What the hell is the #May30x30?
The #30×30 is such a well known term in sustainability and minimalist circles that I honestly forgot some people had no idea what I was talking about when I first mentioned it on social media—so for those who haven’t heard of it, the #30×30 (or the #10×10) is this:
- Choose 30 items of clothing from your existing wardrobe, including outerwear and shoes, but not accessories.
- Combine and re-combine those items, and only those items, for 30 days.
That’s it. The entire exercise is meant to show you that your existing wardrobe is much more plentiful than you thought, and that with some imagination you can live with a lot less clothing than you think you need.
While I doubt I will ever be a true minimalist, I have been dramatically rethinking the items I choose to purchase and retain for the last few years. I have been slowly, slooooooowly, ridding myself of items that don’t serve me and don’t make me happy. I have also been doing a ton of organizing, re-gifting, reselling, and making efforts to shop sustainably and secondhand where possible. It’s an agonizingly slow journey—especially for someone who primarily manages negative feelings through wanton acts of consumerism. Basically, when I feel bad, buying things makes me feel better. But owning things does NOT make me feel better, so it’s kind of a double-bind.
More on that some other time. Intro done – now you know what a 30×30 is if you didn’t previously.
Why This Month?
Over on Instagram, where I do almost daily posts about what I am wearing, what I am buying, what I am NOT buying and what I am getting rid of, I saw another user I follow (@petraalexandra) talking about doing a #May30x30 for those who would like to participate. Since I had never participated in this particular exercise before I wanted to give it a try, but April was kind of a challenge for me in terms of getting my shit together. It was a really busy month and I had very little spare head space to devote to actually, choosing the 30 items I wanted to wear. When May 1 rolled around I had only a vague idea in my head of the types of items that I could happily wear and recombine for a solid month. So I decided to do what I (later) found out is called a “regressive” #30×30, where I just started wearing items, and when I got to 30 I’d stop and those were the items I would be “stuck” with for the rest of the month. (Scare quotes b/c these are some of my favorite pieces, so “stuck” isn’t exactly the right word.)
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The #May30x30 is heeeeere! And I 100% do not have a neat and pretty curated photo of all my picks, so you’re getting this one that I took last summer and have never used, of some pieces that I’ve selected to be part of the challenge 😂🙌🏻 . I just got distracted because the train announcer totally botched up the line where she usually says to take the next connecting train if you don’t want the express, and I could hear in her voice the “good golly, woman, get it right!” tone…so for a moment here, I’m just going to appreciate the fact that we still have real humans who do train announcements, who make jokes during holidays and sports games, and who tell us why there’s a delay. Thanks, friends. Ya done good.
How’s it Going Then?
Today is May 9. I have so far worn 15 of my allotted 30 items. My mental reaction the the challenge has been MUCH different than my naively idealist brain supposed it would be.
I thought this whole thing would be freeing, and liberating, and leave my gray matter with all kinds of spare time to think about More Important Things and Focus on Big Issues. I thought (because I have seen other people say so) that I would #hearteyes love my simplified wardrobe and the freedom from choice it would offer.
I hate this. It is the worst. We’re only 1/3 of the way in and I’ve realized something really important. I already spend WAY TOO MUCH time thinking Deep Thoughts about Important Issues. One of the reasons I have focused so much on what I wear in the last year or two is as a respite from all the freaking deep thoughts I am constantly
obsessed with thinking. I use fashion, dressing up, shopping and, to a lesser extent anymore, makeuping, as coping mechanisms because literally everything else in the world is such a horror-filled shit show. I need to take time off from thinking about climate disaster, the death of democracy, the insane rampant racism and sexism and xenophobia that is seemingly becoming even-more entrenched in America and then also the stock market and there won’t be any social security and my health care is… well. You know.
I don’t drink, I don’t do drugs, I don’t go around having crazy wild sex with strangers, I don’t eat out, I don’t go on the internet and get in shouting matches with morons (anymore) — so mindless joys like beautiful natural fabrics and perfectly cut clothing and 80% off bargains are legitimately the only stress-relieving parts of my day.
I have had
men people make snide comments about outfit selfies, and they can literally get stuffed. We all have to have SOMETHING light to indulge in so that we don’t go stark raving mad, and right now clothing is that thing for me. I am trying to make choices that make my particular thing more ethical, more sustainable and as budget-friendly as possible, but it’s still my coping mechanism, and I respect it for what it is.
So what I have inadvertently done to myself with the #30×30 is take my primary coping mechanism and stress reliever and drastically curtail it. And my brain is all “Lady, seriously, and you’re still not going to let us do drugs or troll the internet or ANYTHING?”
It’s enormously stressful to have this rich banquet of clothing laid out in my closet (Which, have you seen my closet? because it’s a magical place.) and joylessly constrain myself to 30 neutral basics from it.
It’s unpleasant to not be able to change clothes three times a day if I want to.
It sucks to not be able to let my clothing reflect my mood of the minute.
It’s added an extra level of “you’re doing it wrong, jerk” to my mental process. What if I don’t choose the RIGHT white button-down for the month, and on the 20th I realize I need a DIFFERENT white button down? THE HORROR. What if I choose wide-leg black linen pants that I love, but then I have a surprise business event and the linen pants don’t go with my poly-blend blazer (actual scenario) IT’S CARNAGE IN THE STREETS OUT HERE FOLKS.
Basically I have given my brain, which already is expertly skilled in turning low-stakes decision-making into high-stakes, stress-filled hunger games, and given it a whole new thing to beat itself up about.
Interesting. Love ya, brain. You certainly do have a way about you.
You Gonna Keep It Up?
For now I am continuing with the challenge, if only to have a good sense of completion/accomplishment at the end of the month, but I am doing it with an acute awareness of my mental state, and if I have to make a choice between wearing the leopard dress as item #31 and spiraling into a depression over how I fail at everything and constantly make all the wrong choices, I am going to wear the leopard dress. It’s an internet challenge that I set myself, it’s not war games. (Also, have you seen the leopard dress? Because.)
Anyway, those are my thoughts about the 30×30, and here are some of the things I have been wearing. Have you every tried limiting your wardrobe? Do you find it a stress reliever NOT to think about clothing, or a stress reliever to think about clothing a whole lot? Let me know. Check out the #may30x30 hashtag on Instagram to see what other people have been wearing this month.