There are many benefits to dressing with a minimalist wardrobe, but for me, the most powerful has been self-confidence. Listen to this episode of the Simply + Fiercely show to hear more about my journey from crippling insecurity to self-love and how simplifying made it all possible.
In this Episode:
- The story behind my shopping addiction
- What happened when I decluttered my wardrobe
- The link between dressing with less and self-confidence
- How I can help you declutter your closet
Featured In This Episode:
- Get your free Mindful Decluttering guide: simplyfiercely.com/freeguide
- Read the blog: simplyfiercely.com/blog
- Connect on Instagram: @simplyfiercely
- Join the One Day Closet Cleanse: simplyfiercely.com/odcc
Subscribe to The Simply + Fiercely Show
Note: this is not an exact transcript and has been edited for clarity.
Hi everyone, it’s Jen, and welcome to episode 11 of The Simply and Fiercely Show. Today, I want to talk to you about my minimalist wardrobe.
As you may know, I am very passionate about this topic because I believe that dressing with less is so powerful. Decluttering my closet and simplifying my wardrobe have greatly increased my self-confidence and how I feel about myself.
And while I’ve talked a lot about this topic, I don’t think I have ever fully explained the relationship between my minimalist wardrobe and my self-acceptance. So that’s what I want to talk with you about today.
Let’s start at the beginning, and I want to share a bit about how I used to feel about myself. I was always painfully insecure, and this feeling started at a very young age.
The Roots of My Insecurity
Even in primary school, I hated the way I looked. For those who don’t know, I’m half-Chinese and grew up in a place where there weren’t many Asian kids. I had a round face, and to top it off, my mother made me get this horrendous bowl cut that made it hard for people to tell if I was a boy or a girl.
Which should matter, but at that age, I remember feeling disgusted with the way I looked and wishing I could be more like the other kids in my school. And that’s really hard for me to think about now that I have a daughter who just started school. I can’t imagine her feeling the same way I did at such a young age.
Now, as I got older, my insecurity only got worse. My teenage years and early 20s were filled with this feeling of awkwardness and insecurity that I just couldn’t shake.
Shopping As a Coping Mechanism
I think this is what led to my shopping addiction. I realised if I dressed a certain way and played by the “rules”, it was easier to fit in.
In fact, I can remember the first time I heard of the Gap when I was about 13. My family didn’t have a lot of money, so we didn’t shop in high-end stores. (Side note: I know the Gap is not “high-end”, but it felt like it to me!) So anyway, I saw other people wearing their clothes, and I wanted to fit in, so I bought a T-shirt from there.
It was actually really ugly, but I felt so cool in it, and it helped me feel better about myself. That’s when I started learning that I could use things like clothes and makeup to hide my insecurities.
As soon as I started earning money from my part-time job, I would buy anything that I thought would make me feel better about myself. It helped me feel better, even though deep down, I was horrified when I looked in the mirror. This pattern continued into my late 20s and early 30s, and I became a full-blown shopaholic.
I used shopping to hide all sorts of insecurities, but my appearance was still the biggest. I remember spending hours doing my hair and makeup and picking out the trendiest outfits.
If I didn’t have time to do that, I didn’t even want to leave the house because I hated the way that I looked so bad.
Looking back, I realized that I have almost no pictures of myself from being a child until almost 30. I couldn’t stand the way I looked and would delete or throw away any photos of myself. Even when I was travelling and living what many people would consider a great life, I still took hardly any photos of myself because I was horrified by how I looked on camera.
How I Feel About Myself Today
Let me tell you about how I feel now, at almost 42 years old. I’ve had two kids, and I look like a normal woman. I have a little belly, acne scars, and some wrinkles, but surprisingly, I don’t hate these things about myself.
It feels odd to say that, but it’s true. When I reflect on how far I’ve come in the past 10 years, it blows my mind that I used to spend a significant amount of time sitting in front of the mirror, in tears, just hating the way I look.
These days, I don’t hate the way I look, and I’m confident in my skin. I don’t worry about comparing myself to others, and I genuinely feel good about myself. It almost feels like a cocky or arrogant thing to say, but it’s true. I’m happy and feel fantastic.
In fact, here’s a little story: I recently started creating reels on Instagram because I enjoy talking about minimalism and decluttering.
In the past, I was nervous about being on video because of my insecurities, but now, I’m fine with it. I don’t think I look amazing, but I’m comfortable publishing it on the internet for potentially thousands of people to see.
A decade ago, I couldn’t even take a picture of myself during a once-in-a-lifetime experience because I was so horrified by how I looked. And this just reminds me how far I’ve come, from crippling insecurity to feeling good about myself.
The Link Between Minimalism and Self-Acceptance
You might be wondering what my personal journey with minimalism has to do with my past struggles with insecurity and shopping addiction. And to explain, I want to share a quote from a book I read called “This is Marketing” by Seth Godin that really resonated with me.
The quote is, “Normalization creates culture, and culture drives our choices, which leads to more normalization.”
From a young age, I normalized using clothes and makeup as a way to cope with my insecurities. It became a culture that drove my choices, and the more I shopped, the more I reinforced that culture.
Removing my mask of expensive clothes and makeup was daunting because I didn’t know who I was without them.
Eventually, I started decluttering, starting with my closet. It took me a few years to find a decluttering system that worked for me, but I eventually created my own method that I teach in my One Day Closet Cleanse program. (More about that later!)
But back to the Seth Godin quote—decluttering helped me break free from the culture of shopping and insecurity that I had normalized. It allowed me to focus on what was truly important and to find confidence in myself without relying on material possessions.
As I started to declutter my closet, I realized that I was using clothes as a mask to hide behind. Getting rid of these articles of clothing felt like taking off the mask and putting down my security blanket.
At first, it was uncomfortable, and I felt horrible without these things that used to define me. But as I spent more time without them, I normalized what I looked like and who I was without these extras in my life.
It was like creating a new culture for myself, where I felt more comfortable being my normal self without all the fancy bits and bobs. I started to look at myself in the mirror and focus on my face, instead of all the distractions that came with my excessive shopping habit.
It was strange at first—like when someone colours their hair a completely different shade. But then the shock of the change wears off, and you start to appreciate the new look.
Normalization creates culture, and by creating a new culture for myself, I was able to break free from the cycle of insecurity and excessive shopping.
It didn’t happen overnight, but over several years, I started to feel more and more comfortable being myself without all the extra stuff.
For example, I stopped dyeing my grey hair in 2018, and although it was a bit shocking at first, I got used to it, and now it’s just part of who I am. I also stopped wearing eye makeup altogether because I have sensitive eyes, which meant getting used to looking at myself in the mirror without all the mascara and eyeshadow.
Decluttering allowed me to let go of the things I was hiding behind and created a fertile ground for self-acceptance and self-love. This is why I truly believe that the most important decluttering project you can do is decluttering your closet.
Your clothes tell a story and reflect your fears, insecurities, hopes, and dreams. When you go through the process of decluttering your closet, you not only get practical benefits like an easier time getting dressed but also receive less tangible benefits like feeling better about yourself.
The skills you learn from decluttering your closet can also be applied to everything else in your life. It’s empowering to simplify and declutter, and once you’ve tackled your closet, decluttering anything else in your home will seem simple in comparison.
The One Day Closet Cleanse
If you need help decluttering your closet, I have a unique program called the One Day Closet Cleanse that takes a personal approach to exploring your relationship with your closet.
We take an intentional look at what makes you feel good and then craft your closet around the clothes you genuinely love to wear (rather than just sorting through everything arbitrarily!). If you’re interested, you can check out the program here.
Also, as a special promotion, I’m hosting a free workshop on March 16th at 7 pm Eastern Standard Time for anyone in the program. During the workshop, I’ll be teaching you how to stop buying clothes you never wear, which goes hand in hand with decluttering your closet.
(It’s so important that you follow up decluttering with changing your shopping habits! If not, it’s like cleaning up a leaky faucet without turning off the tap.)
The best part is, since it’s a live workshop, you’ll have the opportunity to ask questions about shopping or closet decluttering.
If you’re listening to this before March 16th, sign up for the One Day Closet Cleanse program to get access to the workshop. If you’re listening to this in the future, don’t worry – if you sign up for the program, you’ll still get access to the replay.
(The full workshop was fantastic, and you can now watch the entire video inside the program.)
Thanks for your time and for letting me be vulnerable with you. I hope to see you at the live workshop and wish you a wonderful day. Bye!