What Minimalism Cost Me

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If we are friends and you’re reading this, I hope the title gives you a good laugh. Aitza…attempting to be a minimalist? The jokes write themselves. I’ve talked extensively about cleaning out my closet and decluttering some of my stuff. So when I moved to Spain last year and said I’d attempt minimalism. That choice has cost me greatly. So here is what minimalism cost me.

As I transitioned into adulthood and moved out of my college apartment, I did my best to declutter my life. My friend Nikki had read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondō , and I thought I’d do the same. What a perfect time to get rid of all the junk I accumulated in college. I have tried to keep that energy since graduating.

So I convinced myself becoming a minimalist abroad would save me so much money. No need to pay the extra luggage fees to get everything to Europe. I was sure I would be pleased with having a capsule wardrobe. It was all supposed to be part of this new journey I was taking, adopting this new lifestyle I was unsure of in Spain.

The Cost of Self Expression 

I own a lot of clothing. Even after donating seven bags of clothing, refining my style, and learning to dress for my body type and not trend I have a ton of clothes.  I left America with

  • seven pairs of blue jeans
  • two pairs of black jeans
  • four pairs of colored chinos
  • one pair of Converse
  • four dress
  • ten t-shirts (mix of short and long)
  • four pairs of leggings
  • one sweat seat 
  • two bikinis
  • one pair of shower shoes
  • one pair of tights
  • one pair of booties.
  • four blanket scarves 
  • three regular scarves
  • one wool coat
  • one anorak 
  • one cardigan
  • one light jacket 
  • one fleece jacket
  • one pair of thermals 
  • two sleeveless blouses 
  • two button downs
  • a crap ton of undies and socks
  • two body suits
  • four hair scarves 
  • one hoodie
  • two sweaters
  • one pair of sandals
  • one denim jacket
  • five sleep shirts

Factoring in about 250 EUR for winter wear, I was certain that would be all I needed. I had purposely chosen neutral colors with a few complementary bright colors to throw in. As my mom said, you’re going to spend most of your time working. The majority of your clothes should reflect that.

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But as time went on , I crafted a friend group. One that involved going out on the weekend for drinks, celebrating various holidays, or attending birthday parties I realized just how much of my self expression was done through clothing. As someone who studied communication, I know what clothing means in terms of sending nonverbal messages, but damn if I wasn’t shocked this factored into my personal communication style.

I picked up a few pieces here and there to get by, but I’ve done most of my shopping in the new year as rebajas aka the Spaniard version of Black Friday but better kicked off. New year, same me, but new clothes.

  • Two pairs of high waisted jeans (one to replace my torn pair)
  • six 100% thick cotton shirts 
  • Three pairs of thermals 
  • Three fleece lined sweatshirts/sweaters
  • six sweaters
  • two scarves
  • one pair of gloves
  • one rain jacket
  • one long fleece jacket
  • one pair of winter boots (Timberlands)
  • four button ups
  • three pairs of leather sneakers 
  • four pairs of slacks 
  • four dresses 
  • one crop top
  • two rompers
  • three pairs of linen/linen blend pants 
  • five blouses 
  • one long lightweight coat
  • travel backpack
  • one pair of workout pants
  • one pair of shorts

Cost of Time

The trend in my region of Spain is over-sized everything. Most over-sized articles of clothing make me look like I’m playing dress up and swallow me whole. Finding something that was XS or XXS was damn near impossible. If I’m dropping money , I expect to at least start off with a decent base to work with if it needs to be made petite friendly. 

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However, find clothing items that were petite and slim friendly meant doing a lot of research and going into various stores to try things on. After refining my closets, I can pretty much look at something and tell if it’ll fit. But that means a trip to the story.  If I bought things online, I’d have to trek across town to return them. All of this time wasted adds up. I would off be shopping and think  “If I had just brought my things with me, I could be writing for Quirktastic or reading my book. ” Instead, I was out trying to learn what fit me properly and reading clothing labels to ensure things meet my general standards. 

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The research portion involved Googling petite friendly European brands. Not that there are many. Also searching for brands that had similar quality to what I’ve become accustomed to as I’ve built my wardrobe. Those hours could have gone into practicing my Spanish, working on my coding, or connecting with people on social media. But instead minimalism ate that too. 

Cost of Savings

Sure I could have gone for cheaper options but four things factored into these purchases: how the fabric felt, how long I expected to use it, how it fit my body type and free will. For example, I bought a 70 EUR raincoat, in less than a month every pocket hand holes. So I decided to return to sender. I refuse to keep something that was of poor quality. So that meant shelling out more for softer fabrics, better stitching, and longevity. 

Looking at things from a big picture perspective, almost everything I bought was needed and will last me a while. That said, since October, I’ve spent 883.09 EUR – roughly 1,000 USD  -on clothing, shoes, and accessories. Some of that was already preplanned like the 43 USD on Cole Haan Grand Tennis Pro, 75 USD on Everlane Street Shoe, and 146 EUR on Timberlands. These are all things I’ve had my eye on for a while and snagged during at much lower rate. Now the rest of it, that came from me missing clothing that reflected me. 

That is still 629 EUR or 712 USD that could’ve been in my savings. When I did the calculation, I was initially shocked by how much I spent. I could have had my mom go to my storage unit and send me a good chunk of my things probably for 150 USD. Which would have still left me with 562 USD .

My goal was to save 50 percent of my income. That has not been happening. The extra money I was planning to save has gone all the weather appropriate and self-reflective articles of clothing list above. So now I am looking to see what luxuries I can cut out of my budget or how many hours of sleep I’m willing to forego on the weekend in order to teach extra online ESL classes. This might mean fewer trips or fewer nights out socializing over tapas and vino. But I know my future self will thank me for taking control. 

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As I do this, I try not to think of the interest I’ve lost out on the last four months as I robbed my savings to rectify my foolish attempt at minimalism.  Honestly, the fashion could have waited, because nothing helps money and bank accounts like time and compound interest. 

Cost of Comfort

The question I get asked the most is “are you homesick?” 99.9% of the time the answer is “no, but I miss my things.” There is nothing more relaxing than curling into my favorite blanket and reading a book. Or nothing more disappointing than having the perfect outfit in mind, only to remember is nearly 4,000 miles away. It often feels like I didn’t bring enough with me.  That absence of familiarity and comfort in a foreign land is by far the greatest cost I’ve paid

The Petite Bright Side

While my failed attempt at minimalism cost more than I imagined, it was not all bad.

  • I have new articles of clothing I’m quite happy with.  Had I brought my things with me, these new darling pieces wouldn’t be in my wardrobe. 
  • I learnt that clothing factors heavily in my verbal and non-verbal communication styles. I use it to reflect my mood or as a starting point for conversations when my introvert ways threaten to take over. 
  • I gained a considerable amount of knowledge on Spanish and European brands I plan to feed into future posts. 
  • I have found ways to express myself with fewer items without feeling as though everything is the same.

This was my first and last attempt at minimalism. I know myself well enough to declare I will never attempt it again. This was one of those you live and you learn situations.  Then I think of what minimalism cost me, I can truly say “boy did I surely learn!”

Are you a minimalist ? Have you tried and failed like I did to adopt minimalism? Are you living overseas and yourself missing your things?Drop me a line below. 


Aitza B