NOTE: The topic of this post has been revisited in an updated December 2016 post. To read my updated and expanded thoughts on the topic of a “normal-sized” wardrobe, please CLICK HERE.
Last week, I received my March issue of Oprah Magazine, with the theme of “De-Clutter Your Life… And Discover the Incredible Lightness of Less.” One article which caught my eye was “The Closet De-clutterfest for Couples.” This article profiled a couple who helped each other purge their closets of old and unwanted items.
Husband Mike’s Closet Audit
Inspired by what I read, I suggested to my husband Mike this past weekend that we do some closet de-cluttering ourselves. Since I regularly review the items in my closet and had done a “mini purge” not long ago, I recommended we tackle his wardrobe first. He didn’t think we would find too many cast-offs in his closet, but when all was said and done, we had filled two large bags for donation and one large bag of garments to be tossed. In contrast to my situation, some of Mike’s clothes were actually worn out enough to hit the trash heap instead of the Goodwill.
Mini-Audit of My Closet – Aiming for 8’s or Higher!
I did a mini-audit of my closet and designated 11 more items for donation (in addition to the 8 items I released at the end of January). I’m finding myself becoming more and more ruthless in reviewing my over-crowded closet. I always tell my wardrobe consulting clients that they should aim for 8’s or higher on a scale of 1-10 and I know I need to hold myself to the same rigid standards. With the overabundance of garments I have, I definitely need to be disciplined and diligent to have any hope of curating the minimalist wardrobe I so deeply crave.
Normal Size Wardrobe? Let’s Look at the Numbers
After finishing Mike’s closet audit, I asked him if he thinks he has a “normal-sized” wardrobe. When he quickly replied in the affirmative without much thought, I had an impulse. I decided to inventory his closet, much like I had done with my wardrobe in late January (chronicled in my “Cold, Hard Facts – What I Have” post). Surprisingly, I discovered that Mike has almost as many shirts as I do! Here’s a brief comparison:
- Mike’s Shirts: 112 (I now have 124 after the recent purge)
- Mike’s Pants/Shorts: 20 (I have 48 bottoms – skirts/pants)
- Mike’s Jackets: 10 (I have a whopping 73 coats/jackets/cardigans!)
- Mike’s Shoes: 12 (in contrast to my 53 – eek!)
- Mike’s Grand Total: 142 (154 including shoes)
- My Grand Total: 262 (including dresses), 315 with shoes
As you can see, I have about twice as many items in my closet as Mike does. No big surprises there… We all know that my wardrobe is far too large, but is Mike’s wardrobe “normal-sized”? Is it normal to only wear your shirts an average of three times per year (with 112 shirts, the average number of yearly wears for each is 3.3 times)? What is a “normal” amount of times to wear your wardrobe pieces? What is a reasonable number of shirts for a person to own?
Optimal Frequency of Wear and Wardrobe Size
I know that there are no absolute right answers to my questions, as the answers are very individual. In my wardrobe goals, I set 8 times per year as the frequency of wear to which I aspire for my garments and shoes. With that goal in mind, an optimal number of shirts for me would be 45 (perhaps even fewer if I wear dresses on a regular basis), roughly one third the number of shirts I currently own. The same number would hold true for outerwear, shoes, and bottoms (pants, skirts, etc.), but I would likely need even fewer of those items since they usually receive more wear. A good rule of thumb is to have 2-3 times as many top pieces as bottom pieces, as the tops are generally what give our outfits their variety and personality.
In truth, I feel that my ideal frequency of wear number would be 12 or higher (at least once per month on average), so my optimal number of shirts would more likely be around 30. But I’m taking this one step at a time… If I can end this year with absolutely no “wardrobe benchwarmers” (as opposed to my 2012 number of 146!), I will consider myself to have made amazing progress with my wardrobe.
It’s a Matter of Simple Math…
Just doing the simple math I’ve done in this post has been extremely enlightening for me! In the past, I wondered why I wore many of my garments so infrequently. I knew I had too much, but now I have a much better idea of how many too much (awkward phrasing, but you get the point…). Basically, my eventual goal is to have a wardrobe of approximately 120 pieces (counting clothes and shoes), virtually one third the amount I have today.
I may have to keep to my 2013 shopping rules for a few years in order to get there, but I believe it can and will happen! For now, I will focus on wearing and loving what I have, buying very little, and releasing everything that doesn’t suit my body, lifestyle, or personality. One day at a time, I will reach my idea of a normal-sized wardrobe!
Decide how often you’d ideally like to wear the items in your wardrobe. Then do the math to determine how much you really need. The numbers will likely surprise you!
For example, if you want to wear everything in your closet 10 times per year on average, you will only need 36 of each category (tops, bottoms, shoes, outerwear). You may opt to select different wear frequency goals for your various wardrobe categories (i.e. wear shoes, bottoms, and outerwear more often than tops since we generally have fewer of those items).
I encourage you to try this exercise. I wish I had done it sooner… If I had, maybe I wouldn’t have over 300 items in my wardrobe!