February 26, 2012

Shabby Ideas and Shoddy Philosophies

“If most of us are ashamed of shabby clothes and shoddy furniture, let us be more ashamed of shabby ideas and shoddy philosophies. It would be a sad situation if the wrapper were better than the meat wrapped inside it."  - Albert Einstein


People seldom notice old clothes if you are wearing a big smile, or coming up with revolutionary theories that change the way we think about the universe.

I have read that Albert Einstein had several sets of the same, simple suit of clothes hanging in his closet. That way, when he woke in the morning and went to his closet, he did not need to think about what to wear.

To simplify matters more, he never wore socks. Not sure about that wonderful and wild hair of his, but it looks like it did not see a brush often. He, like many people, had other things to think about.

There's a growing group of people that would agree with Albert, and would rather not think too much about what to wear. Some advocate cutting the work wardrobe down to 6 items (or less), at first for a month. The idea is to help people understand their shopping habits and clothes better, by cutting the cloth to a minimum. Here's the website.

The tiny wardrobe keeps down both costs, and maintenance. It focuses on buying high quality clothing, taking care of what you have, and making sure everything works with everything else to maximize versatility.

The payoffs are simplifying your life, reducing costs, and decluttering the closet. But wait! There are other benefits.

Many who have tried the Six Things Or Less Challenge report that they came to realize that they are not defined by fashion trends, and now look at their clothing in new, healthier, less wasteful ways. In the era of the 'walk-in closet' and 'shoe wall', this can only be a good thing.

Einstein had a healthy and refreshingly rebellious attitude toward his six items. When considering how he presented himself to visitors he said, "If they came to see me, here I am. If they came to see my clothes, they can go to the closet."

Edit: If the Six Items Or Less website is not working, read more about the challenge here.


  1. Haha, I love this :) I don't wear socks either. Or actually I do wear wool knit socks when I go out in the winter because otherwise my feet would freeze and toes fall off, but in the warmer months I don't wear socks, only sandals. At home I never wear socks, except my wool socks if my feet are cold. I have three pairs of wool socks now that I rotate, but wool doesn't need to be washed nearly as often as cotton, airing out daily is sufficient.

  2. I've never understood fashion. I currently have one pair of jeans, I'm a stay at home mom, so it's easy to get away with. I only buy a couple of shirts a year. At $7.00 a shirt, I'm happy if they last a year, which most of them do. I own two pair of sneakers, no shoes, and my winter boots are hand me downs from my son.

    When we started homeschooling, I was so happy not to have to buy so much crap for school anymore. Now I get the kids a couple of outfits a season, and only if they need it. My daughter is currently wearing clothes that I outgrew, but was keeping for when I slimmed down again, hopefully they'll still be wearable when she gets done with them. :)

    1. That's what I'm talking about. Think of all the money and psychic energy being conserved by opting out of fashion.

  3. I could not find the website you listed for the 6 items or less. Just some youtube videos.

    1. Thank you - the web site does appear to be down at the moment. Hopefully it will be accessible again soon.

    2. Read more about the Six Items Or Less Challenge at:


  4. e.a.f.2/27/2012

    Back in the day, fashion gurus used to say the perfect wardrobe for a woman was 10 silk dresses. That of course gave way to more is more is more, walk in closets, a dozen of this, 20 tshirts, etc.

    Ten silk dresses do make sense. No synthetics, wash in cold water, hang to dry and you will always look great. For guys, wool and linen suits would work well.

    I stopped the buying when I realized I had over 10 pairs of jeans, for starters. Then I counted my shoes. Shoes, are great but 100 prs. is a bit over the top. I find I'm just as happy with less and I can use the closet space for something else.

    1. Those are some sensible suggestions. I really like the idea of no synthetics.

      Sensitive skin absorbs chemicals from fabrics as well as cleaning detergents we use to wash our clothes in.

  5. Anonymous3/26/2014

    Oops, I don't think the Einstein quote was about clothes, he was just clothes to illustrate how embarrassing bad thinking should be...

    1. Anonymous12/05/2016

      Long time no comments, but here's one - i believe the quote is not fully written out here. I've seen it going like this: "If most of us are ashamed of shabby clothes and shoddy furniture, let us be more ashamed with shabby ideas and shoddy philosophies...It would be a sad situation if the wrapper were better than the meat wrapped inside it."
      In this context less is truely more and would benefit all mankind.

    2. Anon,

      Thank you. I have added that for the full, wonderful quote. We are very distracted by shiny wrappings, and not the meat inside.

  6. Anonymous3/15/2024

    I grew up in the town in New Jersey where Dr. Einstein lived. He used to play the violin with construction workers who were also musical all over town, on their lunch time! He played music with our immediate neighbors who were Irish, then Panamanian, then New Jerseyans . These neighbors were also very musical!
    He wasn't a snob in a university town.

    1. Anonymous3/15/2024

      That is an amazing story. What a guy. Thanks for sharing it here.

      - Gregg


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