Ever stood in front of your closet and just felt… over it? You had too many clothes—all packed together to the point where only a sliver of a sleeve of each shirt was showing? Or perhaps you had just the right amount, but couldn’t bring yourself to don that same baggy pair of khakis one more time (but you also didn’t want to be underdressed)? I have, more times than I can count.
I have a love-hate relationship with clothes. On the one hand, I’m an online shopping addict. On the other, piles of clothes stress me out. I feel guilty for not wearing things I got as gifts or spent too much money on. But whenever I wear something that’s off in some way I spend the rest of the day feeling like the one kid who wore pants to school on the day everyone else was wearing shorts.
So about a year ago, I decided to start paring down my wardrobe with the end goal of being able to just grab-and-go in the morning with a capsule wardrobe. For those of you who don’t frequent minimalist blogs or don’t like clicking on links, a capsule wardrobe is one in which all the clothes go together. So no matter what you throw on in the morning, you know you’re going to look great.
Gradually, I started to feel a change. I felt more energetic and confident, more settled and even more creative. I thought this was neat so I checked google to see if I was just imagining things. Turns out, I wasn’t (that) crazy. Smart people have been enjoying the benefits of minimal wardrobes for decades. While rumors about him having a closet full of the same suit are erroneous, Einstein loved wearing cotton sweatshirts and sandals every day. Coco Chanel, ironically, hardly ever changed her outfit. And everyone’s familiar with those Silicon Valley folks whose hoodies and New Balance sneakers have become industry icons.
Here’s how a minimalist wardrobe can affect your mindset and your productivity:
A minimalist wardrobe helps fight decision fatigue.
Decision fatigue is exactly what it sounds like. Ever had 30 minutes left in the workday and found it impossible to muster up the motivation to get stuff done, so you just kept refreshing Facebook and begging the clock to go faster? Right, me neither.
Modern life is full of micro-decisions that sap our energy and our willpower. Every time we decide not to check Facebook, or agonize over which pair of socks to wear, we’re inching our way towards decision fatigue.
I’ve written before about how it’s important to disconnect from your computer when your work allows it so your brain is able to reset. One of the reasons that’s so important is that getting away from your computer dramatically cuts down on the number of times you’re forced to resist the urge to check on something—whether it be your email, Facebook, or one of a dozen other things. Minimalist wardrobes work the same way by cutting down on unnecessary decisions and helping you save more decision-making power for the important ones. Don’t believe it works? Ask one of the biggest decision makers in the country.
A minimalist wardrobe helps you to feel more settled and prepared.
Remember that pants/shorts scenario I mentioned earlier? Apparently questioning your wardrobe decisions is a pretty common phenomenon. Why? Because human beings like to be right. It’s true in everything—from online debates to the way we dress.
Ever notice that the most vehement online arguments only have two sides, whereas arguments with more nuance and potential points of view go relatively uncommented on? That’s because it’s easier to “know” you’re right when there are fewer possibilities of you being wrong.
The same is true when it comes to the clothes you wear. The fewer options you have to choose from, the easier it is to feel like you dressed appropriately, or “right,” for any given occasion. That’s why this art director from New York decided to adopt the most minimal of wardrobes with her own personal work uniform:
“‘Is this too formal? Is that too out there? Is this dress too short?’ I finally chose something I regretted as soon as I hit the subway platform.”
It’s also why this writer from somewhere else in New York did the same thing:
“[My uniform’s] almost never inappropriate, and it has the magical quality of taking on the connotations of its surroundings. In a bookstore, I look bookish. At an art gallery, I look arty. On the subway, I am invisible. I can look young or old, rich or poor, cool or humble. In my uniform, people see me as they want to.”
Research has shown that the more options you have to choose from, the more dissatisfied you’ll be when you ultimately settle on a decision. But by cutting down your wardrobe choices, you can feel more prepared and settled regardless of what the day decides to throw at you.
Basically, the main benefit of creating a minimalist wardrobe or adopting a work uniform is the mindset that comes along with it. You aren’t just emptying your closet. You’re emptying your mind of unnecessary stress, AKA The Productivity Killer, AKA The You Killer.
In a world that moves as fast as ours does today, you need to do everything you can to get yourself feeling calm, collected, and confident. What better way to do that than wearing an outfit, or outfits, that you know make you look and feel like a million bucks?
So if you’re feeling stressed out in the morning, maybe skip the 15 minutes of meditation that never seems to do anything and try cutting out some of your closet clutter instead.