Simplicity in Action: Erin

Editor’s Note: This is a post in the series, Simplicity in Action.


I certainly did not become involved in minimalism by my own choice. Like most students, I was both broke and mobile. I had unreliable jobs between classes and internships, and after paying rent I was usually left with under $100 a week, so my budget was tight. I also always had incredibly small living quarters (even by New York standards) which were usually shared with three or four other people. Plus just by chance I wound up having to pack up and move every four months or so. My life was completely unstable and minimalism was absolutely necessary in order to preserve my sanity.

I graduated last year and I continue to study and practice minimalism. It’s no longer as necessary, but I have become comfortable living a minimalist lifestyle and I appreciate the aesthetics. However, through the years the one area that I could never seem to control was clothing. I have always had a ton of clothes, much more than any person ever really needs. I bought them on Ebay, at sample sales, and at thrift stores. Somehow they just kept piling up.

After a few years of wrestling with my closet, I have finally found why I it’s so hard to control my shopping and why my closet was so unnecessarily large. If you were to open my closet, most of my clothes would not look like they belonged to a twenty-something woman in her first job traveling between Boston and Brooklyn. You would see a fur coat fit for a socialite, an embroidered rucksack perfect for a world traveler, a sleek suit for a high-powered CEO, and a jumpsuit for an artist.

We are visual and social creatures, and unfortunately we make assumptions about people within the first few seconds of meeting them based on their appearance. Therefore by wearing and owning these clothes I could pretend I was a socialite, a world traveler, a CEO, and an artist. I found that whenever I was in a rough patch or dissatisfied with my life, I’d buy a costume for myself, trying to become the person that I was unable to be. I then had trouble getting rid of anything, because all of my clothing was imbued with one of my possible future selves. Let’s be honest, it’s easy to give the appearance of being that girl that backpacks through South America. It’s a lot harder to actually put in the time and effort needed to become that person. Buying the look with my plane ticket money gave me the instant gratification I needed.

I have had enough of all that pretending. It was not only damaging to my bank account but to my own development as well. No one wants to admit to using their clothing as a crutch and my life has finally become more stable, so no more excuses. In the past year I have traveled to Mexico and Barbados, and I’m planning a trip to Africa and possibly Iceland. I have actually taken the photography lessons and now go out a few times a week, posting the photos on my blog. I have forced myself to overcome my shyness and to reach out to old friends, host dinners, and attend social events. And, miraculously, I have pared down my closet to a fifth of its previous size to reflect who I am today.

Coincidence? Maybe. But I can tell you that I certainly no longer feel the need to wear my aspirations
on my sleeve.

Read more from Erin at Pixel Perfect.


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  1. says

    Wow, I loved reading your post, Erin. I saw so much of my younger self in your story. In fact, among other items, I still have a lovely “little black dress” that I’ve worn only once. I’ve never lived a “little black dress” lifestyle, but the idea of it appeals to a part of me and, like you, I guess I wanted to be ready for the rare chance an opportunity to wear that costume came up. Heck, I probably don’t fit in the darned thing any more!

    Cheers to you on your journey,

  2. says

    Dear Erin, I recently read an article in the Wall Street Journal that quoted closet designer Ginny Snook Scott, saying that most people only wear 20% of the clothes in their closets on a regular basis. Even after pruning my own closet (see my Living Lightly blog: I’m probably at 50% Sounds like you’ve done a wonderful job of not only taming your closet but more importantly figuring out what prompted you to turn to “costumes’ for your identity. Perhaps, it’s part of maturing. I wish you well.

  3. says

    @Ree and @Susan

    Thank you so much for your kind words! I’m glad to hear that I’m not the only one who is wrestling with this problem and I do hope that it’s a sign that I’m “finding myself” and growing up.

  4. Lou Ann says

    Wow. I found this a really interesting perspective. I never once thought that my collecting clothes might have a connection to who I think I want to be rather than who I actually am. I’m still pondering this. Am I hiding? Maybe so.

  5. Leesa says


    Thank you for this wonderful post! Thankfully you have learned what it’s taken me 50 years to figure out. Once I hit the big 5-0 I began to see myself differently and with much more pragmatism than in my younger years. With the (unknown to them) help of different bloggers I’ve come to look at my closet and myself much differently. You are absolutely right! How often I’ve seen an item of clothing and think, “If I just buy that then I will feel confident, happy, more in control – just fill in the blank.” I agree that our clothing is often the costume we wear. As a Women’s Studies graduate I recall many discussions on how we, as women, present ourselves differently to different people based on what we think they think or expect of us. Clothing is the conduit to those personas. Thanks for taking the time to articulate this. It seems from comments that others feel the same.

  6. says

    Echoing Leesa’s comment above, I can say your post made me nod in agreement and reflect on my own closet. I had an immediate response of “But I want to keep those personas available to me, since I’m a mulitpotentialite!” (from, a great community) and I don’t know if that’s productive or not, but I’m pretty sure it’s emotional baggage that makes me hang on to those hand-me-down suits. I don’t even WANT to be that person, but I feel like it’s insurance– looking back at the seemingly-sure-world of corporate ladder-itude. I don’t want to go back there, but what if I don’t succeed in this new life?? Since I recently updated my draft budget, I see I have two solid years of experimenting allowed. So the suits can at least go into storage, and then perhaps to the thrift store. :) Thanks for helping me move through that decision to more freedom!

  7. says

    Thank you for sharing your story. It is wonderful that after searching within yourself you made this discovery. I find it a fascinating concept that you used your wardrobe to play different characters in various costumes.

    Congrats on moving through this, moving beyond the acting, and actually getting out and living your life, finding the time, energy and dedication to travel.


  8. says

    I really enjoy hearing the inspirational stories of others who have embraced a simple life.

    Acquiring clothes was never an issue for me prior to minimalism, but I found that getting rid of the acquisitions was my problem when I first started decluttering. Like so many people, I wore so little of the clothes in my closet. I got rid of all the things that were outdated and obsolete first. Then I started focusing on what I actually wore. It turned out that I wore probably 20% of the clothes in my closet back then (around 2011). So I did another purge to dump the things I no longer wear. After consistent clothes decluttering, my closet is now considerably smaller than previously. But I must confess, the one thing I struggle with whenever I open my closet are my business dress clothes, which I no longer need since I’m now self employed. I don’t keep the business dress items because I worry I will have to go back into the corporate world. I keep them “just in case” I have something like jury duty (which I strangely keep getting called in for). The good news it that I have dumped the majority of my business dress items, and I now only have three items remaining.

  9. Leesa says

    I am methodical, whenever I approach something I make a list – what it consists of depends on the project or problem. Here’s is what I’ve done to help me prune my wardrobe efficiently. If this works for you please pass it along! Ultimately, we all know that WHAT we have in our closets and wear most of the time depends on our daily activities. After reading a variety of blog posts from different folks one which REALLY made me ready to begin this undertaking was Angela Allen’s blog posts regarding her wardrobe odyssey ( Other resources provided additional inspiration and information. A light bulb went on in my head. Why not create a list of wardrobe items and then, based on need (i.e., things like whether I had to change during the day, my access to laundry facilities, climate, etc.) designate WHAT and HOW MANY items I should have in my closet. I factored into my items my work requirements, my leisure activities and my volunteer responsibilities as well as my style and comfort level (example, those pinching heels HAD to go!) I used one of my favorite applications – the reliable Microsoft Excel spreadsheet on which I created columns: one for item type (e.g., work pants, jeans, tops, sweaters, outerwear, etc.) and then columns for the four seasons. I then listed each item of clothing (example: Calvin Klein Jeans, Old Navy Swear L/S Blue, etc.) Obviously, I did not list each pair of socks, bra or underpant individually but I did note the quantity I should have based on my criteria.

    That was phase one. I’ve just completed phase two by spending several hours going through all of my clothes (that weren’t in the laundry basket or at the cleaners) and determined where they would go on my wardrobe spreadsheet. This included some hard decisions in some cases but in the end, if I referred back to my criteria and my Foundational Five (as well as determine any multi-functionality opportunities, I found that it was not as hard as I feared. I stuck by my criteria and my personal foundational five (for more on that concept see the blog for guidance and the job is done! I noted any wholes in my wardrobe or where I had excess and then created piles for my local consignment shops, ebay or for donation. My next phase will include working in (or out!) items that were in the laundry or at the cleaners.

    How will this work for me? I don’t know but I am going to live by the “one in/one out” rule so that I can at least maintain the volume level I am at now. I’m sure it will require some tweaking but my goal is to 1) have less, 2) really love what I have and 3) to save money. These three goals will help me tremendously on my way to living simply.