What I've Learned From Wearing Only 3 Outfits For 3 Months

Having a minimalist closet isn't easy, but it is liberating.

I am the stuff Marie Kondo dreams of. I’ve been struggling my whole life to have a pared down closet, one with a sensible amount of pieces that doesn’t roll into an avalanche every time you open the doors. But it’s so hard when fashion is so fun. Dresses and sweaters make me feel the way butter melts on warm toast, but these last couple of months might have brought me one step closer to understanding the minimalist life.

I’ve been traveling around Europe the last six months, and tired of dragging a backpack the size of a first grader around, I decided to pare down my selection to an extreme. So extreme, I’ve been living off of a wardrobe that consists of five feel-good pieces: one pair of pants, three sweaters, and one pair of earrings. At first I did it out of convenience, but I’ve learned a surprising amount of things along the way. Here are the most important.

1. Having Things Doesn’t Make Me Happy

I've Been Living In Three Outfits The Past Three Months And This Is What I Learned
Marlen Komar

There’s a high involved when you buy a particularly good wrap dress or a fun pair of earrings. And I will admit I’ve had moments along the way where I was done feeling like a schlub and went into the nearest shopping street and bought a few pick-me-up pieces. But I was shocked — floored, guys — to experience they didn’t really change my mood in any way. I felt the same in that new off-the-shoulder top as I did in my mammoth fleece. The only difference was I now had to find a way to Tetris it into my backpack. And even wilder, I have actually given away or left behind those newly purchased pieces after a month or so of wear, because they didn’t change how I felt and I didn’t want to deal with carrying them around.

Does this mean I’m now immune to shopping? I think it’s more that I realized buying things that truly, truly catch my eye are the pieces that make me happy. Not a standalone shirt bought on a whim. But something like a fantastic two-piece set that makes you stop in your tracks as you’re walking past the mannequin. There is a difference.

2. There’s Freedom In A Uniform

I only have one pair of shoes, one pair of pants, and one set of earrings. And while at first it might sound like I’m a vagabond, it has given me a lot of peace of mind. There’s no Cheesecake Factory menu (58 pages) of choices. I just look down at my packing cube and pick the one knit that’s speaking to me the most that day. And the beauty is I know I'll feel fantastic in it because it’s one of my favorites.

3. You Get To Experiment With Your Looks

I've Been Living In Three Outfits The Past Three Months And This Is What I Learned
Marlen Komar

Since there’s a modest amount of clothes to pick from, I’ve been having fun experimenting with my aesthetic in different ways. I’ve finally learned how to braid, I treat myself to an interesting color of liquid lipstick now and then, and I play with my hair in ways I have always been too uninspired to try. The cool thing is, when you have limits set on you, you naturally start to get creative. If you don’t want to be in a rut, you’ll find a way to expand your boundaries.

Am I going to suggest you dump your whole closet and only keep your three favorite sweaters? I’m not that extreme. But what I will suggest is trying this out for two weeks.

If you’re lost in your style or want to break into minimalism but can’t figure out how, this exercise really helps cut the clutter (literally!) from the situation. It lets you live in three pieces that you truly love and allows you to analyze how you feel about it. Do you feel beautiful even if you’re pared down? What are the details that make you feel happy? What other outfits or silhouettes mimic this same formula, so you can fill your closet with them? It gives you the space to analyze and become more in-tune with what you want (and are comfortable in) rather than running away with what you think you should look like.

Once I come back home, I will be adding to my three-sweater wardrobe. But you can be sure by not that much.

Marlen Komar is a writer living in Chicago with a penchant for mom jeans and kimchi tacos, and primarily writes about fashion history. She has bylines in Bustle, CNN Style, Racked, Allure, Curbed, and Apartment Therapy, and rarely stays in one place too long as she travels for most of the year. Website: marlenkomar.com