part i: the lessons from the great purge of summer 2016

how about that title? already doing great on minimalism, right? #iamfunny #tomyself

if you follow me on snapchat (@ania.sulllivan), you’ve seem me purge my closet multiple times this summer. although it appears that i would have nothing else to wear after four times of cleaning it out, i still have plenty.

let’s back it up.

i have moved a million times. okay, not a million but pretty freaking close. my family has lived in four states and five houses plus me living in france for a year plus the seven residence halls/apartments/subleased apartments i lived in while in st. louis for university. after all those moves, i learned that the aggravating part of moving is often not the actual moving; it’s the realization while unpacking, or even a couple years later, that you shouldn’t have even moved some items in the first place. you don’t wear them, don’t want them hanging on your walls, it’s a bunch of odds and ends from senior year of high school – the list goes on.

so i have become a bit of an aggressive purge artist, i shall call myself. and i realized this summer that various events have made me a lot different than the shopaholic i was in high school. sit down and let me spin you a tale…

while living in france, i had a fraction of my clothing and almost nothing as far as decor or other small things. and i liked it. i loved how my room closet wasn’t bursting at the seams. i loved looking in my closet and knowing that i would wear any of the pieces because i only brought my favorites. i was super critical of everything i bought while shopping there because i would have to lug it back with me at the end of the year – so everything i bought was well thought out and i still love (and wear) today.

when i left france, i left behind what i had brought to france but hadn’t worn and it felt SO good. my family had just moved to california (literally just moved – i landed at 10 pm in fresno, ca and the moving trucks came at 7 am the next day) so i decided to purge again before i had to go back to school at the end of summer for my senior year.

my mom was kind of freaked out by the bags of things i started rapidly accumulating to donate. i was giving away things had been expensive, had the labels still attached, and were great brands. however, at the end of the day i didn’t wear them. i didn’t care if it was a free people tank – i hated the length. i didn’t care that the jeans were true religion – i shouldn’t have bought bedazzled jeans because WHO WEARS BEDAZZLED JEANS. except me. in high school.

i wanted my closet to be like those suitcases i flew back with to the usa after my year in france – a collection of items that i wore over and over without a second thought. you see, the french women dress well. i’m sorry, they dress IMPECCABLY well. it’s like an art and i was the biggest fan. but the art of dressing french is not their mountains of options in their huge walk-in closet. that’s not the french way. (**cough cough america**) quite simply, there is no room for all that clothing in tiny french apartments. the art of french fashion is wearing timeless pieces. a classic black winter coat, a sharp pair of booties, the perfect winter scarf. they didn’t need 7 coats plus a north face plus a rain jacket plus a down jacket. they had maybe 2 or 3.

everytime i went on a trip, i would go into a frenzy thinking of things i needed to buy. going to morocco? i needed the perfect maxi skirt. going to italy? where is a cheap, chic leather jacket. headed to london? i need to completely reassess my style.

however, when my host family went on trips, they worked with what they had. my host sister audrey went on a ski trip with her boyfriend’s family and was completely set by borrowing some things from me, friends and layering. i would have easily gone and bought an entire outfit to be “prepared”. in america, we find reasons to buy something more. going hiking? oh, we couldn’t do that in normal tennis shoes and a pair of nike shorts. we need to head to REI and be completely outfitted, head to toe, in the best (and most expensive) gear.

it’s consuming and never ending.

i learned that the french had fewer things but they held their value. even items that were a bit more “trendy” could easily still be worn in another season. for example, capes and shawls were all the rage for the fall of my year there. but the capes at zara weren’t these crazy plaid monstrosities that would be recognized every time you wore them. they were in classic colors – black, brown, a deep green. they could easily be worn for many autumns to come. classic and trendy.

it was pretty humbling as an american to see how this consumer mindset had completely caught me without me knowing it. and i didn’t really like that feeling. i once had to explain walmart to my host parents and they were completely confused. i admired how my host sister often wore the same pieces because those pieces were so perfect. she went shopping at zara and bought one blouse. i went shopping and bought five accessories when what i needed was one blouse. there was a certain mindset there that yes, we could have everything but we don’t need it. we will shop for what we need.

returning to america was culture shock for a NUMBER of reasons but our addiction to shopping (and not just for clothes) was probably the harshest and long-lasting. it was almost embarrassing, especially because of how easily i was duped into thinking it is better to have more.

it is not.

enter seven by jen hatmaker. the premise of the book is that she takes areas of her life (food, clothing, shopping, etc.) and, over seven months, made seven simple choices in those seven areas of excess to become more simple, generous and intentional. it hit me where it hurts people. ESPECIALLY with my big move to STL coming up in a week and a half.

i want to buy all the things right now and i want a nice car not a used car and all of a sudden i had a live experiment on my hands. i could either give in or i could say to myself “i don’t mind if i don’t have the nicest car on the block – it will get me from point a to point b and i will never see the outside while i’m driving it.” i can choose to take old furniture and wait patiently til things come up on craig’s list that i can diy. i can choose to see how many things have fallen perfectly into place instead of seeing the lack of, well, a bed.

i think the concept of minimalism freaks people out – me included. in my humble opinion, it doesn’t mean you can’t shop or buy nice things or deck your house in anthropologie goods (slowly but surely this will be happening – please and thank you). it just means that in the meantime, you’re alright with less. you have taken your identity away from what you don’t have and can see what is right there in front of you.

in the next three days, i’ll be giving a guide on how i go about doing efficient, realistic purges (for instance, i can’t get rid of ALL the things i don’t like because i don’t have money to replace it all #reality) and what little changes i have made that have really improved my attitude already towards minimalist living. i don’t have to have it all right now and what i’ve realized is that if i never do have it all, i’ll be just fine.


vibed to the sound of my phone ringing because i am trying to do 6 things at once right now. #hellomoving

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