a blog by J.M. Cottle
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I do laundry four times a year

Yes, it’s true: I do laundry every three months or so. This may seem ridiculous to you, especially if you know that my collection of clothes is small enough that it barely fills half my closet. Those of you who have seen me in real life are probably not surprised, because in real life you might find me wearing the same shirt for days, and you will certainly find me wearing the same pants for months. You will find my boxers hanging to dry in my bathroom because I wash them in the sink.

Why would anyone do laundry so infrequently? More specifically, why would anyone do laundry so infrequently while not owning a lot of clothes?

Here are my reasons:

  1. I want to save water and electricity, and the machines we use to wash and dry our clothes use a lot of both. I could wash my clothes manually like Colin does in No Impact Man, and I could hang my clothes to dry on a drying rack like my dad does. I don’t do these things because I am too lazy to wash everything manually when a machine is available, and I don’t like how stiff clothes get on a drying rack.
  2. I want to save money. I live in an apartment complex with a shared laundry room, and scrounging together enough change to pay for a load of laundry is really difficult when you don’t use cash anymore. It would be nice if our laundry room had a change machine. Though I would still want to avoid spending money.
  3. I want to save my clothes, because frequent washing is hard on them. It makes fabric shrink and wear out more quickly, which means clothes need to be replaced more often, which costs money. See #2 above.
  4. I don’t need to wash my clothes very much. I am not a particularly sweaty or smelly person, possibly because I barely ever use deodorant, and I don’t typically get very dirty during my everyday life. I am a slob while I’m eating, but most of the time those dirty spots can be cleaned up with water before any stains set in. Washing clothes that aren’t dirty or smelly is a waste of water, electricity, money, and time. Wearing clothes once does not automatically make them dirty or smelly. I give my clothes a quick examination before I put them on, and if there’s no sign of dirtiness or smelliness, there’s no reason not to wear them.

Still, wouldn’t it make more sense for me to own a lot of clothes if I’m going to be waiting for such long periods of time in between washes? Isn’t it weird to wear the same clothes over and over? Don’t people notice?

Sometimes they do notice, yes. So what? What are they going to think? They might think I can’t afford to buy lots of clothes, which is true and I don’t mind if people know that, or they might think I don’t care about my appearance, which is obviously untrue if you take one look at me. (I’m kind of a dandy.) As long as I’m not smelling bad, I’m pretty sure my choice of clothing has no effect on other people’s lives, so they can think their private thoughts about how poor I am and I will just sit here wearing the same clothes every day and be happy.

Because, you see, there are reasons I don’t have a lot of clothes:

  1. I cleaned out my closet before I moved across the country, which meant that I donated everything I didn’t wear often or that didn’t fit me anymore. That was quite a lot of my clothes since I had gotten thinner over the course of the year. It left me with only the clothes that I loved and that looked good on me. Who doesn’t want that?
  2. I don’t often buy new clothes. Sometimes I deliberate for months before I buy something new, making sure that I really do want it and that it will fit in nicely with the rest of my clothes. If I still want it after a month or two, it’s probably something that I should get. Consumerism is a powerful force, and this waiting period helps minimize the possibility that I’ll buy something I don’t need or that I won’t wear.

In my opinion, most people have too many clothes. They don’t wear some of them, they don’t like many of them, they wasted a lot of money acquiring them, and they are wasting a lot of space storing them. I also think that people wash their clothes too often, which is wasteful in all the ways already mentioned. There’s nothing wrong with having just a few good items of clothing and wearing them over and over again. People who look down on me for that need to get a life, seriously.

Doesn’t this get boring, though? Can I really be a dandy without a big wardrobe? Isn’t the best minimalist wardrobe made up of simple clothes that work well together (i.e. bland)?

Maybe the best minimalist wardrobe is bland, but mine is not (not bland, and not the best). I combat blandness by having a few things that are versatile and a few things that are colorful, and I wear the versatile things over and over while varying the colorful things. I wear the same slim, dark jeans nearly every day, and now that it’s getting cooler here in San Diego I wear the same gray sweater or black waistcoat most days, but I have six shirts in various colors and patterns that I switch up often enough that no one comments on it. For summer I have a bunch of t-shirts with designs on them, and I try to switch them up as much as possible. I’m still exploring ways to be a dandy in the summertime.

Besides, a lot of dandyism is about the accessories, isn’t it? I have four ties, three pocket squares, a pocket watch, a tie clip, two necklaces, four bracelets, and two hats, and I think that’s pretty decent variety right there.

Let’s save some water and money, friends. Next time you’re thinking of tossing your clothes in the hamper to be washed, make sure they’re actually dirty first. And next time you’re thinking of buying some new clothes, be sure you’ll actually wear them.

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