Saturday, October 28, 2006

How much is enough?

A few weeks ago I read something called The Little Brown Dress The Little Brown Dress was an experiment by an artist (performance art?) who decided to only wear a little brown dress for 1 year. Yes, that is the smae dress for 365 days. She dressed it up and down, but the little brown dress was the foundation for the rest of her attire.

It made me think about how much we have and how much we truly need. I grew up in a household where money wasn't much of an issue. If you couldn't find something, you bought another. You did not wear the same thing within a two week period (if even within the month). My mother had at least 10 polar fleece vests. I know that she wore them to cover her chest (she had a bilateral modified radical mastecomy due to IBC - inflammatory breast cancer). My mother grew up with depression era parents and was extremely poor (no running water until the 1960s ). Everytime she went anywhere she felt as if she needed to buy somehting. She needed to feel as if she was not deprived.

Anyway, this weekend my mother in law (who should be a professional organizer) came to visit. She helped me clean Elyse's room. Elyse (almost 8) has sooo much stuff. She gets a lot of hand me downs from her sister and all of the older neighborhood girls. This means that she had more than could fit into her dresser. We purged and donated about 80% of what she had. Now she has only what can fit into her dresser. I have a feeling that I will be doing a lot less laundry of clean clothes.

How much does a young child need? Does my 3 weeks old really need a few dozen outfits? Is it a fashion statement? No - he needs to be clean and dry. Gavin needs a few more pants than I - as he may wet through. None of us are celebrities - we don't need to appear in something new each time we leave the house. No one would remember if we wore something before or not. We are all so self-conscious that we don't notice what others have or have worn before. We only think about how we think others will see us.

So, how many clothes do we really need? Yes, in our climate we need two sets - summer and winter, but how much in that? Unless we have work where we get very dirty or soil ourselves often (3 of my children do so) then we really don't need a lot.

My husband has 2 pair of jeans, a few t-shirts, 3 sweaters, a number of suits and scrubs. What does he work in? Scrubs. When he works around the house he wears jeans. He does not need much more than that.

Do my students really care what I wear? No. They attend class to learn about what I can teach them - not to see what I am wearing. If they only cared about what I looked like or what I was wearing, then we would have major problems! So, I am going to see how little I need.

I have decided to pare down what I have to the basics. Well, I am keeping the smaller sizes until I can get back into them - which may take a year, however, I really do need less than I have. Remember a year ago I was an accumulating shopaholic....

Simplifying my attire will simplify the amount of laundry I do, the less energy I use in laundry, less water, less space, less headache....

I think that anything more than what will fit into a dresser and a closet is too much. Just take a moment to think about all of the people who don't even have one change of clothing. Americans really do have too much stuff.


Anonymous said...

I love the concept of "The Little Brown Dress". A few months ago, here in Australia, there was an article in the paper about TLBD. I cut it out and have it on my fridge. It is true you need so little and no one takes any notice of what you wear because generally they are thinking about their own clothes. Nicole.

Sara said...

This is something the Personal Organizers have known for a long itme (I'm not one of them, I learned it the hard way). Having just what you need brings a lot of peace and much less headache. For every new thing you bring into the house it helps to consider the consequenses it brings along with it. With clothing there's washing, drying, folding, putting away, picking up off the floor etc. If after some consideration, it seems like it'll drain your energy more than it'll boost your energy, maybe you don't really need it.

Jenny said...

I love TLBD. Americans do have too much stuff, even discounting the number of items we actually think are necessary we still have too much stuff by comparison to people in other countries.

BurdockBoy said...

For some reason the book "Joseph Had A Little Overcoat" by Simms Taback popped in my head. It's a wonderful book for young children because it shows the resourcefulness of the character and how something can be used over and over.

Another great childrens book on the subject is "Pelle's New Suit" by Elsa Beskow. This one shows the journey of a childs suit from the wool of his own lamb to the tailor. Along the way Pelle must barter and work for the making of his suit. This shows children our clothes are more complicated than simply going to the store.

Sorry. The librarian in me came out today.

Liz said...

Even though I wear the same clothes for days before adding them to the laundry (trust me, it's many days. I minimize the amount of laundry any way I can), I still have too much. It's crazy because I spend my life in jeans, but still hang on to those dressy work clothes, you know, just in case. The way I see it is that I never have to go shopping... not even to Goodwill!

When I was in college, there was one professor who only had three ties and two suits. And believe me, we *always* knew which combination he'd worn last. It's sad to think about now, but somehow that seemed worth noticing then. Young people, huh?

Teri said...

I live in an 8x24' trailer. I think my closet is about a foot across and I have two upper bins that I can use for clothes. My husband got the smaller closet, but three overhead bins. I don't have problems with the amount of clothes I have because I work in a call center and can wear jeans. My problem is finding enough room for my winter sweaters and shawls. Those seem to be floating around the trailer, looking for a place to stay.

I can't tell you how many geeks I've worked with that wear the same shirt day after day ;)

Emme said...

I found some interesting links about how much we could limit ourselves to. The lists are interesting, but I think I need to take into account my life. For example, I can't tell you how many times I have started to walk out of hte door and been spit up upon (or had a child wipe his face with my shirt or pants).

I think I can use:
1 pair of black pants
1 pair khaki pants
1 other pair nice pants (?)
1-2 pair of jeans (nice pair and outdoor pair).

I don't wear dresses and rarely skirts. Perhaps 1 skirt

3-4 dress shirts
3-4 t-shirts (colored and white)
running clothes

the usual underwear, bras, socks....

Anything else?

Sara said...

There was a huge discussion about this on a board that I frequent...I got rid of 75% of my wardrobe and never looked back. I love it. Clothes still try to creep back in though...they follow me home from the thrift store now. :-) hee hee! It takes diligence to keep it pared down, but it's great.