My first full-time job was a secretarial position at a small lumber company. My clerk-stenography teacher hooked me up with the job while I was still in high school, doing vocational training in her class. My senior year consisted of going to school till about 11 am, taking a quick “sort of” lunch break, then arriving to work at the lumber company at noon and working till 5 pm. I had weekends off which I thought was the schizdig, since my previous jobs had been part-time ones that always involved working on weekends. Immediately after graduating high school, I became full-time at the lumber company. “Real life” had begun for me. I was 18 years old, living in a two-bedroom apartment with a roommate, and working 7:30 am to 4:30 pm Monday through Friday for minimum wage. And I was broke.
I was living on the least amount of money ever. I remember distinctly waking up late on a Saturday and being SO hungry. I needed food – fast – and there was literally none in the apartment. At the bank, I discovered I had $12 whole dollars in my account. I took enough out to buy a value meal at McDonald’s, and seriously worried about what I’d do the rest of the week. Yep – those were the days! I had no choice but to be as frugal as possible, and I somehow made it through.
Back then, I stressed over how I would afford decent clothes. The lady I worked with, who was also the owner, dressed beautifully every day – very professional and classy looking. Being so young, I remember looking to her as a kind of role model for how to dress. But there was no way I could afford some of the brands she wore. So, my solution to this was – buy the very basics and make them work.
I bought two skirts; one was light tan/khaki and the other was navy blue. I bought a couple button downs; white and pink. I had a couple pairs of pumps. There were probably a few other hand-me-downs in my wardrobe, but that was about it. From there on, I mixed and matched like crazy. I made things last and last. Like I said, the things I bought were the very basics – to be mixed and matched in as many ways as possible. It never took me long to figure out what I would wear in the morning, since there wasn’t much to choose from!
Fast forward to today, many years later (haha!), and I open my closet in the morning to find this insane jumble of clothing. Not much matches and I struggle to put together outfits for work. Where did I go wrong? Oh yeah! I began to make enough money to buy more clothes. Also, my younger years of having to be so frugal have made me want to hang on to things – just in case. Something’s got to give!
Simplicity, minimalism – these are things I admire very much, and over the past couple years I really have made an effort to simplify my life. It feels great and it works, yet the idea hadn’t quite made it into my wardrobe – until now. I recently learned about this movement called Project 333 – you dress with 33 items or less for 3 months. Anything you haven’t used in that time can be donated. I’ve only skimmed over the basics of it, but I thought – I could totally do this! While I know I won’t follow the rules exactly, just the idea of it has given me so much inspiration. I think back to the days of buying those first-time basics that I bought so many years ago. I already know this formula – I just need to follow it once again. This time, though, I am not so broke and I will look for quality over quantity. In getting rid of stuff, I think it’s safe to say that if I haven’t worn it in over a year and am still not very interested – well, then it can go! Yesterday, I took a large bag of unneeded and unwanted clothing, shoes, and jewelry to donation. I’ve always donated items in this way, but yesterday it was with a new purpose and determination, a determination to get back to the basics. And it feels GREAT!