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 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 grey hoodie.

Although not many, I had a collection of accessories in my wardrobe. 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. Although I seldom wore them, I had them for many years.

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

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

 

Getting rid of my wardrobe collections

Last April 2017, I gave up 90% of the clothing and accessories I had. 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. In the past, I spent most of my money on travelling, food and entertainment. I personally 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 university days. I also received a couple of nice blouses and dresses for my birthdays. Most of them were still in good condition. Thus, 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 wardrobe.

When it came to my footwear, I had the tendency 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 fast like hotcakes!

Since most of my things were still in good shape, I didn’t want to let them go. And their sentimental values made it even harder for me to part with them. But I knew I wouldn’t be able to take them all with me wherever I go.

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

There were some clothes in my wardrobe that I rarely wore such as my party dresses. At one point I thought of getting rid of them 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 so often. No, I’m not trying to be anti-social.

But before I hit the road, I packed a pair of 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 I was just not motivated to wear high heels. So I gave them away.

After I gave 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 travel again, 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, 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 all the criterias of the travel items I was looking for, these were some of the 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 is a size bigger than the blue one I bought from Decathlon.

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 and will surely keep me toasty in cold temperatures. When I was planning my packing list, I tried keeping everything I had to a minimum.

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

At that time, I also knew that I would need to buy more warm clothes in the country of my destination.

 

Adapting to my new surroundings

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 to not carry anything less than 30L. Since the travel store I visited only offered the Osprey Escapist in two sizes, 28L and 32L, I purchased the lightest one for my upcoming travels.

Travelling with less
I’m ready for my trip!

I was quite nervous about the cold weather in New Zealand. In some Southeast Asian countries, people are crazy about air-conditioners, and they’d turn on the lowest temperature whenever possible. But not me.

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 air-conditioners are nothing like natural cold air. They were absolutely right.

I usually get uncomfortable in temperatures below 20 degrees Celsius. I remember arriving in Auckland sometime in April when the temperature was about 15 degrees Celsius during the day. The temperature usually dropped to 11 degrees Celsius at night. Once it dropped to 4 degrees Celsius. It wasn’t even winter yet.

It took me more than 3 months to adapt to the cold weather. Every day I felt Jack Frost nipping at my nose, even when the space heater in my bedroom was switched on. Winter in Auckland isn’t like in the South Island of New Zealand. While some of my friends were looking forward to playing with snow over the South Island, I was still not ready for that. Not yet. But hopefully soon.

Not long after that, I slowly got acclimatised to the weather, although it still makes me feel uneasy once in awhile. A friend of mine once 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. For now, I try 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 knew I shouldn’t let the cold stop me from enjoying my trip. I have to enjoy every moment, even when it’s 0 degree Celsius out there. I have to learn to live with it. Once I’ve overcome it, then I can start dreaming about visiting countries like Russia and Canada. Or maybe my first winter in snow.

They say you have to dress like an onion in order to survive the cold. That’s a good tip; it’s also common sense.

Layers, layers, layers. Travel experts will also tell you that. I was dressed in layers most times, yet I was still feeling very cold. What’s wrong with me?

I still remember the day I slept in my winter jacket — as if there was snow that day. Every day, I took lots of hot drinks and soup so that my body would always stay warm. Despite all the layers I put on, the hot food and drinks I consumed, I was still shivering. What else was I supposed to do?

The coldest parts of my body are my hands. They usually turn pale white when they start feeling icy. And that hurts. A lot.

One day, while I was reading articles online, I stumbled upon an article on winter survival. According to the writer (who’s an experienced camper), if your hands and feet are cold, that’s because you fail to warm up the other parts of your body. I don’t know if I agree on this one. Sometimes my hands remain cold even when other parts of my body are warm. I started to wonder if I had the Raynaud’s phenomenon.

Or maybe what I should have had were good pairs of socks and gloves. Some of the best gloves and socks are available on Amazon. Unfortunately, many of the ones I wanted are not shipped to New Zealand.

I didn’t give up. I continued browsing for warm gloves and socks on other online platforms. Finally, I landed on The Mohair and Possum Store.

That was where I bought my first mohair lace hat (beret) and possum merino gloves. I was very happy with my first order. I bought a pair of merino wool fingerless gloves soon after. They’re for my daily outdoor activities. Sometimes I wear them while I 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’m very thankful for my new gloves and lace hat. They’re high-quality, soft, warm and breathable. I can tolerate the cold better now thanks to them. And most importantly, they keep my hands toasty. They’re not cheap, but I think they’re worth buying. These high-quality travel gears made of animal fibres will surely be with me for many 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.

Recently, my friends gave me their old raincoats and winter jackets, which still looked good. In terms of quality, they’re a lot better than what I currently have.

Although I may have to leave those clothes behind when I leave the country, I hope to fully make use of them while I can.

And since there’s going to be a lot of rain in the colder months, it’s best that I have my waterproof jackets ready. 

 

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 before. I no longer have to spend time trying to decide on what to wear. Whenever my clothes need washing, I have them all washed in a washing machine. Sometimes I wash them by hand.

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

I don’t mind wearing other colours. 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, I don’t think anybody cares.

Seriously, I don’t even remember the last time someone complimented my outfit.

 

So, how big is my wardrobe?

With the additional clothing I bought specially for autumn and winter, including the jackets given to me, it seems like I won’t be able to fit everything into my 28L backpack. But that’s fine. I won’t be moving around with my backpack (which is like my second 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. It has 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 fewer things in their wardrobes.

As much as I want 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 might not even need them.

Even when advertisements and shopping temptations are rampant, we must remember that only we can control our own urges and desires to consume more. It’s important that we learn how 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 apparel you’ve got 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 may 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

Textiles

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’ve 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 they are guaranteed to last long. 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 more concerned about how their purchases and increasing demands can cause a lot of damage to the environment, and even to their own health.  

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

 

If you have things that are still in good condition that you don’t want or need anymore, don’t throw them away. Donate, or have them recycled.

The Walking Writer

An ENTP who’s always thirsty for new adventures. Apart from music and writing, I’m also passionate about travel, art and entrepreneurship.