In my last post, I outlined the value of tracking your wardrobe. If you’ve decided you’d like to start tracking, today’s post will help to point you in the right direction. The methods outlined below range from a simple technique you can start immediately to more detailed options that require a bit of planning and set-up time.
I understand that many of you might not be as detail-oriented and “anal retentive” as I am, but you really don’t need to be in order to see some great results. Even if you choose to only take on the first method, I promise you’ll gain increased awareness that will help you better manage your wardrobe and guide your future shopping.
I’ll do my best to explain my tracking methods and will use some photos to illustrate my points, but please feel free to ask questions if there’s anything you don’t quite understand.
“The Hanger Trick”
This first technique is simple but powerful. Here’s how it works… Go to your closet and turn all of your hangers so that the hooks face outward (“the wrong way”) instead of inward (“the right way”). After you wear an item of clothing and hang it up again, return the hanger to the facing inward position. That’s it!
If you feel that turning all of your hangers around to get started is too much trouble, simply reverse the process. As you wear something, put the hanger back in so that the hook faces outward. Either way will work.
After a while, you’ll start to get a sense of what you are and aren’t wearing. Your closet will start to look like this:
You may choose to challenge yourself to wear everything in your closet within a certain time period or you may opt to just get dressed as you normally do, wearing what you feel most drawn to. I’ve used the “hanger trick” both ways and have found both to be beneficial. I either see what I really like to wear or find “diamonds in the rough” among the garments I don’t usually reach for.
An advanced option to the “hanger trick” is to donate or consign anything that doesn’t get worn after a pre-determined time. This may be six months, a year, or whatever time limit feels right for you. Since my wardrobe has been very large for as long as I can remember, I set one year as my deadline. You may also opt to exclude formal wear or other rarely worn garments from the “wear or donate” rule.
Intermediate Tracking – Number of Times Worn
While the “hanger trick” is useful, it only tells part of the story. It signals whether something has been worn or not but doesn’t inform you how often. Enter my intermediate tracking method, which uses hang-tags and a clipboard to quickly capture garment wear data.
I have to give credit where credit is due here. My engineer husband came up with the brilliant idea to hang simple paper tags from my hangers to enable me to easily and quickly mark when I wear my clothes. We bought some Avery Marking Tags at our local Staple’s, spent about an hour attaching the tags to all of my hangers, and I was off and running!
I keep a pen on the shelf in my closet and as I get undressed each evening, I mark an X on the hanging tag of each garment I wore that day. For items that are not hung up, such as jeans and shoes, I use a basic spreadsheet attached to a clipboard. I haven’t typically tracked my accessory wear other than shoes, but have been doing so since I began Project 333 in April. I may continue this tracking beyond Project 333, as I’d like to pare down my accessory collection along with my wardrobe.
Tracking the “Wardrobe Benchwarmers”
After tracking my wardrobe for two years using the methods outlined above, I introduced another level of tracking at the beginning of 2013. I identified a number of garments and shoes that were either worn only once or not at all over the course of an entire year (in 2012, I had 146 “benchwarmers”)! While I decided to donate or consign some of these items, I opted to give others another chance to make it into my regular outfit rotation. I designated those pieces as “wardrobe benchwarmers” and highlighted them by clipping small binder clips to their hangers (for jeans and shoes, I highlighted their row on my jeans/shoes tracking spreadsheet).
I decided to wear and make a decision about every “benchwarmer” in my closet over the course of this year. While I initially divided my benchwarmers into categories and vowed to address these categories using monthly themes, I’ve accelerated my progress over the ensuing months. I did my first “benchwarmer update” in March and will do another one soon.
Since most of you haven’t been tracking your wardrobe as closely as I have, you may not have hard, fast data about your wardrobe “benchwarmers.” However, I’m sure if you go into your closet, you’ll be able to pull out some garments that haven’t seen the light of day in a long, long time. You may wish to mark those items with binder clips as I’ve done to push you to wear them. Alternatively, simply bring these garments to the front of your closet so you’ll be more likely to incorporate them into your outfits over the coming weeks.
There is one final level of tracking I’d like to mention. It’s not for the faint of heart and it can be quite time-consuming, yet it has given me a great deal of information over the past two years. I’ve actually created a spreadsheet which lists every single item of clothing and pair of shoes in my wardrobe!
On this spreadsheet, I list the item, when I bought it, how much it cost, and how many times it got worn during 2011 and 2012. I created separate sheets within my “clothing tracker spreadsheet” for tops, jackets/sweaters, bottoms/dresses, and shoes. As I donate or consign things, I move the information from the “active” sheets to a separate “donate/consign” sheet. I try to update the spreadsheet on a monthly basis so the end of the year process isn’t overly time-consuming.
At the end of 2013, I will add another column to indicate how often each piece got worn this year. My incredibly patient husband helps me with the end of the year process. He reads off the items while I look in my closet. I count the number of “X”s on each tag and he enters the number into the spreadsheet. This part of the process is very tedious, so we usually break it up into a few sessions near the end of the year. After all of the data has been entered, I create separate sheets for “wardrobe all-stars” (previously designated as items worn four or more times, but I’m changing it to eight times this year) and “wardrobe benchwarmers” (again, only worn once or not at all).
This “advanced tracking” takes a lot of time and I realize most of you probably won’t do it. But I opted to tell you about it anyway in case any of you are ambitious (or crazy) enough to take it on. It has given me a lot of useful data and was what really pushed me to start this blog. When I saw that half of my wardrobe was worn just once or not at all during 2012, I had to grasp that I was a full-fledged shopaholic who needed some big time intervention!
Any Tracking is Better than No Tracking!
I hope this overview of wardrobe tracking methods has been interesting and useful to you. I encourage you to start doing some sort of tracking with your closet. The methods I outlined in this article evolved for me over time and while they have been highly useful for me, you certainly don’t need to do all of them! Even just doing the “hanger trick” for a month or two will increase your awareness of what you’re wearing and not wearing. That’s how I started, but eventually I opted to delve deeper because I was continuing to shop too much and buy the wrong types of items. Your mileage may vary, as they say, and the “hanger trick” may be all you need.
If you do opt to try any of my tracking methods, I’d love to hear how they work for you. Also, if you have other tips and suggestions for better tracking and managing your wardrobe, I’d love for you to share them in the comments section below. I don’t pretend to have all the answers on this topic, even though I have become a major wardrobe management nerd in recent years. I’m always open to learning more!