News / USA

Does Less Clothing Reduce Stress?

Choice-weary shoppers exercise frugality, simplicity by wearing the same 6 pieces of clothing for a month

Six Items or Less, a self-imposed exercise in frugality, encourages people to wear the same six items of clothing for an entire month.
Six Items or Less, a self-imposed exercise in frugality, encourages people to wear the same six items of clothing for an entire month.

Multimedia

Audio
Faiza Elmasry

What am I going to wear today?

That daily question often consumes time and causes stress. Some people might even stand before a stuffed closet and still think, 'There's nothing to wear.'

But, what if they had only six items of clothing to choose from and wear for an entire month? That's the idea behind Six Items or Less, a self-imposed exercise in frugality.

Practicing frugality

Six Items or Less is a social experiment, a gentle protest against fashion consumerism and the high cost of apparel. New York City advertising executive Heidi Hackemer came up with the idea.

"I know a really good friend in London. She and I were talking one day over Facebook messaging about clothing and how much time and energy we spend on clothes and how it seems to be a bit ridiculous," she says. "So she and I wanted to see if we can get our wardrobe down to a uniform and see what that type of effect that would have on the rest of our lives. Would we be stressed out by not having choices of clothing? Would we be more creative? Would our mind be freed up to do different things?"

Heidi Hackerman modeling one of the six pieces of clothing she wore for a month.
Heidi Hackerman modeling one of the six pieces of clothing she wore for a month.

The two friends shared their idea with other friends.

"When we went to work the next Monday, we spoke to a few people about it. We sent out a few tweets on Twitter," says Hackemer. "And all of a sudden, within five days, we had almost 100 people from around the world saying that they too wanted to take part in this experiment with us. So we started in June 21 and we ran the experiment through July 21."

Fewer choices, less stress?

It proved to be an interesting month for a wide variety of people.

"We had an 11-year-old girl and we had a woman that was in her 60s. We had people from all walks of life," says says Hackemer. "We had people from anywhere from Singapore to Dubai to London to Amsterdam, Brazil, all across the U.S. It just seems that a lot of people are struggling with their relationship with clothes and the way they consume them. That's why I think we had such a wide range of people participate.

Hackemer was surprised at how few people seemed to notice that she was wearing the same six items the whole month.

"I had a pair of cutoff shorts that I would wear on the weekend. And I had another item, a black blazer, that was very much about dressing up. I then mixed in other things like a black pair of pants and a black top and a skirt and a black dress."

Having fewer choices reduced stress in her life.

"I learned what's really important and what's really worth stressing over. I also found that this simplicity echoed into other parts of my life, you know just walking more or cooking more food. I realized that - you know what? This stuff we let come into our world, physical stuff that we allow into our world, really jams up our mind. And our mind can be quite a powerful and positive thing if we cleared up a little bit."

Becoming a 'sixer'

Twenty-two year old Kristy Hogue, who lives in Seattle, Washington, learned about Hackemer's experiment through a magazine article. She says the idea appealed to her, so she decided to become a sixer.

"I felt I had too much of everything including clothing and a lot of it I didn't wear," she says. "So I thought it would be a great experiment to see if I could wear six items or less."

The experiment inspired Hogue to reexamine her wardrobe and get rid of the clothes she didn't wear. However, going for 31 days with only six outfits to choose from was quite a challenge.

"At the very beginning, my items were really easy to pick. They were items that I liked, that I wore a lot anyway. For the first week or so I was really excited and everything was working out perfectly and I never got bored. Then I started to feel a little bit constrained. I didn't have the freedom to look the way I wanted to look all the time. So that was really frustrating. Then I eventually accepted it and started to be more relaxed, not caring as much about how I looked."

Most people who participated in the experiment were women. Thirty-five-year-old New Yorker Alexander Smith was one of 40 or so male 'sixers'. He picked six items from his wardrobe, but ended up wearing only five of them.

Getting more out of less

"The most difficult part for me was having to do hand wash laundry pretty much every day in order to have clothes for the next day." says Smith.

The experiment changed his perspective on what makes people happy.

"We're exposed to choices for everything. There are hundreds of consumer opportunities. But all that choice doesn't necessarily lead up to any kind of fulfillment. We're obsessed with novelty. We go after that when, in fact, slowing down a little bit and considering your choices a little more tightly, maybe constraining yourself in some ways, actually leads to more time, more happiness and more fulfillment."

The Six Items or Less website includes a forum for participants and observers to exchange ideas and express themselves. Heidi Hackemer says it received a lot of traffic during the month-long experiment.

And, she adds, more than 1,000 people from around the world expressed interest in taking part in the next cycle that starts in October.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs