the happy closet

The Happy Closet, by Rhonda Mason/Pink Ronnie (www.pinkronnie.com)

Goodness, it’s now almost two years since I last bought a piece of clothing or an accessory item. For these last twenty-two months, I don’t think I’ve browsed a single online clothing or accessory store, or any brick and mortar clothing shop for that matter.

It’s been so – liberating.

Two years ago, I was addicted to reading style blogs, pinning images and then browsing through sites like Zara, Lulu’s, Urban Outfitters, eBay and Etsy so that I could purchase items to replicate the looks that I liked. Even when I wasn’t online, I would be constantly pre-occupied with all the stuff that I wanted to buy. As embarrassing as it sounds, I wanted to look like my favourite bloggers, and it was honestly taking over my headspace. I hated feeling that way, and every time I spent any money on myself, I would be consumed with guilt that I was wasting away our family’s finances.

I distinctly remember when I took my list of ‘things I needed to buy (before I would be happy with my wardrobe)’ and just deleted it. It was such a huge step for me. Letting go of the things that I wanted to have meant that over time, I gradually learnt that I didn’t need those things to make me happy.

I didn’t need those clothes or those shoes or those bags to define myself as a person.

I didn’t need to look like my favourite blogger. After all, I’m not her. I am me.

Like I said in this post at the beginning of the year, learning contentment has been the biggest reward of this journey. To be free from the constant desire to want more, to be free from the whole mindset of having a wishlist, has been so good for me.

And this is the most amazing thing: Being content has actually made me a happier person.

By this, I don’t mean that I wake up every morning brimming with sunshine and laughter. (No, I’m afraid I’m still a bit of a grumpy mum in the mornings.)

Instead, being content has meant that I feel more at peace with myself, and who I am. I don’t spend all my time mulling over what I don’t have or trying to work out when I can buy the next thing on my wishlist. On the contrary, I get to spend my time thinking about and working on things that are truly important to me and my family.

And here’s another amazing thing: Being content with my closet has spilled over into other areas of life.

Apart from clothes, shoes and bags, I also harbour a natural weakness for home decor items and stationery products. However, since I stopped buying things for my closet, I found that it was also easy to stop buying everything else.

In fact, I can read blog after blog of pretty things these days and not feel the slightest desire to own any of it. And two weeks ago, when I was diligently reading through the latest IKEA catalogue that I’d borrowed from Rick’s mum, I was able to put it down without writing up a list of things that we ‘needed’ to buy for the house. This coming from the biggest IKEA fan girl in the southern hemisphere.

So where to from here?

I’m going to see out the end of this year. That will make it a full two years of no purchases.

Then I’m going to re-evaluate the contents of my closet. I know I said in my previous post that there wasn’t much to purge, but I’ve now decided that there is. Having spent another year of only wearing what I already have, I’ve been able to zero in on what I am naturally inclined to wear and what I am honestly unlikely to ever wear (or wear again).

Essentially, I’m going to force myself to be brutal and to cull, cull, cull. In particular, I’m going to try one strategy that I thought of the other day: Instead of going through my closet and taking out the things I think I won’t wear again, I’m going to lay everything on my bed and only put back into my closet the things that I plan to wear again.

From there, I need to replace a few of my wardrobe staples which have suffered a bit of wear and tear these last two years. And then, over the course of the year, I would like to give some proper thought into building a capsule wardrobe that works for me. I’ve been especially inspired by the idea of paring my wardrobe down to ten core items.

I have learnt to not want more; I would now like to aspire to owning less.

As I venture back into online and offline stores to replace some old favourites, it will be interesting to see what effect this has on me. Will I fall back into old habits? Or have I truly become more resilient?

I guess only time will tell, and I promise to keep you guys posted.

* * *

Other posts you might be interested in reading:
The Happy Closet, Part 5 (some thoughts on my recent purge)
The Happy Closet, Part 4 (on not buying anything for a year)
The Happy Closet, Part 3 (my tips on buying less)
The Happy Closet, Part 2 (the basic principles)

You can read all of The Happy Closet posts here.

While the boys were enjoying a sleepover at their grandparents back in January, I finally made the time and effort to give my closet its yearly purging. To my surprise, I only ended up with a small bag of items to give away. Before I began, I’d been under the impression that I would be purging at least half my closet. But as I looked through every single item that I owned, it dawned on me what a thorough job I did the last time. Almost every item I came across was one which I’d worn in the last couple of years and/or something that I knew I would wear at least once in the next couple of years.

(The one exception are these pair of Levi jeans that I used to wear every day some fifteen years ago. For some reason, Rick refuses to let me give away these jeans, even though there is no chance that I will ever fit into them again. But what is a wife to do? Anything to keep the hubby happy.)

It wasn’t like this when I first started to seriously purge my closet a few years ago. It took me an extremely long time to work out that it’s okay to let go of clothes that I used to love wearing. The reality is that as your life changes, the type of clothes you wear will change. In my twenties, I wore a lot of pencil skirts and fitted tops for my corporate role. Now, as I look after three little boys at home, my daily uniform (second/third trimester excluded of course) tends to be jeans paired with slouchy tops and oversized garments, or a loose dress with stockings and a cardigan (and sometimes just my PJs, but that’s another story). It took me a long time to let go of those old clothes – I guess I kept thinking that my body would somehow go back to what it was, and that I would one day wear exactly the same outfits again and look just as smashing as I once did (or so I like to think anyway!). If I had to be honest, it was really quite hard to accept that my body had changed (permanently) and that my life had also changed. But about two years ago, I finally saw the light. I let go of all my clothes from my early to mid twenties. I’m not kidding – there were bags of the stuff. I gave them away to friends whom I knew would fit the clothes, enjoy wearing them, and (hopefully) take good care of them.

Quite frankly, it was one of the most liberating experiences of my life.

But back to the January just gone by, it wasn’t just the clothes that I went through with a fine-tooth comb. I also took stock of all my jewellery, bags and shoes. But again, there was very little to get rid of. Since I knew that I wouldn’t be buying anything new for a while, I was happy to hold on to a number of things which I “might possibly use or wear” in the next ten years or so. I didn’t mind adopting this rather loose criteria, since it wasn’t actually all that much stuff at the end of the day. Plus, I wouldn’t have to worry about making room for extra stuff anyway, so it was all good.

Whilst going through the motions of working out what to purge and what to keep, I found myself becoming re-acquainted with what I had in my closet. This was such a great thing. It meant that I was reminded of items which I had – and loved – but had momentarily forgotten about. In a way, it was like re-discovering qualities about one’s partner which we are sometimes guilty of losing touch with or forgetting about. In re-acquainting myself with the actual contents of my closet, I was once more truly thankful for what I already had.

In addition to the purging (and the re-acquainting), I also took the opportunity to re-organise certain items like my scarves, and also to make everything tidier and neater – for example, folding my basics properly so that they fit properly in their compartment without overflowing. Somehow, this itself made the clothes seem… nicer. I guess that’s why they iron and fold everything so neatly in clothes stores!

All in all, it was totally worthwhile taking the time to purge, get re-acquainted, re-organise and tidy things up, because at the end of the day, my closet truly felt like a happy closet.

Tell me, have you done any purging recently?

* * *

Other posts you might be interested in reading:
The Happy Closet, Part 4 (on not buying anything for a year)
The Happy Closet, Part 3 (my tips on buying less)
The Happy Closet, Part 2 (the basic principles)

You can read all of The Happy Closet posts here.

So I did it.

I survived an entire year without buying any new clothes, shoes, bags, jewellery or any other accessory item you can think of. I didn’t shop online or offline. I didn’t go thrifting, I didn’t swap any clothes with any friends, I didn’t ask for anything on my birthday. I didn’t even ask to borrow any of my mum’s clothes (she’s a trendy lady, my mum).

A few fun facts and figures:

  • While I didn’t spend much time on Pinterest, I still loved reading the style posts every week by my favourite bloggers like Bri, Miss James, Kendi and Elsie & Emma. There was absolutely no need for me to boycott reading the blogs I love to ‘avoid temptation’. If anything, I enjoyed living somewhat vicariously through others’ amazing creativity (and still do).
  • Even without adding to my closet, I’m quite sure I still only wore about 30%-40% of my wardrobe, and perhaps even only about 15% of my accessories. To me, this simply goes to show that I still have more items than I really need. I do take into consideration, though, that getting pregnant halfway through the year meant that I couldn’t wear a substantial portion of my wardrobe for a few good months.
  • My most worn items of clothing: my jeggings from Urban Outfitters, my black dresses, this jacket, my grey t-shirt, my white t-shirt with a random print (shown here), my (very old) white shirt (shown above), and my yellow maxi dress (again shown here).
  • I adorned my feet with primarily three pairs of shoes: my silver ballet flats and my black ankle boots during the colder months; and my military green sandals during the warmer months (almost all my maternity posts have been ‘styled’ with these sandals). In fact, with the exception of possibly two occasions (including the announcement shoot), I think I’ve worn those same sandals every day for the last 3 months. And the awesome thing is that, my feet have not felt lacking whatsoever. As strange a sentence as that is. Again, this proves to me that I have more shoes than I actually care to wear.

As a reward for my year-long hiatus…

…Rick bought me a beautiful basket bag at Christmas from the local Warriewood markets here in the northern beaches. The basket is roomy, has comfortable handles and was beautifully handmade in Morocco. I’m so pleased with it; it’s the only thing I actually felt I possibly needed last year. I love that it stands upright, and is big enough to fit my normal bag as well as a nappy change kit, sun-hats, and the three water bottles I tote around for the boys.

The biggest reward, however, has been learning contentment.

Truly, it has surprised me how easy it turned out to be, to not spend money on myself. I think I mentioned it here before, but what I found was that the more I didn’t buy, the less desire I had to buy anything. And so it got easier and easier, until it simply became my default mindset.

I’ve loved pulling out old clothes and wearing them. They may not all be perfect, but that’s okay. I can live with that.

For so long in my life, I felt like I was somewhat of a slave to what I saw in magazines, on the television, at the shops, on the internet. It was something I truly struggled with, and even as I handed over my credit card details time and time again, I knew at the back of my mind that what I wanted most of all was not the leather jacket from Sass and Bide or the beautiful handmade bag from Etsy; instead, deep down, I knew what I wanted was simply to free myelf from all that consumerism.

And now, miraculously, through this somewhat accidental experiment of mine, I feel like I’ve accomplished exactly this. Without the desire to acquire new things, I feel liberated. I feel lighter. I feel thankful. I feel happy. I feel content.

So what now?

I still don’t see any need to add to my closet, so the zero spending shall continue. (This goes down nicely with our budget for this year anyway.)

In fact, what i want to do is to trim my wardrobe even further. So over the next month or so, the plan will be to go through my closet with a fine tooth comb and take stock of what I own once more. The goal will be to work out what can be further purged from the closet to make it an even happier one.

Jackets, cardigans, shirts, pants, dresses, scarves, t-shirts, stockings, socks, shorts, jumpers, jewellery, bags, shoes, gloves, belly bands… no rock will be left unturned.

I shall keep you posted, my friends.

You can read all of The Happy Closet posts here.

It’s been almost ten months now since I last purchased a piece of clothing or a pair of shoes or a bag or a piece of jewellery, and the exciting part is that I still have no desire or inclination whatsoever to actually buy anything. This has been seriously liberating and it’s also helped our family finances immensely.

I have not always been like this. In fact, ever since I started earning money back in my late teens, I’ve been guilty of spending way too much money on clothes and accessories, often racking up unnecessary credit card debt and sometimes making plain bad purchasing choices.

The funny thing is that I didn’t start out by consciously imposing a year-long spending freeze on myself. Instead, I just decided that I didn’t need to buy anything new and that it would be nice to stop spending money on clothes and other stuff that I didn’t need. From there on, I simply found that the more I didn’t buy anything, the more I didn’t want to buy anything. Eventually I discovered that I automatically stopped looking at clothes at the shops, and I even stopped logging onto online stores as well.

Honestly, I can’t tell you how nice it is to not have to feel nervous about receiving packages at home and having to explain to Rick why I needed yet another different pair of shoes or pants. You ladies with husbands know what I mean, right?

But most of all, I’ve loved feeling content with what I have. I love not looking at my wardrobe and thinking to myself that I need this and this and that to make my wardrobe ‘complete’. I love just being happy with the clothes and the other things that I have now.

It’s hard, though, especially when we’re bombarded every day with all the new things that we can and “should” (supposedly) buy. Here are some things that I’ve worked out along the way that have helped me to be happy with what I already have:

It’s actually socially acceptable to wear the same outfit.
You don’t need a new dress for every single event that you attend. Sounds like a no-brainer but when I was younger, I seriously used to think that I needed something new to wear for every special occasion. Uh uh. Turns out this was a self-concocted myth and when you think about it, quite egotistic of me to think that anyone would care that I was wearing the same thing more than once! I am no celebrity, after all. These days, I just wear the same outfit for 1-2 weeks in a row (unless of course they get really dirty). Saves washing, saves having to come up with something new every day, and so far, no-one has complained… (Edit: Rick has since read this post and would like me to clarify that I do change my ‘under things’ and that because I sit at my desk for a lot of the day, I do not get sweaty. Oh, and that I will wash my clothes more frequently in summer. Thank you husband, for upholding my reputation.)

‘Classics’ and ‘essentials’ are actually not essentials.
You know all those pieces that fashion magazines tell you that you ‘have’ to have? The ones that supposedly never go out of style? The little black dress, the white shirt, the black blazer, the grey shift dress, the leather jacket, the trench coat, the skinny jeans, the leather boots, the red heels…. I could go on and on. Well, I used to be totally convinced that I ‘had’ to have all those ‘essentials.’ In fact, I had a list of them, and would check each item off as I finally made such a purchase. (Sad, right?) It meant that I was always aspiring to ‘complete’ my wardrobe in a sense, and I was never content with what I already had. But quite frankly, these so-called ‘essentials’ are not essential at all. Sure, they may be among the more versatile items of clothing out there, but that doesn’t mean that you have to own one. Nor does it mean that it’s something that might actually suit your style! I’ll be the first to admit that I have a plethora of black dresses as they’re one of my staples, but in the last year, I’ve purged black blazers, leather jackets, trench coats from my closet because I finally worked out that I don’t like wearing them. The key is to work out what you like and make them work for you. Don’t be deceived that you really ‘must have’ all those ‘essentials.’

Pinterest can offer too many temptations.
I think Pinterest is a great way for cataloguing and sharing things with other people, but if you spend too much time on there, you can end up wanting too many things. And more often then not, they’re things that you don’t actually need.

You don’t need to sport a hundred different looks.
Every season, retailers and magazines bombard us with ‘the new looks’ for the season. And every day, fashion and lifestyle bloggers tantalise us with all the different outfits that they so creatively manage to pull together. It can be easy to be sucked into all this, and feel like we need to get into the new season looks or that we need to copy what all our favourite bloggers are doing. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of some life/style bloggers and like reading what they have to post every day. A few in particular have really helped me to work out my own personal style. But now that I know what I like, I’ve become quite immune to all the other different looks and styles that I encounter online every day. I can read a post and be able to enjoy/admire it and not feel like I need to go out and buy similar pieces to recreate the same look. Which leads to my next point…

You need to just be you.
Just because something looks good on someone else, it doesn’t mean it will look good on you. (Trust me, I know.) And even if it does, it doesn’t actually mean you need to have the same thing. Let them be them, and you be you.

* * *

Do you have any similar tips to share?

p.s. Because it’s now spring here in Sydney, I’m going to start purging my closet once more. Who’s interested in purging along?

You can read all of The Happy Closet posts here.

(Linking up with Grace.)

I’m back with my second instalment of The Happy Closet today.

Like I said, I was quite overwhelmed by the big response to my last post about this.

Clearly, this is something that resonates with a lot of you.

So let’s start at the beginning by identifying what I think are the basic principles of ‘the happy closet.’

1) The happy closet is not a perfect closet by magazine standards.

2) The happy closet looks different for everybody. My happy closet will be very different to what yours would look like.

3) A beautiful item is one that’s been worn over and over again. It could be an old t-shirt, a faded pair of jeans, a second hand dress or a fake fur coat. Brand, material and age are all irrelevant. It’s all to do with how much YOU love the item, which should be reflected in how much you wear it. The Happy Closet is made up of items that are loved and worn.

4) You should know 100% of what’s in your happy closet. In other words, there should be no ‘black holes’ in the happy closet.

5) Whilst there is no limit on the size of the happy closet, it should be more of a minimalist closet than an excessive one.

6) The happy closet is an organised closet.

7) All items in the happy closet should be easily accessible.

8) The happy closet changes as you move through different stages of life.

9) The happy closet is one that you’re content with.

10) If you have a happy closet, you should feel no inclinication to purchase anything new, including thrifted items (at least not until a big life change).

* * *

So over to you guys….

a) What do you think of the list? Too extreme? Anything you would change or add?
b) Are there any ‘black holes’ in your closet?
c) What are some of the clothes that you actually love to wear?

You can read all The Happy Closet posts here.

The Happy Closet

I turn thirty-two today and I’m proud to say that I finally have a happy closet. And by that I mean, a closet that’s not bursting at the seams and that’s filled with clothes that I actually like to wear.

My closet has been such a happy one that I haven’t bought anything since November last year. That’s almost coming up to eight months, and so far I’ve still got no inkling to buy anything new – online or offline. In fact, when Rick asked me if I wanted anything for my birthday just earlier this week, I couldn’t think of a single thing.

I mentioned in this post how I recently learnt that the fewer clothes I own, the happier I am, and that the beauty of a piece of clothing has everything to do with how much it’s worn and loved. I truly believe this, and I think that this is the secret to having a happy closet.

Prior to the end of last year, for as long as I can remember, my wardrobe had always been filled with clothes I never wore. This got me down for several reasons:

  • I always felt like I had ‘nothing’ to wear, even though I had no shortage of clothes.
  • I never felt like I had ‘the right clothes.’
  • I therefore always felt like I had to buy more clothes to fill the (perceived) void.
  • I felt like a hoarder.
  • I felt like a waster.
  • I always felt like there was never enough space in my closet.
  • Every time I was out at the shops, I would eye other women and covet their outfits. Not a nice feeling at all.

For the most part, clothes seem to be just clothes to men. I know that this is definitely the case with Rick. He’s perfectly happy to chuck out high school jerseys and favourite shirts when they get ripped, while I’m the one left all teary because that was the shirt he wore on our dates before we got married.

And therein lies the heart of the problem. For most of us women, our wardrobe represents more than just our clothes. Our wardrobe forms part of our identity. Our wardrobe has emotion attached to it. Our wardrobe holds remnants of our past life; perhaps a past life we’re unable to let go of. Our wardrobe represents in part the person we were, and the person we aspire to be.

Sometime last year after giving birth to my fourth baby in three and a half years, it dawned on me that my body was changed forever and decided that it was as good a time as any to makeover – or should I say, make under – my wardrobe.

The process didn’t exactly happen overnight and I will be the first to admit that it was both time-consuming and mentally exhausting. But the result is that I’m now at a place where I’m finally happy with my closet. I have no longings for anything new. I love what I wear every day. My closet is, for the most part, devoid of anything I don’t actually wear. And most importantly, I am content.

If you’re similarly interested in turning your closet into a happy one, I’ll be sharing some of the things I learnt in the process, and the numerous roadblocks that I encountered, over a series of posts. It’s nothing ground-breaking, and you probably already know a lot of it. But in an era where we’re constantly told we need to buy new things every day, I thought it would be helpful to gather all my thoughts on this topic in the one place for anyone who might be interested in making under their wardrobe and learning to be content with what they have.

As for tomorrow – another scrapbook shall be revealed!

You can read all of The Happy Closet posts here.

(And yes, tis the season of the chunky scarf here in Sydney. If only it were flu-proof.)