When I got an email back in July from my friend Edith Zimmerman, telling me she was "going through a phase" and whittling down her beauty products, wardrobe, and even apartment furniture to the essentials, I was intrigued. Was she adopting some part of the Nineties-minimalist mentality that's so big right now? (No.) So many people talk about "living minimally," but what does that actually look like? And how the hell do you do it? (Admittedly, I hold onto things: magazines, cab receipts, those extra buttons and pieces of strings that come with new sweaters or pants...) I pressed her for details—an explanation. She remained relatively vague, and quiet, but after a few months of chucking things out ("I don't know how I keep having things to throw away, but I do," she wrote in an update), she finally opened up. Here's her story.
This summer I’ve been throwing everything out. Or, trying to. Makeup and shower products, whatever there is under my sink—trying to get rid of as much as possible. I have this vision of myself with, like, one body-cleaning product, one outfit, one pair of shoes, one bag, and a perma-smile of ULTRA SERENITY. Haha. Very attainable!!
I’m also throwing out most of my clothes and most of my shoes—it’s been happening in rounds for the past couple years. I’ll throw out some clothes, and then some shoes, and then I’ll realize that I wanted to, and need to, throw out more clothes—'I can be bold and throw even that stuff out'—and then I do the same thing with the shoes. I’m donating them—not actually throwing them out—although I feel guilty about the gross stuff, the armpit-stained stuff. (At one point, I did actually throw some of it out, in the trash, but that is maybe another 'story.')
So now I don't have many clothes anymore. Part of the throwing-out phase started when I’d lost some weight and felt all skinny, and everything looks great on 'skinny you,' so I threw out all the clothes I’d worn and not really liked when I was heavier, but then obviously I gained it all back, and now I have no clothes except the gross rags that felt and looked so FREE-SPIRITED when I was skinny, but don’t now...although, oh well.
I’m also anti-clothes in general, at the moment. I think it's part laziness, part self-imposed isolation (I left my full-time job at The Hairpin in June to work freelance), and part indulging in isolated behavior. Whatever the reason, my recent inclination is convenient, since I almost never leave my apartment. Except to throw things out. I sort of feel like the yogurt bacteria of my apartment. Like, if my apartment were a woman, and she is fed by the stuff that goes into her—packages, mail, groceries—and she expels stuff when the trash and recycling goes out, then I would be the helper bacteria, aiding her in digestion and stuff. Helping to move things through her system. The stairwell would be the intestines. The front door would be both her butt hole and her mouth. I think that’s how starfish do it, too. And when I go on the roof to smoke, that’s her brain, because I stare into the distance and come up with a million amazing ideas every day. Ideas that I then write down, like “Email Sachar” or “Do something about dot corn”—which actually IS an amazing idea, but I’m not sure what to do with it. But basically it involves making a site that ends with '.corn' instead of '.com.' It would probably be more irritating than amusing, but who knows. Or I could start corn dot com, which, as of now, is semi-available, for a price.
Anyway, I threw another round of shoes out last weekend—I think I’m down to the bare bones now. Initially, the goal was to get down to the purest, barest “necessities”—the expensive, durable, and attractive things I like, although those turn out to be mostly just the clothes I wore in middle school—and build back up from there. Except I refuse to buy more clothes while I feel kind of big. Also, it’s too hot to try clothes on, and I hate shopping. Also, I have realized that bras are fucking horrible, and I haven’t worn a 'real' one in a few months. 'Real,' in this case, meaning underwire, I guess. I’ve been going with old, soft sports bras mostly. I wish I were one of those sylph-y women who are like, “Oh, I forgot a bra, lol.” I want nothing more than to forget bras and not have it be, like, some wobbly, swingy situation, but that won’t really work. But also fuck thaaaat. I’m about three steps away from re-visiting the Dr. Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar site, where Mrs. Bragg goes on about how apple cider vinegar fixes everything, but she’s also only ever worn a “bralette” because underwire bras are evil, or something, although it’s all ridiculous. All of it! But it’s all great, too. God bless.
But as far as throwing things out goes, I'm down to almost zero products in the shower, and really feel good about where I’m at with that: one shampoo, one conditioner, and Dr. Bronner’s for everything else. I make an olive-oil-and-brown-sugar scrub if I ever feel like spending more time in the shower. I could go without shampoo, probably, based on guides I’ve read online, but I don’t feel like doing that just yet. And then I've got one lipstick (Laura Mercier), one mascara (Maybelline Colossal Volum' Express), and one eyelash curler (not sure). Three eyeliners, admittedly, but they’re all basically the same, so I see no need to throw two out, except one is “organic” I think, which I bought on a whim when I was feeling sanctimonious about a new website I’d found, but it’s kind of weird. One multi-purpose spray for when I want to do things with my hair, which is almost never. One natural (glorious) deodorant (Soapwalla). One moisturizing body oil, one moisturizing face oil. I guess that’s starting to seem like a lot again, but it doesn’t feel like it—yet. Because that’s really all I use. Plus a bunch of lip balms. But they’re all the same brand. I bought them to give away as presents but then I just kept them all :-/
And then clothes, yeah. I have about 10 dresses, nine of which I never wear, eight of which I don’t wear because I’m currently too big for them—and then a bunch of sweatshirts. That's basically it.
I just want to eventually be able to explain to someone that the reason I can’t make it to [whatever event] is because "I have no clothes." Because I'll literally have no clothing at all.