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. says

    Thank you for this post, Sarah! This is exactly what I struggle with all the time; is it right to call myself a minimalist if I still keep my collection of art supplies? If I have a huge number of shared ownership DVDs that I’m ignoring because I don’t have the final say?

    It can be really easy to end up comparing ourselves to the “Celebrity Minimalists” like Tammy or Leo. The challenges they undertake are amazing…but comparing our lifestyles to theirs can be just as frustrating as a mainstream comparison to the flavor-of-the week superstar.

    We all need to be free to find the level that works for us. It’s good to challenge yourself, but those challenges need to be based on your life, and not anyone else’s!

  2. says

    As a fairly new minimalist this article made me smile. I have never been the sort to keep up with fashion. I have no clue what matches what or what is in. Occcasionly I see fashion catch up with me, but generally I am so unfashionable. Most of my clothes have lasted 20 years or more, I only have a few modern purchases that make breastfeeding easier. I am considering reducing my wardrobe further as I tend to wear the same outfits all the time. I could happily live on the wear one, wash one theory for the rest of my life without the need for accessories. Maybe there has been a bit of minimalist in my longer than I realised.

    • sue says

      I am fairly new to the minimalist scene as well and I loved this blog/article. My feelings are the same as yours concerning fashion!! Books – I love!! Clothing?? I could do exactly what you mentioned – wear one, wash one. I, too, think I have been a minimalist, at least in my head, for a lot longer than I realized. :)

    • LAJ says

      You must live in the country. You can’t work in town and wear the same clothes every day. In Minnesota we need at least 4 outfits to cope with the weather changes!

  3. says

    Thank you for sharing. I am beginning to gather resources for a possession purge series I’ll be co-hosting on my blog. Love this.

  4. says

    I had stripped my wardrobe down to fit in a small closet because we were moving. What I found was that out of all the items I scaled back to, there were still about seven or eight pieces that I thought would be important that I haven’t touched in months! The internal debate now, is do I get rid of them for good, or keep them around for the few times I think I might need them. Will that day ever come? Or will I get rid of them and if that day comes then feel like I have to replace them? This is the type of thing that keeps me from getting rid of more stuff. But I found that just the action of scaling back made it even easier to realize that we basically wear the same stuff over and over again.

  5. says

    I guess I’ve always been a closet minimalist (yes, bad pun) as I normally don’t buy new clothes until I need them. It’s very easy for me to go a year without buying anything new except maybe underwear and shoes, just like you said. And I was never trying! Cool! ;-)

    • Sandy says

      Thank you!Thank You! thank you! I just made my own challenge yesterday as I was trying to organize my closet, asking myself…Could I not buy any new clothes for one year. Would I be able to really do it? I’m sick of the stress of stuff and credit card debt I have carried for years. Then by the grace of God I found your journal from when you did the same thing! I look forward to reading your thoughts as I head into 2013 with my goal of NOT BUYING ANY NEW CLOTHES FOR 2013!

      sandy

  6. says

    Great post! Like you I have been paring down stuff for the last few years! Not completely done however it feels great. Thanks for the reminder, Because stuff isn’t what matters. What you have is enough. YOU are enough. Best Regards, Wendy

  7. says

    Excellent post. In a culture where extravagance is the norm, living with what you have can be a challenge. It’s funny how much trouble we go to to impress people we don’t know while going to such little effort to influence those we do know. It’s a strange world of paradoxes!

  8. says

    Great post Sarah. I wholeheartedly agree that owning fewer socks is one of the little things that has a disproportionate impact on quality of life!

  9. says

    After living in Japan and England for 3 years then returning to the Canadian prairie I started to hate clothes shopping. Part of this was through paring down my wardrobe because of overseas moves, but a larger part of it had to do with a change in quality and style of clothing in Japan and the UK compared to North America. I have bought very few clothes since my return to Canada in 2006 and still have almost all the simple, still stylish, and incredibly well made clothing I bought in Japan. I shocked a friend recently by telling her how much I dislike clothes shopping. She had mistakenly assumed I shopped a lot because she always sees me as well-dressed. Quality and style over quantity has worked so well for me, and now my husband and son are both as aware of that as I am.

  10. says

    I love this post! It is really much hard to remember what “enough” is! I think about this idea A LOT in relation to my home and family and have been wanting to put some of this focus into my wardrobe. I love having just the right thing to wear. I have a full closet but only really wear a few things. There is a vague sense of “too much” but “what if I need it?” that I would like to understand about myself. Thanks for sharing your journey.

  11. says

    Refreshing!

    I love this line, “What you have is enough. Who you are is enough.”

    Even though I shopped bargains and clearance sales for mix-and-match outfits, the temptation for more was always present. “Oooh, this will go with that, tooooo.”

    But I noticed, when I find one piece I love I wear it more often. Value vs. bargain. The closet is thinning (needs another whack of the material machete) and the laundry is becoming less overwhelming. What a trickle affect.

    Thanks for sharing your closet, and your heart!

  12. says

    A great post today!
    I have a saying… everyone says
    “you can’t have everything” well you can, just not all at the same time.
    Start by finding the greatest treasure in the universe (see my web site)
    Then “things” will have little value or power over you
    If you want something get it… but don’t get consumed by it… let it go and move on to something else, it is a long life (if you know how to live) over time you can have as much as anyone without feeling like you are coming from “scarcity” .

    We all go through phases…Personally, I like extreme and immediate change, then I work my way back to a happy medium.

  13. Sarah says

    I loved this post. I felt such a sense of peace reading it…..being reminded that I *am* enough. And that even my minimalism journey is enough. After all, it’s a journey, always changing and that’s enough.

    Thank you very much for this article. I really love the tone of your writing style.

  14. says

    Hi Sarah,
    What a wonderful post! I’m tempted to say: You’ve said ‘enough’ and said it perfectly!
    But I also wanted to let you know how inspiring your story is and how it’s made me think of what I’ve bought this year so far, one pair of shoes, one white t-shirt and one white blouse and I’ve just realised that’s really not very much and definitely ‘enough’ for me!
    I loved reading this, thank you,x

  15. says

    Hi Sarah,
    I did a similar exercise in the year I tried not to buy anything, and as with all the minimalist exercises I’ve tried, its surprisingly easy to get started, but as you found, it does become a little tough to maintain over a long period. One thing I found at the end of the year, was how quickly clothes seem to wear out. It taught me that when I replace items, that a few well-made classics, will outlast some of the modern-day ‘bargains’. As a man I may not be under the same cultural pressure to look good, but I’m sure the same principle applies.

  16. says

    Sarah I too have observed both ends of the spectrum with minimalism, one needs to make it their own. Some of my personal tricks to wardrobe contentment include: Hang drying my clothing for maxim lifespan, having an extremely tiny annual budget (perhaps buying 1-3 new clothing items, not including socks etc.) and when asked for a gift idea requesting a small gift card to a favorite clothing shop. Thanks to refreshing blogs like these it’s become far easier to jump out of the clothing rate race; we have a community out there supporting the joys of simplicity and owning fewer possessions, yet ones that bring you high gratification!

  17. says

    Great post! I think that the idea that you have to reach a certain goal to be a minimalist is probably the biggest pitfall to fall into. The idea of being content with what you have, of knowing when the stuff you have is enough is a powerful one. It’s also an idea not taught by our society today. I’m glad Sarah and others like her are working to change that mindset!

  18. says

    I am doing the Free Fashion Challenge. That is 365 days of not buying old or new – and that includes socks, underwear, shoes and accessories. You are also not allowed to accept gifts though you can swap. I am finding I wear a lot of the same clothes – though I have loads in my wardrobe – you just tend to use your favourites. One sock has a hole already so I am bracing myself to learn the good old art of darning. People ask me what I will do when my knickers have died on me – I tell them I will make a pair from an old T-shirt (I’m hoping I won’t have to). Thanks Sarah. I loved reading your story. – Asta x
    (I have a Facebook page you may like – The Simply Living Challenge)

  19. Bonnie Jean says

    Thanks for the post, Sarah. I also did this for my 60th birthday year, resolving to buy no clothes for a year. Initially, a little difficult, mainly due to the force of habit, but eventually found myself spending less time at the store or thrift shop, leaving that time for other pursuits. Overall a great experience.

  20. Urs says

    Thank you for this post. It was so inspiring. It has made me think about my clothes buying habit and, maybe not go all the way as to say I won’t buy any new clothes for an entire year, but definetly think about stop spending on things that I don’t really need (or even want sometimes).

  21. says

    Amen to that! I feel the same thing. I believe that live should flow, new things (material and immaterial) will come into your live and leave. It’s only natural. So it’s accepting the things that you can use, all the others, I give away to friends, strangers and charity.

    It’s never perfect, it’s not a system, much more a sort of energy I redistribute. Thank you for your article, it strengthens me in my approach of minimalism. Well done!

  22. Jeanine S. says

    I too have vowed not to buy any clothes for an entire year, with the exception of a dress for my Daughters wedding. This is a great challenge for me since I love clothes shopping! I had come across your blog one evening last month while at the time I was ridding our basement of extra items we no longer use. My next step was my walk in closet filled with clothes and realized that I have lots of extra items in there too. Ill admit, it can take me 10 minutes deciding on what to wear. Well guess what? I pick the same shirts and jeans every week while passing up most everything else! I have packed away less used items and kept favorites. I do not need anything else. If a shirt wears out Ill simply replace it with one from storage decreasing my storage. Who knows maybe I will be able to last longer than a year!;) Wish me luck! Thanks for the inspiration!
    Jeanine S.

  23. Melodie says

    Help me! This is a great post; I needed the encouragement as I am currently thinning my wardrobe. As others have said, I keep wearing the same things and passing up perfectly good items that I just don’t want to wear for some reason. My question is, if someone will kindly answer it, what about summer clothes? We have extremes in Michigan, so I have several sweaters for winter, but it’s really hot in summer, so I tend to need lightweight cotton tops – and these don’t seem to last more than a season. What have others found that work for summer clothes? I try to buy quality, but it doesn’t translate well to summer stuff, and I am constantly replacing.

  24. babu says

    thank u being simple not only in clothes , but on your thoughts try this also

    my master says it is very simple to act

    simplicity not only clears home but heart also

    do try to avoid the unwanted quarrels and the time wasting talks, chats and there by unnecessary thought will not come to the mins

  25. Kuwanna says

    My birthday is April 5th and my year of no clothing shopping will officially start this coming April 5th (or even now). In fact, I am selling a coat on Ebay and rather than replace it as I had planned to, I will keep the money, as your story reminded me of the other coat I already have hanging in my closet… :)

    Thank you.

  26. says

    Sarah, Regarding the books you mentioned, They also take up a lot of space and are hard for many to part with. I have found that over time of maybe 10 to 20 years the glue in the backing becomes brittle and they will fall apart also. This will devalue them or require rebinding them. I had a whole wall of books I downsized by buying a digital book scanner and scanning the ones I valued. The book scanner takes up very little space and now the books I value fit into the space of a wallet. Also, the time it takes to scan a book helps you decide how much value you have on the book. Less value means a reason to get rid of it. In addition, by making them digital, you can make the print on your PC or laptop any size you like for easier reading. Another nice feature is that this way you can take a whole resource library with you when you travel. The airlines would really gouge me for each box of books. Now, when I browse books that I like, I ask myself would it be worth scanning it?

  27. says

    This was amazing. I’ve been down about not being minimalist enough. I wasn’t as good as other people. I’d stopped reading some blogs because I’ve felt less. Thanks for helping me realize that I need to find my balance for happiness in this path.

  28. says

    I realise when I keep working to become a healthy self in the terms of diet and exercising, i infact do not need EXTRA clothing to feel confidence, as my confidence and feel good radiance from inner rather than outer. Thanks Sarah for this articles as I am gonna challenge myself not buy any new clothing for the next 6 months :)

  29. says

    I discovered your blog web site on google and check a number of of your early posts. Proceed to maintain up the superb operate. I just extra up your RSS feed to my MSN Information Reader. Seeking ahead to studying more from you later on!…

  30. Linda says

    GREAT ARTICLE!

    Cutting down on purchases is easy for me! Doing more on the donation side still needs work! Thanks for the inspiration and I hope to donate a few more things this week and continue next month!

  31. Thera says

    I admire those taking on a minimalist lifestyle, I think it is awesome and maybe I am feeling critical or mean or something, but for many out there, including myself, it comes almost “naturally” from simply being poor.
    I have never had enough clothes, let alone too many, same with shoes. What household things we have are all hand me downs, thrifted or dollar store items. Never had a blender, slow cooker, fancy coffee makers or two of anything.
    My point is, I think it is great that you all are doing this and perhaps adding being grateful for the excess you need to deal with and delighted that you can perhaps enhance someone else’s life with your cast offs could be a part of the process.

  32. Sally says

    I am 11 months through my year of no new clothes. I have given some clothes and shoes away, and I have received some used clothes from family. I have only bought one item in the clothes/underwear/shoes/accessories/jewellery categories – a scarf, for a good cause (http://store.hamlin.org.au/collections/scarves-and-wraps-alpha-asc). No one seems to have noticed the lack of new things :) and yes, I have enough. And with the savings I have been able to be more generous with charity.

  33. says

    Interesting and awesome that you did this project! I am currently seeing how many consecutive days I can go without wearing a whole ‘repeat’ outfit, and am close to Day 30 with many more to go. It just reinforces the truth that I do have plenty.

  34. Sheena says

    WHOOOAAAAA!!!! I’m so excited about this headline, I haven’t even read any of this yet!! The reason is that my mom and I are wrapping up our 11th clothes-buying-less month!!! I’m not even disappointed about not being original (or maybe I was, I’ll have to check the date on this article)!!! This time last year, I was thinking about “enough” and I think about pioneers a lot (the kind that came across here in wagons) and thought it would be very good to just stop buying clothes for a year. And it has been. It has saved me so much time and money (even though I shopped almost exclusively at thrift stores before) and guilt and stress. AWESOME. I am ecstatic about sharing a brainwave! Okay. Now to read the article and share this with my wonderful mom…

  35. Donna says

    I’ve been simplifying for what seems like years now. I have made tremendous progress but still need lots of work….I just enjoy to shop…although I have NEVER been in debt. But I have been overwhelmed by my stuff..I’ve removed 60% of the stuff and people have noticed but I still have stuff and sometimes I get real honest to god chest pain when I look at it!!! As I post this I’m in the process of getting rid of more stuff it is so freeing….I will continue to follow you and your wisdom I need all the help I can get. You are so right. TOO MUCH STUFF

  36. Donna says

    My simplifying has been going on for what seems like years…a work in progress my stuff is giving me chest pain….as we speak I’m in the process of more simplifying….every time I get rid of a box my internal load is lifted I will continue to follow you and your advice

  37. says

    So I have been simplyfing for what seems like years…and I believe it has been..I’m not where I wNt to be but I’m no longer where I was….just yesterday I was thinking of a new year resolution….how perfect to give up buying new clothes….the idea of me not buying anything new is just something I cannot grasp!! But you want to know something I’m going to give it a Girl Scout try. I am so very fortunate in my life there truly is nothing I need!! I will be following this website and look to you for guidance, I know I will need it wish me luck I usually make 3 resolutions thinking about the other 2….feeling anxious,nervous,unsure, but I need to do this for so many reasons thanks

  38. says

    Good afternoon.
    For years I have had pretty much the same clothes and same bags.
    I was married and gained alot of traditional clothing from my ex husbands family and friends, as these dresses are about 4 yards of material and only sewn on edges to make a kaftan shape they are easily unstitched and cotton pants and blouse can be made from them.
    In recent days I’ve been seeing my storage/cargo boxes of my very unused clothes as a burden on my happiness because they were all items I wore whole pregnant with my child who now lives with his father due to a corrupt court.
    I’m sat here today wearing clothes I’ve brought because I’ve gained weight. Having already given away roughly 4 big bin liners of clothes, I feel im strong enough now to give away the rest and know orphans and widows will make use of them.

    Thank you for this inspirational post. You made me realise that my 6 sets of jeans & blouses (plus my headscarves as I muslim) are enough for me. I’m not a big shopper & buying from charity shops or swapping with others has always been fun.

    Have a blessed day.
    Regards from the arabian desert.

  39. Lydia says

    I have never been one to keep up with fashion nor have I ever liked to shop. I am working towards minimalistic life. I don’t like clutter so I work at keeping things down and purging. Just yesterday I took some of my sons and my clothes to charity. There are all so wonderful websites where you can connect with others who will take your things for free such as freecycle.org. Anything that is hard to get rid of, someone will snatch it up to take it away from you.

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