I have long been a proponent of wardrobe tracking. I summarized my reasons for this practice in an essay back in 2013, and I still stand by the points I made at that time. Tracking can help us to better understand what we have, wear, and need. I believe it would be helpful for almost anyone to do some form of wardrobe tracking for a period of time in order to increase their awareness and foster better shopping choices. All of this said, as I began 2019, I decided to stop tracking what I wear. In today’s post, I share my reasons for this decision, what I’m doing instead, and how I feel about all of this now that a month and a half has gone by.
The Upside and Downside of Tracking
I tracked what I wore every single day for eight full years, from 2011 through 2018! I did this via a mostly low-tech method of using hang-tags to capture the immediate data and a spreadsheet for compiling longer-term information and making sense of it. Through my rigorous tracking, I came to understand what types of pieces in my closet were worn often (the “all-stars”) and which items rarely made their way off their hangers (the “benchwarmers”). This information helped to guide my purchasing decisions such that I stopped buying a lot of dressier pieces, uncomfortable shoes, and things that didn’t dovetail well with my body, lifestyle, and personality. I gradually made fewer mistakes and started to see lower cost-per-wear on many of the items I owned.
While there were a lot of positive outcomes to my wardrobe tracking, there were also some negatives. Although the tracking only took me a minute or two each day, the end of the year tabulations occupied many hours. I had to make sure that all my new pieces were added to my spreadsheet and all purged items were deleted. If I were a wardrobe minimalist, this wouldn’t be all that labor-intensive, but with the type of “closet churn” I endured each year, it was no easy feat. I also had to spend a big chunk of time on either New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day entering the year’s numbers into the spreadsheet. Fortunately, my husband helped with this activity, but I can think of better ways to spend that holiday! The data analysis also took a lot of time to complete and even though I’m a “numbers nerd,” it could be burdensome at times.
Then there was the matter of what I learned from my analysis. I was often dismayed to learn that my cost-per-wear wasn’t as high as I’d hoped and/or that I still had a decent number of wardrobe “benchwarmers” in my closet. Sure, my statistics dramatically improved since I first tabulated them back in 2011 and 2012, but they never reached the level of flawlessness that my perfectionistic nature desired. I wanted to have almost all “all-stars” and virtually no “benchwarmers,” which isn’t realistic for most people, including many with much smaller wardrobes than I possess.
In the Interest of “Freedom”…
As with all other years since 2011, my husband and I entered my numbers for last year on New Year’s Day. While we were doing this, he asked me if I was going to continue tracking my wears in 2019. When I immediately answered in the affirmative, he suggested that perhaps it would give me freedom to stop doing it. He knew that I had selected “freedom” as my word/theme for the year and he thought that stopping the tracking would be a good place to start. Without much hesitation, I knew he was right (I married a smarty!) and decided right then and there to stop tracking what I wore each day.
I didn’t opt to stop all tracking, however. I’m still using what I call “the hanger trick” to see what is and isn’t getting worn. This simple strategy involves turning all hangers to face outward instead of inward. After an item is worn (and washed if necessary), its hanger gets turned around to face inward (i.e. the “normal” way). Alternatively, one can opt to face the hangers outward after pieces are worn, and some people prefer to keep all of the hangers facing inward but instead hang worn items either to the left or the right of the closet (such that “benchwarmers” will end up all on one side). No matter how you do it, this simple strategy will give you a visual representation of what you are and aren’t wearing. It’s a lot easier than tracking actual wears, but it still provides valuable data that can help to guide your future shopping and purging behavior.
What I’ve Noticed So Far
After about a month of using the “hanger trick,” I decided to reorganize my closet to help me even better understand the types of pieces I’m wearing. I divided my tops into three sections: those that I only wear “out and about,” those I wear both out and at home, and those that I only wear at home or when I exercise. I don’t think I will maintain this type of organization, but I’ve found it beneficial over the short-term. Doing this has helped me realize that I have a lot of tops that I only wear when I go out.
Such tops aren’t necessarily “fancy,” but they aren’t things I want to wear at home for various reasons. They may be more form-fitting than I like for comfort reasons, or they may be items that I worry about becoming covered in cat hair or easily being damaged by my kitties’ claws. It’s okay for me to have some tops like this in my closet, but I would ultimately like the numbers to be relatively small. I don’t worry so much about bottoms, dresses, and toppers because I don’t have nearly as many of those. Tops tend to be my problem area, so seeing so many hangers still turned outward for weather-appropriate garments in mid-February has given me pause.
By paying attention and shifting things around in my closet from time to time, I think I can gain the information I need without doing the more labor-intensive and time-consuming tracking I used to do. I’m going to try not tracking for at least this year and see how I feel. I can always go back to tracking wears if I miss that data and the information it provides. I really don’t think I will, though. I tracked wears for eight years and I think that’s more than enough (for me). Tracking should serve our needs and like everything else in life, when something no longer serves us, it’s okay (and often advisable) to let it go.
I see myself continuing to use the “hanger trick” long-term to keep me honest and realistic about what I’m actually wearing. Even my husband does this, unprovoked by me. And a beautiful thing about it is that we can start over anytime, not just at the beginning of the year. We can also move unworn items to the front of our closets to remind us to either wear them or let them go. We don’t have to wait until something hasn’t been worn for a full year in order to address it. We get to decide how often we want to wear what’s in our closets and what it means for something to be an “all-star” or a “benchwarmer.”
I’m also going to continue to track what I buy and I’m going to pay more attention to that type of tracking this year and moving forward. Although I don’t share what I purchase and how much I spend on my blog anymore (three years of that on Recovering Shopaholic was enough), I’m going to make sure to update that information for myself each month. Thus far, the only limitation I have set for myself is around how much I spend each year, which is ultimately the most important metric. I have thought about reinstating rules around how many items I buy, but I’m not sure how that fits into my “freedom” theme. However, there is definitely some truth in the adage that structure brings us freedom, so I’m going to give that more thought! I know I will be writing a lot about freedom as the year progresses, so stay tuned.
Now I’d like to hear from you on the subject of wardrobe tracking:
- Do you track your wardrobe? In what ways?
- How has tracking helped you in terms of your shopping and wardrobe management?
- If you used to track but don’t anymore, why did you stop?
- If you have never tracked your wardrobe, why not?
- What tips and suggestions do you have related to wardrobe tracking? (e.g. methods, apps, etc.)
The above questions are meant to trigger your thoughts, but feel free to comment however you’d like. I look forward to reading your input on this topic.