The fashionista is in: How to be a minimalist

Become a better you.

by Sarah Harper

What’s a fashionista/o? One of the first things I imagine is a walk-in closet worthy of getting Bling-Ringed: shoes in every color, fur collars toppling over perforated leather vests, cargo shorts up the wazoo, etc., etc.

But it’s time I cleared out my head — and my closet — to change this harmful stereotype. It’s costing me a ton of cash and precious space in my fun-sized bedroom. And don’t even get me started on how our disposable clothes culture is bad for the environment.

If you’re ready to get rid of all — or at least most — of your cargo shorts, hold my hand and come along on this journey to minimalism.


The guiding principles

1. Minimalism is next to godliness. A smaller wardrobe means a smaller dirty laundry hamper. You’ll have to keep up with it, though: Get used to the idea of hand-washing single items in your sink.

2. If you keep it clean and wear smart pieces, nobody will care or even notice that you essentially wear the same thing every day. Or they will, and they’ll admire your “uniform.”

3. Minimalism will save you worlds of time. Once you coordinate your wardrobe, all your clothes will go together and you’ll be able to effortlessly mix and match. No more early-morning scrambling — save that for the eggs!

4. Minimalism will make shopping easier. Gone are the tempting splurges; if it doesn’t fit in with your 14 other pieces, you won’t even want to buy that crazy stupid dress you’ll wear once and hate forever.

5. Minimalism comes in many shapes, sizes and colors and doesn’t have to be permanent. It can just be a brief experiment to shake up your get-dressed routine.


Dip your toes in

You don’t have to paint all your walls white and shave your head just yet. To start out, you can go minimalist for a couple of weeks.

Try wearing only six clothing items for a whole month, an experiment popularized by the now defunct Six Items or Less movement. Your swimwear, workout wear, work uniforms, shoes and accessories don’t count toward your Big Six.

To decide on your six items, consider the weather, how often you get dressed up, which colors look best on you and which items in your closet can withstand 30 days of wear. While it’s easy to stick to black, have faith in your ability to mix colors. That said, nothing should be so wild that people will notice you wearing it four times in a week. Stumped on picking your six? Try a blazer, a V-neck T-shirt, a pencil skirt, a shirt dress, a fancier blouse in a neutral color and dark skinny jeans that can be worn casually or dressed up for night.

Doing the 30-day challenge is a good introduction to the minimal lifestyle; you’ll get your ducks in a row wardrobe-wise and realize that even before taking the challenge, you probably only wore about 20 percent of what you own anyway.


Commit to the life

My ideal closet looks like it belongs to a cartoon character. It’s got the same thing on repeat for hangers and hangers, with just a few special pieces for those two-hour season finales. Here’s how to get it that way:

Step 1: Reduce. Before you minimize, you have to get your huge wardrobe down to a regular size. First, all the tacky items have got to go. I’ll let you hold onto one graphic T-shirt for its sentimental value; the rest of your old jerseys and choir hoodies belong in your donate pile.

Step 2: Define. Now that you’ve gotten it all down to things you wear regularly, pinpoint which pieces are integral to your personal style.

Step 3: Refine: Put all the stuff you want to keep on hangers or on your bed so you can see it laid out. Do you have 20 items or less? Kudos.

Step 4: Separate. Put everything else into piles for donating, selling and tossing.

Step 5: Shop. Yes, I’m telling you to buy more stuff. When you’ve got your classics laid out, fill in the gaps. Do you have a good blazer? Leather boots? Hit up Savers or Target to get your money’s worth on sturdy basics that will fill out your wardrobe.


How to get rid of your clothes safely

Remember those piles you made? It’s time to take care of them, responsibly.

Sell: Make a little cash off your refuse. If you’re okay with a bus ride, you can exchange your clothes for money or store credit at Buffalo Exchange (2727 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis). But if you don’t want to leave your house, posting pictures with size information on the University of Minnesota Free and For Sale Facebook group is a decent bet. Beware that someone might want to come over and try your clothes on, though.

Donate: There are plenty of options for people with access to a car; you can drop your good, gently worn clothes off at most thrift stores and a lot of churches. If you don’t have a car, there’s an Epilepsy Foundation drop box outside the 8th Street Market (630 Eighth St. SE, Minneapolis). Bring a garbage bag full of clothes and shoes, but make sure your bag isn’t too full or it won’t fit.

Toss: If the clothes you want to discard are awful, with tons of holes, stains, rips or smells you can’t get rid of, you’re better off heading to the dumpster.


Your beauty routine

We all do things to make ourselves look — and more importantly, feel — like ourselves. I have no intention of messing with your basic hygiene and beauty routines, which I imagine are tailored, highly personal and entirely crucial. However, I will suggest applying Coco Chanel’s law of style to your makeup routine: Take one thing off. The ultimate minimalist would scale things back to a good facial moisturizer and a combination lip and cheek stain. I recommend keeping a kit of extra stuff — mascara, eye shadow, a dramatic lip color — on hand for special occasions. Yes, congratulations, you now think of that stuff as extra.

Welcome to the good, cheap, easy life.