on shoes, or setting a goal and whittling away

A warning: this post is going to explore possession minimization (specifically shoes) in excruciating detail, which may be quite boring and full of parenthetical side notes.

As with most pattern-altering goals, my success has been varied in my recent endeavors.  A few weeks ago, I spent some free time sifting through shoes.  As of the start of this year, I owned 26 pairs of shoes, which is really far too many for my needs.

Two pairs I listed on eBay in early this month and have since shipped them off--both knee-high boots, neither of which I have worn for a good while, and both of which were in excellent condition.  I tossed a pair of ancient, thoroughly-worn ballroom dancing heels (from high school) and the pair of Birkenstocks (right) that were well past their time and quite abused.  Lots of memories with those old sandals.  *Sniffle.*  When I bought my new pair of Birks this past summer, I learned how to take better care of them.  I should also get rid of my art/painting sneakers, but I haven't gotten around to it yet since they're buried in my art bin.  (Shows you how much I use them...I just paint barefoot now that I'm not taking any art classes.)

After taking care of those obvious four (sans the art shoes), I tried to think of all of the things I do and the various situations in which I wear shoes.  I created a minimal set of shoes--that I currently own--to cover it all.  Here's the list:

sandals - summer casual
ankle hiking boots - winter casual, garden work, hiking
waterproof mid-calf boots - snow, rain
nice flats - church, dressy casual
nice heels - church, formalish events
light-bottomed sneakers - sports
slippers - in-home

That's 7 pairs, still quite a lot of shoes, but they all have unique purposes.  The list could certainly be condensed further--if I were to buy waterproof high-top hiking boots, for instance.  Or if I decided I hated wearing heels (which sometimes I do) and never wanted to do so again.  But if I were to do that, I would likely come up with a scheme to make two or three pairs work for everything and I wouldn't really know what to actually do when it came to the remaining 22 pairs in my closet.  Little steps.

I'm still not going to go from 22 pairs to 7 instantaneously.  Two pairs are sitting in the donate/sell box in the back room, and a few in the closet are mentally tagged as shoes that need to be re-evaluated come summer.  Others (by the same mental tagging system) are doomed to some sort of destiny that doesn't involve being in my possession once they get their full wear or I replace the clothes that match them exclusively.  (Yes, I'm persnickety about my shoes matching, at least some of the time).

But as much as I want to bring down the number of pairs of shoes I own, part of me can't yet bear to get rid of several very pretty pairs of heels and some other fun shoes (left).  Given that, I've discovered it doesn't make sense to revamp my wardrobe all at once--it's paralyzing and can even be expensive if I were to insist on replacing honorably discharged items with more versatile substitutes (as in the waterproof high-top hiking boots example).  Instead, I'm letting the set of clothes and shoes I own evolve with guidance.  The list might very well evolve itself with time, especially if I need to replace one of the "needed" pairs.  I could also decide to dance more again, which means I shouldn't plan on going barefoot once my current pair of dance shoes wears out.  There are lost of possibilities.

Once thing I noticed about my shoe-goal (below) is that the shoes are all neutral toned or black, which is rather boring.  I could make sure other elements of my wardrobe are colorful, or I could just make sure to incorporate color into this set somehow--maybe swapping the black flats for their twins in red above.  Color is a lot less versatile, though, so it works against minimization.  Maybe all floors should be interesting so shoes wouldn't matter (*growls at the linoleum*).  I guess I have two forces at work in me when it comes to these kinds of decisions: the one pulling me towards fashion and the other towards minimalism.  If only my shoes could change color like the people's suits in Wall-e.

Regardless of how the goal may evolve (or cause fashion angst), when I have a target in mind (7 pairs of shoes), then I can refrain from worsening the situation (e.g. buying more shoes) and slowly whittle away towards the goal (e.g. giving away or trashing individual pairs as I feel ready).  Shoes is an easy example because they are much more modular in function than clothes, though the idea would still work there.  Setting a goal and whittling away toward it could also easily work for food (e.g. the goal to eliminate added sugar from your meals), crafting supplies, or any set of possessions that gets fairly regular use.  (Regular must always be defined in a reasonable scope: for a pair of shoes, I might want to use them at least once every month or so in their season, but I might need a different scale for, oh, say, Christmas decorations.)  And if a set of possessions doesn't get regular use, why have it in the first place?  (I'm lookin' at you, pile-o-artwork.)


Lucas Sanders said...

“If only my shoes could change color like the people's suits in Wall-e.” Are you sure you want to get rid of those painting sneakers? :p

ajbc said...

I suppose that would work, but then I wouldn't have colorful feet. And we all know how much I love having my extremities colored...I recall an incident involving my hands, easter egg dye, and a week of furious scrubbing.