I have been doing my “half project” for just over a month now and I’m so glad I decided to take on this challenge! It has already helped me to pare down my wardrobe, become happier with my outfits, and better understand what I do and don’t wear and need. In today’s post, I’ll give you an update on how things have gone for me during the first month of the challenge and what I have learned thus far.
What I’ve Noticed So Far
One of the first things I noticed was how much happier I felt with the size of my “active wardrobe,” which is just half of what I started out with before beginning my “half project.” Previously, my main closet felt overly crowded and it was difficult for me to see what I had and to select what to wear. My favorites were in there, but there were also a lot of less loved pieces occupying much of the space surrounding them. After making my challenge selections and relocating everything else elsewhere (to my “holding zone” and my “skinny box”), there was a lot more breathing room in my closet and I could better see what I have.
I found myself feeling confident that a wardrobe of that size – or even smaller – would be more than sufficient for me, provided that it consisted of the right pieces. Of course, that’s what my “half project” is all about: curating a smaller and more workable wardrobe. I’m glad that I gave myself a whole year to accomplish this goal, as it’s going to take some time to figure out what’s working, what isn’t, and what new pieces might fill in the gaps.
As I got dressed during the first month of the challenge, I took note of what I reached for and also went back to keeping an outfit journal, which is helping me to formulate and keep track of my thoughts about what I’m wearing. I kept an outfit journal for about two years beginning in 2014 and found it beneficial in terms of improving my personal style. It also helped me to make better choices when shopping, but since I continued to buy too much and be motivated more by anxiety than necessity, mistakes were still far too prevalent. My hope is that this time around, I will do better because I’m limiting my shopping and have the goal of reducing my wardrobe size by half.
Hitting Rock Bottom and What’s Helping Me Improve
I feel that I hit a sort of “rock bottom” with my wardrobe this year (even though there’s a lot less in there than there used to be) and I just don’t want to keep making the same mistakes over and over again. I have made powerful changes along the way since I started Recovering Shopaholic in 2013, but I’ve also experienced a lot of ups and downs in the past few years, especially in light of going through menopause and undergoing a rough gray hair transition. With the work I’ve done on myself in recent months and the awareness I’ve gained, I’m now in a better place to actually get to where I want to be with my shopping, wardrobe, and style. My “freedom” theme is helping to guide the way, as is my commitment to minimalism and intentional living.
The Dressing Your Truth program has also been very influential in helping me to understand why so many of my purchases haven’t worked out, and it’s also providing a touchstone for the way I’d like to dress and how I’d like to feel about my wardrobe and myself. I realize that virtually all of my favorite pieces and outfits are in line with my DYT primary and secondary types (Type 4 and Secondary 2 – find out your primary type via this quiz or check out the 4 energy types comparison chart). It will be a gradual process to get to the point where my entire wardrobe is true to my type, but it’s a worthy goal to work towards and I know my “half project” will help me to get there.
What I Swapped Out in June
As I mentioned in my rules for the challenge (in this post), I can swap items out once a month, but I can swap out a particular item only once. If I decide to swap something out a second time, it will need to be donated or consigned. I was originally going to limit my swaps to just five items per month, but since I have a cap on how many times an item can be swapped out as well as a limit on how many new pieces I can purchase (only two “out and about” items per month following a two-month shopping pause), I have amended that rule to allow for unlimited swaps.
Since the objective of the challenge is to end up with the best possible half from my starting wardrobe (as well as a small number of strategic purchases along the way), the end result is far more important to me than how I get there. Reaching that objective may require more swaps than I initially anticipated since I’m not sure which items work best for me, especially if I haven’t worn them for a while. Sometimes things seem good at face value but actually aren’t, as I discovered a few weeks into the challenge.
All that said, I opted to swap out 11 items this month, as shown below:
Here’s why I decided to swap out these items and where they are now:
- Berry sweater tunic: I love the color, but I’m not sure about the style. I haven’t been into tunics lately, although I did like them a lot a couple of years ago. I’m also not a fan of boat necklines, as I prefer crew, scoop, or V-neck styles. Since I had never worn the sweater after having it in my closet for many months and because we’re moving into summer now, I sent it on to a new home.
- Black knit coat with ruffle neckline: This coat looks great on the model, but I’m not feeling it on me. It’s also a bit too small to button up fully and the neckline seems fussy. I bought it at an end of season sale in January and have only worn it once. I think I may have been wearing “sales goggles” when I bought it. It’s in the holding zone now and I will revisit it again in the fall.
- Black cardigan/tunic: I bought this as a nightshirt last year, but decided that it was too long. I thought I might wear it as a cardigan or tunic instead, but that never happened. I decided to pass it on this month.
- Black waffle top with patterned sleeves: I usually love waffle tops for cooler weather, but I have rarely worn this one. I think it may be the tan sleeves and the curved hem that are stopping me from reaching for it, but I’m keeping it in the holding zone and will revisit it in the fall.
- Black short-sleeved tee: This tee has always been somewhat too big for me and thus it doesn’t stay in place. I have other black tees that I like better, so I took this one to a local consignment store.
- Black cardigan with white trim: I bought this on my April Nashville trip, but hadn’t worn it. Fortunately, the retailer has a location near where I live, so I was able to return it last week.
- Black long crepe cardigan: I like the look of this cardigan but not the feel. The fabric is kind of scratchy and it’s not as comfortable as other black toppers in my closet. It’s currently in my holding zone, but I may opt to consign it at some point.
- Black sequined tank: I tried to wear this for the first time last week (I bought it at a consignment store last fall), but it felt too tight and flashy. Since I don’t see myself wanting to wear it even if it fit me well, I decided to re-consign it rather than store it in my “skinny box.”
- Black and white striped tunic: This top is from a few years ago and I’ve worn it a handful of times, but I didn’t love the boat neckline and curved hem when I put it on recently. As longtime readers know, I have a lot of striped pieces, so I opted to pass this one on.
- Black and white striped tee: This tee has been worn many times and isn’t holding its shape well anymore, so I downgraded it for at home wear only.
- Gray sweater with navy designs: This was also a Nashville purchase that I tried on based upon a friend’s recommendation. I thought I liked it, but when I put it on again recently, I felt like it washed me out. It was purchased at the same store as the black cardigan with white trim, so I was able to return both items for a refund.
As a recap, I returned two of the above items, consigned/donated another five, and downgraded one for at home use. The remaining three items are in my holding zone and will be re-evaluated later in the challenge.
What I Swapped In
Because I swapped eleven items out of my active wardrobe, I was able to replace them with eleven pieces from my holding zone. As per the rules of the challenge, I’m going to try to replace like with like (i.e. a long-sleeved top for another long-sleeved top) as much as possible. As the challenge progresses, I probably won’t always swap in the same types of items as I remove because I’ll likely discover that I need more in some categories than others. However, this time around, I did swap in pieces from the same garment categories as what I swapped out.
Here are the items I swapped into my active wardrobe this month:
I won’t go through these items one by one, but I’ll highlight some of the features that I believe make them a better fit as part of my overall wardrobe. The styles are more in line with what I usually like to wear. They’re all knits and are mostly quite comfortable in terms of their fabrication. They’re also primarily saturated colors, including black, blue, and green. Four of them are striped, four are solids, and the others include prints that are to my liking. The necklines on the tops are all scoop, crew, or V-neck styles rather than boat necks, and the hems are mostly straight (one is curved, but the fabric is a bit firmer and it stays in place better).
The reason I didn’t include the above items in my active wardrobe in the first place is because I had a rule that all unworn items needed to either be selected or purged. I wasn’t ready to purge some of my newer items, so I included them among my initial selections. I then ran out of room to include the above pieces and didn’t necessarily consider them to be favorites. We’ll see if I was right or wrong in that assessment as I get dressed in the coming months.
Items I Purged During the First Month of the Challenge
I mentioned above that I purged five of the items that were swapped out of my active wardrobe, but that wasn’t all I opted to pass on. I decided to take a second pass through my holding zone and my skinny box in addition to what was in my main closet. Doing this led me to find quite a few other items to consign or donate, including some of my at-home clothing. In all, I ended up letting go of 23 items:
- 3 toppers
- 13 “out and about” tops
- 4 at-home/workout tops
- 1 dress
- 2 pairs of workout pants
Here’s a picture of the items I purged after the first month of the “Half Project”:
I’m keeping track of my reasons for letting go of anything I decide to pass on. In the interest of not having this post become even longer than it already is, I’m not going to list out each individual item. However, I did notice some themes in terms of the common elements among the pieces I decided to let go:
- Curved hems (I prefer a straight hem)
- Poor fit (I’m extremely particular about the fit of my clothing)
- Unflattering colors (especially pale tones)
- Uncomfortable fabric (too stiff or scratchy)
- Too flimsy and/or fussy
- Too short (sleeves, overall length) or too long (usually overall length)
- Too much going on (I like simpler and cleaner styles)
Too Much Time, Attention, and Energy
I’m happy that I’m getting rid of items that don’t work for me and decreasing the overall size of my wardrobe. I’m also glad that I decided to do a shopping pause for “out and about” items in order to better understand what I actually need and what will make the biggest difference for me. I want to stop the wardrobe churn and decrease my shopping mistakes. I have tried to moderate my shopping for years, but I haven’t always been successful in that effort. I’ve recently struggled with buying too much again, so I needed to institute the pause and set some limits for myself. I have actually felt relieved that I wasn’t able to shop for out and about clothing items this past month. I didn’t even realize how much I had gone off the rails until I decided to start the “half project.”
One thing that I’ve really become present to is the amount of time, attention, and energy I devote to my wardrobe. It takes me a tremendous amount of time to consider what to buy, make purchases, do returns, get alterations done, etc. I would rather dedicate that time to other pursuits that will ultimately bring more fulfillment to my life. All too often, my wardrobe is a source of stress and anxiety rather than a source of joy. I feel a lot of guilt about the shopping mistakes I’ve made. It doesn’t feel good to donate or consign items that have been worn rarely, if at all. I would rather donate money to worthy charities (which I do, but I could do more…) than donate clothing that may or may not enrich someone’s life. I used to believe that all of my cast-offs would get a second life, but I now know that isn’t always the case because the secondhand market is overloaded in this country (and many other countries).
On Minimalism, a Glaring Exception, and a Model Example
Minimalism has brought peace to my life in many ways. I enjoy looking around my home and seeing space where clutter used to be. My closet is a glaring exception to this that I have ignored for far too long because I just didn’t want to face the truth. Shopping and clothing have been my compulsion, my distraction, my stress reliever, and my security blanket for many, many years. I’m tired of it. It’s not fulfilling and it’s actually making my life worse in more ways than I realized.
An online friend moved to San Diego late last year and I had the occasion to see her closet awhile back. I was impressed with how streamlined and curated her wardrobe was. This woman dresses very well and I would have guessed that her wardrobe was a lot larger than it actually is. I felt a sense of peace and calm when I looked into her closet. Everything looked like it belonged together and what she has is more than enough for her to wear for her lifestyle, which is very much like mine (work from home, casual outings, etc.). A wardrobe like hers is my goal and I actually believe I can get there now. It will take some hard work and discipline, but it’s doable, even for a longtime shopaholic like me. I’m still recovering and I’m bound to face some hiccups along the way, but the “half project” is definitely helping me to take steps in the right direction and I’m grateful that I came up with it.
Conclusion and Your Thoughts
I hope my musings have been helpful for you in some way. I don’t know how many of you are also doing the half project, but if you are, I’d love for you to share how it’s going for you. I also welcome your input on what has helped you to curate your wardrobe and shop smarter. If you’re still struggling and would like to set some goals and have accountability, I welcome your doing so in this forum. I will be posting regular updates on my half project and you can chime in and share how you’re doing with your own goals. This is a supportive community and if you have questions or are experiencing challenges, we’re here to help and support each other.