A Massive Paring-Down Of My Wardrobe

This is a very long post, but if you are finding yourself stuck in your wardrobe curation process, you may find this helpful...

I recently did an interesting and extremely useful exercise, that led me into a full-out, large-scale paring-down of my wardrobe.

Some background:  I've maintained a comprehensive clothing inventory in an Excel Spreadsheet, since summer of 2012.   Over the last three years, I have purged, upgraded, acquired, and then purged some more. Lather, rinse repeat.

This year, I discovered Marie Kondo, and I cannot say enough good things about her book, and her system!   I culled a lot of wardrobe items from my home, only keeping things that sparked joy. Funny thing though... When you start purging stuff, it is only then that you realize how many layers of other stuff there are, lying beneath the stuff you just got rid of.

Despite my KonMari tidy-and-discard sessions earlier this year, I still managed to acquire a ridiculous amount of new clothing through the spring and summer.   Ungh.   It reached critical mass.  I had too much stuff in my closet(s).

I keep, for all intents and purposes, two separate-ish wardrobes: the one at my place, the one at JC's place.  In addition, I have two more closets, in which I store the costumes and small props for my theatrical company, as well as clothing items I sell in my eBay store.

Ten days ago, I did a count of my inventory spreadsheet - of all of my personal wardrobe, everything at my place and at JC's.

Excluding dancewear, swimwear, flamenco costumes, other theatrical costumes, and lingerie, I had 178 pieces of clothing.

I wasn't feeling any spark of joy when I saw that number.   I was feeling vaguely ill, to be quite frank.   Time to return to Marie Kondo!

When I first read the book, I took notes about my wishes and goals, for what I wanted my house and wardrobe and life to be like.  Now, I re-visited those notes, and did some thinking.   Then I re-visited some of my favorite minimalist style blogs.

Because I knew much of my wardrobe still sparked joy, but that there was simply too many things getting in the way of those wishes and goals, I asked myself:

What would I take from this list, if I had to relocate someplace for a year and store the rest?

I created a new spreadsheet based on this question.  I didn't set limits or anything, I simply asked myself, What are my favorites that I would hate to lose for a year?

I made my new, pared-down list, and compared my numbers:

Tops:             Before:  68     After:  40
Skirts:           Before:  24     After:  12  (!!!!)
Shorts:          Before:  1        After:  8
Pants:           Before:  13      After:  9
Dresses:        Before:  21       After:  14
Occasion:     Before:  9        After:  2
Coats/Jackets/Toppers:    Before:  26    After:  17

So my before total was 178, my after total was 99.

Shoes and bags:

Shoes:    Before:  43          After:  35
Bags:      Before:   24         After:   19

Total Shoes/Bags before was 67, After was 54

Clearly, I needed to make some decisions.   I packed up and brought almost all of my clothing, shoes, bags, and accessories, from JC's, so I could lay out everything that I had, compare, and cull items.   I used to think I could keep separate wardrobes at each place, but I was carrying favorites back and forth, and the good stuff wasn't getting worn half the time because it was inevitably at the wrong place, at the wrong time.

I decided to clean house and do some merging.   But there were a few pieces that didn't make the initial cut, that I felt I needed to keep through the end of the year and then re-assess.  Top of the list saw a black business suit.   My initial plan was to box up these things - most of which were late fall/winter things, and re-visit them again in October, and decide then.

As I was pulling these 'maybe' items out of the closet and laying them on the bed, I knew I didn't want to store anything away.   If I'm boxing up something, regardless of the current season, then obviously my decision was already made.   I decided to try on 20 or so "on the fence" items and photograph myself in them.   And decide NOW.   Stay or go.

I quickly realized that, for this exercise to have any lasting impact or usefulness, I needed to set everything out by category.   ALL the tops together.   ALL the skirts together.   ALL the suits together.   That way, I could actually SEE how much, of what, I really have.   So for five days, I worked off my list.

 I followed this order in my paring-down process:

1. I pulled out the things I immediately knew could go, folded them neatly, and put them in another room, away from where I was working.   

It strikes me as ironic that, six months ago, I thought this stuff sparked joy.

2.  I then pulled out items by category, laid out everything on the bed and started trying on and photographing.  In the interest of saving time, I didn't photograph the favorites I wear all the time, because I knew they were staying.   I did this category by category:   skirts, toppers (blazers, coats, jackets), tops (sweaters, blouses, tees, etc.), pants & shorts.

3.   I reviewed and made deicisions based on the photos.   This took HOURS, but turned out to be invaluable.   The photos gave me a greater objectivity that I wasn't getting merely eyeballing myself,  especially as I took multiple pictures from different angles.   

Interestingly, there are a few things I thought I disliked, or was 'meh' about when I looked in the mirror - but thrilled me when I saw the photos.   For example:  I have a straight white skirt that I couldn't decide on.   In the mirror, something looked wrong.  I thought I might take it to the seamstress and have her peg it (take it in at the bottom).   Or just go ahead and purge it.  But... when I reviewed the photographs, I realized... the skirt was great - the problem was the belt loops.   No belt loops = awesomeness!  I'm removing those.   I would not have figured this out without the photos.

Here is what I have learned from this exercise:

1.  I have become much more particular and perceptive about fit and quality.  

2.  It has made packing so much easier!   I put together my packing list for our two-week vacation to the Midwest and Canada, in record time.

3.   My very best and most-loved purchases have come from eBay, because the items have already been heavily curated and distilled down to the purest elements that I love, via search.   

4.   I don't have multiples of the same item, but I have multiples of similar items, which were getting in the way of choosing and wearing the primo stuff..   

5.   Some of the stuff I thought I might cut, turned out to look amazing, and I was able to eliminate something that wasn't as special.

So that is where I am now!   I have finished the bulk of things.   I still have to finish culling dancewear, swimwear, and hosiery.   I also want to do a second sweep of everything, now that a lot of the 'white noise' has been filtered out.   We left for vacation today, but I have my spreadsheet with me, and will have more exact numbers in the next few days.  I wish I had taken before and after pictures.   My guess is, including lingerie, dancewear, and swim, I have purged at least 50 items already.

So on to you... are you satisfied with your wardrobe size?   Are you trying to streamline?   What does your ideal wardrobe look like?


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