I spent most of my 20s spending a lot of money on clothes, bags, shoes and accessories. I used to joke that I was like Carrie Bradshaw in "Sex and the City." What was the quote? "I liked my money right where I could see it, hanging in my closet."
At times I overdid it, but the allure of the statement necklace, the arm candy (packing on bangles, bracelets and cuffs) and the newest lipstick shade was too enticing for me to care.
All that shifted when I turned 30. I had some major life changes that pushed me toward a minimalist lifestyle. I had a baby and lost my job (all within one month).
There was no time or money to fuss over my outfit and primp every day. My son would chew on my bracelets, tear off my necklaces, and I had a very limited shopping budget. However, I was still drowning in stuff from my pre-baby life. Purses exploded from every closet of my house. Accessory boxes were overstuffed. I had enough lipsticks to wear a different shade every day for a month.
Before buying more storage boxes, I had a revolutionary thought—maybe I don't need more storage, maybe I need less stuff. I discovered that purchasing less clothing led to a dramatic life change that freed up time and left more money in my bank account.
Here's how I did it (and you can too).
1. Black is the new black
I changed my shopping strategy, and I now focus on building a basic wardrobe. I have more black in my closet than ever before. But black and neutral doesn't mean boring. After doing a closet inventory, I realized that my wardrobe consisted of a mix of trendy pieces that were not very versatile, clothes that didn't fit with each other and tons of short dresses and skirts (not fit for chasing a baby). In my 20s, I was the person who would buy a new outfit for every occasion, but now I don't default to shopping every time I have an event. I shop in my own closet. Lost with all the things I no longer wanted, I also discovered things I bought years ago that are versatile and that I really love.
2. Analyze why you really buy the things you buy
My excessive buying coincided with times I was depressed and slightly unhappy. I am now more at peace with who I am, so I no longer need to constantly primp and overdo it on the outside to mask the inside. Of course, I still enjoy getting dressed up for the night out, but I don't feel incomplete on the days when that can't happen. Losing my job and having a child served as catalyst to motivate me to make a significant life changes inside and out.
3. Inventory where your time is going
In an average week, how much time do you spend shopping? Or thinking about shopping? Time is a significant commodity for all of us. That feeling that there are not enough hours in the day is intensified once you have children. I still want to do the things I did before, but there's less time to do it. Even 30 minutes of shopping a day adds up to almost seven hours per week. Caring for a newborn, tending to the home while looking for work shifted my priorities. Once I went back to work, I again had to shift how I spent my day. I invested in a few solid work pieces on which to build. This made dressing easier, less expensive and led to a look that was more based on personal style and less on trends.
Spending less time thinking about what I am going to wear has freed me up to live up to my potential in a way I could have never anticipated.
4. Have a uniform
Matilda Kahl, an editor at Harper's Bazaar, wrote about her work uniform and how it simplified her life as it eliminated a set of decisions that would normally take up a lot of her time in the morning. I was further inspired by Caroline Rector, who writes the popular blog Un-Fancy. There, she shows people how to create a capsule wardrobe. Her minimalist attitude fit with my new lifestyle. Karl Lagerfeld, head of Chanel, is known to wear a uniform. Carolina Herrera's wardrobe consists of basics like a white button down that she plays up with accessories. If it works for fashion icons, it works for me too.
5. What do you do with this free time?
Spending less time thinking about what I am going to wear has freed me up to live up to my potential in a way I could have never anticipated. I now have a full-time job and several side projects where I invest my creativity while also generating income. I keep my wardrobe current by investing in a few key pieces of trendy accessories, such as a great bag, or great shoes and incorporate those into my existing wardrobe. Limiting my wardrobe options I have simplified my life. I now live vicariously through bloggers who make a living out of putting together beautiful outfits.
6. Remember: clothes are not who you are
There's absolutely nothing wrong with shopping if you feel it is not taking time away from your personal growth or if it is your passion. I still like to follow fashion, but I found that I don't feel much different now that I don't purchase a perfect outfit for every occasion. Self-worth is not dependent on what I am wearing. Best of all, by focusing less on shopping I have more time to develop my mind, more time for the people I love, more time to decompress. That is much more fulfilling than a closet full of this season's must-have items.
The secret to dressing great every morning is to care less about what others might think of you and to understand that our self-worth is not about what we wear, but the confidence with which we wear it.