It’s been a couple of months since I last checked in on the wardrobe “half project” that I kicked off back in May. I have done a few updates since I started the challenge and in tandem with my last update, I also shared my ideal wardrobe size benchmarks based upon an exercise that I did back in August. In today’s post, I will share where I am with the “half project” now and what I plan to do with it moving forward.
As you may have noticed, I haven’t been posting very often in recent months. A lot has been going for me following my mother-in-law’s passing in early August and I have been feeling “blocked” in many aspects of life, including with my writing. I usually haven’t felt compelled to write and when I have endeavored to write a blog post, it seemed to take me infinitely longer than it did previously. It has often felt like rolling a large boulder up a hill, which only served to make me feel worse about myself and my life, as writing used to be something that I enjoyed doing and felt that I did well. I hope this is a temporary state of affairs, as I would like to get back to posting on a more regular basis. I have some ideas that I’m tossing around for 2020 that may help to get me more excited about blogging once again (fingers crossed…).
There Can Be Such a Thing as Too Much Number Crunching…
When I sat down to write an update on my half project, I started to compile information, photos, and statistics as per usual, but it just felt too hard and overwrought. I realized that in an attempt to simplify my wardrobe, I have instead made things more complicated. At first, I loved the idea of swapping things in and out of my “working wardrobe,” but then I just kind of lost track of it all. When attempting to put this post together, I realized that I wasn’t entirely sure what had been swapped in and out – and when!
At first, I felt that I should double-down and figure everything out so that I could compile a realistic update to post today, but then I had a different thought. I remembered that my theme for the year is “freedom” and all of this navel-gazing and number crunching doesn’t feel very free. I also realized that any wardrobe challenges that I undertake should serve my needs and that the “half project” as it was written was no longer doing so.
Perhaps there was a good reason that no one elected to join me in the half project in the exact way I laid it out earlier this year. While a few readers took on a modified version of the challenge, I don’t recall anyone jumping in to adopt all of my rules. Maybe it was just too complicated all along, but that doesn’t mean that I should “throw the baby out with the bath water,” so to speak. I believe there are still lessons to be learned and benefits to be derived from the half project, but I don’t need to incorporate so much complexity that I end up pulling all of my hair out along the way. I think the best way to proceed at this point is to examine what my intended benefits were and look at how I might be able to experience them in a different way.
My Goals for the Challenge and My Wardrobe
What I was really looking for when I embarked upon the half project is what I still want today, a smaller and more manageable wardrobe that suits the needs of my lifestyle. I want less “churn” and fewer buying mistakes and I want to enjoy wearing my clothes and feel good in them. These goals are pretty much what I have wanted all along, as well as a few other objectives like sticking to a clothing budget and getting a good cost-per-wear out of my purchases.
While I have made progress with all of the above goals at times, I have also experienced many ups and downs with my wardrobe and shopping over the years. But as I write this in November 2019, almost seven years since I started Recovering Shopaholic, I’m tired of my struggles in these areas and I’m ready for them to be over! I don’t want to spend countless hours managing an overly large wardrobe. I don’t want to buy and return an abundance of clothing in search of the “right” pieces in order to chase the ever elusive goal of being “stylish.” I want to dress in a way that works for me, even if it’s not particularly “current” or aesthetically pleasing to the “cool kids.” I’m 53 years old and I don’t really care if I’m one of the cool kids anymore. I’m tired of chasing a goal that I never seem to be able to meet, so it’s time to pursue a new one!
What I really want now is to be physically and emotionally comfortable in what I’m wearing and to express my own version of “style” that makes me happy. As I wrote in my last post, I want to leave uncomfortable clothing in this decade and not bring it forward into 2020 and beyond. This includes clothing in which I feel overly self-conscious and like I’m trying to be someone I’m not. I want to feel free to be myself and to engage in the activities that bring me joy. I don’t want to waste precious energy feeling upset about what I’m wearing when I should be embracing life and enjoying what I’m doing. This is all a big part of the freedom that I have been striving for this year.
So, What about the Half Project?
So where does this all leave me in terms of the half project? Well, I still want to pare my wardrobe down to a more manageable level and I have already made excellent progress in this regard. I still want to end up with roughly half of what I started with by the time the end of April rolls around, if not sooner. If I can also reach the ideal wardrobe size benchmarks that I calculated, so much the better. I believe that a wardrobe of that size is both reasonable and doable for me, but I don’t necessarily need to follow a complicated set of rules in order to get there. In order to make things simpler and easier for myself, I’m only going to hold on to a few of the challenge rules I set in May.
Below are the rules I have decided to embrace for the remainder of the half project:
New purchases must be worn within a month or be returned.
I originally specified a two-week limit, but I think a month is more realistic since I only get dressed in out-and-about clothes about half of the time. In any event, I haven’t been adhering to this rule and I think it has been to my detriment. I should only be purchasing for the current season and for defined wardrobe needs, of which I don’t have many! There’s no reason why I should be buying anything that I don’t wear pretty much right away, as I already have so many clothes. If I’m going to add something to my closet, it needs to earn its keep by being incorporated into outfits right off the bat (and hopefully become a wardrobe “workhorse”).
At the end of the year, I can only hold on to 10 “skinny box” items & 10 holding zone items.
I’m doing pretty well with this now, as I currently have 15 items in the skinny box (things that I still love but don’t quite fit me at the moment) and 22 items in the holding zone, which is now also a box the same size as the skinny box, as shown below.
I am keeping both boxes in my garage but am reviewing them on a semi-regular basis (around every two months). I previously had my holding zone in another closet in my home, but I have decided that I only want to have clothes in my master bedroom closet and the coat closet. Having clothes scattered throughout my house was stressful and ran counter to my goal of experiencing freedom with my wardrobe. I feel much better now that there aren’t clothes in my home office or the guest room.
Limit “out-and-about” item purchases.
Although I did manage not to buy any new out-and-about items for the first two months of the challenge as planned, I didn’t stick to my monthly two item limit after that. In fact, I did downright abysmally with this rule. Granted, I was under a lot of stress, but I’m never going to achieve my wardrobe goals if I keep buying so many new things. It will just be a lot of “churn” and that’s stressful and wasteful and not something I want to keep doing!
I’m going to raise my monthly item limit from two to three items and I’m going to try to actually stick with it this time around. This new item limit would result in my purchasing 36 out-and-about items per year, which I think is a reasonable number for me. This would lead to my replacing roughly a quarter to a third of my wardrobe each year if I maintain my target wardrobe size of 118-137 items (see this post for how I came up with those numbers). Of course, some items would last longer than three or four years, but others (I’m looking at you, t-shirts…) may only hang around for a year or so before they need to be replaced.
Those are really the only rules I need at this point. I’m not going to do the swaps anymore, as they became unwieldy. If something isn’t working for me, it should probably just be passed on, but I also have the option of putting it in the skinny box (if it doesn’t currently fit me) or the holding zone for a period of time. By the end of the challenge, my plan is to just use one box for all such items, which will be sufficient since I will only have a maximum of ten of each.
Where Things Stand Now
I currently have 157 out-and-about items in my closet (this doesn’t include my skinny box and holding zone), so I still have a ways to go before I reach my goal of 118-137 items. Since fall temperatures only just arrived where I live (yeah, I know that’s pretty strange…), I haven’t had a chance to truly evaluate my cool weather wardrobe as of yet. I suspect that I will end up purging quite a few items as I determine what is and isn’t working for me this season, as that’s what happened back in June and July when I started wearing my warm weather items. I also think that some of my out-and-about tops will get downgraded to at-home wear as well since they are becoming worn out.
If I can keep myself from buying too many new pieces (which is a big IF given my track record…), I see myself being able to reach my half project goal before the year of the challenge is complete. I may incorporate some mini-challenges along the way to keep things interesting and to help me better understand my wardrobe needs. I’m considering doing a capsule challenge and some introspective exercises, as well as cultivating some “uniforms” that I enjoy wearing. I was kind of against uniforms for a while because I had grown bored with the ones I had, but I have come back around to seeing the utility of them. I don’t think I will ever maintain a closet full of black turtlenecks and jeans a la Steve Jobs, but I no longer require the level of variety that I used to in order to be happy with my wardrobe.
I don’t know how often I will do updates on the half project, but I suspect I will check in a few more times before it’s all said and done. I’m kind of sad that the whole swap aspect of the challenge has gone by the wayside, as it seemed like such a great idea at the outset. It would probably work better with a much smaller wardrobe than mine or with fewer swaps overall. I originally intended to do just five per month, but I ended up needing to do more in order to best evaluate what I have and what was and wasn’t working for me (I am an emotional and fickle dresser). I had the best of intentions, but sometimes we have to give something a go before we know if it will work or not. It doesn’t really matter, though, as what’s important is the end result rather than how we arrive there. I still feel encouraged that I will reach my goals, albeit in a different way.
Conclusion and Your Thoughts?
I welcome your thoughts on what I shared today and I’d love to hear about how you’re doing with your wardrobe goals for 2019 and what you’d like to do differently in 2020. What wardrobe size works best for you? How many clothing items do you purchase in a year – or how many would you like to buy if you’re currently buying too many or too few? I invite you to answer any of these questions or to share whatever you’d like in relations to today’s post.
I hope to do at least a few more posts before the end of the year. I can’t believe the end of the year is so close! If I don’t do another post before Thanksgiving (I want to, but we’ll see…), I wish all of my American readers a wonderful holiday. I hope you enjoy time with family and friends. Last year, we enjoyed a Thanksgiving celebration with my mother-in-law in our new home and this year, it’s just my husband and me, but I’m extremely grateful for him and for all of the many other blessings in my life. Thank you for reading this post and for your support!