Life and Style

College is making me a minimalist: How to dress for more with less

Housing can be one of the best parts about college. From social living in a dorm room to getting your first apartment with friends, you’re no longer living with your parents, and it can be a dream. 

You know what isn’t a dream? The horrible day when you realize that all of your beloved things won’t fit in your new space. In some cases, you have to part ways with your current lifestyle. It may not be difficult for some, but for me and my hoarding tendencies, it felt like I was hit by a bus when I looked at my new closet and room when I moved into my first apartment. 

Present day, my apartment layout and set up is pretty cute if I do say so myself., and I love my roommate, but let’s talk about my being overwhelmed when packing for move-in. 

Time to start the Marie Kondo process

How does one not have 16 hoodies or 38 T-shirts? How do people not keep 14 baseball hats in their home? How was I going to narrow down my what-felt-necessary clothing items and things? The answer: a change in mindset. 

I went from thinking “what if I’ll need it later?” to “do I need it now?”. As I stepped into my new apartment and threw my things on my half of the room, I said out loud, “For the sake of my roommate and I, I’m going to be a minimalist this year. Watch me.” 

Challenge accepted. And so far, mission accomplished. 

But what if my closet is across the country?

As an out-of-state student, I brought my whole closet with me to college thinking I wouldn’t be able to go home and switch things out. I brought every pair of shoes I owned; for sure I would use those 5 inch heels often. Spoiler alert: I haven’t worn them once in my three years. 

When I decided it was time to change. It was hard to lessen my clothing and accessory count, as I felt they all sparked joy in me, as Marie Kondo would say, but I had to think about my daily life and how each item fit into it. I wasn’t allowed to conjure up fake scenarios in my head as “what-if’s”. With that, I started my minimalist journey. 

So, how do I do it?

Here is a helpful guide I came up with for managing your closet. Only buy something new if it passes one or more of three tests: (1) I have an immediate use for it, (2) I know for a fact that I have a place for it and (3) I recently got rid of something for it to replace. Only allow yourself a certain number of hangers in your closet — any overspill of items, you must bid adieu. 

Don’t be so hard on yourself. It isn’t cut and dried the moment you begin the process. Some things are hard to budge on. We’re all imperfect and that is okay. For example, knowing that Wisconsin winters are long, I compromised and let myself keep eight hoodies. Still probably more than I need, but I digress. 

Here’s the truth...

If your closet is filled with staple items, even if there aren’t many, countless outfits can be made. If you play your cards right, you could go a whole month or more without repeating outfits with only a few clothing pieces. 

A rule of thumb that I have acquired in this transformation includes stocking up on versatile items for any season. Stick to neutral colors that can be paired with anything and are practical and comfortable so you aren’t discouraged in wearing them. 

Have about two or three pairs of items that are essential to you. That might be t-shirts, leggings, jeans or hoodies, regardless — essentials are the foundation to your whole wardrobe. Make sure to keep those on deck to dress up or down.

For shoes, again practicality is key. Shoes that are versatile and can be paired with any outfit are the best way to ensure you can wear it all, even if your don’t have all the storage in the world. It’s also good to keep in mind the many reasons you need shoes. For instance, have a professional pair, going-out pair, pairs for different types of weather and any other vibe you’re going for.

With all of this being said, living minimalistically doesn’t have to mean being “boring”, it just means owning what you need. Don’t forget to add some spice throughout your clothing, accessories and items. After all, a sense of style is your own, and fashion would be dull if you didn’t have at least a couple pieces that weren’t completely you. Consolidate your room, but not your style and remember to make your room and your life ultimately you.

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