Essentialism

You’ve likely heard of minimalism or maximalism, but I would like to add my take on this way of culling or accumulating things. A few years ago, I took a hard look at everything in my house, closet, and jewelry box. When I came across things I no longer find beautiful or useful, I donated or sold those items. When negative memories are attached to an object, it is best to let go of it.

Removing clutter and things I rarely, if ever use, makes cleaning my home or getting dressed so much easier to accomplish. All the things around me have a purpose and please me when I look at them.

Even if dressed very casually, I reach for a watch, a ring, and a pair of earrings. I have worn this watch countless times since the bands are super easy to change. Sure, there is a clock on my phone, but a good watch adds a touch of elegance. Accessories have always been my favorite part of getting dressed.

On Saturday, we had temperatures in the low thirties when we enjoyed brunch at Vivian’s Table in the Bristol Hotel. Layering a wool blazer over a merino wool sweater with a soft silk scarf and black jeans meant I was comfortable and appropriately dressed for the day without an overcoat as we snapped a few photos in front of the old Post Office building.

Beaux-Arts style architecture, influenced by classical Roman and Greek forms, emerged as the dominant style of architecture in the United States between the late 19th century and early 20th century. The old Bristol Post Office is one of the few Beaux-Arts style buildings remaining in this region. It is now a private office restored to its former glory.

52 Comments
  1. Susan: Your sense of style, for us women over 60, just can’t be beat. I follow a few other blogs written by women of the same age–what a contrast! I swear if I wore most of what they like to showcase I would look like I was in costume or dressed for a NY fashion runway show–and would look positively ridiculous! You would be flattered to know that if I am ever attracted to something a bit “iffy”, I think to myself–how would Susan look wearing this? And if I can’t picture you in it, I know it’s not for me either, even if it does please my eye initially. Love your blog. Always a bright spot in my day 🙂

  2. I so agree with Jackie F. on your sense of style! Have always admired it and applied to my life. Been following for years and appreciate your continual efforts on blogging. Keep it up!

  3. I have to tell you Susan, how very much I enjoy your blog. So many of the other blogs and instagram accounts I follow are always showcasing everything new and trendy, buy, buy, buy is the message. I so appreciate your “essentialism” in culling/collecting classic, timeless items. Thank you.

  4. Susan, You wore that jacket in an older post. When I saw how good it looked on you, I purchased the same jacket. I admire your classic, elegant style. Thanks for the inspiration. I especially like your creativity with scarves. So glad I was able to purchase several when you had your shop.

    All the best to you and Mr. Mickey.

  5. I am so in agreement with this post today! Again you got down to the nitty gritty. I know we don’t all think alike, but I fail to understand why so many of my friends keep stuffed closets and hang on to stuff they are not wearing. And they continue to buy new. When questioned why, they respond that they might need it some day. I agree that life is so much simpler for me without all that “baggage”.

    Do you dry clean that jacket? It is a beautiful color! I remember you said you had not been to dry cleaner in several years.

    1. I spot clean and turn jackets inside out for a few days to air out before putting them away. I have found that since I only wear jackets in cold weather for a few hours with long sleeve tops underneath, they don’t need cleaning very often. When I wear tees or undergarments next to my skin, I launder after each wearing.

  6. Susan, this was a good post.

    I needed to see this tonight. I won’t go into why.

    I really like your style and how classic it is. You do have a point about the clutter I do feel better when I get rid of unnecessary items. We do tend to keep way too much.

    I really like the color of the jacket. Keep posting and encouraging us.

    Thank you.

  7. Susan there seems to be something wrong with the Beauty Counter website at the moment, it asks for a current password, then a new one, then to confirm, after that you can’t get anywhere, any suggestions pls?
    KR Joy

    1. You may call to place your order if you continue to have that problem with the site. The Beautycounter number is 888-988-9108. Unfortunately, I didn’t find your email address in my customer base, so I can’t correct the problem.

  8. Susan, your continued focus on the essentials is like having a regular cheering squad urging us on to stay away from trends and inappropriate garments. Remember William Morris, whose influence on design continues after more than 100 years? He said, “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” I think you are a good successor to Morris!

  9. Hi Susan, I go along with the other posts. You have made a difference in the way I dress & feel. I do have one question. I treated myself with a couple of cashmere sweaters that were on sale. I love the feeling of cashmere and can’t believe I have waited so long to buy one. I wonder how you launder them or do you send to dry cleaners? Also how do you store them? I am especially wondering about the summer when I will be storing them for several months. Your help would be so appreciated.
    Happy New Year
    Sandy Baron

    1. Hi Sandy. I launder my cashmere sweaters gently by hand in cold water. Reshape and lay them flat to dry or use a drying rack. Watch the video here to learn more about the care and storage of cashmere sweaters. (It’s where I learned.) I also store sweaters with cedar planks.

  10. Susan, you look beautiful!
    Reality checks on what we actually wear are great! It’s wonderfully liberating to make space in our closet (or, life) for what is really important!
    We have a huge cedar chest & cedar-lined closet, especially for our off-season clothing storage.
    I always store my (cleaned) woolens inside zippered cotton pillowcase covers. It will add a layer of protection against moth/beetle larvae (this is not a concern where I live).
    In addition, the pillowcase is a barrier against clothes actually touching the cedar wood itself. The natural oils, in raw cedar, can (sometimes) actually stain clothing.
    We have over an acre of English lavender growing on our property so, each year, I harvest & dry some to bag and store with our clothes (closet, chest & drawers). A blissful and protective fragrance!

  11. Susan, the color of your jacket is beautiful and suits you perfectly. I’ve been looking at your shorter hair cut and thinking about how nice it looks. Maybe it’s time for something similar. It is definitly time for a clear out at my house. I love the plastic hangers and they finally arrived. So that task is on my agenda.
    Thank you for helping me to keep focused on the positive!

  12. Sandy: I hope I am not usurping Susan’s advice in any way, but I recently stopped sending my cashmere sweaters to the dry cleaners and, like Susan, I hand wash them gently, inside out, with a liquid called “SOAK”, which technically you don’t have to rinse out (though I do). I reshape them and lay them flat on top of my washer and/or dryer on top of a big folded absorbent towel. When they are damp I can hang them over the shower curtain rod or a towel rack to finish drying. I have found a de-pilling machine by Steamery and a boar brush to be useful (and gentle). The sweaters look nearly new when I’m finished and feel so fresh! I wash them very infrequently. I have found that cashmere, no matter the price you pay, will always pill but can be revived and restored. You can google what I mentioned if you are interested in trying any of these things.

  13. Dear Susan,
    You always look so elegant! I look forward to your posts, and learn so much from you. I was inspired by your cashmere turtleneck post, and bought a royal blue and gray one from the site you recommended. They are great, and up here in Western Mass it’s so cold I love them for layering,
    Thank You again, you are such an inspiration,
    Marie

  14. I’m trying to get to this point. I guess if I do a few things at a time. Thanks for the encouragement!

  15. hi Susan. Your 2022 posts have been so valuable! What great learning tools for all of us to apply to our lives. I truly appreciate all the work you put into your blog. We are all grateful recipients.

  16. I can’t begin to say how much I admire you and your essentialism. It’s a beautiful thing! While I currently lack the self discipline to trim down all my belongings it is something I aspire to. Wish you still had your store.

  17. I read your blogs and always marvel at the relevancy of your topics and the way you present yourself. Would you do a post sometime on your thought process for streamlining your clothes and other items. That would be so helpful.

  18. Hello Susan, essentialism – love this idea. Like Jacqui above, I too find myself now looking at new things with a bit more of a critical eye when out shopping, and wondering if you would wear it. And if not then it simply isn’t for me. regards Gail

  19. Essentialism! What a great concept! I think it should really catch on. I am going to try to put this into practice.

  20. Thank you Susan for your very helpful tips and insights. I feel it’s more important than ever as we reach our 60s and beyond to live intentionally and thoughtfully in every aspect of our lives and you certainly help us do that! I would add that building a wardrobe of classic and versatile shoes and boots has been part of my strategy the last few years. I no longer have to race out to shop for new shoes when I go to a wedding or other special event. I just check out my own collection.

  21. I’ve enjoyed the last set of posts tremendously! I’m always so overwhelmed going into stores, especially large ones, by all the great excess of merchandise…meanwhile, people can’t get necessarily medical treatment (me included), can’t see their loved ones and on and on due to a pandemic that governments can’t seem to manage because of financial priorities being totally skewed. I think most everyone knows by now that we need to restructure everything on a global scale and consumerism is a huge issue. I’m thinking that Essentialism is a great place for us to start!

  22. Enjoyed this post. As we age ,even though sometimes difficult to do, eliminating unused items can be liberating and reduce stress. Thank you.

  23. Your posts always make so much sense. Why keep or purchase clothing if you’re not going to wear it? I volunteer at a non-profit thrift store and can’t believe the amount of clothing we receive on a daily basis that have tags on them. Great for our charities when these items sell as of the profit go to them, but a waste for those donors.

  24. Again you have hit the nail on the head. Weeding the collection(s) is freeing and seeing space in cabinets, closets, and rooms a feeling that gives breathing space. The classic looks you suggest are timeless. Now, could you address deportment and manners to go with good taste? So often what is seen is contrasted negatively by language, grammar, actions, and volume. Perhaps the latter is due to too loud volume on devices, but it’s hard to know.

  25. Susan, so funny you wrote this column today as I am in the middle of going through my house with a minimalist mindset. In a sense you started me on this journey last spring when I discovered your blog and changed my wardrobe. It really does make life easier! Thank you.

  26. I was wondering, do you dry clean your black jeans? They never seem to fade so I was wondering how you care for them.

    1. I turn my jeans inside out and wash them together in cold water on the setting for colors. I only put them in the dryer for about five minutes, then I take them out and hang them on pant hangers on a rail to air dry. But first, I smooth and reshape them with my hands to never need ironing.

  27. Hi Susan

    great article and the others as well. you are right up my style !

    the link to the jacket does not match, i really like it and would love to purchas as well.

    best to you always

  28. My husband just retired. We are trying to go through our closets and drawers, the attic, etc to downsize. I totally agree with your essentialism perspective. The more things you own, the more work it seems to care for them. Time is precious❤️

  29. The old saying “Less is More” became my motto a few years ago. First it had to do with cleaning out my house. There were things I would never use again so to the local Goodwill they went. My two children live out of state. They are not sentimental about keeping things so once they looked over their childhood/school/college items and selected their favorites, everything went into one small closet. Next, when I retired, my work clothes were donated. I have a simple but classic wardrobe that serves me well. I have learned what I like to wear and I’m happy. This has simplified my house and everything feels lighter.
    The pandemic has shown me that sometimes we used shopping as entertainment. That’s just wasteful. I’ve applied this to my groceries as well. I’m not as disciplined as you are Susan when it comes to food but this has helped.
    We have so much to enjoy in our country and the simple local things are usually the best. Thanks for all you do!

  30. I am working on making the physical arrangement of my closet better. When I was looking at closets on Pinterest, I ran across Marie Kondo. Of course, I’ve heard of her, but never tried any of her folding. I decided to try it out on a couple of my dresser drawers. It really looks nice and didn’t take too long. I am not sure if I will have the discipline to keep it up. Also, I am not sure I will ever be able to fold well enough that my items won’t come out a wrinkled mess. We’ll see. One thing I learned from the experiment is that I have more underpants than one person needs, which leads to essentialism. I need to cull.

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I blogged for five years as Fifty, not Frumpy. Now that I am in my sixties, I am sharing ideas and inspiration for using and loving what you already have.

Thank you!
Susan

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