We are currently living in a digital age, with the internet, social media, and next-day delivery contributing to a culture of overconsumption. Everything we could want is at the end of our fingertips and at the tap of a screen. Our possessions and lifestyles are no longer about necessity, but superficiality and frivolity, and some industries have benefitted more than others from this shift in social values.
There is arguably no better example than the fashion industry. Due to the rise in online shopping, social media influencers and the emergence of ‘microtrends’, the fashion industry has seen a massive economic growth in the last few years. Clothing is now seen as a wear-once-and-throw-away commodity, meaning the demand for new items is constant and never-ending. Fashion brands have to continually create new garments, which creates new trends, and the cycle of fast fashion continues.
Minimalism is the fashion movement that fights against this over-consumption. At its core, minimalism strives for simplicity and space, and the belief that being surrounded by clutter, whether it be physical, mental or emotional, is stopping people from living their best lives. It’s often called the cure to ‘stuffocation’ (feeling suffocated by the sheer volume of clothes that you own), and consists of having fewer, but higher-quality, garments that can be mixed and matched, usually of a neutral tone and sustainable fabric.
3 Reasons why you should practice minimalism
1) The mental impact of buying excessive amount of clothing is damaging. People experience the stress of having to remain ‘fashionable’ all year round or risk feeling like a social pariah for not keeping up with the trends. Maintaining a rotation of clothes is exhausting, impacting mental wellbeing and peace of mind.
Minimalism argues that by taking choices away, you are limiting the time you have to overthink and analyse, creating a freer, healthier outlook on life. Essentially, having a less cluttered material life can lead to a less cluttered mind.
2) Minimalism also has a positive effect on the environment. Owning fewer pieces of clothing that last much longer, you are no longer contributing to the estimated 430,000 tonnes of clothing going into landfills every year. Since 64% of clothing contains plastic, this staggering number of wastage consists of clothing that will take a minimum of 200 years to decompose. Not only this, but more frequent washing which comes with the territory of owning a larger volume of clothes means these plastic fibres are floating around our oceans, being consumed by sea animals and passed along the food chain. These fibres have even been found in the mussels we eat.
Having a smaller collection of clothes means they are likely to be washed less and cared for more. If everyone became minimalists, it would disrupt the supply and demand chain of fast fashion brands, encouraging manufacturers to produce quality over quantity.
Minimalism is a way of joining the environmental revolution without holding a placard or changing your diet.
3) Practicing the art of minimalism can save you a lot of money. On average, people spend £600 on clothing a year. This is money that can be saved and put to good use in other aspects of life, just by stopping overconsumption and resisting the urge to follow every trend that emerges.
3 Steps to creating a minimalist wardrobe
The best way to practice minimalism is to create a capsule wardrobe. This refers to having a limited selection of interchangeable items that complement each other, often neutral in colour and consisting of classical designs that don’t go out of style. Typically, you would have only two or three pieces of each clothing item, such as basic t-shirts, jeans or trousers, jumpers, and dresses.
1) To get started, you need to plan out what you want your new wardrobe to contain. Study the items you love and regularly use in your clothes collection, asking yourself why that is. It could be because of the colour, fabric, style, or functionality. Look at your lifestyle and assess what items would serve you best; if you are a personal trainer for instance, you’ll probably need more sportswear than someone who works a 9-5 office job.
2) After this, there are two ways to start decluttering. You can take any item of clothing that you haven’t worn or is too small or too big, and compare it to your capsule wardrobe. If it doesn’t fit with the items you want to keep, either sell second-hand or donate to a charity where possible. In doing so, you are giving the clothes a second life.
Conversely, you could adopt the "KonMari" method. Coined and popularised by Marie Kondo, this method applies a philosophical approach to tidying, saying you should only keep things that ‘spark joy’. She says it’s “Not choosing what to discard but rather choosing to keep only the items that speak to your heart”. If some items 'spark joy' but don’t fit within your plan, that's okay. Lots of people keep a few sentimental things to start with, which they often find themselves letting go of later down the line.
Wanting to keep a fancy suit or dress for a special occasion? Try companies such as Girl Meets Dress that hire out their party wear, meaning you don’t have to buy or keep anything that will only be used a couple of times.
3) A simple wardrobe doesn’t have to be boring! Add patterns if you want to, but make sure they are timeless ones, such as spots or stripes. Accessories and bags should also be sorted through, but if you want to be bold, pick a slightly brighter colour so that you still stand out in the crowd.
And that's it! You are officially on your way to a minimalist lifestyle. If you get itchy fingers and want to go on a spending spree again, just stop and take a second. Remember why you are doing it, and the benefits you receive. Because I promise it's worth it.