Since we’re fast approaching the end of the year, I’m taking a closer look at the additional ways my 2018 theme, “essential,” can impact all of the areas of my life before I select my next focus. Since my wardrobe has long been an area of concern and difficulty (see over four years of posts on Recovering Shopaholic), I’ve recently decided to shine a spotlight there once again. I’ve mused on the topic of “closet churn,” looked at what constitutes a “just right” wardrobe, and did the “plate exercise” to evaluate which pieces I would buy again today.
In the process of this introspection and evaluation, I’ve also “Konmari’ed” my closet twice, once last month and again last week. In today’s post, I’ll share what I let go of and why, as well as what I learned from doing KonMari at this juncture of my wardrobe journey. If you want to read about my previous experiences with doing KonMari in my closet, click here (you can also read about how I applied KonMari to other areas of my life HERE).
Closet Creep, 2018 Edition
As this year progressed, I realized that my wardrobe had gradually expanded much like it had before I started my last blog (see my initial closet inventory here – it’s frightening!). While my closet wasn’t burgeoning as much as in early 2013, it was far more jam-packed than I wanted it to be. This became all the more evident when my husband and I moved from our small apartment to our new condo back in mid-June and I had to pack up the entire contents of my closet.
Although packing everything and moving it was challenging enough, the layout of the new place necessitated that my husband and I share the master closet (he had previously used a separate armoire in our old bedroom). Our master closet is quite spacious, but with less room for my clothes than in our former location, everything felt rather cramped. I moved some “off-season” items to another closet, but with the temperate climate and variable weather where I live, I can wear most of my wardrobe year-round. In my apartment, I had gotten to a point where everything except my coats and outdoor-only jackets fit into my main closet. If I wanted to keep it that way in the new place, I knew that something had to give.
I hadn’t gotten rid of much from the start of 2018 through the time of my move. I would occasionally let go of worn out items, ill-fitting pieces, and shopping mistakes, but more was coming in than going out. Life stresses and body changes (the joys of menopausal weight shifts…) led me to shop more than was necessary, but much of what I bought – and kept – this year has been serving me well. I knew I needed to cut back on buying and pare things down, but I didn’t want to just continue with the same “closet churn” that has been all too commonplace for me. This is why I stopped to do some introspection and analysis before I moved on to doing a wardrobe purge. I needed to better understand what constituted a “just right” wardrobe for me at this point of my life before I started jettisoning things. The deep thinking of the three posts I linked to above put me in a much better place for letting go.
You may wonder why I said that I did the KonMari process with my wardrobe in both September and October. Isn’t this supposed to be something that is done in one fell swoop and then not again for a long time, if at all (Marie Kondo states that KonMari only needs to be done once if it’s done correctly)? This is true, but I contend that if one doesn’t have a firm grasp of why something should stay or go, there’s a likelihood that they will hang on to too much or let things go for the wrong reasons. I don’t fully resonate with the key KonMari question, “Does this spark joy?” because a lot of things in my wardrobe don’t make me giddy with excitement, but they do serve a legitimate need (socks, anyone?). I prefer to append “… or serve a valid purpose” to the end of Kondo’s question or instead use The Minimalists’ question of “Does this add value to my life?”
When I did KonMari with my wardrobe back in mid-September, I had not yet written my post about applying the “Goldilocks Principle” to our wardrobes and I had not yet done the “Plate Exercise.” Both of these exercises helped me tremendously in better understanding what I need and how I want to feel about my clothes. When I asked myself which of my clothes I would buy again today, I was left pondering why I might keep something for which the answer was a clear no. This thought process was in the back of my mind as I evaluated my wardrobe for a second time by means of KonMari. Although I didn’t get rid of everything I wouldn’t be excited to buy now, a lot of it was slated for donation or consignment or placed into my “holding zone.”
One Confounding Factor
I mentioned my holding zone… Well, mine had grown increasingly larger as a result of those menopausal body changes I wrote about earlier. My body is a lot different than it was in early 2016 before I went through “the change.” I’m heavier now than I was before and despite my continuing to exercise as much as I always have (which is only moderate at best due to my health challenges), a lot of my muscle tone is gone. I used to be able to easily drop weight by eating a bit less and stepping up my exercise, but this doesn’t work anymore. I’ve managed to drop a bit of my menopausal weight, but I’m still up a size from where I was before and my fat deposits have redistributed as well. Some things that used to fit me well at this same weight and size don’t look so great now as a result.
For a long time, I kept hoping that at least some of these clothes would fit well once again. I got rid of the really small and tight items a while ago (I had purchased too many clothes when my weight was lower than usual due to health issues in 2015), but I was hanging on to many other pieces in the hope that they would work for me again. But what I realized through doing the plate exercise is that a lot of these clothes aren’t even my style anymore. If I did end up fitting into them again, I wouldn’t be excited to wear them, so it was an easy decision to let them go.
As for the snug-fitting clothes that I would be happy to wear again, I kept some of them. I only held onto those things that would likely fit me well with a 7-10 pound weight loss, and I’m only allowing myself to keep what fits into the plastic bin that I have designated for this specific purpose. I’ve stored this bin in my garage so I won’t have to see it on a daily basis. I have already reviewed the “skinny bin” another time since I first established it. I did this the night before I took my KonMari castoffs to consignment. Somehow, the fact that these clothes had been out of my closet for a few weeks made me less attached to them and more ready to move them along. It actually felt good to get rid of pieces that just made me feel bad because I can’t wear them.
While I’m hoping to be able to fit into some of the remaining clothes again, I’m not willing to starve myself to make it happen. Been there, done that for far too long during my many years of being anorexic in my teens and twenties. I’m not going there again! If I can’t drop weight through reasonable diet and exercise changes, I guess I’m just going to have to learn to accept my current size, which I intellectually realize is not that horrible. I still have “anorexia brain,” though, so I don’t see myself clearly and am overly self-critical. It helps, however, to wear clothes that I feel good in, which now means more body-skimming rather than the body-hugging styles I used to love.
What I Got Rid of and Why
I have long made it a practice to identify why I’m getting rid of a particular piece that I’m passing on. This quick notation helps me to better understand my shopping mistakes – and style shifts, which guides my future buying decisions. However, I decided to do something different after this last closet purge and create visual representations of my reasons for purging things. I placed photos of my castoffs (I already had photos of all of my clothes) into folders labelled according to why I’m passing things on. I did this for everything I’ve purged in 2018 thus far, not just for my September and October KonMaris.
In some cases, there was more than one reason why I opted to jettison an item. In fact, that was the case more often than not. But the important thing was that I was able to see at a glance why I was letting things go. I found this extremely helpful and I’m planning to make it a regular practice moving forward.
Here are the reasons I listed for passing on clothing, shoes, and accessories, from most to least common:
- Too small/tight (items that are uncomfortably snug either all over or in certain places)
- Fabric issues (scratchy, uncomfortable, didn’t wash or wear well, etc.)
- Bad alterations (things I bought on sale that were too big for me or items in my closet I tried to “rescue” through tailoring – see this post for my previous thoughts on this topic)
- Poor quality (an all too common problem these days and difficult to avoid even if you know what to look for when shopping)
- Fussy (tops that won’t stay in place, jackets that must be worn closed, etc.)
- Unflattering (things that don’t look good on me with my body changes or maybe never looked right to begin with)
- No longer like the style (flared skirts and dresses, for example)
- Bad color (colors that don’t work with my hair color shift, such as certain shades of green and gray)
- Sleeve issues (too short, too tight, bad shape)
- Too “busy” (i.e. a print that’s too bold and loud for my preferences)
- Too long (long cardigans that hit me in a bad spot, a jacket that ended in a “no man’s land” spot, etc.)
- Too short (an all-too-common issue for a tall woman!)
- Worn out
Some Patterns and Insights
Sadly, “worn out” was my least common reason for getting rid of something, which tells me that I still have far too many clothes. I’m not wearing most of my things often enough for them to wear out before I decide to let them go for other reasons. When I look at the five items that I let go of due to deterioration (two pairs of shoes, one cardigan, and two t-shirts), only one pair of shoes had been worn more than thirty times (I wrote about the 30 Wears Initiative back in 2016 and it would be helpful for me to do a similar analysis of my wardrobe now…). The other four items became worn out after fewer wears because of poor quality, which was a common reason for purging items regardless of how many times I’d worn them. I’ve noticed that poor quality is particularly an issue with t-shirts and I’m still struggling to find a brand and style that will hold up for a reasonable number of wears.
Some of the purge reasons mentioned above are hard to avoid. Sometimes we grow tired of a particular style or it becomes dated and we no longer want to wear it. Additionally, we can’t always know if a garment is going to be “fussy” when we buy it. We generally need to wear something for a while to determine if it will be a piece we put on and forget about or if we’ll end up tugging at it all day long. If we pay attention over time, though, we may realize that particular fabrications are problematic for us. For instance, I’ve learned that cotton/modal blends don’t tend to hold their shape well unless some spandex is also added to the mix. However, too much spandex can also be an issue because it can be too uncomfortable and clingy. Here are some items for which fabrication was a problem (in addition to the issues with tops highlighted previously, the jeans were too stiff and the capris were uncomfortable and always looked wrinkled):
From my notations about why I passed things on, I’ve learned that I don’t like cowl-necks, ruffles, side-slits, or billowy sleeves because of their “fussiness.” I also don’t like jackets that only look good when they’re worn closed, as I like the option of being able to wear them open when desired. I like some embellishments on my clothes and shoes, but there can be too much of a good thing for my preferences. And while I love stripes and polka dots, most other prints end up feeling like “too much” for me such that I won’t wear them enough to keep them around.
I’ve learned that I can’t settle in terms of lengths, either. Because I’m tall and have long arms, sleeves are rarely long enough for me. While salespeople often tell me, “You can just push them up,” that’s not an acceptable solution for me. Sometimes I want to wear my full-length sleeves at full-length. When it comes to ¾-length sleeves, they need to end far below my elbows or else they’ll be uncomfortable when I bend my arms. I’ve also discovered that I don’t like elbow-length sleeves or sleeveless tops with wide straps. I don’t like the look of the former and I find that the latter overly accentuates my broad shoulders and highlights the fact that my upper arms aren’t as firm as they used to be.
If a skirt is supposed to be maxi-length, I can’t settle on it being a few inches shorter than that or it will always bother me. Likewise, if a jacket or top is supposed to be hip-length, it’s not okay if the hem hits me too high, as that’s not usually a flattering length on my body. I have to be picky about lengths because when I’m not and buy pieces anyway, they generally end up becoming “benchwarmers” that collect dust in my closet before they move on to new homes. I can’t allow myself to be dazzled by a color (hello, cobalt…) or pattern (can we say stripes?) such that I ignore unsuitable lengths on all sorts of garment types. It’s just not worth it! Here are some examples of rarely worn items that I passed on due to length issues:
I could go on, but I think you get the picture… All in all, I have gotten rid of 87 items this year, the majority of which were passed on over the past two months. I haven’t done an inventory since my last KonMari, but my closet feels much less cramped now and with the exception of a small holding zone and the “skinny box” (which is now only half full), everything is in one place. I could probably still pare down more, but the main thing I need to do is buy less and stop the churn. After all, it doesn’t help to be good at editing our closets if we keep bringing too much in! Both sides of the equation are important, but for over-buyers like me, the input side is where the bulk of the focus should be.
I plan to do a fall wardrobe challenge much like the one I did this past spring (see original post HERE and recap HERE), which I suspect will help me to better identify my favorites. I’m also considering doing my “Love it, Wear it Challenge” (LIWI) again in 2019, along with having item limits in place for how much I will purchase each season. I enjoy doing challenges as a way to increase my awareness and enhance my learning. I plan to do more challenges next year, not only for my wardrobe but for all areas of my life. Stay tuned… In the meantime, I welcome your comments on this post, as well as any suggestions you have for future topics.