Itty bitty preamble: I started a Facebook group for people who want to stop shopping. If you struggle with this (hey, it’s hard!) or have some helpful experience in this, you are welcome to join!!
In my several years-long attempt to reduce the amount of stuff I own, my closet has been the area in which I have been able to see the most difference. This is for many reasons, but the most important being that its contents do not depend on any one but me. I don’t have to ask permission or negotiate before I discard anything, not like I do when I might have tried, fruitlessly, to discard, oh, I don’t know, a two sizes too small Paw Patrol tee-shirt. (Lesson learned.)
When my husband and I moved to France in 2007, we came with only four suitcases and a cat. We lived in a hotel for the first month while we looked for an apartment. I loved the simplicity of this lifestyle more than I can express. (Not to mention that someone came every day and washed the floors.)
In the summer of 2019, my family of scalawag adventurers packed up for a return visit to the US. We travelled with only as much stuff as each adult could manage, while holding a scalawag in one arm. Yes, this was the criteria: we each must be able to carry one child if necessary and navigate our suitcases with the other. There was a baby carrier involved, but in the end, we made it work.
I love travelling light. I love living out of a suitcase. I love having limited options. I love living beneath my means.
When we returned home from our visit to the US in 2019, I was determined to somehow bring the joy of travelling light and living out of a suitcase into my regular stash-prone life.
So, I developed something I called the Suitcase Method.
The Toddler Fashionista
When I was probably three or four years old, my aunt handed down some beautiful dresses her daughters had outgrown. For some reason or another, the offended my fashionista sensibilities and I refused to wear them. Unbeknownst to me, one summer, as she packed up my sister and myself for a month-long visit to her parents’ house in Iowa, my mother only put the dresses I did not like into the suitcase.
As my mother tells it, once I discovered the evil trick she had played on me, I stood in front of the clothes each morning with pursed lips, evaluating which of the worst possible options was the least terrible. To that end, there was a kind of ranking system within the worst possible options, and apparently I kept my Grandmother’s washing machine rocking and rolling that summer in order to meet the demands of this toddler fashionista.
The Origin of the Suitcase Method
Towards the end of our trip in 2019, my family of four squashed into a tiny little hotel room in downtown Chicago for the most intrepid three days of my life.
Two toddlers and the big city was not exactly the relaxing city adventure I had bargained for. We ate a lot of pancakes, went to a lot of parks. But if you have to be stranded with toddlers in the big city, be stranded in Chicago: the beach is an absolute fascination for them, but you can still see a skyline that makes you feel like a sophisticated urbanista.
Nonetheless, I did one thing right. I decided in advance what I would wear for those three days and I put it in my tiny little backpack. And you know what I put in my tiny little backpack? The things I didn’t love. I decided that I would learn to love those things by making amazing memories while I wore them.
And you know what? It worked.
The Suitcase Method
Once we got home, I wanted to apply this method to other clothes I didn’t love and see if I could get a few new faves out of it. This meant, however, that I couldn’t touch any of my old faves. So I did the unthinkable.
I put all my favorite things in a bin, and put them in the basement. That’s right: I reverse KonMari-ed my closet.
All that was left in my closet was the stuff I didn’t love. From there, I told myself to pick only enough clothes for a two week trip, as if I was packing a suitcase. I hung those clothes on my good hangers in the closet with the hooks backwards. For one month I was only allowed to pick from those two-weeks worth of clothes. At the end of the month, anything for which the hangers was still backwards went into a different bin in the basement to be discarded.
I did this for several months. During those months, having forced myself to wear things I didn’t necessarily love, I figured out why I didn’t love them. Some of the things were fixable…so I started to alter them. Necklines were weird or the pants gave me a wedgie. I reasoned that if I ruined the item in the process of trying to fix it, it didn’t really matter because it wasn’t something I loved anyway.
And I’ll be. I started to love a few of those unlovable things!
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