You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage—pleasantly, smilingly, non-apologetically, to say “no” to other things. And the way you do that is by having a bigger “yes” burning inside. The enemy of the “best” is often the “good.” ― Stephen R. Covey
The late, great Stephen Covey has long been one of my favorite authors. His “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” is widely regarded as one of the best self-help books ever written and offers a wealth of helpful advice for business and life. The quote above refers to priorities and goals, but I believe it also applies to our wardrobes and shopping.
The Plusses and Minuses of Trying to Wear Everything
As I embarked upon my “Wardrobe Benchwarmer Project” in January, my intention was to evaluate all of the items I hadn’t been wearing to either start wearing them regularly or let them go. Now that the first quarter of the year is almost behind us, I have learned a few things. I have pushed myself to wear close to half of my benchwarmer pieces by this point, as I want to complete the project sooner rather than later. This push to wear all of my previously unloved items has had both good and bad consequences.
On a positive note, I have discovered some “diamonds in the rough” among my wardrobe benchwarmers. Upon wearing some of these pieces, I wondered why I hadn’t worn them sooner. I look forward to integrating these items into regular wardrobe rotation and turning them into closet “all-stars.”
The dark side of the project is that I have often forced myself to wear a benchwarmer garment instead of something I knew I loved and really wanted to wear. Consequently, some of the known all-stars in my closet have been relegated to the sidelines. If I keep going as I have been, it’s possible that some of my 2012 favorites may become 2013 benchwarmers simply because I’m trying to be more responsible with my wardrobe!
Closet Overwhelm and Guilt
When I open my closet, I am flooded with feelings of overwhelm and guilt. I see a sea of binder clips attached to hangers, signifying the many pieces I wore only once or not at all during 2012. I think of the wasted money and silently beat myself up for my carelessness and lack of discipline. Then I push myself to create an outfit using one or more benchwarmers even if I really don’t feel like wearing those clothes.
In recent weeks, I’ve gotten smarter. If I put on a benchwarmer garment and hate it (or even feel it’s just “okay”), I give myself permission to add it to my donation bag. Why should I force myself to suffer now simply because I made a purchasing mistake last year or the year before? As my wise mom would say, two wrongs don’t make a right! Pushing myself to wear a sub-standard piece for an entire day (or multiple days) won’t bring my wasted money back. It will just make me feel uncomfortable and/or unattractive for the day, and life is too short for that!
I Need to Practice What I Preach!
In my wardrobe consulting business, I’d tell my clients that everything in their closets should be as close to a “10” as possible. If they hemmed and hawed about a garment during a closet audit, I’d have them try it on and look at themselves in the mirror. I asked them to rate the piece on a scale of one to ten. If the score was less than a seven or eight, we’d look at whether alterations might raise the score (sometimes a nip or tuck here or there can make a world of difference!). If not, or if they didn’t want to spend the money, I encouraged them to let the item go, no matter how much it cost or how infrequently it was worn.
Why haven’t I been holding myself to the same standards? Why did I encourage my clients to absolve themselves from guilt while continuing to hold my own feet to the pyre of remorse? Isn’t it about time to free myself from continual punishment for past wrongs, especially since I am making great strides in my shopaholic rehabilitation?
Letting Go of What’s “Okay” But Not Great
I recently added two cardigans to my donation bag. After wearing both of them this month and feeling frumpy because they just didn’t fit me right (the length was too short for my tall frame), I said, “Enough!” Why should I wear these sub-par cardigans when I have at least ten fabulous alternatives hanging in my closet? It felt good to release myself from clothing purgatory and pass the cardigans on to someone else who will love them.
Raise Your Standards When Shopping
Stephen Covey’s wise quote also applies to shopping. How often do you buy a good but not great item just because it’s on sale? Do you pass up wonderful garments because they are “too expensive,” only to buy several lower quality and less vibrant pieces for half or a quarter of the price? Do you have a closet full of good items but very few of the “best”? What if you were to stop buying so much quantity and start buying a smaller number of things you absolutely love? Wouldn’t a smaller closet filled with “10s” be better than a jam-packed closet of “5s”? I think so!
Go to your closet and evaluate everything you own on a scale of one to ten in terms of the style, color, fit, and flattery. Consider altering, donating, or consigning anything that you rate less than a seven or eight. If you’re not ready to do that, put the items aside for a month or two and then come back and re-evaluate them. A little time and space may be all you need to let go of the guilt and release your ho-hum wardrobe pieces.
In addition, start passing up the good and aim for the best when you shop. If something is not a “10” or close to it, leave it in the store, regardless of the price or how great a “bargain” it is. If that means you’ll sometimes leave the mall empty-handed, so what? There will always be other shopping opportunities and other chances to shop for the best.
It is official, I am a groupy for your blog!
Thanks so much, Francesca! I am happy to have you as a reader/groupy 🙂
Debbie, I love that Stephen Covey quote (and the book) – we can also apply it to everything in our lives. I tend to neglect my wardrobe, so I guess I’m a natural minimalist when it comes to my closet. I just need to work on filling it with 10s! Thanks for the inspiration! I look forward to hearing about your experience with Project 333.
Ally, thanks for your comment! I’m glad that my blog and journey can also inspire a natural minimalist. You are one big step ahead of me in that you don’t have a packed closet, but I believe we all deserve to wear things we love instead of things that are just “okay.”
Here’s an easy exercise for you… As you get dressed each day, rate the things you wear on a scale of 1-10. If something is less than a 7, consider either letting it go or adding it to a list of replacement items. I realize that when someone doesn’t have a full wardrobe, they may not be able to release an item until a replacement is made. But keeping a list of things you want/need to replace will help you when you shop, even if you shop on very rare occasions.
I always recommend that people shop with a list! If I had done that over the years, I wouldn’t have such a packed closet. Shopping with a list has helped me to shop smarter and it removes some of the emotional overload I feel when shopping.
I will be blogging about my Project 333 experience throughout the next 3 months, beginning with a post later this week on why I’m doing it. Lots to share! Welcome!
Debbie I just found your blog yesterday and I’m really benefiting from it. I need all the encouragement I can get to go for the really great pieces even if it means stretching my comfort zone of price. My desire is to condense my wardrobe to fabulous mix and match pieces and great accessories.
Welcome, Annette, and thanks for commenting! I’m so glad that my blog is benefitting you. One thing that has helped me in terms of price is limiting how many items I can buy. Now that I’m limiting my purchases to only one item of clothing and one accessory (shoes are included here) per month, I have found it much easier to buy higher priced items. It is a process, though, and there are SO many low-priced items out there that our sense of what things should cost has really shifted in recent years. I am reading a wonderful book now called “Overpriced” (will likely blog about it sometime soon) that is really shedding a lot of light on the fashion industry. I am getting “scared straight” in terms of cheap fashion. I highly recommend the book – it’s an interesting read!
One of the negatives I’ve experienced when I’ve tried to wear everything was, when I wore an item that I felt ‘meh’ about, it would make me want to shop, because I felt ‘meh’ about myself all day. Now when I do a closet purge I take a favorite, workhorse item, and use it as the benchmark that I compare questionable items with. If I would rather wear the workhorse item, into the donate bag goes the other item. If I would like to wear the questionable item, than it has earned a keep vote for another day. I can only closet purges in small doses though, if the donate pile is too large at one time, panic sets in. So now I purge with shopping bags instead of garbage bags. The smaller sized bags help with overcoming the guilt of wasted money.
I often want to shop more when I feel “meh” about what I’m wearing, too. I like your tip of using wardrobe workhouses as benchmarks for questionable items. I’ve done that recently and I usually find myself letting go of the less stellar pieces. I’m reminded of one of Bridgette Raes’ videos on this topic. That tip is very similar to what you wrote and has been helping me quite a bit. Like you, I can’t get rid of too many things at one time or I just shop more. I use shopping bags to purge, too. I think you and I are similar in many ways!
I will check out the video link, thanks Debbie!