the recommended items, but I was disappointed to learn that shipment to New Zealand wasn’t available.

I didn’t give up. I continued my quest and visited some local online stores where I found some pretty cool gloves and socks. What a relief!

I visited The Mohair and Possum Store. I bought my first mohair lace hat (beret) and possum merino gloves. I was very happy with my first purchase. Later I bought a pair of merino wool fingerless gloves for my daily outdoor activities. I put them on when I need to work on my computer on a cold, breezy day.

Possum Merino Gloves & Mohair Beret
Mohair beret and Possum merino gloves by The Mohair and Possum Store.

I can’t express how thankful I am to have my new high quality gloves and hat. They’re soft, warm and breathable. I can tolerate the cold better now that I have them. And most importantly, they keep my hands toasty.

Although these items aren’t cheap, they’re worth investing on. If you have the chance to visit the store, I advise you to do that rather than buying their products online. That way you can save on shipping cost.

Made of animal fibres, these high-quality travel gears will surely be with me for the next years to come.

In Australia and New Zealand, some of the locals wear ugg boots to keep their feet warm and toasty. The cool thing about ugg boots is you can wear them inside and outside of your home. I wear mine in the house. For extra warmth, I pair it with my long thermal socks.

Ugg boots made of sheepskin and wool are known to be excellent at providing warmth to the feet. I received one for my birthday. I must admit that I really adore them. With proper care, the boots can last for years.

Merino wool top and trousers
Merino wool top and trousers

I also got myself a long-sleeved merino turtleneck and a pair of merino long trousers. They’re very warm and show all the characteristics of merino wool. Totally worth it.

I also received things from other people recently. My friends handed down their old winter jackets and raincoats to me. They’re definitely still in good shape. In terms of quality, the jackets and raincoats are a lot better than what I currently have.

Although I know I won’t be able to carry some of these donated clothes with me someday (when I leave for my next destination country), I hope to make use of them for the time being. They’re still in good condition after all.

Since there’s going to be a lot of rain in the colder months, it’s best that I have my waterproof jackets ready. Not only do I feel lucky, but I also feel grateful for all these gifts.

 

What it’s like to wear the same things every day

Honestly, I don’t feel bored wearing the same clothes (and shoes) every week, sometimes every day. It doesn’t bother me at all. In fact, I feel more focused than ever. I no longer have to spend time making up my mind about what to wear. When my clothes finally need washing, I have them all washed in a washing machine. Sometimes I wash them by hand.

Most of my clothes are in dark colours. 90% of them are black. I love wearing black. Not only is it my favourite colour, it’s also easy to wear.

I also don’t mind wearing other colours. In fact, some of my clothes are in grey, dark blue, gold and pink. Clothes in these colours make up 10% of my garments.

Zigzag winter dress
My most frequently worn outfit during the colder months. As it’s an oversized dress, I can wear layers of clothes underneath it.

It doesn’t really matter what colour I’m wearing, or what kind of style I pull off today, tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow. As long as I’m not walking naked outside, nobody cares.

I don’t even remember when was the last time someone actually complimented my outfit. I may remember what I wore last week, but I can’t recall the day I wore my grey long-sleeved dress.

 

So how big is my wardrobe?

With the additional clothing I bought specially for autumn and winter, including the donated jackets given to me, I might not be able to fit everything into my 28L backpack. But that’s fine. I won’t be moving around with my backpack (which is also my home) anytime soon.

I currently keep all of my stuff in a wooden wardrobe I have in New Zealand. They’ll stay right there until it’s time for me to leave the country. There’s plenty of space for everything I own. One thing for sure, I have half the amount of wardrobe stuff I had before.

Minimalism
Embracing minimalism in my simple outdoor outfit.

The whole concept of ‘owning less’ shouldn’t be practised carelessly. You don’t have to own 30 things (clothing and accessories) just because other people around you, or around the world, have lesser things in their wardrobes. Maybe you have lesser things than I do. If so, good for you. As long as it makes you happy!

As much as I would love to keep my wardrobe at its simplest, I’m pretty happy with what I have at the moment. If what I have are still in good condition, they should continue to serve me. Of course, I have to remind myself not to mindlessly shop for more, newer things. Chances are I may not even need them.

Even when advertisements and shopping temptations are everywhere, we can try to control our urges to consume more. We need to evaluate our needs mindfully.

Toasty fingerless gloves in my wardrobe
These are my first fingerless gloves. I wear them on a regular basis.

If you were to count every single apparel you have now, how many of them in total do you have? Why did you buy them in the first place? How often do you wear them? How long are they going to stay in your wardrobe? And out of the many clothing and accessories you have, how many of them truly give you joy?

If you could ask yourself these questions, and find the answers, you might be able to decide whether or not you need to downsize your wardrobe.

I already did that. And I won’t deny that it wasn’t easy.

 

My thoughts on the matter

I have to admit that downsizing my collection of clothing and accessories had a huge impact on me. Not only am I more mindful about my spending now, I also start to value the things I put on my body. In fact, I become more cautious about my clothing materials, which I’ll discuss in my next article.

I don’t mind spending more money on quality clothes and shoes if it means they could last for years. If I’m going to spend more money on a piece of item, I may need to shop less. But that’s fine with me.

While consumerism has its positive impact and advantages, it can cause more negative impacts and global crisis when it goes out of control. Looking at where today’s textile industry is going, people should start being concerned about how their purchases and increasing demands can cause a lot of damage to the environment, even to their own health.  

In the end, we all have to be mindful about how we use our resources, and how we control the urges inside of us to wanting more than we actually need.

 

If you have things you don’t want or need anymore, don’t throw them away if they’re still in good condition. Donate them. Or have them recycled.

Liszt The Walking Writer
Liszt is always thirsty for new adventures. Apart from music, she’s also passionate about travel, art and entrepreneurship.