Six things I learned from wearing the same shirt everyday for a month
This past month, I embarked on a new challenge: live a clothing minimalistic lifestyle. This test left me with only two shirts, a pair of jeans, a pair of shorts and two pairs of shoes to wear for the entire month of September. Overall, this experiment was extremely insightful and provided a handful of interesting perspectives I will carry forward.
Before I jump into the learnings, I will clarify that I did wash all of the items every four days, on average. While there was one particularly long streak of seven days, I was mostly hygienic. I incorporated handwashing and air drying often, as suggested by some friends to increase the minimalistic aspects and improve convenience.
With all of that in mind, let’s jump into some of my biggest takeaways from my month of minimalism!
I MISSED EXPRESSING MYSELF THROUGH CLOTHING
Prior to this challenge, I was infamous for wearing loud, floral-patterned shirts throughout July and August. I really enjoyed the look of the shirts and felt that their peculiarity resonated with my personality. I felt that wearing these shirts was an expression of myself.
Over the course of the last month, I lost this entirely. No matter what mood I was in or where I was going, the threads I wore remained the same. To a certain extent, clothing can boost mood. Overall, I felt that my mood, in some instances, was hampered due to this lack of expression.
Do you ever get a nagging feeling when packing? You know, that feeling that you may have forgotten something? Well, fear no more! When you only own four items of clothing, it’s quite easy to ensure that you are prepared for your upcoming trips.
This concept extended beyond occasional weekend trips and into my daily life. I no longer had to worry that I had the necessary items packed for my afternoon workout. It had already been decided on September 1st.
This freedom of decision may seem minimal, but actually paid dividends for me. Mentally, I felt less bogged down and organizationally, I had few extra minutes each day to spend. A win-win.
NO ONE NOTICES WHAT YOU WEAR (OR HAS THE COURAGE TO SPEAK UP)
My biggest fear while doing this challenge was that I would be called out repeatedly for wearing the same piece of clothing, day in and day out. I was dead wrong.
There were no voiced observations from coworkers or friends. On the whole, no one seemed to notice. At the very least, people were too shy to ask me.
It is entirely plausible that people conversed behind my back or had their own thoughts, but in general, I have no evidence to support that. After asking a few coworkers at the end of the month, most seemed genuinely surprised and expressed a certain level of guilt for not noticing. I guess people aren’t as perceptive as I thought.
YOU NEED MORE THAN ONE PAIR OF JEANS
Mark Zuckerburg owns multiple of the same exact pair of jeans, hoodie and shirt for a reason. Well, he is filthy rich, but also (for us peasants) this prevents wear and tear from constant use. More importantly, it affords the convenience of hygiene, as it allows one to wash the shirts in batches and consistently have a clean one on deck.
Both of these things, degradation and lack of cleanliness, were major pain points for me during this month-long adventure. There was a certain level of stress associated with determining the next time that I could run a load of laundry or figuring out how to patch a hole in my jeans minutes before work. Not to mention the inconvenience of not having anything to wear on laundry day.
If I had to do this all over again, I would undoubtedly advocate for multiples of the same outfit. This would address the above points while still maintaining true to the core values of this exercise.
ABSTINENCE ISN’T THE ANSWER
This is a conviction that developed when I attempted to give up alcohol completely for a month in June. In my opinion, abstinence can have ill-effects, just as excess can. My advocacy is for moderation in all areas of life. This was reinforced this month.
On more than one occasion, I had to don an outfit that was excluded from my allotment. In one case, a wedding, I was required to wear a suit. Another instance, a lazy Sunday afternoon, I was doing laundry and wanted to wear my favorite Indianapolis Colts shorts. The first instance was fairly non-negotiable, but while I didn’t need to rock my football swag, I wanted to.
At the end of the day, I am firm believer that massive action needs to be taken in order to make significant change. However, I will also elect for moderation over extreme behavior any day of the week. Pursue your goal ferociously, but don’t be afraid to take a step back and smell the roses every once in awhile. It will keep you sane.
YOU CAN ALWAYS BE MORE MINIMALISTIC
Minimalism has momentum. When you apply it in one aspect of your life, it permeates into others. I observed this wholeheartedly in regards to my book collection. Prior to this month, I had always chosen to purchase a hard copy of a book as opposed to an eBook. I enjoy having the physical copy in my hands.
Needless to say, this has changed. I have begun liquidating the plethora of books I have at my disposal by either donating them or passing them on to friends. In parallel, I have made my first Kindle eBook purchase in months.
The moral of the story is that I now want to own less “things”. After this month’s challenge, I look at everything I own from a critical lens and have cleaned out more than half of my wardrobe as a result. For anyone inspired to live more minimalistically, I strongly recommend taking a small step forward, like I did this month, and let the peripheral results trickle in over time.
This essay was originally published in October, 2015 on BeOpposite.com.