Saturday, October 28, 2017

Minimalism: sometimes it's hard to count on

I've said before that my "second Bible" during our early married life was the 1990's Tightwad Gazette. Amy Dacyczyn wrote about her life as a dedicated yard-saler, stuff-stretcher, dupe-it-yourself-er, and occasional do-without-er. She described her wardrobe at the time as consisting of three pairs of jeans (this year's, last year's, and the year before's), and three pairs of sneakers (ditto).Like Amy, I have a mostly-casual lifestyle, so for a long time, I was pretty happy to follow suit. Or rather, jeans. If it came along, fit more or less, and was cheap enough, I would probably wear it. (I drew the line at mustard and orange.)

A couple of years ago, after a period of too much black stuff, I dumped almost everything and started from scratch. I also noticed the growing trend towards minimalism of all kinds. Japanese. Ecological. Inner-peaceful. What that meant for me was zeroing in on a few clothes I really liked and that fit, rather than trying to deal with my previous thrifted and freebie mishmash.

The funny part was that, once I started looking a little harder at my favourite thrift stores, I kept finding stuff I liked. (Was it all there before? I don't know.) Following the Project 333 tiny-wardrobe plan, plus our move to a smaller space, helped to keep a limit on what was hanging in the closet. But I wasn't sure if I could or should aspire to Courtney Carver's level of non-self-consciousness about clothes. (Been there, done that.) It's possible to say that time spent shopping and figuring out what to wear is, essentially, time wasted, because (Courtney asserts) nobody really notices or cares what you wear. But for me, that negative side of minimalism feels like the equivalent of "nobody notices what you cook" (well, sometimes that's true), or "nobody cares what you say." Why bother?

I find it to be the other way around. I think about and enjoy what I'm wearing, the texture of a corduroy skirt, the shade of a scarf, the way my boots fit. I like the furniture and art that we've arranged in our apartment, the flowered teapot we found on an antiquing trip, my grandfather's little chair, the doily a friend crocheted, Mr. Fixit's electronic works-in-progress spread on the table. I like the poetry books, including Wendell Berry's Sabbath poems that I found for sale along with beeswax candles and essential oils in the "hemp cafe." (I bought the book and a vegan brownie, left the rest.) I like the unexpectedness of late corn on the cob from the farm stand, and the bowl of red grapes that's waiting for dessert tonight.

My conclusion is that sometimes I just like to bother. I am happier bothering. The mistake would be if I counted on clothes, food, or other stuff to fill the empty places. Or if I started keeping score of compliments, or worrying about negative remarks.

And for that reason, I decided two things. First, I pulled out my few extra non-capsule clothes, and added them to the closet where they can be responsible for any bouts of wardrobe indecision I may incur as a result. (I'm not too worried.) Second, I won't be posting a new clothes page for the winter. I feel like I've barely gotten started wearing the fall clothes, and anyway I don't own any others to rotate them with. Snow boots, maybe, but that's it.

So: fewer numbers, less planning, at least for the next few months. Less guilt if I add in a thrifted sweater or two (I could actually use one), or wear a top I thought I wouldn't see for awhile. A little more freedom to I won't have to bother.

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