We all experience those periods when we sense a relationship is amiss. Or we know deep down we should make some changes on a personal level. But we look the other way, pretending not to notice, until we get a gentle shake, or even a swift kick, from the universe.
And then – forced
to act upon the precise issue we didn’t want to see, we set off in a direction
we never dreamed to take.
In the West, We Simply Want More
life rolled along, fueled by the “more is best” philosophy. After
graduation from The Savannah College of Art and Design, Courtney was submerged
in credit card bills and student loans.
When her paychecks
as a sales rep began to roll in, instead of paying off her debt, Courtney
bought more. More clothes, shoes, decor, and gadgets. It was a
vicious cycle. She spent more than her budget allowed, agonized over her
mounting debt, and shopped more to relieve her anxiety.
And then came the
A Shock to the Core
In 2006, at the
age of 37, Courtney was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. None of the
information she devoured about this unpredictable disease, which attacks the
central nervous system, was encouraging.
Overcome with panic and fright,
Courtney feared she would wake up blind, lose her ability to walk, and most
important, not be around to raise her young daughter. Her neurologist (the one
she later “fired”) told her it was “only a matter of time.”
additional books and articles and a helpful new doctor, she learned stress –
which can lead to inflammation in the body – is a contributor to MS. “I don’t
know why that was such an enormous realization. It seems like a simple concept
now,” shares Courtney.
A Simple Solution Always Exists
One area at a
time, Courtney examined ways to streamline those activities which often
launched her into a tailspin.
She began to plan
menus in advance and cooked healthy, simple meals for
herself, husband, and daughter. Little by little, she paid off her backlog of
bills. She and her family moved to a smaller home, downsizing clutter and living in a space with less maintenance and expenses.
As time went on,
Courtney managed her disease, lived well, and realized simplicity was her key to reduced anxiety. She discovered less is more and looked for other ways to
simplify her life.
It Took Dedication
And then she
glanced at her overflowing closet.
Just like me, and
probably many of you, Courtney had a closet stuffed with outdated dresses, tops
she never wore, and handbags she couldn’t part with because she’d paid a lot of
money for them. “The simpler my life got outside my closet, the more obnoxious
my closet seemed,” she says.
She needed a
drastic measure for her closet overhaul. She pared her closet down to 33 items
to make do with for the next three months. That’s it. Everything else she
packed away in plastic containers and carted to the garage.
Her 33 items
included one handbag (yikes!), “a pair of shoes for each style or need” (gulp),
minimal jewelry, a single scarf, and outerwear. And her work and casual
She did not count
workout wear, pajamas, the pieces of jewelry she never took off, or underwear.
And guess what? No
more running late to her job because she couldn’t decide which black top
She no longer
agonized over which jeans looked best for dinner with friends. Packing for a
trip was a breeze. For clients and community events, Courtney threw on her
black dress and necklace, and she was out the door.
To hold herself accountable, Courtney labeled her closet purge Project 333 and posted it on the Internet.
“My fun experiment
took on a life of its own,” she laughs. It turns out closet and wardrobe stress
is a real thing for many people.
What began as a
“weeding out” challenge for Courtney turned into a lifestyle. For the past 10
years, she’s sorted through clothes and shoes in three month chunks. “33 items
works for me,” she says. “That’s all I need.”
What This Means for Me
I must admit I
love clothes and shoes way too much to whittle my closet down to such a drastic
few items. But maybe my magic number is 55? Or 60?
As I examine my
wardrobe, I notice I have five of the same ribbed-cotton sweater in a range of
colors. I reach for these tops again and again. These staples work with all
jeans and pants, look flattering, and require no thought – they are simple.
Most of us tend to
wear the outfits we’re most comfortable in or look the best in over and over.
We have our “uniforms.” I suppose the adage, “We tend to wear 10 percent of our
closet, 90 percent of the time” rings true for the majority of us.
with Courtney has prompted me to pause before I buy the next great pair of shoes
just because they are on sale for a good price. Or the sweater my
daughter-in-law swears looks fabulous on me, but I don’t really need.
I tend to think
and evaluate more. Is this good for travel, for dinners out, for errands? How
will I use this piece?
A Blessing in Disguise
With the Salt Lake
City sunshine streaming in the windows, I ask Courtney if she considers her
diagnosis a blessing. “One hundred percent,” she says. “I’m healthier mentally
and physically. Gone are the days of worrying what I should do and
who I should please and how my life should look.”
As it should be
for all of us.
traumatic events in your life that have turned into blessings? Could your
closet use an overhaul? Do you tend to wear the same things over and over? What
steps have you taken to simplify your life? How did that benefit you
physically and mentally? Please share with our sisters!