Women and Minimalism

There are many items women might have on their lists that men are unlikely to (keep on keepin' on, guys who do). In the game some minimalists play of trying to have fewer things than the next minimalist, this puts women at a distinct disadvantage, unless women do the other annoying minimalist game thing of grouping all of the items "female ish" to count as one for the list game. 

The impetus for this article is feeling societal pressure on one hand that women should use all of these products, and minimalist culture on the other hand saying to use few if any. I'm on the side of the individual's right to choose for themselves what they do and do not enjoy using.

For those who aren't playing games, but are interesting in having only what will be in regular use, and in as few items as possible, there are some tricks to cutting it down without cutting it out. 

If you love makeup or hair or nails or whatever it is and are enjoying your stuff, please, please do not try to simplify just to get your stuff number lower or stuff space less. If however, you don't particularly enjoy it, and you find you have a ton anyway, let's keep going and simplify those drawers.

My approach is to empty the drawer, and then only put back in what survives 1) What have I actually been using? and 2) Where can I eliminate redundancy?

Things women are more likely to have than men:

face cleanser, makeup remover, exfoliator, toner
face moisturizer day, night
eye cream day, night
body lotion/oils, body brush
hand cream, foot cream
bath pouf, bath bombs/oils

I've talked to old people with fairly smooth skin who wash with water and use vaseline to moisturize, and arguably the best skincare is to drink only water and eat a plant-heavy whole foods diet. I appreciate the simplicity potentiality, but personally enjoy more products in this area.

My first step to clearing out skincare was to get rid of the products I didn't actually enjoy using. If you have three different moisturizers but only ever reach for one, send the other two on their way. After reducing redundancy you might look for multi-purpose products to simplify this list, such as:

  • Embryolisse Concentrated Lait Cream. This is one of my favorite products. It's silky smooth, has barely any scent, is a great daily moisturizer, and can be used as a makeup remover as well.
  • Fun by Lush is a soap, shampoo, and bubble bath in one.
  • CC creams that do triple duty as SPF, anti-aging moisturizer, and color tint
  • Vaseline, The Organic Pharmacy: Rose Balm, and various oils (argan, coconut, olive, etc) can be used on face, lips, hands, cuticles, and hair to moisturize. Some are useful as a shaving oil, and some can also be used to remove makeup..
  • Dr. Bronners magic soap can be used to clean body, hair, teeth, laundry, and floors among others after you dilute with a water ratio for the intended task.

primer, foundation, foundation brush/sponge, concealer, illuminator, contour, bronzer
lip primer, lip liner, lipstick, gloss
setting powder, powder brush
blush, blush brush
eye primer, eyeshadow, eye shadow brush, eye liner, liner brush, mascara, curler, lash comb
eyebrow pencil/powder, brush, setting gel

The most minimal thing to do, is to do away with makeup entirely, maybe keeping a tinted moisturizer with SPF. Maybe one day, but there are a lot of possibilities in between Makeup Supply Avalanche and No Makeup.

The tricky thing about makeup is that when it says "lipstick", it more likely means "15 tubes of lipstick". Makeup multiplies like gremlins. Personally, I had an entire gallon ziplock full, and I don't even wear lipstick. Oh sure, I always intended to wear lipstick, and when that future day was to arrive, I wanted an array of shades to choose from- reds, corals, pinks, plums, oranges- the variety found in makeup is exciting and overwhelming.

The first step of reducing makeup is to determine what you'll actually use. Not what you want to use. Do or do not, friends. I'm all about simple skin and brows, so out went that bag of lipstick as well as the lip brush (I did keep two lipgloss- a clear and a coral tint.) I dislike the way eye makeup feels, but like it for special occasions, and so kept just a couple items.

The second step is to reduce redundancy and variety. Knowing your best colors can really help pare down in this step. If green is your best color for eye makeup, you can choose to let go of the brown palettes. If green is your best and you have six different green eyeliners, work to get down to your best one of them (or however many would feel uncluttered and expressed to you).

There are many multi-purpose makeup items worth exploring. Lipstick that also works as blush is a popular one, and can really be great if you find a flattering color in a consistency you like. Eyeshadow and an angled brush can make a good brow powder- a bit of vaseline darkens the color. You can use a liner brush, wet it with water, and turn an eyeshadow into an effective eyeliner. Reverse it and eyeliner sticks can be softly applied and blended as an eyeshadow. Ilia makes a multi stick that is safe for use on eye, cheek, and lip. 

If you want to keep color variety, you could find a lip palette with small pots of color instead of many different tubes. Palettes are a great way to calm a messy makeup drawer, if you can find one that you actually want to use all of (or at least can avoid getting sucked into having a palette from which you only use one color). Blending lip colors together, or eye colors together, is another way to increase diversity from minimal items. 

nail polish, remover, nails, nail file/buffer, cuticle tools, curing lamps, gems, stencils.

People who are into nail polish have dozens and dozens of colors, glitters, mattes. They have wraps and gems and curing lights, and I don't even know what all because personally I can't stand to have anything on my nails. I do enjoy admiring the work of others. Nail art really is, and I wouldn't recommend paring down if it's your creative passion. If you're someone with a drawer full of polish and a few tools who isn't getting full use and enjoyment, let's apply the previous steps.

Evaluate what you're actually using. If you use nail polish very infrequently, consider sharing with a friend or having your nails done professionally. If you only use one or two colors, send the others packing. It's hard to let go of the intentions. That you intended to wear the blue nail polish or that you like the idea of the gold sparkles but don't actually use them, either start using it right now, or let it go so that you have more room (mental and physical) for the things you actually enjoy using and not just thinking about using. Reduce redundancy. I'm not aware of multi-purpose nail supplies, but you can certainly reduce variations on the same, and get your variety fix in other ways (blend colors, dots/stripes/etc, nail parties with friends, professionally done).

hair protectant, curler, blow dryer, hair spray, gel, paste
hair bands, headbands, hair pins, claws, floral crowns
leave in conditioner, oils, weekly treatments
box dye, tint brush, mixing bowl, highlight cap, etc

For someone who has been cutting her own hair into a long pixie for the last twelve years, I had a surprising number of hair products, so I can only imagine what someone who is into hair has. I don't use shampoo or conditioner, and I air dry. I had to let go of the idea that I'd ever curl my hair enough to warrant a curler (I could use fabric strips for rag curls if I ever care enough to). I didn't need fifty hair bands when I only use the five purple ones, and those irregularly as well. I didn't need hundreds of bobby pins when I don't like the way they look when I use them- so out they went to force me to stop. I'm trying to stop dying my hair, loudly though the rainbow calls. Natural hair is usually the most flattering color, and so wonderfully soft in comparison to dyed. I love the way grey hair looks and am welcoming of the six I have. I don't wear hair pins and headbands enough to warrant the dozen I had. I kept one headband for fitness or to push hair out of the way for skincare time, and I could see having one perfect floral crown that I don't have. I use a bit of oil (coconut, avocado, olive- whatever is handy) as a leave-in conditioner and to tame fly-aways. But that's me.

What do you regularly use? What redundancy could you eliminate? Are there things you could be happy going without, or do you regularly enjoy all that you have?

tampons/cups, midol, variety of birth control

You can choose re-usable items for periods, and there are many options for non/hormonal birth control. This section is just here as another area of items that women are likely to have.

jewelry and accessories
necklace, ring, earrings, bracelets, body chains
hats, scarves, purses

Evaluate use and reduce redundancy. Accessories are a great way to make a minimalist wardrobe look brand new, but there is no reason to have hundreds when a few will do. Are you regularly wearing all that you have?  

bras, heels, sports bras, spanx, tights/hose

Only keep what you actively use and like. Other ideas?

tons of clothes
The variety available to women is much larger than to men. Men have one length of pant (I don't mean sizes, but style cuts) and maybe a few leg styles and a few fabrics. Women have capris, culottes, leggings, silk pants, flares, low rise waist, floral prints, embroidery, lace, taffeta, high rise waist, decorative buttons, bejeweled butts, etc. And that's just pants. Women also have a world of skirts and dresses that men are discouraged from wearing (I encourage you though, men! Let's share all). The extent of variety in pants there is also in tops. I can think of a dozen necklines off the top of my head that women have and men do not. The available variety ends up as variety in your wardrobe. Different styles of pant call for certain tops and certain shoes- it isn't an effortless mix and match due to the variety.

I think the single most useful tool to culling a wardrobe is to know what is flattering. I do this for clients with two style systems and personalized color palettes. When you know your best colors and your best cuts, you can probably halve your current closet. You could also use a capsule approach, and pick a neutral or two, and a color or three that all work together. You could do this as a 10 item wardrobe. Taking it further, you could choose a style uniform or two to stick to, in your best cut and color. 

If your wardrobe is your passion, enjoy it as it is, or work to improve the quality within. If you're trying to simplify, you can apply the Evaluate Use and Eliminate Redundancy that we've been employing. Here, it's less about eliminating redundancy and more about eliminating the peripheral items. If you have two identical navy tops that you can wear with anything, that might be good redundancy. What you don't want, is that sparkly orange top that you've never worn, or that once a year christmas sweater (unless it brings you great pleasure).

If you find yourself trying to keep things you don't wear, just because you find them beautiful, try displaying them, because they are approached by you as more art than wardrobe, and frankly, some heels are better on a display shelf than feet anyway. Things you find beautiful have no place buried in the back of a closet.  


**If you have items you want me to add to the list, please mention them in the comments. This article will evolve.