The Wardrobe “Benchwarmer” Project

We all have favorite items in our wardrobes, things that we regularly reach for when getting dressed each day.  In contrast, there are other pieces that languish in our closets and rarely see the light of day.  Most people only wear 20% of their clothing on a regular basis, while the rest of what they own is merely taking up valuable closet space and leading to a false sense of having a large wardrobe.

It is one thing to think we aren’t wearing most of what we have, but it’s quite another situation to know this empirically.  The wardrobe tracking that I’ve done over the past two years has shown me the cold, hard truth of what I do and don’t wear.

Wardrobe “All-Stars” and “Benchwarmers”

I’d like to introduce two terms which I will use regularly in future posts:  “wardrobe all-stars” and “wardrobe benchwarmers.”   For my purposes (and you can, of course, create your own parameters), I have defined a “wardrobe all-star” as an item that gets worn eight or more times per year.  I know this is a fairly conservative distinction, and I would eventually like to be wearing my closet favorites far more often than that.  But for someone with a wardrobe of over 300 pieces, I think it’s a good place to start.

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The Cold, Hard Facts: What I Have

I did something yesterday that I probably should have done a long time ago… I took an inventory of my closet.  I decided that if I am really going to confront my compulsive shopping issues head on, I need to have all of the facts at my disposal.  I already looked at the cold, hard facts of my finances (how much I’ve spent on shopping over the past 10 years) and what I did and didn’t wear over the past two years.  Next, it was time to turn to my closet and really look at what’s in there.


Doing my closet inventory – Sprite wants to help!

Goal – A Manageable and Minimalist Wardrobe

One of my goals for 2013 (and beyond) is to create a more manageable and minimalist wardrobe filled only with items I love and wear.  My decision to buy less (only one item of clothing and one accessory per month) will help with that goal because it will keep me focused on quality over quantity.   As I wrote about in my post on shopping with limits, the constraints on my shopping will push me to be more selective about what I buy.  For something to be worthy of one of my two purchases per month, it needs to be at least an 8 on a scale of 1-10, and preferably a 10 if at all possible.

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History of a Shopaholic

So how did I get to where I am today?  A bit of history is in order now… I’ll do my best to give the “Cliff’s Notes” version starting with my childhood (after all, I am 46 – a full history would be a book, not a page!). 

A Shy and Insecure Childhood

path to where I am todayI was a very shy and insecure child who grew up in the affluent community of San Carlos, California, a suburb of San Francisco.   I never felt as if I could measure up to my peers in terms of how I looked and how I dressed.  My parents were not as wealthy as many in the community and couldn’t afford to purchase a full wardrobe of designer clothes for me every school year.

After my parents divorced when I was 14, the money was even tighter.  I also kept gaining weight in my early teen years and had to keep buying new clothes to accommodate my burgeoning proportions.  My chubby frame coupled with my tall height (I’m 5’10”) only served to increase my tremendous self-consciousness.

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A New Experience – Shopping with Limits

Shopping with limitsLast Friday, I went shopping for the first time with my new purchase limitation.  For the entire year of 2013 (and maybe longer), I am only allowed to buy one item of clothing and one accessory per month.  The reason for this rule is so that I can learn to be more deliberate with my purchases, pare down my over-sized wardrobe, and better use what I have.  I also hope to cultivate more of a “quality over quantity” attitude.

Limits Over “Cold Turkey”

As I mentioned in my shopping rules for 2013, the reason I chose not to go “cold turkey” with shopping this year is that I feel it’s easier to stop doing something completely than to learn to work with reasonable limits.

I have done “shopping fasts” in the past, but they did not really help me to stop my compulsive shopping habit.  I have found that my approach is either feast or famine; I’m either not shopping at all or shopping compulsively and buying far too much.   I believe that allowing myself to shop but limiting how much I can buy (not just by dollar amount, but also by quantity) will do far more to heal my shopping problems than a complete shopping hiatus.

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My Shopping Rules for 2013

Shopping RulesWhen I decided that 2013 would be the year when I would really address my compulsive shopping problem, I knew there would have to be rules.  After all, I’ve tried the “loosey goosey” approach in the past where I just tried to shop less, spend less, stick to a budget, etc.  I’ve tried those things and more, and have failed miserably, so I knew I would need a radically different approach if I had any hope of succeeding.

Limits Instead of “Cold Turkey”

I considered taking a “cold turkey” approach and just not shopping for a few months or even as long as a year.  Easier said than done, I know, but I’ve done it before.  Yes, I’ve stopped shopping for extended periods of time – by sheer will or out of pure necessity, but those “shopping fasts” did not cure me of my shopping addiction.  I developed a false sense of security, but when I went back into a mall, the shopping beast inside of me emerged once again.  While it may work for some, and more power to them, complete abstinence is not the answer for me…

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