I went from wearing nineteen different polo shirts and being coined Mr. Under Armour, to wearing the same boring old black tee every day. I simplified my closet. Gone was my reputation at work for bright collars. But what also fleeted was the cognitive, financial, and time-consuming costs. It was unbelievably easy. Here I’ll tell you why we should all consider simplification. Let’s get into it!

How I Simplified My Wardrobe

Around six years ago I recall telling my coworker how I wanted to start wearing the same thing every day. I thought that once I advanced further up the company ladder, that I could make a bold change like that, and no one would care. It would be socially acceptable. I could be like Zuckerberg or Obama or Jobs. Without the wealth, presidency, and charisma obviously…

My coworker replied, “you could do that now, you just have to stop caring.” It was such a stupidly obvious reply that I dismissed it. Duh, but clearly, I did care. Well, now six years later and I have made the bold decision. I’ve worn the same basic black Amazon tee shirt for 90 days in a row. And the same khakis and shoes. Same outfit, every day. The decision was anything but bold. No one said a word. No one cared. It was all in my head.

The Benefits of Simplification

Reducing Decision Fatigue

My motivation for simplifying my wardrobe centered around reducing decision fatigue. Decision fatigue is a phenomenon that describes the impaired ability to make decisions and control behavior as a consequence of repeated acts of decision-making. Each decision causes fatigue resulting in less optimal future decisions. An American adult makes 35,000 decisions a day. I wanted to make less. [1]

For example, each morning I’d ask, what should I wear today? When did I wear this last? Does it still fit? Is this appropriate for what’s on my work schedule? Does it match my pants? Didn’t I just wear this color yesterday? Useless questions and decisions that weren’t making me happier, healthier, or more productive. They might seem small, and insignificant in isolation but decisions like these add up. They cause decision fatigue. By simplifying my outfit, I can now allocate those cognitive resources elsewhere. Simplification reduced my decision fatigue.

Financial Costs of Choice

In many cases, simplification not only reduces cognitive costs, but also financial costs. And I like cutting costs. Despite buying all my Under Armour polos on clearance, they still averaged $35 a shirt. 19 shirts cost me $665. Add in multiple pairs of pants, shoes, belts, undershirts, and my work wardrobe is well over a thousand dollars. Chase the latest trends and these costs get cycled every year. For what benefit? Mostly for the initial joy of acquiring something new that eventually dissipates after a couple of uses.

Now, I have four black Amazon shirts, size medium, which cost me $7 each. I have one pair of Revtown khakis that cost me $90 but have lasted me over two years. I have one pair of shoes for work that are seven years old. I can’t remember what they cost. By my estimation, I’ve cut my clothing budget by 90%. I can allocate those financial resources elsewhere, where they’ll have a larger impact on my life. Simplification reduced my expenses.

Downstream Effects

But the highlight of simplification are the downstream effects that’ve now been realized. I started with two black Amazon shirts that I’d wear multiple times a week. It worked well. But when the weather got warmer, and I started to sweat more, I decided I wanted to stop rewearing shirts between washes. I wanted two more shirts. For the first time ever, I completed the task of buying two more shirts in under 5 minutes. I didn’t shop multiple websites, or worry about fit or cost or looks, I had a reorder process setup that streamlined many more decisions.

This saved me more time. It’s also saving me more space. Instead of storing 19 shirts, 5 pants, 2 belts, 5 undershirts and multiple work shoes, I now only keep 4 shirts, 1 belt, and 1 set of pants and shoes for work. My drawer and closet space are now booming. And there’s another unexpected benefit. Since I standardized my outfit, I’m no longer tempted to browse or buy more shirts. Those options have been eliminated. I don’t need to worry about mixing reds and whites in the wash or how the shirts might shrink. Simplification has second and third-order effects that magnify the process. Simplification makes things simple.

Final Thoughts

Wearing the same outfit every day may not be as desirable to you as it is for me. But don’t disregard simplification. What other areas of life are you spending too much time, money, and effort on that aren’t producing substantial benefits? What other social expectations are you following that aren’t improving your life? What could you simplify that not only makes life easier today, but has second and third-order effects that compound down the road? I will let you know when I find more. But this is my latest habit for health excellence.

Hi, I’m Brandon Zerbe

Welcome to myHealthSciences! Every week I share habits for health excellence. I do this by covering topics like Fitness, Nutrition, Sleep, Cognition, Finance and Minimalism. You can learn more about me here.