Look At Those Clothes!

Musings on style and fashion

Thrifting Less, Enjoying It . . . Well, Just as Much


A few months ago, I called the Style Sisters to a family council. Depending on everyone’s mood, these meetings can be smooth sailing, with everyone doing their best to understand the others, or fractious affairs with some crying, some pinching, some yelling, and others sulking.

But something had to be done, and so I drew a deep breath and took my chances. “Listen,” I told them. “Push has come finally to shove. That is, we have too many clothes, and we need to shove some of them out of here. And these are the reasons.” Before anyone had a chance to say anything, I rushed ahead with my list:

  • We are taking up most of the closet space in this house. The Man in the Plaid Shirt has a mere half of the bedroom closet and part of one rack in the big downstairs cedar closet to call his own. And his poor little collection of clothing is squashed by all of ours. Unseemly.
  • Our own clothing is squashed and wrinkled because we have so much of it jammed together in closets and drawers and under-bed chests. Silly.
  • We have to iron or steam out the wrinkles before we can wear the stuff, and we all hate to iron—except for Celestina Maria, who does it without complaint only to keep peace in the family when the rest of you are throwing temper tantrums because your stuff is all wrinkled. Time ill spent.
  • This house was built back in the 1950s for  a family of  four. So we are taking up the closet space of about 3.5 1950s people. Sure, definitions of “enough” change, but I am not happy with this new definition of “enough.” Having so much stuff makes me feel excessively materialistic in a mindless “more, more, more!” kind of way. Not good.
  • I don’t know about you guys, but this “stuff-iness” also makes me feel sort of spiritually congested and psychologically cramped. Very not good.
  • Lately, I get depressed every time we go into Bed, Bath and see all the “storage solutions” for people (like us) who can’t figure out where to put all their stuff. “Why,” I ask myself, “do we not just get rid of the stuff instead of spending all kinds of money on stuff to put the stuff in?” Good question, right?
  • We are heading down the “storage solution” path; recently we bought (and assembled, with much swearing) two double garment racks for our coats and jackets and blazers (from our Great Blazer Experiment)—many of which we rarely wear. Embarrassing.
  • We have so many clothes that we’re having a hard time getting dressed in the morning. On more than one occasion, we’ve been late to work because I, or one of you, couldn’t settle on what to wear. Even when we choose our outfits the night before, something doesn’t quite work the way we thought it would or one of you changes her mind and refuses to leave the house in the chosen outfit. Irritating and irresponsible. [Lots of downcast eyes, uncomfortable shifting about, a few throats nervously cleared.]
  • We’ve bought a fair amount of “fast fashion” stuff. Great way to experiment and to collect loads of clothes without paying a lot, but so much (all?) of this stuff is made in overseas sweatshops where the workers are ill-treated. Very bad.
  • Besides, fast fashion uses inferior material and it’s usually poorly made, so it doesn’t stand up very well or very long to wearing and washing. Wasteful.
  • Our experiments over the last few years with every color under the sun and with patterns, textures, silhouettes, drapes, etc., have been great fun, but we now have to buy stuff just to go with certain other stuff that we don’t even wear that often. Foolishly extravagant.
  • Our fascination with some colors has abated. Some we no longer like at all; others we like only in very small doses. We have too many clothes in these “okay sometimes” colors. Pointless.
  • True, we spend very little on most of our stuff, but spend a little enough times and you’re spending quite a bit. We could do other things with at least some of that money. Trip to Sicily, anyone?

Silence. But not a shocked silence; or a tense, we’re-about-to blow-up silence; or a “Boy, what a drone she is; we stopped listening long ago” silence. No, it was a thoughtful silence. Seems the sisters had each come to similar conclusions on their own! O happy day.

We began a clear-out to beat all clear outs. We tried on, looked hard at how things fit, decided if they flattered, and thought about how we felt in them. We considered  if they really worked as garments or if we’d bought them because we just liked the pattern or color. We contemplated how often we wore each garment. And we hauled bag after bag after big black plastic bag out of the house.

Black garbage bags_Photo by DodgertonSkillhause

Photo by DodgertonSkillhause

Eureka! The clothing that remained could pretty much hang freely (or at least a lot more freely) and breathe. We now have to come up with other excuses for being late to work. We have more time and more money. And we’ve worked out a little set of (loosely applied) rules that have helped us stay the minimalist thrifting course:

  1. Shop our closets. What clever, soul-satisfying thing can we do with what’s already in there?
  2. Shop critically. Buy only (mostly) things to fill a wardrobe gap, and always in styles and colors that we know work well for us.
  3. Stick to a color palette. Heavy on black, white, and red; light on green, yellow, turquoise, orange, and cobalt blue; some gray; very light on navy and brown.
  4. Rejoice in minimalism. Instead of gorging on giant hauls with stuff ranging from great to “questionable but what the hell, it was only 5 bucks,” take pleasure in searching harder for a few very good, workable things.
  5. Give when we get. For each thing we bring home, look for one to give up. We may not always find anything excess, let alone a one-for-one match, but looking is good discipline.
  6. Don’t preach. Other people have different thrifting styles and rules, and that’s just fine.
  7. Reserve the right to break all previous rules now and then [except #6]. Sometimes we need some thrifty thing just because we do, even if it breaks every fashion and personal rule on the planet.

So here we are, thrifting less but enjoying it—maybe not more, but certainly just as much, How about you?

Minimalist sisters: Leslie Mailman over at thriftthrift.wordpress.com has also been bitten by the minimalist thrift bug, and so has Bailey at zerowastechicago.  

Take a look.

Categories: Look What We Found at the Thrift Store!

Tags: , , ,

4 replies

  1. Sounds like a thoughtful decision. Better than buying a new house just to have enough closets for your clothes!



    • Indeed! But, hey, if that’s what some other clothing lover wants to do, okey-dokey with me, as long as they don’t expect me to foot the bill. After all, everybody has a different definition of “enough.” Look at Iris Apfel! Now there’s a maximalist definition of minimalism for ya! (Wonder where she stores all her stuff? Her bracelets alone must fill at least one closet . . .)


  2. Thank you for sharing your thoughtful and very impressive turn of events! Your new minimal-list also sounds like excellent Feng Shui.

    I sometimes can’t create an outfit to fit my mood, but I do enjoy the fact that all the clothes I own fit into a 4 x 6 closet.


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