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The challenges and rewards of upgrading possessions

I have sort of a strange, ongoing internal conflict about my possessions. Traditional minimalist doctrine says that I should realize that what I have right now is enough, and be content. And I do realize that what I have is more than enough, which I duly appreciate. At the same time, if I’m going to live with less, I want to live with the perfect kind of less. In particular, I want to curate my perfect wardrobe.

Over the past year, I’ve started upgrading my wardrobe, purchasing higher-quality versions of items I know I love enough that I won’t feel the need to purge them before they wear out (blue jeans, for example). I’m also on the lookout for a small list of new items that would replace multiple items I currently own—a pair of comfortable tan sandals that go with everything, for instance, would allow me to minimize my summer shoes to two pairs.

I struggle with this a little, because buying things to ultimately own less seems like that old, rather suspect adage: “You have to spend money to make money.” It seems counter-intuitive. However, I also know that minimalism is what you make of it, not what somebody else dictates, and that the whole idea is that when I consume, I consume with intention. I’d love to get my wardrobe down to 50 items, and I don’t think it’s a bad idea to be on the lookout for high-quality, ethically made, multi-functional clothing that helps me get down to that space-saving goal.

Furthermore, it isn’t necessarily wasteful to purchase something before everything else has worn out. I’ve owned a pair of yellow Converse since high school, and I love them—but in my wardrobe’s color palette, sometimes the yellow just adds too much color to an outfit, and low-cut natural canvas ones would solve that problem and make them work with skirts. They’ll be more functional in my wardrobe, so it makes sense to have them and donate my yellow sneakers to someone else who will like them.

To me, having a curated lifestyle with only the things that you use and love means making sure you’re getting them most use out of everything you can. When you don’t own a lot of clothes, every item needs to pulls its weight. If it just isn’t anymore, that’s okay. You could try just getting rid of it—I’ve done that a lot, with pretty good results—but for something like sneakers, which almost everyone considers an important piece of clothing, it’s perfectly reasonable to procure a replacement that will serve you better. Saving the money or a little minimalist cred isn’t worth becoming a slave to the item you don’t really want around.

It’s not just clothes, either. I’d also love to digitize all of our DVDs and my husband’s video games, but unfortunately, that means re-buying them in a digital format. (Why is that? When you purchase a book or movie these days, it should come with a license that allows you to digitize it once. It just makes sense…and it lets you share the physical version with someone else, afterwards.) I’m still debating if saving that space—and having fewer items to move to Italy—is worth slowly ‘upgrading’ the discs to digital form for $10-$30 each. As far as my DVDs go, I’m quite sure I could just live without them, buying the occasional one online if I really feel the need (Tangled is pretty much my go-to movie for any mood, after all)…but my husband would not be pleased if I tried that experiment on his games.

I’m currently designing my “100 Things” list, which is a hypothetical inventory of the 100 personal things I would keep if I couldn’t have any others (household items like dishes and furniture don’t count). I’m not being totally realistic; I’m allowing myself to add a couple items that I don’t actually own. While it’s mostly a fun little game of curiosity for me, I do think it could help show me what I don’t actually need, and where the holes in my possessions (let’s be real: my wardrobe) are. It would be great if a side effect of completing this challenge was both letting go of some things that didn’t make the cut and finding exactly what I would need to make me feel like my wardrobe is completely, perfectly curated. Then, I can decide if the investment is worth it.

Is lifestyle upgrade a struggle for you? Do you find yourself enjoying the amount you have, but yearning for better quality? Fortunately I don’t have this problem with, say, cars or other very expensive things, but I’m sure there are other people out there who feel the curation itch for something in their lives–dishes, furniture, clothing, electronics, anything. Tell me about it!

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