Declutter your closet, declutter your life

It’s funny that I start blogging about entrepreneurship and minimalism writing about clothes. But clothes are important because of a few reasons:

  1. It’s one of the basic human needs, like food and shelter.
  2. We need clothes to look trustworthy to other people.
  3. We just like to look good.

When I was thinking about how to get more time for meaningful work and save more money for meaningful things, I decided to dramatically change the way I’m thinking about clothes.

I’ve found out that I spend too much time and money for something so trivial as clothes:

  1. I spend a few hours per month going to a shopping mall and seeking for some new clothes I may like. Even with no intention to buy anything (window shopping)! I just get used to tell myself that this is a good way to relax after hard and stressful work I have (I’m Head of Sales in advertising agency + I’m founding second business soon).
  2. I spend time searching for something on ecommerce sites, reading their newsletters and watching their ads (they are better and better in displaying those ads and selling to us…).
  3. I spend significant amount of money on clothes that I bought because of emotions, not practical reasons. I bought them in the rush, and after a few days I figured out that I don’t like it but I can’t give it back.
  4. I have too much clothes that I have to store, wash, iron… I spend more money on laundry services than clothes itself and this is insane.
  5. I have a question in my head every morning — „What to wear today?”.

I know that this is something completely normal, probably most of us behave that way. For example, in Poland people spend 5 times more money on clothes (5% of their earnings) than education (1%)! Some of us, spend every weekend in the shopping mall but claim that don’t have time for reading books (only 56% of Polish people read at least one book per year comparing 90% in Sweden).

The U.S. apparel industry today is a $12 billion business and the average American family spends $1,700 on clothes annually, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The dollar figures are of little significance since it accounts for just 3.5 percent of a family’s expenses, on average. What is significant is whether that money is spent on need or waste. The answer is, largely, waste. In 1930, the average American woman owned nine outfits. Today, that figure is 30 outfits — one for every day of the month. (Forbes)

After thinking about it deeply, I said to myself - „this is insane Bart!” and I decided to change it.

These are a few decisions I’ve made:

  1. I don’t want to spend my money on stuff I don’t need and my free time on shopping for clothes. Let’s call it “The Agreement”.
  2. Except situations that require wearing a suit, I want to wear the same way every day — t-shirt + jeans + sneakers (yes, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg are huge inspiration for that decision but I don’t want to imitate them — I do it because I want to, not because I want to look like them).
  3. I want to have less things, but better quality. I don’t want to buy anything from big stores like Zara or H&M — they offer poor quality for lots of money. I prefer to have 1 good quality item than 2 “Zara” quality.

The first and most important thing I did after this decision was making a list in excel with clothes I need and then simplified it to only 40–50 items:

  • 4 t-shirts
  • 2 pairs of jeans
  • 2 pairs of sneakers
  • 1 pairs of formal shoes
  • 3 suits (informal / summer, semi-formal / everyday and formal / weddings and other important events)
  • 6 shirts (2 white and 4 colorful)
  • 2 jackets (1 spring / summer + 1 winter jacket)
  • 6 boxer shorts
  • 6 pairs of socks
  • gym clothes (running shoes, shorts)
  • some accessories like 2 ties, 3 belts, 1 sunglasses
  • a mid-size travel bag

The second step was to review my current closet and find out:
- What I already have and like?
- What I want to sell or give away?
- What I have to buy that satisfy 100% of my clothing needs for next 12 months?

The third step was to identify what I need to buy and what budget I have. After reading some reviews, I found clothes I want to buy and tried them on in stores. After a few hours of that process, I decided to buy:

  • 4 Hilfiger Denim t-shirts (2 blacks and 2 blue, Hanson series that fits me well and have great quality for money),
  • 2 Wrangler jeans (Spencer Flippers — very comfortable for everyday use and vey durable),
  • 1 pair of Nike AirMax 1 Ultra Moire shoes (white — good weather) + 1 pair of NewBalance MD1500DG (black — bad weather),
  • 6 boxers from CK (probably the best underwear I could buy for reasonable amount of money),
  • 6 pairs of „invisible socks” from Falke,
  • Polaroid sunglasses,
  • A KIOMI travel bag.

I have a few rather good shirts and suits from Vistula (my favorite polish company), so I didn’t have to buy anything more.

Hopefully, my decision coincided with „Black Friday” and I bought a few items with huge discounts. For example, sneakers and jeans 30% less! I’ve spend 700$ for my new wardrobe and I plan to get 200–300$ from selling some of my old clothes on Allegro (polish Ebay). So 500$ / year for peace of mind is not a huge price and it’s less than people in Poland spend on clothes statistically.

What are the result of this project?

  1. I don’t want to buy anything that is not on my list, so I don’t waste money on clothes I don’t need (remember — I signed in The Agreement with myself). It will save me a few hundreds of dollars next year for sure so I can spend more on education or better food.
  2. I don’t have any motivation to visit stores with clothes (online and offline), so I have more time to do more meaningful things, like reading books or workout.
  3. I feel better not to worry about „what to wear” anymore.
  4. I look better now with buying some additional clothes that are much better than previous.
  5. My girlfriend don’t have to worry what to buy me for Christmas because she knows exactly what I wear and in what size ;)

Overall, I feel this was a great decision in the process of simplifying my life and saving more time and money for some more meaningful things. That’s why I wanted to share it with you.

The second big step is to re-invent and simplify my food and entertainment habits / expenses, but it is a topic for a next post.

I would love to hear your stories as well, so leave me a comment!

PS If you want to read more about decluttering your life, I recommend those great blog posts that inspired me a lot:

Show your support

Clapping shows how much you appreciated Bartek Rycharski’s story.