I’m now more than a third of the way through the wardrobe “half project” that I launched in early May. The objective of this year-long challenge is to pare my wardrobe down to half of its original size, to only those items that I feel good in and look forward to wearing. The reason I embarked upon the half project is because my theme for 2019 is “freedom” and having too many clothes feels like a burden and weighs me down. Additionally, since I have become relatively minimalist in terms of all of my other possessions, my overly large wardrobe sticks out as a glaring exception to the way I want to live my life.
In today’s post, I’ll update you on how I have progressed with the challenge since my last update back in July. I’ll let you know what I have swapped out, what has been swapped in, what has been purged, and how I’ve done with the rules I established for the half project when it began. I also compare and contrast how the “ideal wardrobe” numbers I calculated in my last post line up with the initial half project calculations I made for my wardrobe categories.
What I Swapped Out in August
August was a month during which a lot of swaps occurred between my “working wardrobe” and my “holding zone.” By that time, I had been dressing for summer weather for well over a month, so I had a much better idea of what I wanted to wear and what was working best for me in my warm weather ensembles. I also made some purchases and other clothing acquisitions (gifts, hand-me-downs) during July and August (more on these below) and I wanted to integrate my new items into my main wardrobe.
When all was said and done, I ended up swapping out 25 items during August:
- Pants/Jeans: 3
- Cardigans: 4
- Jackets/Coats: 4
- Long-Sleeved Tops: 4
- Short-Sleeved Tops: 8
- Skirts: 1
- Dresses: 1
These items are all shown in the photo below:
Because I made so many swaps last month, I won’t go into the specific reasons for each one, but I’ll highlight some of my reasons for making the swaps.
- Unworn items with tags: There were two duster cardigans that I’d never worn even though I purchased them in the spring, so I returned them both for refunds. I tried reaching for these cardigans a few times, but the fabric and fit just never felt right to me. I also have two other cardigans in the same color and pattern (cobalt, black and white striped), so I didn’t really need duplicates, especially when I’m working to cultivate a smaller wardrobe.
- Fit issues: Some of the swapped out items technically fit me, but I didn’t like how they looked or felt on my body. It’s possible that I may be happy with these garments if I’m able to drop some more weight (I’ve slowly dropped some weight in recent months…), but since I don’t want to wear them now, I removed them from my working wardrobe for the time being.
- Style issues: Personal style usually evolves over time and there are some items that I once liked but no longer feel drawn to wear. For example, I no longer like a lot of embellishments or ruffles on my garments, so I opted to swap out pieces that included such features.
- Duplications: A few of the items that I swapped out are quite similar to other pieces in my working wardrobe. Since I prefer the other items and reach for them more often, I swapped out the lesser loved garments.
Three of the items that I swapped out have been purged, four have been set aside to sell online, and the others are now in my holding zone. I will decide on the fate of the holding zone items as I proceed with the challenge.
The Fate of My June and July Swapped Out Items
I swapped out 11 items in June and 12 items in July. I thought it would be interesting to give an update on where those items are now:
- Returned: 2
- Consigned / Donated: 11
- Downgraded: 1
- In Holding Zone: 7
- Swapped Back In: 2
The swap feature of the challenge is helping me to understand what is and isn’t working for me. It allows me to experiment with items for a while before deciding upon their ultimate fate. If I opt to swap the seven June/July swapped out garments in the holding zone back into my working wardrobe, it will be a “make or break” situation, as the challenge rules dictate that items swapped out a second time need to be passed on. As you can see, however, more than half (57%) of my June and July swapped out items have already met that fate. Things are usually swapped out for a good reason, but I’m glad that I held on to the two items that I swapped back in, as they’re working better for me now than I thought they would.
What I Swapped In During August
As I mentioned above, there was a lot of turnover in my working wardrobe since my last update. While I swapped out 25 items, I only swapped in 23. Many of the items that I swapped in were new acquisitions, including some gifts that I received for my anniversary and birthday, as well as some items that I selected from my mother-in-law’s closet while clearing it out following her passing. Although she was shorter and smaller than I am, because she often wore loose-fitting garments, some pieces that I liked actually fit me. I’m not sure yet how I will feel about wearing them, but I opted to swap three of them in last month. If it feels too sad for me to wear them, I will swap them out and try again later. It’s hard to know how I will feel… It may feel comforting to wear her clothes and it may just be too soon.
I also made some purchases during July and August that have been integrated into my main closet. Unfortunately, I didn’t stick to my challenge rule of only purchasing two “out and about” items per month after my initial two-month shopping pause. Although I could make some justifications about why this happened, I’m not going to do so because the bottom line is that I broke my own rules. I do believe that I can get back on track, but an influx of new items has long been my Achilles heel when it comes to my wardrobe. I have written about this issue many times on this blog and my previous one, but this post on “closet churn” and this one on shopping and happiness probably best outline where I am with this today. If I’m ever going to maintain what I consider a “just right” wardrobe on a continual basis, I’m going to have to stop the churn!
Here’s a breakdown of my swapped in items by category and a quick look at what I swapped into my working wardrobe last month:
- Pants/Jeans: 4 (vs. 3 swapped out)
- Cardigans: 1 (vs. 4 swapped out)
- Jackets/Coats: 0 (vs. 4 swapped out)
- Long-Sleeved Tops: 0 (vs. 4 swapped out)
- Short-Sleeved Tops: 11 (vs. 8 swapped out)
- Sleeveless Tops: 2 (vs. 0 swapped out)
- Skirts: 1 (vs. 1 swapped out)
- Dresses: 4 (vs. 1 swapped out)
Most of the short-sleeved tops (9) and the cardigan can also be worn at home, so they are not exclusively “out and about” items. However, during the hottest months of the year (usually August and September), I don’t typically mix and match my at-home and out and about wardrobes as much, so I decided to include these tops in my working wardrobe, which is centered on out and about wear. As things cool down, I’m sure I will wear at least some of the tops and maybe the cardigan at home as well. It’s also possible that I may return a few of these things if I don’t wear them soon. I’m supposed to return anything that I haven’t worn within two weeks, but I think I’m going to extend that limit to a month given that I only wear out and about items roughly half of the time.
Unfortunately, I’ve found that casual t-shirts tend to have the shortest lifespan in my closet. They just don’t tend to be made as well as other wardrobe items and no matter how much I “baby” them, their longevity is often limited. Many of them don’t meet the 30 wears benchmark that I would like to reach for all of the garments I buy. Interestingly, it doesn’t seem to matter what brand the t-shirts are or where I buy them. I have had Target tees last longer than ones purchased at Nordstrom, for example, and most brands are inconsistent in terms of quality. The poor quality of tees leads to my buying quite a few of them each year, as my casual lifestyle dictates that I wear these items often. If there are t-shirt brands that have consistently worked well for you and have lasted for 30 or more wears, please share them in the comments section.
Some Challenge Statistics
Since I started the “Half Project” in May, I have made a lot of swaps and purged quite a few items. Here’s a quick breakdown of how my “out and about” wardrobe has shifted over the past four months:
- Items Swapped Out: 46 (of these, 18 have either been returned or purged)
- Items Swapped In: 43 (of these, 36 remain in my working wardrobe)
- Total Items Purged: 45 (some of these pieces were purged from my holding zone or “skinny box,” not my working wardrobe)
- July/August New Acquisitions: 19 (10 purchases, 6 gifts, 3 hand-me-downs)
Of the items I purchased, only four could be considered “out and about” only items, but I still want to be careful not to buy too many new items, especially since I don’t mind wearing the same at-home garments over and over again. My at-home wardrobe is still relatively small and I don’t really need to add much to it at this point. Additionally, just because some of my items can do “double duty,” in reality I don’t tend to wear a lot of them at home, particularly during the summer months.
Thus far, no items have been swapped out or in twice, which is good. As I stated above, the challenge rules dictate that if I swap something out twice, I need to pass it on for donation or consignment. We’ll see if that ends up happening before the end of the challenge. I suspect it may happen a few times, but probably not all that often.
- Items Currently in Working Wardrobe: 127
- Items in Holding Zone: 37
- Items in Skinny Box: 16
- TOTAL: 180
“Ideal Wardrobe” Size vs. Half Project Calculations
When I started the half project, I tallied up all of the clothes in my main closet, holding zone, and “skinny box” and separated everything out by category. Then I divided each category’s number in half to determine how many items to start with in my “working wardrobe.” Of course, I didn’t know how many items I would ideally need in each category, but I figured that those initial numbers would be a good starting point.
Last month, I revisited the “ideal wardrobe size” exercise and determined how many items I would need for each category based upon desired frequency of wear, weather considerations, my typical activities, and what I like to wear. I ultimately determined that an “out and about” wardrobe consisting of 118 items (57 for summer and 61 for “not summer”) would be optimal for me. But how do my calculations for that exercise compare with my initial “half project” benchmarks? Well, let’s see…
First, here’s a reminder of my ideal wardrobe size numbers:
- 7 pairs of pants(based upon 10 wears per year)
- 14 tops to pair with pants(based upon 5 wears per year)
- 9 toppers to pair with pants(based upon 8 wears per year)
- 7 dresses/skirts(based upon 5 wears per year)
- 4 tops to wear with skirts(based upon 5 wears per year, splitting dress & skirt wears)
- 7 toppers to wear with dresses/skirts(based upon 5 wears per year)
- 9 pairs of summer shoes(based upon 12 wears per year)
- TOTAL = 57 items
“Not Summer” Wardrobe:
- 10 pairs of pants/jeans(based upon 10 wears per year)
- 21 tops(based upon 5 wears per year)
- 21 toppers(based upon 5 wears per year)
- 9 pairs of cool weather shoes(based upon 12 wears per year)
- TOTAL = 61 items
Now let’s compare and contrast those numbers with my half project benchmarks. To make it easier to do the comparison, I’ll list the half project benchmarks followed by the ideal wardrobe size numbers in parentheses. I didn’t specifically separate out the summer and “not summer” items when I did my half project calculations, so I’ll just list out the categories that I worked with.
- Long pants/jeans: 16 (10)
- Cropped pants: 8 (7)
- Skirts/Dresses: 12 (7)
- TOTAL: 36 (24)
- Tops for skirts: 6 (4)
- Long-sleeved tops (for “not summer”): 25 (21)
- Short-sleeved / sleeveless tops (to pair with summer pants): 26 (14)
- TOTAL: 57 (39)
- Toppers for skirts/dresses: 5 (7)
- Toppers for pants: 26 (30)
- TOTAL: 31 (37)
- 13 (18) – I didn’t separate them out by season for the half project
GRAND TOTAL: 137 (118)
As you can see, the numbers aren’t too disparate, although some of the categories vary quite a bit. I would actually be satisfied if I ended up with either grand total at the end of my “half project.” I haven’t been including shoes in my half project, although I did make an initial calculation for that category when I was originally planning the challenge. I decided not to include shoes, as I haven’t been overbuying in that category for a number of years now. The same is true for accessories and jewelry, and I’m basically happy with my current numbers in those areas.
I don’t know that I’ll be able to winnow down to the number of tops that I calculated in the ideal wardrobe exercise, as I like more variety there, but I’m going to at least try to reach my half project benchmark of 57 total out and about tops. As I mentioned previously, some of my tops do “double duty” in that I can wear them both at home and when I’m out. What I hope to end up with by the end of the challenge (May 2020) is a collection of just 39-57 tops that are only wore out and about. I’ll aim to reach the lower end of that range, but I’m only going to get rid of items that I’m no longer happy wearing (but I’m sure that I’ll also downgrade some tops to at-home wear only).
Conclusion and Next Steps
It was very enlightening for me to make the comparison above and I hope you found it interesting as well. I feel like I’m on the right track with my “half project” even though I didn’t do a good job of sticking to my purchase limit this summer. I believe that I’ll do better with that in the fall months, as I don’t typically buy as much late in the year. When the weather cools down (usually in November), I’ll focus on wearing my “not summer” items and winnowing them down to only those pieces that I like most.
I was relatively satisfied with my cool weather tops and toppers earlier in the year, so I should find myself needing just a few additions and replacements. Pants are a whole other ball of wax and I never overbuy there because it’s just so difficult for me to find ones that I like and which fit well. In fact, I’m not even going to limit my pants purchases because if I hit the “mother lode” (unlikely, but anything’s possible!), I will stock up. I’m tired of feeling unhappy with my outfits because my pants are uncomfortable, too short, or ill-fitting, so I’m focusing more energy on hunting for better options. Since the trends are shifting to looser fits (but ugh on the dreaded high rises that seem to be everywhere…), I may have better luck.
I plan to do another half project challenge update once I reach the six-month mark in early November. At that point, I’ll share more statistics and photos and also update the shopping list that I put together in my July check-in. Between now and then, I’ll mostly turn back to non-wardrobe topics, including more of my thoughts on Cal Newport’s Digital Minimalism, an update on my 2019 “freedom” theme, and some insights on life that I’ve learned in the wake of my mother-in-law’s passing. As always, thank you for reading and I welcome your comments.