The Story of Enough: Giving Up (new) Clothes for One Year.

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Sarah Peck of it starts with.

“We live in a world of scarcity. Which means we feel like we never have enough.” – Brené Brown

Living in a world of scarcity means that we’re constantly searching for the next thing to fill us up, the next destination or achievement to make us whole. Our world is filled with messages that tell us we don’t have enough space, enough stuff, enough clothes, enough fitness. We’re never skinny enough or pretty enough or good enough or rich enough.

This scarcity model drives consumption and accumulation; it spurs us to want more, to buy things because we think it will fill the void. We press to work harder, to get fitter, to buy more clothes, to acquire more things in the name of filling the hole.

The problem with scarcity, however, is that you can’t fill it or fix it with things.

The answer to scarcity, ironically, isn’t more. It is enough.

What you have is enough. Who you are is enough. As Danielle LaPorte says in her Fire Starter Sessions: “You already have everything you need.”

What about Minimalist Enough?

This cuts both ways, however. As a person with lots of things, and an apartment with hundreds of books, I sometimes feel like my efforts to de-clutter and reduce the number of things that surround me aren’t enough. And the thought begins to creep in: I’m not minimalist enough. I see someone who is minimalist and only has 100 things and the internal voice begins again, “I guess I’m not minimalist… enough.”

These attitudes are pervasive and can race around in my head. I can quickly become overwhelmed with the desire to eliminate stuff, lose weight, be better, do more, achieve….more.

But the idea of minimalism isn’t about reaching a goal, or checking off a box, or reaching a certain destination. To me, minimalism is realizing that what I already have is enough, and that adding clutter to the pile won’t make it any better. And chasing a dream of more minimalism is, ironically, not what I’m after either.

To me, as I breathe out and sigh into the life that I’m living, and find gentler ways to tweak, edit, and refine; I find that recognizing what is important and what is not is the most critical exercise.

Stripping away the excess lets us get to the bones of what really matters. Get to the heart space. Get to the pieces that are important. And that level can be different for different people.

My Modest Minimalist Journey.

I spent 2011 conducting an experiment in which I decided to stop buying new clothes for the entire year. (There were two exceptions: shoes and underwear, but only as needed). For an entire year, I lived without buying anything new, on purpose. As a female in a clothes-and-image-centric society, I wanted to see what it was like to live without shopping for a while.

I was always dismayed by the number of female friends that were readily going into debt to maintain their image in public. When I thought about it, $400 outfits (the average price on any feature shopping magazine page) can add up to a lot of money if one were to wear a new outfit every day for a year. (That’s $150,000 just on clothes—who are we kidding?). You might think I’m joking—but to be perfectly honest, I know people who are $20,000 and $30,000 in credit card debt from clothes shopping alone. The image pressures on females (and males!) can be increasingly intense.

Yet over the year, as I experimented in my journey of wearing and re-wearing the same outfits hundreds of times, I also found there were times when I got discouraged—especially when I looked around online and saw things like the Versalette by revolution apparel. I inadvertently compared myself to other people who were doing a better job at buying nothing than I was.

But then I realized: I don’t have to be the best or the most minimalist. I can be minimalist enough. Minimalism isn’t about winning, and it isn’t about a particular achievement. It’s about finding out what matters to you, and getting rid of the peripheral.

Over the course of the year, I thinned out my closet and pared down to a few favorite items. I made over twenty trips to charity with bags of clothes and gently worn shoes that I no longer needed. At one point, I had socks and underwear with holes in them, and I got out my sewing machine and fixed them up. Making old things new again was surprisingly satisfying. Getting rid of all of my extra socks—and just having a few pairs to use each day—actually made my life simpler. The process of getting rid of things reminded me of what I liked—and what mattered.

Over time, I started to become acutely aware of everything that crossed the physical threshold of my front door. The amount of stuff that piled up around me on a daily basis crept into my consciousness, and I’m still surprised by the amount of clutter we let into our lives each day. Every time I brought something new in—mail, letters, books, ideas, shopping bags—I tried to make a conscious effort that the stuff I was bringing with me was valuable, and that I was also taking enough stuff out of the apartment each day to keep my space maintainable.

Untethering from the need to consume was surprisingly easy. It was the attitude change that made the most difference: looking through my things and realizing I already had enough—that I didn’t have to rush out and buy something new to fill a hole or a need—let me breathe again. It was relaxing and reassuring to know what I had was okay. What you are is already good enough.

I learned, slowly, that having excess stuff was giving me a headache, wasting my time and energy, and wasting a lot of money I wanted to focus on eliminating debt.

Over time, I will continue to whittle away at the things I don’t need in order to make space for the things I love. It turns out, all those unnecessary clothes were crowding out the space of the things I loved. I got rid of several boxes and cleared off a space for all of my books—one of my loves. Clearing out, to me, is about reducing the unnecessary clutter in your life to make space for what matters, and finding a balance that lets your soul breathe. It’s about stripping away the things you don’t need so you can focus on what’s important.

Sometimes a subtle attitude shift or a small sacrifice can make a big difference. Like taking the time to appreciate that what you already have is enough. And your effort? It’s enough.

Because stuff isn’t what matters.

What you have is enough. YOU are enough. 

***

Sarah is a writer, designer and storyteller based in San Francisco, CA. She is the brain behind the blog “it starts with” and founded the online landscape urbanism journal at the nexus of cities, landscape and design. In her playtime, she spends ample amounts of time running, open water swimming, dancing and doing handstands in unusual places. 

Joshua Becker

About Joshua Becker

Writer. Inspiring others to live more by owning less.
Bestselling author of Simplify & Clutterfree with Kids.

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Comments

  1. Leah says

    I appreciate your comment that being minimalist is supposed to give you room to live and breathe and enjoy what you love. We get so caught up in numbers of things we own and don’t stop to think that we are all individuals, with different needs! Someone who bakes a lot to give away and bless other people might own more bread pans than someone who rarely does. Someone who works a certain professional job might need more clothing to be appropriately dressed for varying situations (politeness and appropriateness is important). I personally own a stack of simple cotton tshirts because I change them sometimes 3-4 times a day due to my mess making little babies. If I were obsessed with only owning a certain number of shirts to be sufficiently minimalistic I would very often have nothing to change into, have more laundry than my already obscene amount and be miserable. God created the world to meet our needs, and things can be a blessing, as long as we don’t idolize them and become greedy.

  2. KT says

    This is what I needed to hear today. I am enough.

    I’m reminded of the old Teddy Roosevelt quote, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”

  3. Imelda Godoy says

    Gracias Joshua por este maravilloso blog, me he iniciado en la vida minimalista y me siento liberada. Saludos!

  4. Donna R. says

    Greetings! Your article really struck home with me. I have been left with a lot of things that belonged to my Mom, some of which I still can’t bear to part with, and, things that belong to two of my grown-up children who moved to another continent. I keep things, doubles of that I think I might need if mine break down or if one of my other grown-up children who live close by might possibly need. I recycle or donate anything I possibly can. My home is full of books that I’m going to read some day, movies I’m going to watch, music CDs that I’m going to listen to…..and the list goes on. Even as to candles I’m going to burn some day. I have been getting rid of stuff, but it is so hard. I would like to move into a latch key place so that I can go away for a couple of months in the winter to visit my kids and grandkids. Yup, slowly but surely, however, no one knows how much time they have left. Thanks for the insight! Wish me luck with my de-cluttering!

    • Jeannie says

      Thanks for the reminder that we are all ‘Different’ as I have found this journey very challenging with ‘what is enough for me’ and some things are much easier to get rid of than others, but I am seeing some success!! This is a hard time of the year being ‘Christmas’ I Love the Beauty of the Season and everything sparkles and is so Pretty!! It is really hard not to make those ‘extra purchases’ which I am so used to doing but I am now beginning to be more conscious of my decisions for gift giving…not easy as I am a detail Person and Love to Give!! I sure there are many others going through this right now… so I am trying to remember what Joshua has said over the last couple of months of still giving “nice gifts” which helps me to pair things down, instead of a bunch of little odds and end which is more time consuming anyways. All the Best to everyone else over the next couple of months to try and keep focused as there is tons of advertising out there!! :)

  5. ralf says

    Been to a clothing shop yesterday. Less than a quarter of the area catered to men. Going for years without buying anything new is rather the norm. in the last 4 years I have thrown out and donated more clothing than I bought.
    Unemployment does that. Trying to make yourself fit for a smaller home, and just use up what you have. Using the savings to cover rent and bills.

  6. Fiona Cee says

    Happy to never buy clothes. Happy with what I have. Recently had to buy a whole new outfit for a close relative’s wedding. Result: total stress. hated it.

  7. P.Georgia Mark says

    Who can afford $400 or $500 clothing outfits? I have cleaned out my closet several times this year 2014. Still decluttering. It all takes time to get rid of items that we really do not need. I so enjoy reading Joshua Becker’s blog. It gives me hope that one day I can live completely in a minimalistic world and be content. Having less is really the way to be. Thanks again for your wonderful blog. It gives me encouragement to finish my project of decluttering.

Sites That Link to this Post

  1. The Challenge of Excess | July 30, 2012
  2. detox « | January 7, 2013
  3. Aspiring for Simplicity | | July 21, 2014

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