Shoes are tough for me since I have always had somewhat messed up feet.  I had surgery on my left foot in January 2016 and while this made my left foot more normally shaped, I have had some issues with pain in that foot since then.  Wearing heels on a daily basis is just not in the cards for me.  I’ve never been a heels-on-an-average-day type person, but I still have about 5 pairs of heels or heeled sandals sitting in my closet that I can wear to weddings and such.  Do I need that many?  Definitely not.

My feet are also wide, which makes shoe shopping difficult.  And since I tend to do most of my shopping online, I have purchased quite a few shoes that don’t fit exactly right.  I’ve been trying to upgrade my shoe collection since my surgery, both to help with the pain in my left foot and to try to prevent the need for surgery in my right.  Shoes are so darn expensive though!  I really should have a few basic pairs that are high quality, nice looking, versatile, and comfortable and wear those all the time, but I struggle to do this.  This is partially because I have a hard time spending a lot of money on any one item, and it’s also hard to tell in advance how comfortable or wearable a shoe will be before you own it.  I have bought about 6 pairs of Clarks shoes in the last year and thrown out cheaper, less supportive shoes, but I still own and wear a bunch of shoes that are probably not great for my feet.

For me, my struggle with shoes mirrors my struggle with possessions in general.  I want high-quality items, not too many of them, and ones that work well that I love. There is also a tension between comfort/practicality and fashion/looks.   Ah well.  I said that I would be going through my shoes and getting rid of some this week and I did.  Here are the shoes that were in my closet at the start of the week:

  • 4 pairs of heels (two black, nude, silver)
  • 7 sandals (two flip flops, tan sandals, brown sandals, metallic sandals, white heeled sandals, silver strappy heeled sandals)
  • 7 boots (black high boots, black low boots, black heeled boots, tan heeled boots, rain boots, hiking boots, snow boots)
  • 3 athletic shoes (bike shoes (which clip into the pedals), two pairs of sneakers)
  • 8 other casual shoes (red Clarks, brown leather Clarks, black Croc flats, silver Sperry flats, Converse, gray Clarks walking sneakers, black Clarks flats, other brownish casual Clarks, brown Merrels for outdoorsy stuff)

A grand total of…. 31 pairs.  Four more than I had last time I counted!  This week, I decided to donate the black heeled boots, brown heeled boots, one pair of black heels, the Converse (which makes me sad but they hurt my feet too much), the Sperry flats, one pair of flip flops and the silver strappy sandals.

goodbye, shoes!

That’s 7 gone, and down to 24 pairs.  I brought one pair of sneakers and the Crocs to school to be my gym and shower shoes respectively, so they will live in my locker there now.  One pair of flip flops and the Merrels are on our screened in porch to take the dog out, depending on the weather.  Three of the remaining shoes are functional and only worn during specific times/tasks (snow boots, hiking boots, bike shoes).   So I now really have 17 pairs in my closet that I will wear day-to-day.

I think 8 would be a more reasonable number.  If I could just have 8, I would choose a black flats, black heels, comfortable but stylish full coverage shoes for winter (these have been hard for me to find), black ankle boots, black tall boots, tan sandals, dressier sandals, casual walking shoes.  This will be my goal shoe wardrobe for 2019, when I can shop again.  Ultimately, I’d like to replace the black flats, which are too big, with a pair that fit better, the three pairs of tan, brown, and metallic sandals with one nicer tan pair, and find a good pair of dressier winter shoes that are not boots.  Then I have to convince myself to get rid of the other perfectly good pairs once they wear out and not replace them.  Baby steps!

Two Weeks into the January Minimalism Challenge

Today is day 14 in the January Minimalism Challenge (getting rid of 1 item on January 1, 2 items on January 2, etc.).  It’s day 14 now and it’s starting to get tough, but I have made it so far.  I have gotten rid of* a lot of little things like pens and pencils and more jewelry, and some bigger things like a largish photo frame we got for our wedding that is not really our style.  I think if I’m ruthless I can make it until the end of the month, I’m just not really sure how ruthless I am ready to get.

Day 12 — Three of these things (the book and two soda stream packs) weren’t even ours, they were left by the former tenant of our apartment… and two of them are borrowed from a friend and will be returned rather than discarded.

My mom, who is participating in this challenge with me, has had it much easier.  She lives in a much bigger place and it’s filled with stuff.  She is only going to keep going if I do, so that is part of my motivation to get ruthless.  She’s been doing great so far.  I bet she could go for a full year and still have more than she and my dad need though.  It’s a start.

As I look toward the next two weeks, there are a few areas I’m going to focus on to reach my ever increasing daily goals:

  • stuff hanging out in the kitchen for when we might use it, like takeout chopsticks and utensils.  I keep this stuff around thinking it would be good for a picnic, but we really don’t need it and it’s just taking up space.
  • my closet, which I still think has way too much stuff in it.  I would like to get to the point where all of my clothing, including shoes and coats, fits into my closet.  Shoes especially need to be edited down.  I had surgery on my foot last year and since then have only been able to wear supportive shoes comfortably.  Shoes will be the topic of a future post.
  • my car trunk.  I know there is a bunch of junk in there.  It’s so cold out that I’m reluctant to clean it out at the moment.
  • cookbooks.  We never use these.

I’ll post another update next weekend, after I will have hopefully gotten rid of 126 more items.

*I should admit that when I say I am getting rid of items, I am actually putting them all on a shelf in my closet.  I don’t have the time or energy to go to Goodwill every day.  I am also in the process of starting a Buy Nothing Project group in my neighborhood (a local gifting group) and am thinking it would be nice to have some items to post as the group kicks off.  This may not technically be in line with the rules of the challenge, but I’m still committing to getting rid of the stuff so it’s good enough for me.  A lot of the things have gone directly in the trash or recycling so they are really gone.


I love books, but I don’t buy many and I don’t own many.  My husband and I probably have fewer than 50 books altogether on our shelves.  I used to have many, many more books, but after I went to library school I decided there was no need to keep that many on hand.  I don’t take notes in books, so there is no reason that I’d need the same copy if I wanted to go back and re-read a book again.  Unless a book is rare or sentimental in some way, it can always be borrowed from a library or bought for a small amount of money.  I think I used to keep books on my shelves to remind myself and others of how well read I am, but that’s an embarrassingly vain reason to keep books around.

I maintain a list of the books I’ve read on GoodReads so I won’t forget what I’ve read, and then I get rid of them.  I mostly borrow books from libraries anyway, either digitally or in print, so they don’t accumulate too much anymore.  We get books as gifts every Christmas and those are mostly the ones on our shelves now (the ones we haven’t read yet) in addition to some sentimental or still useful books.  My sentimental books include: a book that a friend wrote with a note to me in it, a book I received as a gift when I was a bridesmaid for a friend with a note to me in it, and a few books signed by authors that I have from library conferences.  We also have a strangely large number of cookbooks.  People are constantly gifting me vegetarian cookbooks, which is thoughtful and kind, but I look recipes up online and almost never use them.  Perhaps they should go out during the January Minimalism Challenge (I’m still going strong on day 13, but am starting to sweat a little!).

My ‘still useful’ books include books for my PhD program.  I do buy books for school and will continue to buy them when I need them during 2018 — they are one of my exceptions to buying nothing.  I am also going to hang on to books I have used already in my program for now, with the thinking that I might reference these books later.  I did the same thing during undergrad and I rarely looked back at books from previous classes — I wound up donating a ton of philosophy books a few years after I graduated — so I am probably wrong about that this time around too.  I do try to use course reserves or borrow books from the library if that is an option and will continue to do so.  Sadly, I have already bought 6 books for this semester.  I was only able to find two on course reserves and none available for checkout.

My Clothing Chart

Clothing was is one of the main categories of items that motivated me to do this challenge.  I don’t spend a ton of money on clothing since I buy a lot used, but I do spend a lot of time maintaining my wardrobe and feel I am continually cycling through clothes.  In order to get an idea of what was in my wardrobe and how I was using it, I made a Google spreadsheet listing every item of clothing I owned by category a few months ago.  I tried to remember where and when I had purchased the item, how much it had cost, whether it had been bought used or new, and categorized each as “potatoes” or “icing.”  That last bit is based on a Michael Kors quote:

70 percent of the clothes you own should be meat and potatoes. 30 percent should be icing and fluff— that’s colour, pattern, shine, accessories.

I then estimated how many times I’ve worn the item, which is a really rough approximation, and used that and my purchase price to calculate costs per wear.

I’ve read a bunch of blogs about how many articles of clothing you should own, which you can figure out based on how often you’d like to wear each item.  Some people shoot for eight wears per year.  You use this goal along with the seasons where you live to determine how many items you should have in each category.  (So if I want to wear each of my sweaters 8 times and estimate I will wear a sweater five times per week November-March, I can figure out how many sweaters I ought to own.)  I did not get this fancy, but creating my chart was still an illuminating exercise.  This chart was created AFTER I had kon-maried my closet and tried to be vigilant about weeding out clothing I didn’t like, that didn’t fit, that was in poor repair, or that I didn’t wear for some other reason.  And AFTER that, here are my numbers:

  • 13 pairs of pants
  • 8 capris
  • 4 shorts
  • 16 skirts
  • 26 dresses
  • 14 sweaters
  • 12 informal tops
  • 19 dressier tops
  • 7 jackets, blazers, coats
  • 27 pairs of shoes
  • 44 t-shirts, pajamas, workout clothing items
  • 11 layering tank tops
  • 11 scarves
  • 4 bathing suits
  • 2 bathing suit coverups

This adds to a grand total of 218 articles of clothing.  I found this rather shocking.  My clothing basically fits into one closet, other than coats, which hang elsewhere, and a few items I have in a trunk.

The total cost of my wardrobe, not including the 44 t-shirts, pajamas, workout clothing items and 11 layering tanks, is approximately $1950.  Of course I did not spend all this money in one year.  I didn’t remember exactly when I purchased some items, so pie the chart below is an estimate.


I bought approximately 75% of this clothing in the last three years.  That works out to about $500 per year.  Now some of that money was spent on bigger purchases, such as a leather jacket I bought in Italy in 2009 for $150.  I will have that for a long time.  Most of the articles of clothing were much less expensive.  I’m not too unhappy with my spending if this is accurate.  However, I know I have bought and discarded many items in the last three years that are not listed on my chart.

62% of it was purchased used and I categorized about 65% of it as “potatoes” rather than “icing.”  Those numbers seem pretty good to me.  I thought I’d have a higher used percentage, but most of shoes were bought new so that may be bringing does the percent a bit.

This data also does not include all of the clothing I have bought and gotten rid of in a shorter period of time, which I suspect is a lot. It’s also slightly out of date as I have taken a few things out and added a few in.  Part of the reason I wanted to do this buy nothing challenge is the exhaustion I feel when I think about maintaining my closet.  I mostly buy used clothing nowadays (or I did before January 1), which makes me feel better about my clothing habits financially and environmentally, but I still spend a lot of time looking for items to add to my closet and editing out things that no longer work.  It’s too much time and effort.  I can use that mental space for something more productive and fulfilling, like my PhD work.

I dream of having an effortless closet — the kind I can walk up to and easily pick out many outfits.  I have thought about doing a capsule wardrobe (you pick 33 items to mix and match for a season) and may still try that this year.  I tracked which articles of clothing I was wearing in one column of my chart for about a month.  This was in October, so it doesn’t reflect what I’d wear all year long, but it did reveal a few things.  I wore a pair of jeggings, which I don’t even really like, 10 times that month.  They are OK when worn right after washing, but tend to stretch out and look baggy/bad after that.  I try not to wash pants after one wear.  I hope I can get rid of these once I have my j brand jeans.  I also wore a pair of black jeans 7 times.  In fact, I wore almost all of my pants at least once, except for some that are just summer pants (linen and white).  On the other hand, I only wore a skirt twice that month.  I own 16 skirts and wore two of them once each.  Perhaps I do not need 16 skirts?  I have since worn more skirts since I have been working part-time somewhere with a formal business dress code, but I do think I probably have more skirts than I should.

I wish I had the energy to maintain this chart for a full year.  Perhaps I don’t really want to know what I’d find out because it would force me to purge further.  I also have a somewhat strange life right now since I’m in a PhD program — I try to look presentable, but I definitely do not need “work” clothes like I used to.  I’ve been spending a lot of time at home in leggings.  However, I may need professional clothes for internships and will presumably have a job at some point again.  It’s actually been rather hard getting dressed for my internship, so I will probably need to redevelop that part of my wardrobe further at some point.

January Minimalism Challenge

I am also participating in a minimalism challenge with my mom during January.  I found the challenge on The Minimalists Facebook page and tagged my brother and mom to see if either of them wanted to do it.  My brother ignored it, but my mom agreed.  The challenge is to get rid of one item the first day of January, two items the second day, three items the third, etc.  The first week really wasn’t too bad.  My items have been:

  1. a giveaway bag I was using to carry my gym clothes (I found a nicer giveaway bag tucked away)
  2. three pairs of underwear (which were replaced with my new Amazon basics underwear)
  3. three little copper cups we got for Christmas
  4. a bunch of jewelry
  5. an unopened bag of dog food that I think made my poor dog break out in rashes
  6. a few broken things (a cutting board comes to mind)
  7. old sunscreen
  8. two CDs
  9. my old bike helmet
  10. an old keyboard (this one was my husbands – he had three for some reason)

I must be missing a few things since this does not add up, but that’s most of it.  I admit I cheated a little because I had already picked some things out for donation (mostly jewelry) and used them towards my numbers.  I have already “konmaried” most of our apartment so I don’t think there is really that much more I’d like to get rid of.

I like the look of very empty spaces sometimes, but I also like coziness, so I am not one of those “I only own 23 things” types of people.  It’s taken me a while to accept this about myself as I do find the idea of owning very minimal possessions somehow romantic.  I idealize the type of person I would be and the life I would have if our apartment was entirely free from clutter, and had only truly necessary or beautiful objects in it.  This does not seem like a realistic goal right now given our relatively small space and budget, and I am still working on accepting that.  But I can accept it and still try to be better about purchasing and owning things I don’t need or want.

The Last Week of Buying

I knew I would be committing myself to buy nothing for a year starting January 1, so in the weeks leading up to this date I tried to stock up on whatever I thought I might want/need in the coming year.  Christmas with family added a number of items to my possessions.  My family has been doing a lot better about not going overboard for Christmas and my husband’s family does a themed secret santa, so we didn’t wind up with piles and piles of stuff like we have in the past, but we still did accumulate a fair amount.  However, there were still a few things I wanted to get.  We stayed home for NYE this year because we were both recovering from a particularly gruesome stomach bug, so I did most of my last non-food/toiletry online shopping for a year while watching the show in Times Square.  On that day and the week leading up to NYE, I bought:

  1. a new tire gauge – my old one broke and I frequently need to put air in my tires
  2. two pairs of J brand jeans – I do not have any jeans I actually like and thought these might be a good choice.  I found these used on eBay and paid less than $15 a pair.  The first arrived and were a bit big (though still wearable) so I bought the second a size down.
  3. a fancy dress – dresses are my weakness.  I bought one thinking I could wear it on NYE, but I can save it for a summer wedding.  I believe we will have four weddings to go to this summer so I’ll have an opportunity to wear it.  I do have too many dresses though.
  4. 5 pairs of black underwear from Amazon Basics – I consider this a splurge as I usually purchase the cheapest pack of underwear I can find, but my favorite black pairs are literally falling apart due to being worn so much.  I hope the Amazon pairs will replace them.
  5. a black scarf – I have wanted one of these since I lost my last one.  It’s versatile and I think it dresses up outfits a bit.  I believe I will wear it a lot (unlike some of my other scarves).
  6. a head scratcher for my husband – this was something I had planned to get him for Christmas and forgot.  He loves it.
  7. a new bike helmet – I ride my bike to school basically every weekday and my old helmet was not the best.  I think I bought the cheapest one I could find at Target.  I asked my mom to research a good helmet for Christmas because she, like me, is excellent at online research and finding the best possible option.  I wound up with a great deal on a helmet designed for women (which fits my strangely small head well) that has MIPS technology.  I don’t really understand what MIPS is, but I do know it’s supposed to be better protection if you crash your bike.

I think that’s it.  I tried to be pragmatic for the most part.  None of these purchases were strictly necessary, except perhaps the tire gauge because I do use that every couple of weeks.  However, I allowed myself to buy these things knowing I would not have another chance for 365 days.   So far I have not been too tempted to buy anything.  I have spent basically no time on eBay (win!) and only a bit of time on Amazon — to curate our next “subscribe and save” delivery consisting of groceries and toiletries and to look for dog food for the pup.  I did create a new wish list of things I seriously considered purchasing so I can see how the impulse to buy changes over time.  So far I have wanted some face masks (I got a few for Christmas from my MIL and enjoyed them) and Thinx knockoff underwear.  I actually had to look at the list to remember that last thing and I just added it recently, so I guess I didn’t want it too badly.

The Challenge

I am doing a buy nothing challenge in 2018.  People around the world have participated in challenges like this and each one looks a little different.  Most everyone allows for the purchase of food, and some allow for the purchase of experiences (travel, entertainment, etc).  I haven’t firmly set the rules for my own challenge yet and am planning on evaluating purchasing decisions as they come up, which I suppose is a bit of a cop out.  My general guidelines are as follows:

  • If it can be purchased in a typical grocery store (not a super store like Wegmans) it is OK to buy.  This basically covers groceries and toiletries.  Purchases can be made in store or online.
  • If it doesn’t involve the acquisition of a physical item, it is OK to spend money on it.  This includes dining out, seeings shows, travel expenses, etc.
  • Purchases that are required for my PhD program (such as books) are also OK.
  • Anything else is off limits.

My three main motivations for taking this challenge on are to save time, save money, and own fewer things.  I have found myself wasting a significant amount of time shopping for items I do not need online.  I often do not even really want these items and don’t wind up purchasing them.   I do enjoy a good online hunt for a deal, but I could and should be using my time more productively, or at least in a more fulfilling way.  My goal is to post on this blog weekly to catalog my experiences this year.  The purpose of this blog is primarily to hold myself accountable, and possibly to connect with others if anyone happens to find it.