Minimalist Clothing Lesson learned: The weekend I forgot my T-shirt

Thanks to my sister, I was able to take 4 days off with my husband for the first time in a year and a half to celebrate out 11th wedding anniversary. We missed our 10 year anniversary last year because both Dad and Lainie, our dog, had surgery within 2 weeks of one another. So, we decided to celebrate our 11th anniversary much as we had planned to celebrate our 10th.

I spent several days before we were supposed to leave cooking food for Dad and my sister, writing up 5 pages of instructions for my sister to work from while we were gone, doing laundry, and packing. We booked a one-bedroom condo in Westport, WA on the coast.

The morning we were to leave, I awoke with a terrific headache. Despite this, I was excited to have some time off and determined to enjoy myself. It was a beautiful day, unseasonably warm, and we were only expecting 1 day of bad weather on the coast. I was continuing my “Life is Short, Wear a Dress” minimalist clothing project from Project 333,, so I dressed in a comfortable skirt, layered tanks and soft cashmere sweater. Finally, we drove out with our suitcases, some food, and Lainie.

Somehow in the process of packing, however, I forgot to pack a t-shirt for myself. I wear a t-shirt pretty much daily, so this was a large oversight on my part. I normally pack from a carefully constructed list, but this got misplaced and I didn’t have time to write a new one. At the last minute I decided that I had packed for enough vacations in my lifetime that I really didn’t need a list.

For 4 days on the Washington coast in winter, I determined I needed one set each of rain gear, pjs, and lounge wear, in addition to my street clothes, hat, and gloves. I wasn’t going to bring jeans because of my clothing project, which is when I normally pack my t-shirt. However, I had assumed that I would be wearing a t-shirt during my stay, perhaps with my lounge wear. After an initial period of angst about the possibility of being cold and immodest, I accepted the fact that I would spend 4 days of my life without the benefit of a baby blue cotton ¾ sleeve t-shirt. I was going to have to make-do.

The reality: I didn’t suffer in the slightest without my t-shirt. My layered tank tops and a zippered hoodie were all I needed to stay warm indoors. I wasn’t immodest when we went out in public either. I wore my rain gear or jacket when we went outside, and this was enough to keep me warm. It turned out that I actually enjoyed the look of layered tanks and a hoodie enough that I plan to incorporate such pairings in the future. And, I realized that I don’t need as many t-shirts as I thought I did.

My Life is Short, Wear a Dress project has already driven home a number of lessons about what I really need in a wardrobe and why. And why I haven’t successfully addressed some of my concerns about the size and functionality of my wardrobe in the past. This weekend has taught me another lesson as well. Besides the climatic reasons my t-shirt was unnecessary, I also further found that my assumptions about my clothing were at least partially psychologically ingrained.

This is what I learned from my serendipitous minimalist clothing experience:

  • Many of our clothing needs are assumed needs, not what actually is required for modesty, individual style, or climate.
  • Living life without one “essential” article of clothing requires that we utilize our creative problem-solving abilities.
  • Learning to improvise is an important life skill to deal with unexpected circumstances.
  • The creative outcome of improvising can yield pleasant surprises and unexpectedly good solutions.

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