I’m not buying any clothes this year. It’s been a while since I’ve done a ‘real’ experiment in my life and I feel like the time is right to start again. I’ve done a few little tweaks here and there, but for the most part I have just slightly altered comfortable patterns that I’ve done before. Part of the reason for this is that my life has been a bit out of sync this past year.
I have not really been able to be the person I want to be from a physical, emotional or spiritual standpoint. Life this last year has felt a little like swimming in a tuxedo; not impossible if you are a strong swimmer, but definitely not optimal. For full disclosure I have never swam in a tuxedo so I’m just speculating here.
I’ve neglected the blog a bit. My writing and creativity has suffered. I’ve focused a bit too much on my own problems and not being present with the people I care about the most, and when we stew in our own problems (which most of the time are first world bullshit problems anyways) we allow negativity like depression and anxiety to take hold. Anyways, enough with that crap. Life only moves forward and it is what it is. I feel in sync right now so back to the experiment…
I thought of this no clothes buying experiment after watching my son play soccer of all things. I love watching him play, and I was completely immersed in the game. He got control of the ball in the box, did a filthy pull back to shake a defender and fired a rocket into the upper 1 foot of the goal out of the reach of the goalie. As he sauntered back to midfield I stared in disbelief. Who was this kid? I realized that I don’t have many more of those moments left. He is not a little boy anymore. He will soon be a man, and before I know it he will be the one watching his kids play soccer. Life is a blink.
What the heck does this have to do with not buying clothes for a year? Nothing and everything. This experiment is about getting rid of one more distraction (shopping), about discomfort (I may have to learn to sew or not look as cool as I could), about fear (what happened if I pack all my underwear on a trip and the airline loses my luggage?). It is about doing something just to see if I can do it. It is about consuming less and throwing away less.
As I look around me there is just…all this stuff. The world is awash in things and it is suffocating us. I envy all those people with just 100 possessions or other more extreme forms of minimalism. It just seems so simple and uncomplicated. I want this to spread to other areas in my life. I want to let even fewer distractions in, not just clothes shopping. As we age our time becomes more valuable, desperately so, even as it seems to more quickly slip from our grasp. This is an all-out war against the status quo.
Later that night I told Mrs. Happy Philosopher about my new experiment while we were folding the laundry. When she stopped laughing at me I noted a look of moderate concern on her face.
“You know, some of your underwear are not looking so great. Maybe you should go buy some new ones and start the clock right afterwards.”
Hmmmm, she had a point, but this was cheating in my mind. After all, I could just go out and buy a whole new wardrobe. How would that be a challenge? No, I would have to start right now.
“Look, there are 365 days in a year and I’m estimating I’ve got like 15-20 pairs of underwear. That’s like 18-24 days each, and if I wear them more than only day they will last longer with fewer washings.”
She was unconvinced that this was a good idea. She held up a pair that didn’t look so great.
I was not to be deterred.
“That’s not fair. Look at these – much better shape. Plus I have those two pair of travel underwear that look like they would survive a washing in battery acid”.
As I thought through the math though, every time there was a catastrophic underwear failure (or if they got lost or stolen), there would be more stress on the remaining underwear as the frequency of wearing would rise. I could not find a clear answer on google regarding how many washes underwear last…Who knows, I may be going commando by November.
I went through the closets and my dresser and took a quick inventory. I was actually amazed at how much crap I still had after round 1 and round 2 of decluttering. Why did I still have so much? Where was it all coming from?
- Underwear – 17
- Undershirts – 10
- Socks – 45 pairs (WTF? I’m a sock hoarder!)
- Pajamas – 3
- Sexy pajamas – 0
- Tee shirts – 22
- Long sleeve – 6
- Work shirts – 19 (insanity)
- Casual shirts with collar – 12
- Sweaters – 7 (including awesome Christmas sweater)
- Sweatshirts – 3
- Running shirts/pullovers – 10
- Circa 1991 flannel shirt/sweatshirt/hoodie – 1
- Shorts – 7
- Athletic shorts (includes running) – 10
- Jeans – 4
- Athletic pants/base layers – 4
- Swimsuits – 1 pair trunks, 2 jammers
- Wetsuit – 1
- Casual pants – 7
- Dress pants – 7
- Suits – 3
- Biking jerseys – 4
- Running/biking shells – 6
- Biking pants/shorts – 4
- Letterman’s jacket – 1 (why…)
- Puffy vest – 1
- Wool overcoat – 1
- Coats/Jackets – 4
- Karate uniform – 1
- Shoes – 8
- Running/athletic shoes – 6
- Sandals – 2
- Hiking boots – 1
- Cowboy boots – 1
- Hats – 2
- Gloves – 4 pairs
- Scarves – 2
- Slippers – 1
- Belts – 4
- Ties – 10
There was some other stuff too, like a cool headband with ice skates on it, a bath robe like the one Tyler Durden wore in Fight Club, baseball caps, some misc. running and biking paraphernalia, and probably some other stuff I missed, but that is the bulk of it. Are sunglasses clothes?
Does Not Compute
I’m actually quite horrified. I don’t feel like I buy clothes all that often, but this still seems like a lot to me. After all I have decluttered my physical stuff…twice! My series on decluttering in case you missed it:
Now in my defense, much of it is quite old – especially the running and biking gear, which is almost impossible to wear out. Many of those tee shirts were free from either races or other events (like FinCon where I got my awesome Mad Fientist and ChooseFI shirts), but how do I still have 19 dress shirts when I work part time? And where did all those socks come from?
My goal is to actually get rid of about half of this stuff. A lot of it doesn’t really bring me joy, and many items I hardly wear. I will take inventory 12 months from now and we will compare.
There are obviously many ways to cheat, and a few pitfalls and gray areas. Here are my rules:
- Buying: None. Zip. Nada. Not even something in a box of free stuff at a garage sale (it’s not free, because you spent your time and energy to get there).
- Gifts: It wouldn’t be any fun or very challenging if my wife could just give me a gift when something wore out. “Happy birthday! New underwear!” This shouldn’t be a problem since we don’t really give each other material gifts anymore. Actually no one has gifted me clothes in quite a while so I’m not too worried.
- Freebees: Much of the new clothes that come into my life are free, either through races (although I’m not running right now) or doing events like these two awesome podcasts.I will not turn them down, but I must have a one in one out rule. If a new tee-shirt comes in, one must leave. Hopefully the next podcast I do will result in some new underwear.
- Equipment: This is a gray area. Some sports require functioning equipment to play. For instance, if I ever get my back squared away and want to start playing soccer – I need new shoes, shin pads, socks in order to safely play the game. If I ever ramp up my running again I reserve the right to buy new running shoes when my old ones are finished. This is about avoiding injury. I will not, however buy stuff out of convenience when something else will do. I have plenty of clothes that are perfectly fine for yoga, so it would be cheating to go buy yoga pants (do they even make these for guys?)
- Trading: I can’t imagine I would ever trade clothes with anyone, but who knows, I may get desperate and I reserve the right to do it. It has to be an equitable trade though. It would be cheating for a friend to trade me his brand new jacket for a pair of my old socks. It would be alright for me to trade my cowboy boots for a pair of hiking boots though (my old hiking boots are on their last leg…hahaha).
- Borrowing: I think this is similar to the trading. I’m not sure I would do it unless there was an emergency. My son has a black belt I’m gonna go try on now for some peace of mind.
- Alterations: I have clothes that don’t fit great, and it is perfectly acceptable to pay someone to alter them. In fact, you should consider this instead of buying new clothes. A cheap shirt that fits perfectly looks much better than an expensive shirt that doesn’t fit.
As I look through my wardrobe I see a few potential areas which could be problematic. We have already addressed the underwear concern so I won’t rehash.
- Belts: I only have 3 belts that are appropriate to wear to work, 2 brown and 1 black. If there is a failure of the black belt I’m screwed. Either I stop wearing my black shoes, or I’m “that guy”. I already stretch this rule to the limits with only 2 brown belts that don’t really cover the spectrum on my shoes all that completely. I may have to trade with someone if this happens or ‘borrow’ one from my son.
- Shoes: In my last round of decluttering I pared down to 1 pair of black shoes, which are starting to wear out and I should probably get them resoled. Other than that I’m pretty good, although in retrospect maybe I made a tactical mistake last year when I didn’t buy the shoes.
- Pants: My dress pants and more casual work pants are all pretty old and some are starting to show wear. I was actually thinking about buying a couple of new pairs but that ship has sailed. I better be careful when I eat and slosh that betadine around when I’m doing procedures.
- Swimsuit: I better not lose those trunks because I may get a few odd looks going to the pool in my speedo jammers. Either that or I need to bulk up a bit so I can pull off the look. And no don’t ask for a picture.
I’m sure I will run into other ‘problems’ as the year progresses, but part of the fun in life is trying to figure things out and to try new things. I will keep you all informed of my progress. Wish me luck.