When Minimalism Goes Too Far

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I embarrassed my entire family at a Bar Mitzvah last week. Let me explain. I had recently donated all of the items that I seldom wore, including my only pair of black pants. It felt great, and I really never wear anything besides my uniform of jeans, blouses, and sweaters, but there was a problem I did not anticipate: events.

Fast-forward to last week when I found myself scrambling to piece together an outfit to wear to a Bar Mitzvah in Los Angeles. I had left myself with only a single black dress – versatile enough for weddings and formal events, but not quite right for a daytime service.

I ended up cobbling together a blouse, blazer, and high heels, with a pair of distressed white jeans for the service. It was the best I could do, but it didn’t feel great. Since we were out of town for the event, I didn’t have time to shop or borrow something from a friend. I was even called up to read as part of the service, and used my daughter as a human shield to mask my jeans.

Trivial as this example may sound, it was eye opening for me to realize that I had put myself in a position where I did not own all the items I needed – I had taken my decluttering mission a tiny bit too far.

Rather than challenging my philosophy, this episode actually validates my belief that minimalism is not about lack or scarcity, but about having the perfect amount of stuff for you. Here are my quick tips for those of you who want to go more minimal, but not take it over the edge:

Be Event Ready

Think about your daily lifestyle, but for god sakes, check your calendar for any upcoming events. Do you need an outfit for a black-tie event? A wedding? A religious event or ceremony? Make sure to keep enough so that you don’t have to beg borrow or steal, or show up wearing white jeans with (tasteful) holes in them.  

Consider What You Infrequently Use, But Still Need

Before you declutter your heart out, consider things you infrequently use but still need to hold onto. A few years ago, I got rid of our iron because, well… I don’t iron. Just weeks later, I realized I needed an iron for our Airbnb guests and had to run out and buy a new one. Other examples include keeping a roasting pan for Thanksgiving or camping gear for your annual family camping trip.

Leave One String Attached

If you’re looking to go minimal, try giving your infrequently-used belongings to local friends or neighbors who will appreciate and use your items more than you do. Just add the small caveat that you may occasionally need to use or borrow the items back if needed.

At the end of the day, Minimalism is a balance between freeing yourself of clutter and still having what you need. There are no absolute rules, and the perfect amount of any specific item will vary depending on an individual’s lifestyle. And, if all else fails, just grab the nearest kid and have them stand in front of you in the photos.

If you need me, I’ll be out rebuying those black pants.

P.S. If you need some help finding your “perfect” amount of stuff, sign up for my Virtual Closet Makeover Program and let’s do it together!

Image Credit: Vivian Johnson Photography

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