It all started after the wedding. To be precise, right after I got my new passport. They say a woman’s destiny changes when she takes her husband’s last name. This is exactly what happened to me. The apartment we rented at the time had already been furnished and, sadly, hugely cluttered with the owner’s possessions. An old lady used to live there, and the place was filled with all sorts of random “grandma” stuff. It was kind of a challenge to fit in all of my own stuff, which I had a lot back then. Clutter made it difficult to keep the place clean and tidy. Soon I realized I couldn’t catch up with all the housework. Luckily, that was right when I stumbled upon a video on YouTube about minimalism and instantly thought, “This is what I need.” I figured that with less stuff I would spend less time on housework. Inspired, I started decluttering. Little did I know back then that my purely pragmatic interest in minimalism would be so beneficial. I instantly liked decluttering. Letting go of my stuff felt right, and I could see how spacious our place was becoming. Every morning I would wake up excited for my next decluttering session. My husband would go to work and I would stay at home, have my morning coffee, and write down my thoughts on decluttering. The habit of writing down all my feelings and insights helped me analyze and understand the process of letting go of material possessions.
The state of the apartment we lived in was rather sad. Realtors call these apartments granny style. It wasn’t just old-fashioned but also rather abandoned-looking. Cleaning was definitely not a priority for ex-renters. I’d never seen a greasier kitchen in my entire life. That was the strongest cleaning motivation for me. I would take breaks from decluttering in order to clean up the place. I just couldn’t function in a place like that. Little by little, I was able to see some progress. Sure, the place was far from being aesthetically pleasing, but I knew for a fact that I could at least make it clean and tidy. “A cozy little nest for the newlyweds” — this was my goal that kept me moving forward.
While purging my things, I decided to refer to all the items I didn’t use as clutter. I believe that it’s best to get rid of an unused item, even if it is in great condition, because I spend my energy on it. Things that I don’t use also need my attention because they occupy physical space in my home. Dust sets on them, and I need to move them in order to wipe them down. They don’t fulfill their designated purpose of serving me but still consume my energy when I take care of them. Once I realized that the time I “killed” on such items is gone, and no one would give it back to me, I became a ruthless “decluterer”.
I think that decluttering is a very personal process, and advice is not appropriate here, so I would like to simply share my story and, hopefully, inspire you to start decluttering as well.
When I started decluttering, I had a vague idea of the final result. All I knew was that I wanted lightness, cleanliness, and space around me. I dreamed of tidiness and order not only around me but also in my soul. “Clutter is bringing us down,” said my friend when I told her about my decluttering experience. Her words perfectly described the state I was in — lost and surrounded by the stuff that I didn’t really like or use. Moreover, I had a negative self-image. All the great goals I had set for myself were put on hold. I knew I had to break through that clutter and leave it behind me in order to move forward. I needed to organize my stuff. And my head.
I would declutter non-stop for weeks, then I would take a break, and start again. With every “set” I was learning new sides of myself. It was interesting and daunting at the same time. With every decluttered item I was adding new traits to my real self-portrait, and I was really surprised when I was done. I wasn’t the person I thought I was.
It took me a while to figure out my style. Through decluttering I had a few insights that completely changed my approach to choosing clothes. Now I know for sure which item I should pick when at the store. I feel so lucky I was able to do it intuitively by decluttering. I went through my wardrobe and took a close look at every item. Regarding color, I realized that neutrals look really flattering on me as well as clothes with a delicate pattern. On the other hand, bright colors look too overbearing on me. Wearing bright feels as if I’m the frame and my clothing is the picture. And this isn’t something I aim towards when getting dressed for the day. Bright colors take all the attention because my face features are not very strongly pronounced, and my skin undertone is cool. In other words, I look very pale and plain wearing bright clothing. However, I’ve noticed that I can pull off wearing bright if I do a smokey eye. I realized this one morning when I saw myself in a mirror wearing a bright house dress (which I had picked up the day before that when I had a full face of make-up). Most of the time, I wear natural make-up, so I would like for my clothing to accentuate my facial features without pulling the attention away from myself to the clothing. Sometimes I still get questions like “Don’t you own a bright colored dress?!” As if I’m supposed to because it’s every girl’s wardrobe must-have. I don’t think so. Not anymore. Now I’m confident wearing my clothes because I choose what suits me. In the process of decluttering, I made a pile of clothes titled “every girl should own”. This was the category which brought me a lot of suffering because in that pile were my hopes and efforts to fit in, to seem cool. Being confident in choosing my clothing gave me momentum to build my confidence in other areas of my life as well.
My collection of bright scarves had to go as well. For years, I was convinced that a bright scarf adds a perfect pop of color to my grey coat or my black leather jacket. Just like a bright dress, a bright scarf pulled all the attention from me to the scarf, and I didn’t like how bland and pale I looked wearing it. It was the scarf that took me for a walk, not the other way round.
I often get compliments on how slim I am, and people wonder why I don’t wear close-fitting clothes to show off my figure. For a long time, I couldn’t think of an answer to that question. These words would bring me back to the time when I tried to fit in and meet other peoples’ expectations. The first impulse was always to apologize for my clothing choice or somehow justify myself, but in time I learned to bring myself back to my new reality where I’m fully conscious of my clothing preferences. Now I’m never at a loss for words anymore because I know myself and remember that I feel physically uncomfortable in tight dresses. Besides, when my clothing is showing off every curve of my body, I feel naked and I don’t like this feeling. That’s why I mostly wear loose-fitting clothes.
In regards to fabric, I had to step away from synthetic materials. The thing is, my skin feels irritated in such clothes. Polyester fabrics look well and easy to maintain because you don’t even have to iron them. However, I choose my health and refuse to ignore my skin’s reaction to the fabric content. The most pleasant to my skin are cotton and viscose. Obviously, such clothes need a lot more effort to maintain, but I’m willing to spend a bit more time ironing for the benefit of my sensitive skin.
One of the biggest steps to self-love for me was the decision to stop downgrading my going out clothes to homewear. I spend the majority of my time at home now, so it makes sense for me to pick out loungewear and pajamas with more attention than regular clothes. However, it hadn’t always been like this. Most of my life I would throw on an old T-shirt and some well-worn pants hugely bagging out at the knees. The way I dressed at home wasn’t comfortable, let alone pretty, but I would tell myself that it’s not the most important thing in life. Sometimes I would catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and feel my mood changing. Clearly, I didn’t like what I was seeing. I was being disrespectful to myself by dressing lazily and by keeping clothes which belonged in the trash. When I finally decided to invest in homewear, I was amazed at how different I started feeling. I realized how important it is to look presentable when I’m at home, even when I’m by myself and no one is there to see me. I am there. I can see myself and I matter. I started feeling more put together when I was working at the computer, or when I cooked and cleaned. It was so nice to feel pretty not only when I was out and about but also when curled up with a book on the couch.
I like dividing my clothing into categories by function: pajamas for sleeping, a robe to throw on after a bath or a shower, clothing which is comfortable to cook and clean in, clothing that sets me in a productive mood when I’m working. These separations help me be more productive when I’m home.
Shopping is easy
Shopping for clothes is easy when you know yourself from a to z. I think I look like a predator bird when I’m in a store — that’s how quickly I set my eyes on my “prey”. I don’t ask for advice because it’s only me who knows how I feel in a certain item of clothing. Even if I make a mistake and buy something I would later regret, it’s okay because I will be responsible for this decision and will learn from this experience. Many people want to help by giving advice to their partner or friend so that they can buy the right clothes. However, it isn’t help in the long run. We should learn to make our own decisions and not depend on other people’s advice. Taking full responsibility creates a greater future. A future where we are confident.
The greatest benefit from this thorough analyzation of my wardrobe is probably that I stopped worrying about my outfits. All my clothes suit me and match. I used to be stressed out about my clothes all the time. I would pick out an outfit in the morning and it would feel right at first, but as the day progressed I would start to feel uncomfortable, scrutinizing my reflection in the mirror and comparing myself to others. I felt my mood shifting as the same thought formed in my head, “I picked the wrong outfit again.” I used to have the urge to go back home and change. This was so frustrating. Luckily, this feeling is long forgotten.
Blast from the past
After much consideration I decided to get rid of the clothes which remind me of some negative experience in the past. Sometimes clothes absorb our emotions. I remember buying an amazing shirt and being ecstatic about it. Later that same day, I had a terrible fight with a friend, which ended our friendship forever. The shirt wasn’t technically connected with that fight or with my friend, but I just couldn’t detach the painful memory of that incident from the shirt. I could neither wear it nor look at it. When I finally let it go, I felt a huge relief. I had a similar story with one of my bags. It was love at first sight. An oversized and overpriced red bag was staring at me from a shop window, begging me to buy it. I had to lend some money to be able to buy it. I absolutely loved that bag. It was just right to fit all my books for university, dance clothes and shoes and a thousand other little things I couldn’t leave my house without. The only downside of that bag was that I kept hitting people with it on the subway, which made me feel embarrassed. One night, I was walking home from the train station after my daily commute and I remember feeling so tired that my 10-minute walk home felt terribly long. That was when I felt the real weight of my bag in my hand. This weight was making me miserable. “Do I really need to carry all this stuff with me all the time?” I asked myself right then. I had an a-ha moment on a dimly lit snowy path leading to my house. I didn’t have to make my life so difficult, I didn’t have to carry all that weight with me. I looked at the bag, and it already looked alien to me. It was when I came up with that bag metaphor “small bag equals easy life.” I put that bag away in the back of my closet and couldn’t even look at it because it was forever connected with my “difficult life with a heavy bag.” It’s funny that I couldn’t even afford that bag in the first place. It also felt symbolic to me: it was weight I put on myself way too soon. However, this isn’t where the story of downsizing my bag collection begins. Since that decision to start a new life with a small hand bag, I quickly accumulated about a dozen small bags in all colors and shapes. I was convinced that a “real lady must have a complimentary bag for her every outfit”. I was always on the hunt for the “missing” bags. I loved putting them in a row in my room and just stare at them in awe. Oddly enough, owning them never made me feel at peace. On the contrary, I was restless because somewhere out there was a bag that was just right for me; and I had to get it. I couldn’t stop. In a few years I was so exhausted by this endless marathon of shopping for the perfect bag that I made a decision to stick to only one bag. I put a lot of thinking into it and came to a conclusion that the best option for me is an elegant small black leather cross body bag. It fits most of my outfits and it is appropriate for every occasion. A bit later I purchased another black bag to go with my more casual outfits. This turned out to be very convenient. I like that these bags go with all of my clothes. I freed up so much space in my house and, most importantly, in my head. Now I don’t have to worry about bags and it makes my life so much easier. I pick one bag out of the two and I’m good to go! For groceries I use a canvas bag. If I need to carry something like a bottle of water or an e-book reader, I also take my canvas bag. For the organization inside the bag I use my travel cases. I feel that it’s the most sensible solution for me at this point in my life.
Another category of things connected with my past were my dancing clothes. During my university years I was very passionate about dancing and loved trying myself at different styles of dance. It was an incredible experience, that made me who I am today, and I’m grateful for that. However, when I graduated and got a job, I started gravitating more towards yoga and stretching. It suited my lifestyle a lot better, and just was what my body craved after a busy day. Till this day stretching is one of my passions. Over the years I accumulated a great deal of special clothes and shoes. I felt guilty decluttering my dancing stuff, but, clearly, all I needed for my stretching workouts were a pair of leggings, a T-shirt, and some ankle warmers.
While sorting out my clothes in dancing category I had yet another liberating insight: I will never wear tops that show my bare stomach. When I told myself that, I was able to let go of my whole collection of crop-tops. For years I had entertained a hope of one day having a flat stomach, just like my dance teacher. However, even when I lost some belly fat and was happy with the way my stomach looked, I would still feel really uncomfortable wearing a crop-top. It wasn’t about the looks. It turned out that it just wasn’t my style. Just like denim shorts which I’m only comfortable wearing on vacation. Such realizations make me stronger and more confident. No longer do I have to wait for the time in my life when I would be able to “step outside of my comfort zone” and dare to wear a cropped top in public. What for? What is the reason? It really doesn’t matter if I wear a crop-top or a T-shirt. There are more important aspects of my life where I can step outside of my comfort zone with a benefit for myself. For example, developing good habits, which will make me healthier and more successful.
I want to stick to my goals, be aware of my needs and build my life accordingly. I’m done looking back on the past, clenching on what is no longer valuable and at the same time I don’t want to jump ahead of myself visualizing some distant future moment.
“Going to grocery store” outfit
It’s a bit shameful to admit but I used to have such a category of clothing. It mainly consisted of old T-shirts and sweaters. One day I simply decided that my clothes represent my respect towards myself, so all my clothes should be presentable. I got rid of all the items in that category and no longer degrade clothes to “can still wear it to get groceries.” I don’t want to feel ashamed of my clothes even if I went to throw out the trash.
As far as I can remember, I hated picking out shoes. My large feet would put a pitiful smile on the shop-assistants’ faces, and they would try to offer me high heels to “cover my defect”. For years I agreed with them and tried to fit my “huge” feet into high heeled shoes to make them appear visually smaller. But then one day I decided to let go of my belief that I “must wear high heels”. It wasn’t what I thought — it was what people wanted me to think. I’ve noticed that people who try very hard to fit in find it irritating to see someone not caring about fitting in. People still wonder how I dare to wear shoes without heels. The more I listened to myself, the more I started to value my own choices. Society’s approval started being less and less significant to me. High heels disappeared from my life completely. To be honest, I used to feel obligated to own high heels because “every girl has to own high heels”. High-heeled shoes always felt alien to me. I didn’t feel like myself wearing them. I could never walk at my regular pace; I would always get blisters on my feet at the end of the walk. I was always thinking about my uncomfortable shoes instead of enjoying the walk and conversation with my husband. Intuitively, I rejected this style of shoes by putting them back into the box and hiding it deep inside the closet. I felt so guilty that “I’m not a lady because I can’t wear heels.” Now I have a completely different mindset: I love my feet and I’m no longer going to torture them with uncomfortable shoes.
Most of my life I wasn’t interested in make-up. I applied a few products and went on with my day. And then, back in 2012, I found the beauty side of Youtube. Beauty gurus were so pretty and confident while applying their make-up. Watching them was absolutely fascinating. The way I did my make-up was totally different. For me it was just a chore and I would hurry up to get it over with. But for them it was something precious. They devoted hours to this process and genuinely enjoyed themselves. There was something so feminine about them, so light and contagious. Looking at them, I became interested in make-up, too. I thought that if I had what they had, I would be just like them — happy! I wanted to be sitting at the mirror, just like them, doing my make-up with meaning and attention and enjoying myself. I started experimenting with make-up. At first it was just curiosity, and then it quickly became an obsession. Suddenly, I found myself spending most of my money on make-up. I was hungry for make-up. I didn’t care about the brands, quality or if the colour suited my skin type. I wanted it all! I made most of my purchases unconsciously as if under some hypnosis. I was mesmerized by putting all of my trophies into drawers. I would stare at my growing collection in awe. I knew it was silly to have so much make up for just one face. However, it was a priceless experience because I learned what looks best on me and was able to build my basic make up kit. It has everything I need now: foundation, powder, blush, a few eyeshadows, an eye-pencil and a mascara. I don’t even have a lipstick in my collection. I feel like my lips look a lot better without lipstick on. The last time I wore lipstick was on my wedding day and it only looked good in photos. In real life I looked quite unnatural. Besides, I don’t like correcting my make up when I’m outside, I don’t want to worry about my lipstick smearing or “eating” it when having lunch at a café. If I go out, I mostly use a lip balm or a chapstick with a light shade of red. I like that it fades quickly on the lips. I don’t think that make up looks unfinished without lipstick, which is the message many people seem to have. While decluttering my make-up, I wanted to understand what make up products flatter my natural facial features even if my final look won’t fit the “beauty standard” we have in our society. Just recently, I got rid of my bronzer. I used to apply bronzer to accentuate my cheekbones and make my face look tanned. I thought I was supposed to do it. However, when I really looked at myself I noticed that my cheekbones look pretty defined themselves without any make up on. As for my “tanned” face with bronzer on, I noticed that it looks rather doll-like on my naturally pale skin. Not to mention I always hated the way layering products made me feel. A combination of foundation, concealer, powder, blush, bronzer, and highlighter made me look a bit tired. I value the experience I gained while watching beauty bloggers. I realized that putting on make-up is very pleasant. It’s a bit of me-time to set the tone for the day and also to enjoy my reflection in the mirror. This feminine energy was what I really liked in beauty gurus in the first place.