It’s been a while since I’ve written about my adventures with lagom. I had almost given up last year (as you might have seen from my last post where I was lamenting the greed and selfishness that was expressing itself in the British public at the start of lockdown) however I have quietly carried on, making small changes in my own life and finding that balance point not only spiritually, but on a very physical level as well.
Perhaps the biggest change for me has happened with my wardrobe. Some might think that this is a very superficial change, but actually, for me clothing has always expressed who I am. Like my writing, like my art, what I wear is a part of me, and upon reflection, a very huge part as it is what I present to the public every day. It is an intrinsic part of every human’s experience: what will they adorn/clothe themselves with today? Clothing can reflect so many things, from your own personality to your religion, culture, your musical or sporting preference and (sigh) financial status. It is a part of you, who you are and what you choose to share with the world.
My own clothing style started in high school, where I enjoyed the basics. Jeans, t-shirt or a plain coloured collared shirt (usually black) and dark knitted jumpers/sweaters in the winter. Black boots. Very monochrome, I enjoyed the darker colours from navy blue to grey and black.
In college I discovered the bohemian style, and colour flared out from every angle of my wardrobe. I loved going to hippie and head shops, where the fabric and patterns from Guatemala reflected the hope and positivity in my heart (as well as some of the less than legal experiences I was having at the time, but which I have happily left to those days). I was a wild child, a flower child, a free spirit roaming across the country to land 3,000 miles away on the west coast.
Eventually, that group of friends and culture dissipated, and I found my clothing habits changing again, to simpler and practical items. I was, after all, now working at an equestrian centre, managing the stablehands, and so I needed clothing that kept me warm in the winter and cool in the summer. It was back to jeans and t-shirts, plain colours and easy to wash and wear clothing.
When I moved to the UK, that fashion sense followed me for a while, with a bit of a sporty/edgy kick as cargo pants were the rage and the skater fashion style emerged into the wider general public. Then my life was turned upside down, and I found myself working at a new age shop in Wales, where I was living at the time. The happiness of my flower power days tempted me back, in the search for better times and reliving memories that helped me get through the day. This sort of fashion stayed with me for many years, until I realised that as long as I was searching for happiness in the past, I would never find it in the present. Those days were over, and I needed to reflect my newfound independence from my previous self, while still acknowledging and enjoying the memories, as well as incorporating the lessons that I had learned along the way.
And so, once again, it was back to basics. And this is where lagom fits in. My core clothing style is unfussy, plain basics that allows me to be comfortable. I don’t need the flashy clothing to tell people who I am: if they are interested, they will ask. I don’t have to shout it from the rooftops.
And so I’ve come full circle, back to when I first discovered a style that I liked over 35 year ago back in high school. Plain colours, (though not as much black as back then), jeans, simple jewellery and footwear. Casual yet put-together.
And by finding what my core style is, I’ve been able to express that better through lagom. It’s not about buying more items that fit with my style, but about how to best express that style in balance. Creating a capsule wardrobe of around twenty items and then adding to that dependent upon the season has really helped.
In order to create capsule wardrobe, you need to have the basics of your own personal style. These are things that you know you will always reach for, which for me is jeans and a t-shirt or a collared shirt, sometimes with leggings. Take these items out of your wardrobe and put them aside. These are the keepers, the basics that you can use all year round.
Items that you don’t love, that don’t fit, that you haven’t worn since the last season it suited, give it away to charity. Then, with a much roomier closet now that you have gotten rid of extraneous wardrobe that no longer suits you, put your core items back in. Then consider the season that you are in. Autumn is here in the UK, and so I’ve pulled out my jumpers and long-sleeved tees. These seasonal items I keep in storage in a blanket box in the spare room, so that my closet isn’t overwhelmed with clothing I don’t wear because it is not in season. The shorts and summer shirts go into storage, and a few autumnal pieces come out. I do the same with winter and spring too: put away the items you love and know you will wear again next season, and get out what is appropriate. By doing so, you won’t have to shop for new clothes, but instead you are shopping your own wardrobe!
This is good for you, your bank balance and for the environment. Too often we can look at a closet or wardrobe that is full of clothing that is out of season, and the items that are relevant can get lost in the jumble. When I bring out my heavier winter clothing out of storage, it’s like falling in love all over again. Those cozy jumpers in the greys and darker colours just remind me of winter. In the spring, I get out my lighter shirts and bring colour back. In the summer, it’s all about practical wear, what I can wear while trekking about on the heathland and the coast, in practical gear that still reflects my own sense of style. And going into autumn – well, it’s my favourite season, so the basics are added to with those beautiful fall colours.
This is a lagom way of dealing with your own wardrobe. You don’t have to go all Marie Kondo and minimalist to the extreme. What you are doing is finding the balance, where you can rotate your wardrobe and not spend a lot of money each season buying new clothing. As well, when you have a wardrobe that works together, you will find that when you are shopping for a new item, whether that is brand new or in a second-hand shop, you will take the time to really consider whether it works with the items you have. It’s all about using what you have, and not having too little, or too much.
And therein lies the lagom. You are not depriving yourself of clothing and creating a minimalist wardrobe of less than twenty items. You are finding your own style, rotating it according to the season, and falling in love once again with items that you haven’t seen for a year when you bring them out of storage. It’s a perfect system for me, where the anticipation of seeing the next season’s much-loved items coming out of storage brings me joy.
Storing your items is simple – like I said, I have a blanket box where I can keep the out of season items (coats included). If you have a spare room with a closet, you can keep items there. But don’t let it get away from you, remember the lagom rule: not too much, not too little, but just right. Don’t have a nice, uncluttered closet in your bedroom, and then an overflowing one in the guest room or in storage boxes under the stairs. Be specific, be discerning, and remember that each item of clothing that you re-wear, you are saving the planet just a little and also keeping your hard-earned cash in your own pocket.
If you would like to start looking at how to de-clutter, become more environmentally conscious and create a capsule wardrobe, there is a very good YouTuber in Denmark who creates wonderful videos to help you find your own style and system. Though the clothing brands she recommends every now and then are ethical brands, they are also priced sky-high, and so if you do need new items you can look for less expensive, good quality clothing brands such as H&M, who have their own brand of clothing made from recycled fibres and natural materials. Their Tencel fabric items are so soft and lovely, and I can highly recommend their denim shirts. As well, there are many H&M stores where you can drop off your old clothing, which they will recycle and give you vouchers off for your next purchase with them. If you would like some cash for your old clothes, this may be a hassle-free way to do it. And, of course, there are always charity shops!
Lagom is a way of life, of finding out where that balance point is for YOU. And that point changes with each person. Like milk in a cup of coffee, we each have our preference. But ask most Swedes, and they will usually say “lagom is best”.