Identity is an important part of building a work team. Knowing who you are allows you to establish strong roles that have purpose and deliver impact. You can define a clear scope of work that stops jobs continuously being added to the team, without the additional support. And you can create an inspiring mission statement that links your team to the organization’s broader goals.

I think the same principles can be applied to ourselves, to help us own less. If we know who we are, we can build our belongings around that instead of seeking out objects that we hope will transform us, or that we just won’t use.

This is particularly true for our wardrobe, but applies to other items as well.

People are complex and are unlikely to fit neatly into one definable identity, but I’ve found it useful to consider my lifestyle at the moment and understand what I want from my things, what I want to prioritize and more importantly what are the things that no longer align with who I am.

No single object will perfectly fit with you 100% of the time, but you can curate a minimal collection of stuff by aiming for things that will work for you most of the time.

So who am I?

I’m an adventurer….

My strongest identity is adventurer… a more exciting way of saying I want practicality. I want to be able to pack a carry-on back-pack for trips with clothes that are versatile and work for anything. I want jackets and jumpers that are warm and wind-proof on hikes, and summer tops that will wick away sweat in tropical destinations. I want dresses that fold without creasing, that can be whipped out and take me to any bar in any city.

Aside from travel, it’s just nice to be comfortable and to have reliable, durable items.

Most of my non-work clothes are from outdoors shops as this is where I find the most functional gear. A lot of this stuff is becoming more fashionable as well. Gone are the primary colored rain jackets, now most brands understand a lot of their customers are young, and want clothes than can double up as city-wear and trail-wear.

….and I’m a corporate serf….

Like it or not, I have a day job where I’m in an office every day. And I like it even less, but what you wear does make a difference. I could easily do my job in jeans and fleece (and some people do) but I would get treated differently.

I look quite young for my age, and I’m also fairly young for the position that I hold compared to others in my area. I find I have to work harder at being taken seriously, being listened to and to be trusted.

Wearing a suit doesn’t make me smarter or better, but it’s human nature to go on first impressions so I make things easier for myself by wearing a suit most days. I still value comfort and practicality in my work wear, and I try not to build a bigger inventory than I absolutely need to (see my post on creating a ‘uniform’).

But knowing that I do have a need to look smart, that it is part of my current identity, gives me permission to buy items for a certain ‘look’ (see my post on taking minimalism too far). This extends to things like having to buy a smart woolen coat that is nowhere near as warm as my puffy Kathmandu jacket, and needing a small wheelie case for business trips because it looks weird turning up to meetings with a backpack. I don’t like it, but I can accept it because I know it’s part of my identity.

….but I’m not a fashionista (anymore)

When I began decluttering, one of the hardest things to accept at the time was that I wasn’t wearing all the striking, tight fitting and outrageously impractical outfits that used to be my Friday and Saturday night uniforms. I bought a lot of clothes in my twenties, and got real joy from heading out on the town in towering high heels and new clobber.

Nowadays all that stuff is out of my wardrobe, and I don’t even feel the desire to shop for this kind of lifestyle that I’m no longer leading. It was a bit sad at the time to take my gold glitter high heels to the charity shop, but I’m glad I don’t feel that pang for my younger self every time I open my wardrobe.

It’s great when I can buy practical, comfortable clothes that look cute, but it’s no longer the driving factor in my decision making on what to buy and what to keep in my life.

My identities influence my purchasing decisions

All of this influences the questions I ask myself when making a purchase:

  1. Do I need it? My ‘minimalist’ identity overrides all others, and if I don’t absolutely need something I won’t even thinking about shopping.
  2. Is it comfortable? I’ve learnt from experience that clothes, and in particular shoes, don’t get more comfortable the more you wear them! If it’s not a perfect fit, there’s no point in buying it.
  3. Does it do the job(s)? Where-ever possible I try to get items that will work hard for me, and I can use in most situations. I buy hiking stuff in neutral colors that don’t look out of place in a city, and work wear that I’d feel confident wearing to a restaurant or cocktail bar.

What are your identities? How have they changed what you choose to hang on to?