|Source: Cole Haan|
Since I started simplifying my life in Spring 2011, I have set a lot of items free - books, DVD, decoration items, clothing... Three years later, the effects of this culling process are overwhelmingly positive and I have more time for other pursuits. However, where most minimalists say they got rid of their stuff and never looked back, I'd like to point out that I did make a few culling mistakes, which I'd like to share with you if it can help avoiding them in the future.
Relying On Arbitrary Limits and Numbers
For example, when I started wardrobe editing, I decided to limit my closet to 100 items, divided in 10 items per category (tops, pants, shoes etc.). Not as a challenge to choose a 100 item wardrobe and see if I missed anyting, but as a hard and fast rule to actually sell or donate all the rest. The problem was, by limiting myself to 10 short sleeved tops for example, I culled some that I actually liked and could have used, but didn't make my top 10. Three years, many laundries, holes and high rotation later, this resulted in replacement purchases which could have been avoided if I had kept those I actually still liked.
I don't regret this limit I set myself at the time, as it helped a lot to kickstart my editing process, and set me in a motivated mood to tackle the rest of my possessions. But if I was to repeat the process, I probably would set the limit as a temporary challenge, packing the rest of the items away to set off the process, and then cull items based on more tangible factors.
Learning: The goal of culling is to make sure your collection of items is adequate - matching your needs, taste and lifestyle. The decision of culling a specific item should be made in regards to this item's inherent characteristics, and not in comparison with other items. If a maximum number is to be set, it should be linked to a tangible reason (for example, limited available space), and not an arbitrary number which can lead to getting rid of actually useful items.
Using Minimalism as an Excuse for Unnecessary Upgrades
However, wanting to have a "perfect collection of items", I ended up culling perfectly useful items just so I could buy one with a better material, or a higher end brand instead. At some point, it even became a sort of justification for buying new, high quality items: "but it's part of my simplification process". The problem was, I was right into the discarding > replacing loop of consumerism, which is not my definition of simplifying my life. Besides, it made me devaluate my items, just on the basis that I should have higher quality standards, whereas they were just adequate for my needs.
See, the basic principle of simplicity, at least in my vision, is to buy less as a whole and make the most of what we own. Yes, part of the simplification process is to curate a smaller selection of items of higher quality, but this should happen over years, as needs arise and we meet them my purchasing a higher quality item, not by "creating" the need by culling a useful item just to replace it with a better one.
Learning: In my opinion, culling is a consequence, a side effect of simplification, not the main action of it. If your goal of simplification is to own less, spend less money and purchase less items, then culling shouldn't become an excuse for new purchases. It doesn't mean you are not allowed to upgrade an item if you find a higher quality one you really like, it just means simplification shouldn't be an excuse for doing it. In my opinion.
Culling Too Early in the Process
Therefore, my very first reaction was to remove all the sophisticated, chic items from my wardobe, and restart my style searching from a much simpler outfit canvas. After two years of trial and error, I have found a style I feel comfortable in, and, as it turns out, it does contain details from my previous style. I may have dressed to compensate a lack of self confidence, but I still was choosing clothes I liked, so it is logical that some aspects of that style actually fit my taste.
The problem is, by culling items before style searching, I ended up getting rid of items that could now fit perfectly in my current wardrobe and outfits. For example, V neck tops and knits. In 2011, I culled most of them because I felt it showed too much cleavage, was too feminine and represented a symbol of the style I wanted to get rid of. As I refined the details of my style, I actually noticed I still have an affinity with the V neck over other shapes. There are a lot of V neck tops and jumpers I culled that I could use within my newly found uniform.
Learning: Deciding to engage in life simplfiication often is the result of major life changes, or view changes, which are very emotional times of identity searching, change of views etc. I believe that, in such times, it is important to discover who you are, what you like, your identity beyond material possessions, before making radical culling decisions.
As A Conclusion
But most importantly, even though I regret to have set some items free that I could have kept, I don't regret to have started editing my collection of items. And I'm not particularly sad about these culling mistakes. I could have avoided recent purchases, but I don't miss the items I have culled. That's the shift ov values I have managed to cultivate over the years - I remember these mistakes in order to grow and avoid them in the future, but I'm not as attached to material items as I once was.
What about you? Have you ever sorted out and culled some of your possessions? Have you made any culling mistakes or regretted to get rid of something you finally could have used? What did you learn from it?