The suitcase experiment: How I accidentally learned to live with less

I’m moving again. In the past year or so, I’ve moved from New York to New Orleans, traveled within the US and to two new continents (including living in India for a few months), and returned to the US only to continue living out of a suitcase, knowing that it still wasn’t time to settle down.

Inspired by author Elizabeth Cline’s closet inventory in her book Overdressed, I took stock of what is in the suitcase I’ve been somewhat living out of for the last five months:

– 8 sweaters
– 11 knit shirts
– 7 blouses
– 3 dresses
– 2 pairs of jeans
– 8 skirts
– 2 pairs of shorts (Hey, it’s New Orleans!)
– 2 coats
– Miscellaneous active wear, pajamas, underthings, and accessories

Somehow, I’ve been living off of under 60 total pieces – nowhere near Elizabeth’s total. And while I might be closer to her number if I counted up all of the clothes I have in storage, I’ve realized one amazing thing: I can live with less.

Let’s get one thing straight, though: At times, living with such a small portion of my wardrobe has felt impossible. I struggled many days to (more literally) find something to wear with most difficulty happening on special occasions or an unexpected event, including weather changes.

But I also was able to realize a few things:
We aren’t wearing most of what we own anyway. Even within my small suitcase, I never wore HALF of the clothes. Other pieces, however, were worn almost daily.

It is the favorite pieces that help us feel most like ourselves, especially in times of flux. It is hard to live with uncertainty, but the uncertainty will force you to look for things you can trust. In this (suit)case, I felt most like myself wearing my favorite gray sweater and a reliable pair of jeans. When things were unpredictable around me, I felt more need than ever for my clothes to feel like me. The predictability of my accidental daily uniform became a great source of comfort. There’s a reason to stick with what you know works.

Our big closets are keeping us from being creative. Most of us have a color palette in our wardrobe even if we don’t realize it, which makes our clothes infinitely mix-and-match-able. It was a lot easier to to create new outfits with a small portion of my wardrobe that I knew I loved and which coincidentally all worked together than to get creative with an overflowing closet.

A clothing diet is surprisingly easy to stick to. Without a place to put clothes or much money to spend, I just stopped shopping. And now, when out of necessity I add a new piece to my wardrobe, it feels insanely special. But this is not of the addictive “I need to feel this all the time” quality that could lead to binge shopping, but really more of a wake-up call to make sure ALL of my clothes are pieces that I get really excited about and could become part of my daily uniform. And the “thrill” of going shopping? Well, it’s almost totally gone, and it is liberating.

Despite having successfully made it through more than a year of constant transition, I am so excited to put my clothes on hangers and to be able to take better care of my favorite pieces again. Yet no matter how spacious my new closet will be, I think this accidental experiment in living with less has taught me too many lessons to forget the freedom that comes from being able to fit everything you wear into just one single suitcase.

Over the next couple weeks, I will be relocating to a new city and state! And while I change locales, THIS I WEAR is going to be growing too with lots of new and exciting developments. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram to stay in touch!

 

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