I keep a suitcase in the basement that I fill with clothes that are headed to resale. With as much closet purging and as little clothes buying as I’ve done in the past year, I have been consistently convinced that each trip to resale will be my last for at least the next 6 months, if not a year. Because if I’m adding very few new clothes, and each time I’ve purged my closet I’ve gotten it down to just my favorites, how is it possible I could still have more stuff to get rid of so quickly? Well, apparently, it is possible, because look:
I sold back clothing about two months ago, so this new pile-up was a surprise. The suitcase was so full of clothes that I felt compelled to take a look at what I was getting rid of and why, since obviously a mere two months ago I loved these very items too much to part with them. Here’s is a brief sampling of some things that went from my love it list to my loathe it list in just a few weeks.
Three pairs of jeans. I wear jeans most days of the week, so I’ve always kept a lot of them in my closet – like up to 12 pairs at times. But I’ve been steadily decreasing that number, because I’ve noticed that while yes, I always want to wear jeans, I also always want to wear the SAME jeans over and over again. So why should I keep so many? These three did not make the cut.
Two summer dresses. The striped on on the left is very cute and I did wear it a lot, but I got it at Target so it wasn’t the most well-made garment I’ve ever bought, and after being repeatedly laundered it’s starting to look a little shabby and slightly shrunken. I definitely got my use out of it though, so I feel good about letting it go. The pink dress is an inexpensive one I bought at Gap, and I wore it a few times, but it fell victim to the “one in one out” rule (I talk about letting it go in more detail over on the Tiny Homes site). I was very tempted to say screw the one in/one out rule and keep both dresses, but I’m very happy with my new dress, and in just a month I have already worn the new one more than this old one, which has been hanging in my closet for nearly three years.
These shorts make me feel fat. Therefore, I feel irritable every time I put them on and end up taking them right back off. I have another pair of green shorts that don’t make me feel fat, but I kept these because….yeah, I don’t know.
This shirt, cardigan, and blazer are all from Anthropologie. I kid you not when I say that close to 70% of my wardrobe used to be comprised of items from Anthropologie. I haven’t been able to afford to shop there in the past year, and cutting my Anthro habit made a big impact in stemming the flow of clothes into my wardrobe, since I rarely walked out of that store without buying something. I currently have about 10 items from Anthropologie left in my possession, which for me is a little weird. I think I hung onto to these three more out of nostalgia for my favorite store than any real desire to wear them. But a whole spring/summer went by without me wearing the shirt or cardigan, and while I still like the blazer well enough, I’ve slowly gotten rid of most of the other items that I used to wear it with, so now it feels like odd man out. It was time for all of them to go.
I actually wore this halter top from the Banana Republic outlet store a lot, and I remember buying it on a whim and it being on such a great sale I thought “If I wear this five times I’ll get my money’s worth out of it.” I definitely got my money’s worth, but the last couple times I tried it on I felt like it looked too boxy and ended up changing into something else, so I feel like my infatuation has ended. But no guilt on this purchase at all!
I do, however, have guilt over this black Diane Von Furstenburg dress which I held on to for YEARS, because it was very expensive, and well, because it was DVF. But I rarely wore it. I’ve never been a big fan of shirt dresses, but I’ve tried valiantly over the years to try to like them by purchasing various incarnations of the style. I saw a picture of myself wearing this dress shortly after I’d worn it to our Godson’s christening, and I looked like a total frump. After that, I never really wanted to wear it again. My Godson is now seven years old. Time to let it go.
I have a LOT of guilt for getting rid of these boots. Not because I like them, but because a) I spent waaaay too much money on them, and b) I purchased them while on vacation in Vienna, and made poor Ron go into store after store one day for HOURS while I searched for the perfect black boot (important side note: I already had three pairs of black boots at home, and was wearing a fourth pair that I really liked while I was on this stupid quest). I wore them only a handful of times, because holyhelllookattheheelsonthosethings – I’m lucky I didn’t fall down and break/sprain something/everything. Every time I wore them I was worried I would catch that open heel on something and trip, so needless to say, I was not the epitome of graceful when I wore them. And therefore, I never wanted to wear them. And every time I looked at them in the closet, I was reminded of my bad judgement. It will be nice to be free from their mockery.
I could go on with more pictures and stories, but it’d be more of the same, and this post would take an hour to read. In addition to the items I’ve specifically shown here, I also sold a bunch of t-shirts, sweaters, work out clothes, and a few more pairs of shoes – and walked out of resale with $204. If I had any nostalgia about letting these items go when I went in, I can assure you I didn’t have any left when they handed me the money.
And here is the pile of stuff that didn’t sell that I will be taking to Goodwill:
I guess the lesson I learned from this little exercise, and will probably still be learning for a while to come, is that I still have a lot more than I actually need, and much of what I am still clinging to is for reasons other than “I love it”. I’m still finding my lagom.
I’ve been asked a lot lately how it feels to finally be out of debt. And my first response is always the truth – that it feels amazing, great, a total relief!
But what I usually say next, because it is also the truth, is that life doesn’t feel that much different yet. In fact, we’re guessing it will be a few months before we really start to feel like we can relax financially. To get out of debt, we put every spare cent we had towards our credit cards, which means we were frequently down to our last couple dollars at the end of the month. As a result, there is no extra “fun” money cushion available to us at the moment, and we actually had some significant expenses this month that were planned and expected, but need to be paid all the same. For instance, we had to do some repairs to the duct work in our house after we discovered one had come loose and we were paying to heat the crawl space instead of the house, which cost about $500. We put off Stella’s annual shots and vet exam for a couple months due to our finances, which we felt really anxious and guilty about, so we said we’d make it happen this month no matter what and we did – to the tune of about $250 bucks. So we may not have to come up with our usual credit card payment anymore, but we still do have to come up with close to $1,000 this month. I’m just grateful we don’t have to come up with the credit card payment ON TOP of that.
So yeah…life is not all that different for the most part.
But there is one effect of being debt-free that HAS surprised me – knowing we will soon have some discretionary income again has made me want to get rid of more stuff! I had felt pretty plateaued out on the whole purging process, and felt like maybe I had finally reached my lagom in certain categories. But right after we got out of debt, I suddenly felt this surge of of wanting to get rid of things, especially where my clothing was concerned. Weird, right?
Well, maybe not. Because when I think about it, much of the reason I was holding on to some items was because I wasn’t sure how long it would be until we were out of debt and I was no longer on such a strict shopping lockdown. I was hesitant to throw out too many of my clothing options when I knew I couldn’t buy something new if I got bored. And that fear made me clingy.
But knowing that it’s now an option (within reason) to replace something that is worn out, or to add a new item to my closet that I really love and think I will use, made me start to reevaluate things I’ve hung onto that I don’t love as much. Also, the weather in Portland has been absolutely glorious, so a couple weeks ago I took my spring/summer stuff out of storage and retired my heavier winter clothes. As I was about to hang each stored piece back into the closet, I really took a minute to decide if I still loved each garment, and in several cases the answer was either “no” or “eh…I dunno.”
This time, instead of doing what I’ve always done – which is to just shove everything back in the closet anyway – I decided if the item wasn’t a definite “I love it” piece, I would test drive it. I would wear the item as soon as possible, and if it was uncomfortable, or didn’t really suit my lifestyle anymore, or made me feel frumpy, or dove me crazy in any way, it had to go.
It proved to be a great exercise. Some items I only wore half a day before I couldn’t stand it anymore and changed into something else. Some things didn’t even make it past getting dressed in the morning and checking my reflection before they landed in the giveaway pile. In truth, I was probably being super duper extra critical of everything, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing in my case. As someone who has been prone to emotional and impulse buying, it’s good for me to practice being really, REALLY critical of purchases, whether that’s before I buy them (preferably), or admitting that they were mistakes after the fact and letting that acknowledgement make me more cautious moving forward. I found myself learning a TON about what I really love and want, and what I need to carefully consider and avoid the next time I’m about to buy.
For instance, I’ve been a such a sucker for a sale in the past, that I’ve been known to buy things that aren’t my actual size, thinking I may take them to a tailor, or that the fit isn’t as bad as I think it is. The items I test drove reminded me that I will pretty much NEVER take something to the tailor (because I’m lazy), and the fit is absolutely as bad as I think it is. As a result I barely wear the item. Like this very cute blouse from Anthropolgie:
It was on sale, and I loved it. But it was one size above my usual size. I bought it anyway, and then every time I wore it, I spent a lot of time checking to make sure the neckline was still in place (it often wasn’t). It looked great if I stood perfectly still, but as soon as I did something crazy, like, you know, move around, I was showing the world my cute blouse AND my cute bra. Classy.
Also, both these skirts have been hanging in my closet for years:
I don’t wear them that often. Why? Because despite the way I WISH my body was shaped, my actual shape does not look good in a skirt that’s cut like this. Again, if I stand perfectly still, it looks great. As soon as I start walking though, skirts like this start inching up around my hips and I spend all day tugging them back down. They’re meant to hit just above the knee, but frequently on me, they scrunch up to miniskirt length. I did make it through a whole day in the brown skirt, but it made me miserable and when I got home, I immediately took it off and threw it in the giveaway pile.
This shirt is a perfect example of how shopaholic crazed I can get sometimes:
I saw it online, and it was on sale. I dawdled about buying it for a couple days, but then decided I was going to get it, because it was the style I was looking for, I loved the color, and it was on sale. But when I went back to the website to purchase it, they no longer had it in my size. Suddenly I went from wanting the shirt in a nonchalant way, to an obsessive, white hot panic to track down another one just like it at any cost. I trolled the web for a couple days and found another one for double the price of the one that had been on sale, and was just about to buy it, when I happened to check back with the initial website, and they suddenly had it available in my size again. I triumphantly bought it, and was so excited to get it…until it arrived. It was much cuter online than in person – in person it was much boxier, and the neckline was a lot lower than I’d realized. Much like the blouse mentioned above, every time I wore it I found myself checking to see if my bra was showing. I kept it for longer than I should have, trying to convince myself I liked it, because when I thought about the fervor with which I’d pursued it, I felt stupid. But that’s the trouble with keeping things that make you feel that way – every time you look in your closet, they mock you and remind you of your mistake. I decided it was better to admit my error and get rid of it, rather than have to look at it every day and feel guilty.
In the end, the size of the pile I amassed really surprised me:
But I didn’t feel hesitant about getting rid of any of it. I took it to resale and walked out with $84, which I’ve used to replace some of my worn out basic summer staples like shorts and t-shirts. Everything I bought I found on incredible sales ($8.99 for some summer t-shirts at J. Crew, are you kidding me???), and I love the colors I chose, the quality of the items, and how they fit.
I have less stuff in my closet now than I’ve ever had, and while there still may be a few “on the fence” items lurking in there, I am pretty thrilled with everything I’ve kept, and still feel like I have a lot of stuff – maybe even too much. It may not be be lagom yet, but it sure has been a pleasure to get dressed in the morning.
Today marks a full year that I’ve been writing this blog. I can’t believe it. I’ve started and dropped so many blogs in the past, so I’m really proud that I’ve stuck with this one, and I’m grateful that it’s given me a place to reflect on this journey.
I have learned so much about myself in this process, and keeping a blog has made me accountable to my goals in ways I never thought it would. There were a lot of times when I was tempted to buy more stuff, or hang on to things, or go my usual lazy route and not bother to declutter something, but my desire to keep an accurate record of what I was doing, coupled with the thought of having to admit that behavior on my blog (even though I wasn’t always successful), did wonders to curb some bad habits.
And I have to say, I’m pleasantly surprised by how completely nonjudgmental people’s responses have been. I know there are probably those who do judge me, but they have been nice enough to keep it to themselves. If anything, the feedback I’ve gotten has been wonderfully supportive and often filled with empathy and admissions of similar behavior, which has made me feel less alone.
So I guess the big question is, did I find lagom?
Nope, not yet.
But from what I have learned in a year of focusing on this goal, I think achieving a state of lagom in just 12 months is not really realistic, especially having spent most of my life functioning from a mindset of constant acquisition. I am so proud of what I have accomplished in this year, but as I was noting in a post earlier this week, what I thought was lagom only two months ago continues to change as I continue to change and see my stuff in a new way. Things I thought I loved and couldn’t part with only a month ago suddenly feel superfluous, and letting them go is no big deal. I am more acutely tuned in to what I value, what I actually use, and what I truly love than I have ever been in my life.
The fact I’m not “done” with this journey doesn’t bother me. I remember hearing Marianne Williamson say something once about how the distance between the person she currently was and the person she wanted to be felt less depressing when she considered the distance between the person she currently was and person she had once been. I may be far from my ideal, but compared to a year ago? I’ve come a long way.
So what have I learned? Here are the big things:
- I always believed having tons of options where my possessions were concerned would make me feel happier, fuller, and more secure. But it actually causes me a lot of stress and unhappiness. I feel like I SHOULD be using all my stuff, knowing how much money I spent on it, and not wanting to be wasteful, but it’s very clear that I have my favorite things, and that is what I always want to reach for. Having a smaller set of options, of only things I really love (or sometimes, even just one perfect thing I really love), has made me feel a lot less anxious. This has especially been true where my wardrobe was concerned, which was also the category where I did the most acquiring. I currently have a smaller wardrobe than I’ve had since maybe high school, and while there are some items I would like to replace, and one or two specific things I want to add, I am happier with what I own right now than I’ve ever been.
- Keeping things out of guilt (it was expensive, someone I like gave it to me, I pined for it but once I had it I didn’t love it as much as I felt I should) is stupid. Staring everyday at an item that has guilt attached to it only serves to KEEP YOU FEELING GUILTY. Do any of us need more reasons to feel like that? I don’t think so.
- What you’ve convinced yourself is valuable is in most cases worthless. I have felt foolish more than once this year for hanging on to things that I thought were worth something, only to take them to resale or list them on Ebay and have them go for pennies or be rejected completely. There are less than ten possessions in my life that I know have actual value, and I have insurance on all of them because it’s obvious they’re worth something. Everything else I own? Highly replaceable, with the exception of purely sentimental items.
- Letting go of stuff is synonymous with letting go of fear. Fear that the giver will be angry or hurt, fear you might need something just like it someday, fear that you will find out later it was of great value (see previous point). Trusting the future is scary, but not as scary as all the fear thoughts. I’ve given away a ton of stuff this year, and I don’t regret any of it. And as far as I know, no one has been upset with me for letting it go. In many cases they probably don’t even remember giving it to me.
- Forcing myself to use up large stashes of stuff I already own has made me VERY careful about what I buy now. If I don’t think I’m going to love it and want to use it to the last drop, I’m hesitant to buy it. This is a huge shift for someone who frequently bought stuff out of boredom or mild curiosity.
- I don’t need new things to feel better when I’m upset. Shopping used to be my favorite therapy. I still get a thrill on the occasions when I get to buy something new, but that’s partly because now I have researched and dreamed and thought about the purchase for so long beforehand, it feels really exciting and special. I have mentioned that 2013 was a really horrible year for me, and sometimes I wonder if it felt that way because it really WAS that bad, or because for the first time in my adult life I didn’t deal with my problems by shopping. But I made it out of 2013 all in one piece, and I didn’t rack up my credit card to cope. I’m proud of that.
- I love having some empty space in our house. There aren’t tons of empty spaces yet, but I’m really excited about the few we have. The fact that our guest room closet is now always guest ready is still a huge novelty for me – I sometimes like to just go in and gaze at it. Yes, I know, weird. But it’s true. And you have to celebrate victories like that.
- Selling your unwanted stuff is a pain in the ass. When I was on the fence about buying something in the past, I used to just think, “Oh, if I don’t end up liking it, maybe I can sell it.” And because we’ve needed the money, we haven’t been in a position to just give stuff away. But it is a serious drag to go through the process of standing in line at resale, or listing things on ebay. Now I will actually look at stuff I’m considering buying and think, “If you don’t end up liking it, you are going to have to try to sell it”, and that is often enough to make me reconsider.
- Nothing has been more exciting to me this year than watching our debt steadily go down. We are still not out of the woods, but we have made incredible progress. If we manage to stay on track with our payment plan, and nothing disastrous happens, we should be out of credit card debt by the middle of this year. It has been a really frustrating and often discouraging process, but we are committed to seeing it through. I no longer feel a horrible sick pit in my stomach like I might truly throw up when I see our credit card bill.
- I am lucky to have a partner like Ron who has embraced and in some ways surpassed me in this process – I am amazed at how unattached he can be to his things. If I were trying to do this with someone who was highly resistant and attached to things, I don’t know how much progress I would have made. But Ron has been wonderfully supportive and open to the changes I’ve been making, and as a team, I feel like we’re pretty kickass.
So what’s next? I initially thought I would just keep this blog for a year (if indeed, I even made it that far), but I’ve decided I’m going to keep on writing. I still have a lot I’m continuing to discover, and having done some of the hardest work this year (learning to control my shopaholic urges, getting serious about paying down debt), I’m excited to see what kind of changes I will make. I’m also curious to see if I will backslide when I am out of debt and have some disposable income again. When I started this blog, I said I could never see myself as a minimalist. And I still think that’s probably true, but I’ve also learned that minimalism has a much broader definition than I ever realized, and it doesn’t necessarily mean bare white walls and a single piece of furniture. In fact, I think “lagom” and minimalism are pretty close terms, they just look a little different from person to person. Who know where this path will lead me.
I’m also going to start posting guest blogs this year. People who read Finidng Lagom have contacted me with some great stories about their own struggles with stuff (some resolved, some still unresolved), about getting out of debt, about shopping addiction, and about experiments they’ve decided to try in their own lives based on stuff they’ve read here. I love hearing those stories, and think other readers will too – it’s inspiring to know that there are so many of us puzzling through this issue together.
If you’re a longtime reader, thanks for the support – especially those of you who commented, liked, shared posts, or talked to me about it in person. It’s nice to know you’re out there. I hope 2014 finds everyone happy, healthy, and lagom!
The last area I attacked in my closet purge was my hanging space. It’s the stuff I knew I’d have the most trouble with, because it’s the stuff I’ve spent the most money on. Prior to the purge, I had two hanging spaces – one that held skirts/dresses:
And one that held tops/jackets/long sweaters:
Both were jammed full of stuff. Not to mention, I still had a large suitcase full of all the dresses I’d moved out of the guest room closet, but never had the space to integrate into my upstairs closet:
I was DREADING figuring out how to fit it all in.
So to inspire myself, I did a little reading about something called a capsule wardrobe. In a nutshell, a capsule wardrobe is a carefully selected number of items that are all meant to mix and match with each other. Depending on which article you read, a capsule wardrobe can include anywhere from only ten to thirty three items.
Yes, you heard that right – a MAXIMUM of 33 items.
To soften the blow (and again, depending on the article) that number may or may not count the following:
- base layer/tank tops to wear under sweaters/sheer blouses
- Outerwear, like coats/hats/gloves
- workout clothes
- accessories, like scarves, jewelry, sunglasses, etc.
- Occasion wear, like cocktail dresses, etc.
So basically, you can fudge the numbers a bit, and make it work for you. There is another important element to a capsule wardrobe, which is that you only keep seasonal items in your closet at any time. That means come winter, you pack away all your shorts and sundresses and capris and hang just your sweaters and wool skirts and long pants.
The idea of a capsule wardrobe is something I really aspire to. The goal is to own fewer high quality items that you love wearing, instead of buying tons and tons of cheaper items that you just kind of like. Financially, you would end up spending the same amount of budget on clothing in a year, but on nicer stuff, which will hopefully last for several years, and you’ll always feel like you have the perfect thing to wear. I cannot tell you how much I love the idea of that.
But I knew I was not ready to commit to only ten items. Thirty three items (as suggested in Project 333) seemed more attainable, but I still wasn’t fully ready for it. A few reasons for this:
- I LOVE clothes
- As an actor, the need for different types of clothes does come up, especially for on-camera auditions. Having too sparse of a wardrobe would actually pose a bit of a problem in this area.
- I live in a climate that can change dramatically during the day, which means to be comfortable, my clothing needs change a lot with the weather.
Okay, it’s entirely possible reasons #2 and #3 are just bullshit rationalizations on my part, and the only real truth lies in reason #1. I can admit that. But I’m not ready to go small yet. I was, however, willing to take some strides towards that idea.
First, I had to make a lot of decisions about what to keep and what to part with. I took everything out of the closets and the suitcase, and put it on the bed:
Then I went through and pulled out the stuff I knew I loved without having to think about it -the “if I had to evacuate my house and I could only save one suitcase worth of stuff” items. Once those were separated, I pulled out anything that I didn’t necessarily love, but was still useful, like a couple shirts that look good for on camera auditions. Everything else landed in the “on the fence category”, and so I tried those items on, stood in front of the mirror, and tried to be brutally honest with myself about whether or not I should keep it.
When I finished, I had a pretty big pile of stuff to get rid of:
I filled the suitcase with my off season “keep” items, and stashed it in the basement. And by basement, I mean the corner of our bedroom where it is ready to be put in the basement, just as soon as the thought of lugging it down two flights of stairs stops making me tired before I even do it, or Ron does it for me.
Then it was time to put all the current season keepers back in the closet. I decided it made sense to change the categories of stuff I kept in each closet space. The smaller hanging space that usually held dresses and skirts is now devoted to occasion wear. The bigger closet space has my everyday clothing, and instead of just holding tops and jackets, it has everything – skirts, jackets, tops, pants, sweaters, etc. (since most of my pants and sweaters are kept folded on shelves, this really was’t too big of a challenge).
I have WAAAY more than the ideal capsule10 item limit, but it still looks better than it did:
And again, as with all the other spaces I cleaned, I do plan to pay attention to what is getting worn the most, and hopefully will pare it down again at the end of each season. It’s entirely possible that someday I will have a true ten item capsule wardrobe.
Until then, I am glad to be DONE with this project. I did not slay my closet monster – just maybe wounded it a little. I wish I’d been able to get rid of more stuff, but I don’t think this will be an overnight process for me. My love of clothes is mostly what got me into my financial mess AND my too much stuff mess. I will just have to continue to aspire to be lagom in this area.
It’s good to have goals though, right?
Oh, and I do have to give myself some kudos for not buying a single thing during all the Labor Day weekend sales – that is probably a first for me, and in a couple cases it was very hard to resist. But resist I did, and I’m glad. Being able to put clothes away without forcibly cramming them into the closet is a lovely change, and I’d like to keep it that way for a while.
When I was in high school, I think I owned maybe two pairs of jeans, and one of those was a grubby pair for doing yard work. I was totally into skirts and dresses and silk blouses and all sorts of other things that were a nightmare of dry cleaning and ironing – but not for me, since I was a spoiled brat and my mom did all my laundry (and paid for the dry cleaning too).
Then, I went to college, and had to do the laundry myself. That instantly and completely changed my whole wardrobe. I got rid of all things that needed special laundering or ironing and pretty soon nearly everything I wore consisted of leggings with oversized t-shirts and sweaters.
Then I graduated and went to work in the corporate world, and again it was back to dresses and skirts and slacks and high heels. And I begrudgingly did the ironing and dry cleaning necessary to maintain that wardrobe. I did begin to integrate some jeans into the rotation, but I still spent most of my waking hours in corporate wear.
And then, in the last 10 years, I transitioned from the corporate world to the non-profit world to freelance. And with each job change, my wardrobe got progressively more casual. And now, I probably wear jeans 90% of the time. I still have about 4-5 casual skirts, but my typical uniform for fall through spring is jeans and boots and some kind of top, and in the summer it’s shorts and sandals and some kind of top, with the occasional sundress thrown in.
I also spend a ton of time in workout clothes. When I get up, the first thing I do is put on workout clothes, walk the dog, eat breakfast, and check email. Then I workout. Sometimes, however, the “check email” phase turns into answering a LOT of email, blogging, and recording voice over auditions, and before I know it it’s lunchtime and while it’s likely I won’t get a workout in that day, I’m still in workout clothes. So whether I use them for the intended purpose or not, I probably spend more time in workout clothes than anything else.
This is all to say I devote a lot of shelf space to workout clothes and jeans, because they are truly what I live in. And I have a lot of both – look:
The first picture with the double shelves of all the black and blue items are my shelves with jeans and workout bottoms. On the top shelf I have pants (black/white/navy capris for spring/summer) and sweats, next to a stack of black workout pants. On the bottom shelf I have a stack of jeans, and wedged next to that are workout shorts and skirts. It’s a deep shelf, so behind those two stacks are summer shorts which you can’t really see (I keep them in the back because in Oregon you only really wear shorts from about July-mid September, so I don’t need them to be that accessible). The other single shelf pictured holds all my workout tops -from L-R the stacks are: heavy cold weather hoodies, lightweight hoodies, t-shirts/sports bras, and workout tops.
I really do wear a lot of this stuff – it’s the majority of what is in the laundry for me every week. So that makes it hard to part with it. But if I’m honest, I have my favorite workout clothes, and my favorite pairs of jeans. If I’m going on a trip, I don’t even have to think about which ones I will pack. Per the laws of wardrobe editing, those are the only items I should consider keeping.
I decided to set quotas for my workout clothes – for me, that quota was the number seven – seven items from each category–or, one for each day of the week. I culled my workout clothes down to seven pairs of long workout pants, seven shorts, seven workout tops, seven t-shirts/sports bras, seven heavy cold weather hoodies, and seven lightweight hoodies. I felt like I had to keep a bigger variety of things, since the weather in Oregon can be so varied, and I didn’t want not having the right stuff to wear to deter me from working out.
A few of the decisions were easy, like these odd colored shorts, which look good with…well, NOTHING:
But other things were harder, like the jeans. I found one lone pair that was just a little too tight, so I gave them the axe. But I had to admit that I do wear all the other ones on a regular basis, and would miss them if they were gone. Same with my long workout pants. I tossed a few ancient capris that I haven’t worn all spring or summer, and a pair of black slacks that have always made me feel like a fat ass but I kept them because I felt like I might need them someday (I haven’t. Because when do you need to feel like a fat ass?). I also got rid of some t-shirts and workout tops that are really new and I do like them, but not quite enough to make it into my top seven. It feels weird getting rid of these barely worn items – it makes me anxious, and I can’t help but wonder if something were to happen to the stuff I kept, would I regret not having back up items. Then I look at the some of my keeper items that I’ve had for about six years that still look brand new, and stop worrying.
Here are the after pics:
Again, still more stuff than I probably need, and hopefully with time I’ll be able to cut it back even further. But this category is a tough one. Baby steps. BABY STEPS!
Next up: Hanging closet space
I live in Oregon. Therefore, sweaters are a big part of my life. Even in the summer, I almost always have at least a light cardigan with me, because the sunniest day often starts out as a gray and drizzly morning. I also loathe super air conditioned spaces, so I usually stuff a sweater in my handbag just in case I find myself in a freezing theatre or meeting room at some point.
I’ve invested a lot of money in my sweater collection – over the last few years, I’ve tried to buy good cashmere whenever possible, since it’s what I always tend to reach for, even if I have another non-cashmere sweater in a color that would look better with what I’m wearing. I’ve also had a tendency to buy multiple sweaters in the exact same style and color (black v-neck, black crew neck, black cardigan), but definitely wear one more than the others (the cashmere one).
Again, one glance at my sweater shelf was a clear indication that I owned too much of a good thing:
That shelf is actually pretty deep – what you can’t see in the picture is the pile of sweaters BEHIND the front row, which is stuff I don’t wear as much, but can’t seem to part with, or stuff I do wear, but has fallen behind the front row when I was stuffing other things in.
So, as with the process I used on the t-shirt shelf, I pared it down. I found this one a lot more difficult. A sweater at Anthropologie can cost anywhere from $98 to $168, and it’s hard to just toss that kind of spending in the resale/goodwill pile. I have a lot of guilt for that kind of spending, especially if I didn’t wear the item enough. Hanging on to it makes me feel like I just might start to wear it and redeem myself – though in my experience that is almost never the case.
I completely eliminated the “back row” of sweaters, parted with some rarely worn cashmere (didn’t love the color anymore), mended a couple moth holes on items I still liked but wasn’t wearing due to damage, and even tossed some old favorites that were just looking worn and shabby. The hard part is I don’t have the money to replace these items yet. But as you can see, I still have plenty and won’t be shivering anytime soon:
And again, as with my t-shirts, I could probably lose at least five or six more and not miss them. As we move into fall, I’ll be keeping an eye on what is truly getting worn, and getting rid of anything that just sits there warming the shelf.
Next up: Pants and workout clothes.
I make a lot of to-do lists. Sometimes I put things I’ve already done on my lists just so I can have the satisfaction of crossing them off. If I don’t finish an item, I will either keep the mostly crossed off list around until that item is done, or I move the incomplete item to the top of a new list. If it’s something I really, really, don’t want to do, instead of its presence on my list making me feel pressured enough to do it, I find it just becomes part of the landscape – and soon all my lists automatically include the items “iron clothes” and “Work on taxes”.
For months, I’ve had “clean closet” at the top of my daily to do list. EVERY DAY. I was absolutely dreading the process for a few reasons:
- Dealing with my wardrobe always makes me feel overwhelmed, and when I’m overwhelmed I become incapable of making decisions. Which makes trying to get rid of stuff a real chore.
- In order to clean my closet, I have to make sure all the laundry is clean, folded, and put away, so I can see what I’m dealing with. I hate doing laundry.
- Because I can’t afford to buy anything new, I knew I would be particularly clingy in terms of getting rid of things
- As much as I love to try on clothes when I shop, trying on the clothes in my own closet to make sure they still fit and I still like them always seems like a drag. Why is that?
- Part of the process always seems to include creating a pile of mending. I hate mending.
So I had no real good excuse not to do it – just a lot of ennui and whining around the whole thing. So I decided to break the process into bite sized chunks and see if that got me through it.
There are three areas in our bedroom where I keep clothing:
- An armoire, where I have one shelf full of t-shirts and tank tops, a drawer for underwear, a drawer for pajamas, and a small drawer each for socks and hosiery (If you are feeling at all judgmental upon reading this, keep this in mind: the armoire where I now have one shelf of t-shirts used to have FOUR shelves completely full of my clothes and my clothes alone, along with the aforementioned drawers . At this point in time, it holds two shelves of linens, and Ron has a shelf of clothes plus half of one of the drawers for pajamas. So I may be a mess, but I used to be a bigger mess.)
- Two closet spaces where I have hanging items
- Four shelf spaces where I put sweaters, jeans/pants, and workout clothes.
All three areas are a nightmare of clothing that comes tumbling out every time you open one of the doors. There are more clothes in each space than the space can comfortably hold, so when all my clothes are clean, I have to cram things in, or sometimes even leave items in laundry baskets until enough garments are in the hamper to make room to hang the clean stuff. I have semi-organized stacks of clothing in the front of the shelves, but it is not unusual to find items that have fallen into piles behind those stacks and become forgotten.
I simply had to pare it all down. And I had to start somewhere. So I decided to start my closet purge with the armoire. Here is what my t-shirt shelf looked like:
Just to clarify, mine is the shelf with a variety of colors just below the shelf with towels, and Ron’s is monochromatic shelf on the bottom (Note to Ron: Colors. They are good. Do not fear them).
I only wear a few of my t-shirts with any regularity, but for some reason I have trouble getting rid of the ones I don’t wear. And because there is so much stuff in one small space, even if I put things away folded, they either end up smashed under other items, or they fall out and I shove them back in when I’m in a hurry (which is pretty much always). I vowed to be ruthless on this purge, and I picked a day to do it when I was in a crappy, unreckoning mood, which tends to make me less wishy-washy.
There was no magic process for deciding which shirts to keep or toss – I used the same set of criteria you’d read about in every woman’s magazine that runs an article on closet cleaning:
- Do I love it? Not like it, but LOVE it?
- Have I worn it in the last two months? Does it suit my current lifestyle?
- Does it still fit and flatter me?
- If I’m not wearing it, does it need mending, and am I willing to do that mending myself or pay someone else to do it?
- Do I have too many other items just like it?
- Am I keeping this just because it was a gift or I paid a lot of money for it?
I pared the pile down, folded everything I wanted to keep, and then attempted to fit everything back in the space. It was still too much. So I pared it down some more, getting rid of a few items that were really in the “like” category as opposed to the “love” category, and tried again. Now everything fits:
In all honesty, I think I still have too much. But it’s a vast improvement. I’m going to keep an eye on it over the next few months and see what I REALLY wear of what I’ve kept, especially as summer transitions into fall. I hope to get rid of about 40% more as lesser used items continue to be revealed. Right now, it is a relief to open the doors and see a clearer and smaller number of options when I’m getting dressed – not to mention it’s MUCH easier to put clean laundry away.
Next up: the sweater shelf.