Minimalist Closet in College

ave you heard of minimalism? Recently, I've heard of more and more people interested in living with less and less. Buying and owning less STUFF means lower cost of living, less clutter, more freedom, and fewer impacts on the environment! I've decided to give it a try...so I need to think about what in my life is truly important, and what is just JUNK.

It’s been fun to get moving on de-cluttering my life, examining my purchasing habits, and hopefully decreasing my carbon footprint. To begin with, I’m digging into my closet! Most clothing that we purchase in the USA has a very complicated life cycle. If you think a t-shirt is surely pretty simple, watch NPR’s “Planet Money Makes a T-Shirt.” Really amazing stuff. Producing the stuff that ends up in our closets creates impacts that are spread all across the globe affecting people, economies, ecosystems, and more. Buying less clothing means lessening these impacts. This week I’m cleaning out my closet and making strategies for buying fewer clothes in the future. Importantly, I'll be taking these things to be reused, first to Plato's Closet, then Goodwill. Here are all the things I’m eliminating from my closet:

Looking at this collection of stuff, some might think, “Does she even have any clothes left to wear?” The answer here is yes. Very yes, unfortunately. Cleaning out my closet proved harder than expected, and even though this is a good start, my closet is still BY NO MEANS minimal. Ugh. The thing is, everything that escaped this pile is still contributing to my happiness. Whether it’s a boost of confidence, sentimental value, or just warmth on a cold day, many of my clothes are staying because they are more of an asset than a burden.

The stuff you see above is the stuff that has become burdensome. None of these 60 or so belongings are quite right for me anymore. Some of them never were. Today, I grouped these newly orphaned garments into categories that represent the reasons they are no longer meant to be mine. This was a very helpful exercise that has helped me set a few ground rules for purchases in the future.

Consider quality and longevity

The items above have actually all been worn for years and years and years. They were GREAT purchases. These garments didn't fall apart when I washed them, and they weren't so trendy that they went out of style in one year. In the future, when I do need an article of clothing, I should remember to buy classic styles that are made to last. These things are only making an exit because either they don’t fit, they have been damaged by accident, or they are no longer age-appropriate.

Cheap looks cheap -and- Mull it over

These items were all pretty inexpensive. Ultimately, I stopped wearing most of them because they looked cheap…how did I not see that coming?? In two cases, they were things I needed at the last minute for an event/trip. Of course, Target was there to help with inexpensive options, but I ended up with stuff that didn’t quite fit right because my purchase was rushed. In the future, I should foresee these needs and give purchases an appropriate amount of thought.

Reaffirm personal style

There are very distinct patterns to what I typically buy. The above purchases are exceptions to this truth. I thought I’d enjoy these uncharacteristic pieces, but when I wore them, I didn't feel like myself. I should stick to what I know and love.

Beware the Anthropologie effect

I think sometimes it is hard to separate individual items you like from environments you like. If you’re a girl and you’ve ever been to Anthropologie, you probably know what I’m talking about. Everything in there is curated into little collections…and it smells so good! Nevertheless, I need to remember that just because something is on sale at a store I love, that doesn't mean it's worth buying.

Pick favorites

Whenever I’m headed out the door, I grab my favorite necklace, my favorite purse, and my favorite sunglasses. I don’t need a zillion accessories, because I tend to gravitate toward the same ones over and over again. If I’m going to buy a new belt, it had better be able to contend with my current favorite.

Even if it’s used

Here’s my biggest challenge. All the things in the photo above were bought secondhand. I love consignment/vintage/thrift stores, and making purchases there seems almost guilt free! However, when people bring their excess stuff to one of these stores and I buy that stuff, the EXCESS has been transferred to me…And excess stuff is what I’m trying to avoid. So when I’m at Goodwill, I still need to apply all the above rules. I should be asking the same questions and considering the same factors before I invite any more stuff into my life.

I encourage you to give minimalism a try. As students at a major university in the US, we are pretty fortunate. In our dorm rooms, apartments, and houses, we've all probably got way more STUFF than we actually need. Think about how to buy less in the future, and you can leave more resources on the planet for others! Perhaps Pinterest can help you get started (??)

Here are a few more articles that might help you make wise choices about your stuff.

About The Author
Dana Schroeder

SPEA grad student. Sustainability fanatic. Community builder.