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Edit Your Closet

Admit it: Your closet is full of things you rarely or never wear. Put the effort into paring down to the essentials, then pick a few staples to invest in. Believe us, it’s worth it.

The concept of minimalism is enjoying a lot of popularity right now. Across the board, there is a strong emphasis on white space, clean lines, and lack of clutter in our collective cultural aesthetic. And that’s great – simplicity is a wonderful thing. After all, who doesn’t agree with Dieter Rams’ famous statement that “Good design is as little design as possible?”

The problem is that in a capitalist/consumer-driven market, simplicity and minimalism are difficult things to permanently adopt in our own lives. On some level we know our possessions are just objects, with little or no inherent value beyond their purchase price and potential usefulness to us. But we have a funny way of assigning far more value to certain items than they actually deserve.

We keep things we do not use for many reasons. There’s the “just in case” scenario, in which we keep something because there may be a situation where we might need it. There’s the crushing weight of sentimentality, in which we hold onto an item because frankly we feel guilty getting rid of it. And though it’s a difficult truth to face, we often keep things because it’s easier to pursue happiness through acquisition than through intentionality – even though we know it won’t really work.

The concept of minimalism is frequently misunderstood. Most people think it means adopting a life of austerity and enforcing a stark, bland existence. To most, it sounds a lot like self-punishment. But this isn’t really what minimalism is about. Yes, it encourages the purging of clutter, but that’s not the same thing as austerity. Clutter, by definition, is that which is unnecessary and intrusive on your life, and should never include things that are meaningful or beautiful or truly useful to you. Should you get rid of clutter? Absolutely. Should you get rid of anything that brings genuine meaning to your life, regardless of its aesthetic qualities? No way.

As stated by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus of The Minimalists, minimalism is simply ridding your life of anything you don’t use or that doesn’t bring value to you. So a traveling writer who owns 51 things on this earth is certainly a minimalist. But so can a large family with a house full of interesting things. It’s an approach to life and possessions, not a set of rules that may or may not apply to you.

Sound interesting? One great place to start is your closet. It’s an area with less (if not zero) baggage than most other parts of your life, and it’ll likely take less time and money to achieve your ideal balance. Here are some tips to get started.

Step One: Eliminate the unnecessary
The best way to begin is to simply get rid of anything you haven’t worn in a year. Remember that you need to take seasons into consideration and avoid throwing out all your winter clothes in a summertime purging frenzy. Just be brutally honest with yourself: If you truly love a piece or wear it even occasionally, keep it. Otherwise, unburden yourself.

Step Two: Evaluate for duplicity
If you’re like us, you’re probably starting from a place of having multiples of a type, none of which are really the ideal product (otherwise you wouldn’t keep searching and buying). Don’t get us wrong, we’re not saying you should only have one of everything (please feel free to own more than one pair of underwear). But consider, say, jeans for a moment. It’s common to wind up with a drawer full of $50-$100 jeans that were all purchased with some level of compromise. They’ll do, but they’re not “it.” And because they’re more-or-less commodity jeans, they fall apart quickly and need replacing. This is a perfect opportunity to clear out the stables and go treat yourself to a really incredible, handmade pair of raw selvedge. Sure, it’ll run you $200+, but you wouldn’t want to wear any other pair and they’ll last you several years. Totally worth it.

Step Three: Fill in the cracks
It seems obvious, but you can’t know what holes you need to fill until you’ve gotten down to just the essential pieces that you like and wear regularly. Now is the time to invest in the missing staples in your closet. It’s amazing how, upon purging, you realize that you’ve always wanted something to be a core item in your wardrobe, but never bought it for one reason or another. For example, maybe you’ve always wanted a good pair of quality boots but didn’t want to spend $350. The thing about minimizing and buying for quality and longevity is that it gives you the freedom to take the plunge on items that are worth it.

Step Four: Commit
It takes practice and dedication to maintain a tight edit on your possessions. As in anything, intentionality here will always be more difficult than impulsiveness. But the challenge feels great when you embrace it, and the payoff is a sense of freedom. And keep in mind: minimalism doesn’t mean you have to be that guy with a closet that looks like a California Closets window display (who only owns 4 white dress shirts?). Make minimalism work for you. If you’re the guy with one signature look, pare down to just the essentials for that look. But if you like to have some variety, go for it! All that matters is that you have a reason for every item you own.