Taking Control of My Clothes

My clothes own me. They make me organize them, buy hangers, baskets, and dressers for them, clean them, fold them, and make me move them back and forth between all the locations I’ve lived and will live. Wasting my time, my money, and my space.

I admit it. I am a recovering shopoholic. Most of the time, I absolutely hate spending money; I feel physical pain from spending it sometimes! Unless, there are cute clothes, and I have coupons, and CLEARANCE. But, hey, when I bought them, they were pretty much always $10 or less, so how can you say no? On the other hand, does a sale mean I really need more clothes?

I’m finally starting to get over my clothes problem. I first starting thinking about it when I moved to Korea at the end of 2013. I paid $300 round-trip just to have an extra suitcase of clothes for 7 months. Ridiculous, right? While living abroad, I did my best to stay away from buying clothes. It was much easier since I didn’t work at a clothing retail store anymore, but Korea is filled with cheap clothes and accessories. I ended up purchasing one sweater and two scarves. Most of the motivation wasn’t from the thought that I had too many clothes, but rather that I needed to save money for my wedding and I didn’t have room in my suitcase going back home. This didn’t change my habits as it didn’t get to the cause of the problem.

Back in America, when I had to get ready to move into an apartment after my wedding, I started to notice that I had way too many clothes and they would be a pain to move, so I ended up getting rid of about 40 or so items. But still (I haven’t counted EVERYTHING before) when you start out with probably around 1,000 articles of clothes, shoes, and accessories, or maybe even more, 40 isn’t that big of a dent.

One area I successfully realized my overabundance was jewelry. I rarely wore it and instead wore the same select few (the 80/20 rule; 80% of the time wearing 20% of the stuff). I cleared out the vast majority of my stuff by throwing away the broken and dirty and letting my nieces come and take whatever they wanted (to their delight).

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After I was married, I told my husband (Ezekiel) that I would not buy any clothes in the fall. He was happy, of course, as until we moved into our apartment together, he never really realized how many clothes I actually had (college dorms couldn’t accommodate my collection!). I was kinda excited our apartment had so many closets though, as for the first time I could hang up all my clothes without them being so packed that I couldn’t take them out without a mess. However, they spread through four areas (too bad I don’t have a picture of the insanity). Ezekiel, on the other hand, is perfectly content packing a normal plastic shopping bag with all his clothing needs for a week vacation (which always shocked me!).

It was hard to not purchase more as I was working at my old job for a couple months, but I did not end up buying anything. Silly thing was, as a “reward” I asked if I could buy a nice, new dress for teaching in Korea. Rewarding not buying clothes by buying more clothes isn’t very logical. And of course, in the process of looking for that perfect dress, I came across clearance and had a handful of coupons and discounts. I found a dress I love, but I also got leggings, a scarf, a tank top, and a sweater. But clearance! With my discounts I only spent like $10 for those other four things! But did I need them? No.

Right after Christmas of 2014, we were going to move to Korea. This time I wasn’t going to pack an extra bag, even though this time I was given the option of a 2nd bag checked free (we ended up checking our carry-ons instead). I went through my clothes so many times trying to narrow it down to the minimum, choosing only items that I could pair in multiple ways. I ended up with 65 items (not counting workout clothes, socks, and undergarments). This still seems like quite a large number, but still not getting to the cause of my abundance and considering the hundreds of items I started with, this was huge. I even got rid of another 10 or 15 items.

Today, I have very different thoughts about my clothes. What changed me?

Project 333: http://theproject333.com/about/.

Basically, you bring your wardrobe down to 33 items for 3 months. This includes clothes and accessories (except workout clothes, socks, and undergarments). Now this is a huge drop, but Courtney (the creator of this project) encourages people to make it their own. I plan to do this once I get home as a way to help cut down on my clothes before I have to move to a new apartment (we are going to stay at my parents starting in April for a couple months til I find a job for the fall). I don’t know if I can get down to 33 items including accessories, so as a part of making it workable for me, I will likely only count clothing, not accessories. It’s also comforting to know I don’t have to get rid of all the hundreds of other things, but instead pack them away to not be touched. You wouldn’t get rid of all as this is 3 months to cover a season, since many places have hot, mild, and cold times of year. I’ll talk more about the project after we move back to America and I start working on it (arrival is March 29th).

I have seen the effects of a smaller wardrobe in Korea, so that is an encouragement. I came with 65 items of clothing. Though, I initially thought I’d be here through the end of July, so I have quite a few summer things I haven’t touched, which makes the 33 item challenge sound slightly more do-able. I think most of my current closet will end up being a large portion of those items I love since I brought them here. I honestly don’t remember most of the clothes I left behind, except a few that I know I’ll get rid of because they fit poorly or I just haven’t gotten rid of because of not wanting to feel bad. Here, I’ve already decided on leaving behind a sweater that is hard to work with multiple outfits, which means I’ve worn it 2 or 3 times since buying (funnily enough, it’s one of the 3 clothing items I bought last year in Korea). I will also leave a skirt that I loved in college, but now it too short and casual for me. Also a pair of yoga-type pants that are falling apart and getting holes, even though they are sooo comfortable (don’t ask how many times I wore them to work because they can look like dress pants til you touch them; now no more excuses!). I will also toss out two pairs of shoes: velcro sneakers I’ve had since 2008, that are coming apart and dirty, and a pair of brown boots since they are older than the other brown boots I left in America (I like the ones in America way more). Hopefully, getting rid of a few things will make the suitcases not so squishy on the way back.

Wow! So nice. Think I can do it in America with even fewer items?

Wow! So nice. All my clothes in Korea. Think I can do it in America with even fewer items?

In about a month I should be able to update you on how my clothing purge is going. I feel more confident that this is something that will stick as now I’m getting to the cause of my horde of clothes:

  1. No one will care if I wear the same shirt/skirt/sweater/etc. as last week.
  2. I don’t need clothes because they are cheap, I need clothes to keep me warm/cool and look professional for work/nice for church/comfortable for other activities.
  3. I can have a wardrobe of clothes I love and fulfill the above purpose with fewer pieces, not more.
  4. Feeling like I have nothing to wear is from having too many choices.
  5. I can take one clothing item and pair it in multiple ways so I’m not afraid of wearing the same thing again.
  6. I don’t need to have items to look like someone else/what’s in style; I can be beautiful and stylish in my own, unique way.

Some of Courtney’s posts that helped me shift my thinking:

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One thought on “Taking Control of My Clothes

  1. Pingback: At Peace with My Closet | Serenity

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