By: Chloé Taylor
I donned my big movie star sunglasses, my favorite fabulous pink coat and my vintage high heeled boots and left the apartment feeling like a million bucks. Only I didn’t pay a million bucks for this treasured outfit. From the hat on my head to the socks on my feet, everything I wore was found at the thrift shop, a friend’s closet or the dollar store. Yes the dollar store has some pretty fabulous sunglasses, if you’re the type of person who doesn’t care much about accessory brand names.
I don’t care much at all about brand names or about possessions in general. I am not cheap, I’m frugal. Ok I’m broke, but frugal has such a nice ring to it, right? I’m also a minimalist with a real aversion to collecting things. This trait may stem from my father’s side; I have an uncle who is a hoarder and an oddball in general and I’ve always been a little frightened of him, despite the fact that he lives in England and I can only recall meeting him once. The stories of stacks of newspapers in his garage, of second homes filled with trinkets and garbage and of his beekeeping farm (I’m allergic) all make me shudder. Perhaps it’s my mum’s doing. She is, among many other wonderful things, a professional organizer. And while I haven’t separated my coloured paperclips from the metal ones (yet), I definitely enjoy controlling my little environment by keeping everything neat and tidy.
Don’t get me wrong, I love clothes. When I was in college I shared an apartment with a fashion design student who taught me the best lesson I ever learned about fashion. Marnie had about five outfits; five fabulous, perfect, lovely, outfits. She would buy new clothes once a season and sell the old ones, always looking flawlessly fashionable and trendy. She matched her clothes so they had interchangeable pieces and converted easily from work to evening. She also had lots and lots of accessories. I was the opposite, still hanging onto clothes from my adolescence I just couldn’t part with. It took me a few more years to catch onto her advice, but once I did I couldn’t stop the purging of possessions.
In 2007 I owned a large country home with many, many closets (how I miss that wall of mirrored doors and the endless shelves and racks they housed!) and I had those closets full to the brim with clothes. Two dressers stuffed and spilling were in my spare bedroom. I had coats, shoes, boots galore and I shopped, as we women are wont to do, every time I felt a tinge of depression or a change of season coming. And then I had to sell the house and move to Toronto, to a tiny apartment with only one bedroom and one weeny closet. There wasn’t even enough room for the dressers. I sold everything I owned and went from a five-bedroom home to a one-bedroom apartment. It was terrifying and then … then it was exhilarating!
What I learned from The Great Purge of 2007 was that I didn’t really care about most of my things. I had no family heirlooms, no expensive jewels and no furniture worth passing on to someone’s kids. What I had was a nice assortment of Ikea, mum’s castoff’s and various other well-matched bits and pieces. I liked my things, but my things were holding me back from moving on to a new and exciting stage of my life. After the big purge, I traveled quite a bit and I realized I could fit all I really needed in my life into a (quite large) suitcase. I downsized again, moved again, purged again. Now I can proudly say I own very little in the way of possessions, and those I do own I could easily part with.
I don’t spend a lot of money on clothes I don’t need anymore. Instead, I trade with my friends, I take second-hand pieces from my future sister-in-law and have them tailored, and I go on regular hunts in Value Village. I purge my closet every season and give away or toss what I don’t need. I have five outfits for work, on regular rotation. I have asked my lovely fiancé to please stop buying me cute little T-shirts (I counted 36 before the last big sort-out!). It’s hard but I’ve learned not to attach emotion to my things and instead focus on my emotional attachment to people. And I still feel fabulous in what I do have to wear – perhaps because I am the only one who knows where it came from.