growing a minimalist wardrobe: an unshopping diary.

April 7, 2015

growing a minimalist wardrobe: unshopping diary winter 2015 | reading my tea leaves
January – March 2015

Here’s an unshopping update.

It’s all bare ankles and hints of spring around here lately. Thank goodness. Yesterday, unpacking from a weekend away felt like the perfect time to do a quickie closet assessment. At the start of the year, I made a little promise to myself to catalog my seasonal closet clear-outs; to keep a little record of the ebb and flow of new additions and new removals.

Were this post to have an equivalent in the world of food bloggers, it might look like a post that catalogued the contents of a trash can, post refrigerator clean out. A reckoning of which heads of lettuces went limp and shriveled. Which herbs dried up in the crisper. But it would also highlight the seasonal treats. The bright new garlic scapes. The asparagus that I’ve got my eyes peeled for. A little bit of aspiration mixed in with the down and dirty.

Metaphored out? Let’s get to the good stuff: a list of what went, what I’m still pondering, and what I’ve set my sights on. Here’s hoping it inspires a similar unshopping trip in your own closet.

What I’m getting rid of:
1. Five year-old ankle-length skinny jeans. Because two years ago they shrunk to be a solid inch too short. And now the bum is wearing thin. And finally, gonzo.
2. Flannel tunic. Because it never really fit right and it made me feel frumpy every single time I wore it, which was only when there was nothing else left come laundry day.
3. Wool paperbag skirt. Because I didn’t wear it a single time this winter. And I only wore it once last winter. I finally admitted I bought the wrong size and gave it the old heave-ho.
4. Fancy chambray dress that I spent all my pennies on two years ago. It never fit properly. And I couldn’t return it. So I got it taken in. Except something got lost in translation and the hem was shortened a full two inches too much. And it looked even worse altered than not. Win some, lose some, finally let some things go.
5. Not-so-fancy button-up. I bought it six years ago. It never fit beautifully but it’s gotten even more misshapen over the years and the cuffs had started to fray. (Speaking of button-ups. Have you read last weekend’s newsletter?)

What I’m pondering:
1. Once-favorite ankle-length skinny jeans. I’m not really sure what happened—whether it was too many washes or too many days last spring worn squeezed over a pregnant frame—but my favorite pair of go-to jeans really gave up on me this winter. They went all baggy in the knees and wrinkly in the thighs and they’re practically begging to be replaced. Until I find something new, they’re in purgatory.

What I’ve taken out of pugatory:
1. Wide-legged jeans I bought in college. I can’t give them up. And this season, they’re back. So.

What I’ve added since January:
1. This dress. Buttons, short sleeves. I jumped the gun on spring a bit, but as soon as it’s sufficiently warm, I’m hoping this will be a weekly staple.*
2. White t-shirts (3). Because sometimes buying multiples of something does make sense. And a crisp white tee under an old cardigan makes the whole outfit feel fresh.

What’s on my wishlist:
1. Jeans. Clearly. I need a solid new everyday pair in a big-time way. I’ve got my eye on these and I’m about to pull the trigger to see if they end up working. (But these look awfully comfy, too.)
2. Dresses. I’ve always got my eyes peeled for dresses because I like to go from shower to dressed in about five minutes flat and dresses usually cut that time down to two minutes flat. These look they might be just right for summer days.

What about you guys? Any adventures in unshopping this winter?

More minimalist wardrobe posts, HERE.

PS. Denim donation.

*This new addition was a generous gift from Bridge & Burn an RMTL sponsor.

You Might Also Like

46 Comments

  • Reply Hannah S April 7, 2015 at 1:09 pm

    I am waiting until the temperature stays over 65 for at least 2 weeks before I start my usual spring cleaning purge but I am getting very excited… I bought way too many sweaters this winter that were unnecessary and now clutter the closet unworn and I am ready to donate them.
    I would love to buy a new dress or two but I am hoping to lose a little winter weight first. I love that Madwell jean donation idea, might have to take them up on that!
    http://www.southernfolly.com

    • Reply Erin April 7, 2015 at 3:44 pm

      Temperatures over 65 sound lovely!

  • Reply jiturka April 7, 2015 at 1:37 pm

    I did purge quite a lot due to a move – I couldn't possibly take all the clothing with me… So first I chose things I really loved and often wear and then I went through the rest. Even before the "purge" I had had less clothes compared to anyone else's wardrobe I knew 🙂 And I made it even smaller.
    Unfortunately this weekend I ripped a pair of pants I really loved and mended throughout the years! The fabric was too worn out I guess. Luckily it happened at home, as I was putting down some heavier box. So on top of my list is now a comfortable pair of fancy-pants, preferably in some cheerful colour (I am left with three pairs of pants, ufff)

    • Reply Erin April 7, 2015 at 3:43 pm

      Psst: Just noticed that Bridge & Burn released their spring pants! There's a bright blue that might do the trick for cheer!

      • Reply admin April 7, 2015 at 4:15 pm

        Hi Annie,

        I grew up shopping exclusively on sale racks at large discount stores (or patiently waiting for friends to fork over their hand-me-downs). Paying more than ten dollars for a shirt seemed outrageous and the pricest dresses I bought would be in the $40 range—and certainly not over $100. By striving to support independent, eco-friendly, sustainably-minded…generally thoughtful companies whenever I can, I've realized that the true cost of those goods is significantly more than what I was paying—which is part of the reason why over the past five to ten years I've simply bought much, much less. That definitely doesn't mean it doesn't take some getting used to. The dress that I recently gave away was a huge splurge for me and when it didn't work out, I was really disappointed—in so small part because I had spent so much money on it. When I do find affordable options that are also sustainable I always try to share them here! Hope that helps some! Good luck!

      • Reply admin April 7, 2015 at 9:49 pm

        True!

    • Reply admin April 7, 2015 at 3:43 pm

      Thank you! Hope you find some shirts to love!

    • Reply CA April 9, 2015 at 3:40 pm

      If you truly love them, could you perhaps have a tailor make a pair to the same specifications with fabric of your choosing? Might be a bit pricey – but you would then have a pair you know you will love!

  • Reply veronika April 7, 2015 at 2:43 pm

    Your blog is my favourite lately really,love the simple and minimalist posts,ideas and tips.Off to clean up mine and kids closet,can't wait for that beautiful feeling when done:)
    I splurge this spring again on one Ace and Jig dress,its my most colourful stuff in my closet and I still feel good in their things,probably because of natural gauze fabrics.
    Also got some maxi skirt to wear above my pregnant belly,and Im in need of new Tshirts,will try to get some from Everlane right now 🙂

    • Reply Erin April 7, 2015 at 3:43 pm

      Thank you! Hope you find some shirts to love!

  • Reply Kate April 7, 2015 at 3:31 pm

    Hey Erin, have you checked out Industry Standard for a new pair of everyday jeans? I bought a pair more or less on a whim back in January, and I've subsequently worn them 3 times a week (at the very least) ever since. Would highly recommend! Could definitely see you in that easy breezy Everlane dress.

    kate-welsh.squarespace.com

    • Reply Erin April 7, 2015 at 3:42 pm

      Oh, yes! I *knew* there was another more affordable option that I was forgetting! Might have to give those a shot, too!

    • Reply admin April 7, 2015 at 3:42 pm

      So glad! Happy spring cleaning!

  • Reply Rachel Quednau April 7, 2015 at 3:37 pm

    I love the honesty and clarity in the post. You've inspired me to do some of my own spring closet cleaning.

    • Reply Erin April 7, 2015 at 3:42 pm

      So glad! Happy spring cleaning!

  • Reply Annie April 7, 2015 at 4:01 pm

    Hi Erin!

    I love your blog, especially your posts on life in a tiny apartment & minimalism.

    Prior to having a relationship with your sponsors, were you always willing to spend $128 on a casual dress? I ask because I'm trying to buy clothes from eco-friendly companies as much as possible but they're, of course, significantly more expensive than fast fashion companies. A casual top or dress could easily go for over $100 dollars, which is hard getting used to!

    Besides Everlane, do you know other companies that sell everyday clothes for less than $50 an item?

    Best,

    Annie

    • Reply Erin April 7, 2015 at 4:15 pm

      Hi Annie,

      I grew up shopping exclusively on sale racks at large discount stores (or patiently waiting for friends to fork over their hand-me-downs). Paying more than ten dollars for a shirt seemed outrageous and the pricest dresses I bought would be in the $40 range—and certainly not over $100. By striving to support independent, eco-friendly, sustainably-minded…generally thoughtful companies whenever I can, I've realized that the true cost of those goods is significantly more than what I was paying—which is part of the reason why over the past five to ten years I've simply bought much, much less. That definitely doesn't mean it doesn't take some getting used to. The dress that I recently gave away was a huge splurge for me and when it didn't work out, I was really disappointed—in so small part because I had spent so much money on it. When I do find affordable options that are also sustainable I always try to share them here! Hope that helps some! Good luck!

    • Reply Annie April 7, 2015 at 7:26 pm

      Thanks, Erin!

      • Reply admin April 7, 2015 at 9:48 pm

        Smart! …And then there's that old freezing trick….

    • Reply Lauren Seesel April 7, 2015 at 8:58 pm

      Hi Annie – don't forget the thrift/vintage/consignment option as well. eco-friendly and typically cheaper than what you'd even find at the fast fashion companies!

    • Reply Erin April 7, 2015 at 9:49 pm

      True!

  • Reply Fey April 7, 2015 at 4:07 pm

    Last month I did the minimalist challenge wherein you get rid of one thing on the first day of the month. On the second, two things. Three items on the third. So on, and so forth. Anything can go! It was a great way of getting rid of the many things that have been sitting around taking up valuable space. I feel I can breathe better now. 🙂

  • Reply Erin April 7, 2015 at 7:27 pm

    Hi Erin,
    Loved your honesty here. It makes me feel in good company to know you bought the wrong size in a skirt and made a mistake on a pricey dress. I'm not alone! Even when we strive to be so consumer conscious, we can still make mistakes. No sense holding on to a piece just because we regret the mistake.

  • Reply Anonymous April 7, 2015 at 8:34 pm

    Maybe your deciding factor on the jeans could be that one is hand wash while the other is machine wash?

    • Reply Erin April 7, 2015 at 9:48 pm

      Smart! …And then there's that old freezing trick….

      • Reply admin April 8, 2015 at 2:28 pm

        Oh, darn it! I'm currently wearing a cardigan from…Cardigan! I bought mine three years ago during a huge spring sale. Not sure if they still have any in stock, but mine is a lightweight wool and has stood up super, super well.

      • Reply admin April 10, 2015 at 4:16 pm

        PS. New Everlane cardigans in super pretty spring colors just came out today! Looks like they have all sizes stocked!

    • Reply admin April 8, 2015 at 2:18 pm

      Thank you!!!

  • Reply Lauren Seesel April 7, 2015 at 8:38 pm

    loved this post and would love to see it as a (quarterly) feature as you continue to evaluate your closet.

  • Reply Maria Gazzi April 7, 2015 at 8:49 pm

    Just a quick note to let you know how glad I am you are back! Looking forward for Simple Matters (and please please please allow delivery for England!) 🙂

    • Reply Erin April 8, 2015 at 2:18 pm

      Thank you!!!

  • Reply jsoxford.net April 7, 2015 at 9:46 pm

    Everlane for the win! I was eyeing those dresses this morning as well. I'm not sure if I like the black one or the denim better— my instinctual self says "Black!" but my you-should-wear-more-colour self says go with the denim (which is 5$ more? Fie!) Either way, I think it'll be the perfect thing for our backpacking/honeymoon thing this summer, and will look nice… ever if I wear it for six days straight.

    I find getting rid of stuff strangely satisfying.

  • Reply jsoxford.net April 7, 2015 at 9:48 pm

    I was eyeing those Everlane dresses this morning, too! I'm torn between which colour to get: my instinct says "Black!" while my you-need-to-wear-more-colour side said go with the denim (which is 5$ more? Fie!) Either way, I think it'll be a perfect thing to wear on our backpacking/honeymoonish thing this summer, and will probably look nice ever after I've worn it for six days.

    I find getting rid of stuff strangely satisfying. It's also nice to see the honesty in admitting when you've bought a piece that just isn't right.

  • Reply Sarah April 8, 2015 at 2:55 am

    I'm dying to try out the Everlane cardigan you linked, but they've been sold for a while in my size. Do you have any other recommendations for cardigans?

    • Reply Erin April 8, 2015 at 2:28 pm

      Oh, darn it! I'm currently wearing a cardigan from…Cardigan! I bought mine three years ago during a huge spring sale. Not sure if they still have any in stock, but mine is a lightweight wool and has stood up super, super well.

    • Reply Sarah April 9, 2015 at 7:22 pm

      Thanks, I'll check 'em out! I discovered the amazing-ness that is Everlane through your blog, so hopefully Cardigan will work for me, too!

    • Reply Erin April 10, 2015 at 4:16 pm

      PS. New Everlane cardigans in super pretty spring colors just came out today! Looks like they have all sizes stocked!

  • Reply Anonymous April 8, 2015 at 6:48 am

    Glad you enjoyed your weekend away. Our temps are in the 70's here by the beach in CA. Talk about minimalist. I took it to the extreme and got rid of 3/4 of my wardrobe and have not shopped for not one item in over two years! I wear a basic wardrobe of work out capris, tees as I take two walks a day for up to 6 miles. Its easier to just wear my work out outfit for everyday, I have been wearing only 3 jeans with 3 sweaters for winter. ( We really do not have winter here) I just had to buy shoes as mine had holes but only walking shoes. I purged before a move two years ago getting rid of nothing that was necessary for every day activities which are working out or errands. Now I need to add in basic pieces, a white dress shirt, nice skirt and a pair of flats with new jeans. I have my eye on flowly white tops and lace this spring.

  • Reply Sara Tasker April 8, 2015 at 11:30 am

    I genuinely find these posts inspiring and helpful – no small thing, considering the amount of 'wardrobe guides' and 'shopping bibles' I've consumed over the years. Thanks for the boost! Off to discard ruthlessly (again).

  • Reply Anonymous April 10, 2015 at 5:05 am

    Just chiming in to say I bought and returned those Which We Want jeans from Need Supply. I couldn't tell from the pictures, but in person they fabric was thin and more like jeggings. I've been getting cheap-ish (under $100) jeans for the last few years and they always disappoint (tear, zipper breaks, get saggy, etc.). I splurged on the Acne Pin Raw jeans and couldn't be happier.

  • Reply Erin Van Genderen April 10, 2015 at 4:36 pm

    Ack! I don't know if my comment posted just now…if it didn't, I wanted to point you in the direction of Arrowroot dresses. Sometimes their patterns are a little crazy, but they balance block-printed elephants with subdued ombre dye and natural linens, and I love how small/sustainable/ethical the company is. (shoparrowroot.com)

  • Reply Monica April 10, 2015 at 8:31 pm

    For others who maybe don't have the time for in person consignment buying / selling I just recently discovered ThredUp. My first sell bag hasn't been processed yet, but I've found a few items from brands I love and they've been in great shape. Jeans from AG and Paige for $20-30 that were like new, and a Theory silk button up for $35. Since I would have donated the sell clothes anyway (and they donate anything they don't buy) I figured even if I only get a few bucks it's a great deal.

    Also, since I have to be pickier about what I buy, and need to know my size etc, I find that it falls directly in line with the "buy less" philosophy. I find the thrill of the hunt even better than shopping the endless sales most retailers have these days as well.

    Since I'm an avid online shopper and just don't have time to comb consignment stores for that one great piece it's a great idea!

  • Reply T April 19, 2016 at 4:26 am

    Hi Erin, could you please do more of these unshopping posts? In need of some unshopping inspiration, it’s so tempting to renew through shopping this time of year.

  • Leave a Reply

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

    Comments are moderated to ensure that this space is one that promotes positivity, community, and all-around good vibes.