By the Numbers: January 2014 Closet Inventory

I started this blog in January 2013 with several clear goals.  I wanted to stop shopping too much and to stop using shopping as my default activity for dealing with difficult situations and emotions.  I also wanted to pare down what had become an overly large and extremely overwhelming wardrobe.  A year ago, looking into my closet provoked a sense of deep anxiety within me.  I set a goal of cultivating a more manageable and minimalist wardrobe filled only with items I love and wear.

One of my first posts presented the cold, hard facts of what I had in my closet. I did a full closet inventory and laid out the numbers clearly and plainly for all to see.  At that time, I had a total of 272 garments, 55 pairs of shoes, 15 purses, and 44 scarves!  My grand total of all of these items combined was 386!   My goal for the first year of my recovering shopaholic project was to bring this total down to fewer than 250 pieces.

Crunching the Numbers

Have you ever done an inventory of your closet?

In today’s post, I share my January 2014 closet inventory, along with the progress I’ve made in minimizing my wardrobe over the past year (check out my mid-year closet inventory post to see how I was doing at the halfway point of 2013).  I also highlight how I feel about the size of my wardrobe today, as well as how I’d like things to shift during 2014.

My Core Wardrobe Numbers – January 2014

Listed below are all of the item numbers for my core wardrobe categories, followed in parentheses by the change since my January 2013 closet inventory:

  • Coats:  11  (same)
  • Blazers:  11  (-13)
  • Cardigans:  17  (-13)
  • Sleeveless Tops & Tanks:  25  (-18)
  • Short-Sleeved Tops:  24  (-22)
  • Long-Sleeved Tops:  25  (-15)
  • Jeans:  7  (-2)
  • Pants:  6  (-6)
  • Skirts:  12  (-18)
  • Dresses:  8  (-9)
  • Purses:  15  (same)
  • Scarves:  36  (-8)
  • Shoes:   36  (-19)

For the two categories that remained the same, some item shifting still took place.  In fact, for virtually all of the categories above, some new pieces came in while many old pieces were passed on via charity donations or consignment.

Looking at the Totals

Now let’s look at some totals…

  • Tops:  74  (-55)
  • Bottoms (skirts, pants):  25  (-26)
  • Toppers (coats, jackets, cardigans):   39  (-36)
  • Total Number of Garments:   146   (-126!)
  • Grand Total with Shoes:  182   (-145!)
  • Grand Total with Shoes, Purses, and Scarves:  233   (-153!)

Some great news here!  Not only did I pare my wardrobe down by 126 garments and 153 overall items last year, I also met my goal of having fewer than 250 items by the end of 2013!

My Closet - January 2014

This is how my closet looks today – still too much in there but far more manageable!

I am very proud of myself for the positive changes I’ve made over the past year.  While I still feel that my wardrobe is too large, it’s definitely far more manageable than it was at the beginning of 2013.  I’m moving in the right direction and feeling a lot less wardrobe-related stress and anxiety as a result.  It’s now much easier for me to get dressed every day, as I have a much better grasp of what I have and how everything works together. I’m also feeling much better about my sense of style now that the pieces that didn’t work for me have moved out of my closet.

Some Thoughts and Next Steps

Looking at the numbers above, here are some of my thoughts on the current status of my wardrobe:

  • The number of bottoms I have (25) is a good number.  Assuming I wore each bottom piece equally, each piece would get worn approximately 14 times within a given year.
  • I’m in reasonably good shape in regards to toppers as well.   If I wear a coat, blazer, or cardigan on a daily basis, by the end of the year I will have worn these items around 9 times each.  Of course, there are days when a topper piece is not needed, but the temperate climate where I live combined with my low internal thermostat lead me to wear a jacket or sweater on most days.
  • Tops remain the “bloated” area of my wardrobe.  Assuming an equal wear ratio, my 74 tops will only be worn about 5 times each by the end of the year. Since I set a goal of 8 yearly wears per garment, clearly I need to pare down my tops further in order to realize this goal.

Not only do I still own too many tops, this area of my wardrobe is the “weakest link” for another reason.  Most of my tops are knits that were bought on sale and are not of very high quality.  Many are also quite plain and devoid of the type of special details and characteristics that would have them be wardrobe favorites.  Although I love the colors and patterns of most of my tops, this simply isn’t enough to make them wardrobe “all-stars.”  Consequently, I have set the bar higher for future purchases within this closet category.  I plan to purchase very few tops this year, but the ones I do buy will be of higher quality and include more “wow” details that make me smile.

I plan to buy less overall this year and to be more mindful and deliberate in what I buy.  My next post will focus on my 2013 purchases – what I did right and where I went wrong – and I’ll be setting some targets and goals to help me shop better in 2014.  I really do want to aim for quality over quantity in my wardrobe additions (using many of Dottie’s great tips as a guide) and that will mean buying far fewer pieces overall.

What about Workout and Lounge Wear?

When I did my closet inventory last January, I did not include workout / lounge wear, sleepwear, or jewelry.  Although the latter two categories are still not included (I plan to address my jewelry collection soon…), I did start tracking my workout and lounge wear beginning with my July 2013 inventory.   While I originally included my casual jackets in my core wardrobe inventory, those items are now part of my workout / lounge wear inventory, as I generally only wear them on walks or when I go to the gym.

I don’t have a tendency to overbuy workout clothing; in fact, I used to really skimp on this area of my wardrobe. I didn’t realize how important it is for us to feel good about what we wear for all of the occasions of our lives, including when we exercise.  I’ve since mended my ways and dramatically improved my workout wear during 2013.  Here’s what I have today:

  • Casual Jackets (worn on walks and to the gym):  6
  • Lounge Jackets (at-home only – downgraded items):  2
  • Long-Sleeved Tops:  3
  • Short-Sleeved Tops:  17
  • Long Pants:  6
  • Capri Pants:   4

Here are my workout and lounge wear totals and how they compare to my July 2013 numbers:

  • Tops:  20  (-2)
  • Bottoms:  10   (+1)
  • Toppers:  8   (same)
  • Grand Total:  38   (-1)

These numbers will probably come down a bit over the next month or so, as I rarely wear some of my workout garments.  As with my core wardrobe pieces, I plan to only keep the workout clothes that I love and wear regularly.  No need to have clothing in my closet that isn’t being worn!

A Recent Win to Share…

I’d like to share a little story with you before I close this post… This past Saturday, I was running late for an appointment and got dressed rather quickly and haphazardly as a result.  Consequently, the outfit I ended up wearing was not really to my liking.  I felt old and frumpy and was struck by the strong impulse to go shopping following my appointment.

In the past, I would have done exactly that as a way of ameliorating my appearance-related anxiety.  I probably would have bought a few things that were good but not great and I wouldn’t have really solved anything.  I simply would have escaped my negative feelings for a little while, while at the same time spending money unwisely and adding to my still too large wardrobe.

This time, however, I did not point my car in the direction of the mall after my appointment was over.  Although it would have been very easy to do (the mall was only a mile or so away…), I thought twice about this course of action and made a different choice. I opted instead to go home and shop my closet.  I knew that even though my current outfit was not up to par, I had a closet full of other options available to help me achieve a better outcome.  After I went home, I quickly made two easy changes that transformed my ho-hum ensemble into a look that had me feeling far more confident and put together.

This led to the realization that I need to spend more time in my closet and less time in the mall or trolling the online stores.  I need to take the same approach with myself that I used to take with my wardrobe consulting clients.  I need to consider what I have first and take the time to compile a wide range of outfits using the pieces in my closet.  This process will help me construct a well-considered list of shopping priorities for the year (I’ve made such lists before, but they have consisted more of wants than demonstrated closet needs).  As was the case with virtually all of my clients, I probably need far less than I think I do to take my wardrobe to the next level. A few carefully planned pieces may be all I need to fill in the gaps and create a wardrobe that really works for me.

I feel silly that I hadn’t reached this conclusion before because it seems so obvious to me now!  I don’t plan to do any more shopping until I have compiled my priority list for 2014.  I only want to buy pieces that will really make a difference in my overall closet happiness.  I no longer want to shop just to shop.  I’ve done far too much of that and now I want any shopping I do to truly count!

Before You Go… A Few Useful Links

I hope you’re enjoying the links I share at the end of some of my posts.  Here are a few more…

  • 6 Budgeting Techniques for Curators” – This link was shared in a recent comment on one of my posts.  Although I’m familiar with the fabulous blog written by Anuschka Rees, I hadn’t seen this particular post.  The suggestions in this article will not only help you get more from your clothing dollars, they’ll also empower you to consciously create a wardrobe that truly meets your needs.
  • Limit of Two” – This wonderful article comes from Jill Chivers of “Shop Your Wardrobe” fame, who offers a simple but powerful suggestion to help limit the “I want it all!” impulse that many of us get while shopping.  As a former shopaholic, Jill really knows her stuff, and I plan to use this tip moving forward.
  • The 7 Most Baffling Things about Women’s Clothes” – This article is both funny and depressing at the same time!   It’s an “oldie but goodie” from 2012 that was recently shared in the comments section of “How to Tell if a Garment is Well-Made.”  The author makes some excellent points, some of which I also touched upon in my fashion industry rant post (my most commented on post to date!).

If you come across an article or resource that you feel will benefit your fellow readers, feel free to contact me.   If I feel your link is a good match for the “Recovering Shopaholic” community, I would be happy to share it in a future post.

30 thoughts on “By the Numbers: January 2014 Closet Inventory

    • Thanks, Frugal in Tasmania, and huge congrats on giving away so many items this week! THAT is tremendous progress and shows you will address that six foot pile before too long. One day – and one step – at a time…

  1. You are awesome and have done an awesome job! Just think where you’ll be next year! I love your thought process about your wardrobe and how to get to where you want to be. Your goals are high, but reasonable and achievable with time which is why you ‘click’ with me and your blog inspires me rather than intimidating me!

    I’ve been paying more attention to my ‘benchwarmers’ lately and I’ve discovered that while I like most in theory or even have loved some of them, there are reasons WHY they are benchwarmers now… This in combination with critical thinking about shopping and my needs vs. what I have and what I want has been really helpful. Thank you again Debbie for being you and sharing this journey with us!

    • Thanks so much for your kind words, Meli. I’m glad that I inspire you and don’t intimidate you. I definitely don’t want to intimidate anyone! I am eager to see where I will be in a year, too! You are also doing very well. Paying more attention to your benchwarmers and why they achieved that status will help you not to repeat your mistakes. While I have STILL made mistakes this year (my next post will touch upon that topic), there have been FAR fewer. Shining a light on our habits and practices helps us to grow and to make powerful changes. I look forward to reading more about your progress on your blog (and you’re always welcome to share here, too).

  2. Okay confession time. 244 items of clothes, 55 pairs of shoes and 50 scarves. And that is AFTER a major clearout. The inventory and daily analsysis is already showing some interesting trends. Thank you 🙂

    • I applaud you for your honesty, Gillie! Congrats on doing a major clean-out and for doing an inventory and analysis. I know you will continue to make good progress as a result of your courage and willingness to change!

  3. Love your analytical mind.

    PS. I hope the postscript to your story was that, after returning home, you put the frumpy items in your give-away bag.

    • I’m glad you can appreciate my analytical ways, Bette! As for my Saturday outfit, the individual pieces weren’t necessarily frumpy, but I had combined them in a frumpy way (too much volume on both the top and bottom, for one). Most of the items are things I love and wear, but one piece (grey cardigan) may end up in the donation bag. I have two grey cardigans and I probably only need one. I challenged myself to use the less-worn one in my Project 333 capsule, but am considering making a swap and donating the less-fab option.

  4. I haven’t yet had the courage to count up all I own. It’s been easy for me to be lackadaisical because I stay within a budget without really trying. in fact, I don’t even have a budget. But thrift shopping can lead inexorably to too-much.

    Impressed with your progress as always.

    • Thrift and consignment shopping (along with frequent sales shopping) is how I ended up with such a packed closet, frugalscholar, so I can appreciate what you wrote. Such shopping CAN be a good thing for many, but it really got me into trouble, so now I’m treading much more lightly on those fronts. When the time is right and if it’s the right step for you, you’ll gain the courage to do an inventory. It was scary for me last January (and even on subsequent occasions), but I’m glad I took the plunge!

  5. The progress you are making is simply astounding. After a while, shopping your closet before heading to the shop will become second nature, and the more you distill your wardrobe the more likely you will find that you have that perfect piece already. That’s when dressing well comes easy.

    • I truly hope you’re right, Cornelia, and that shopping my closet will become second-nature. I’m becoming more and more convinced that a smaller wardrobe is a happier (and often more stylish) wardrobe. I’m becoming a convert to the “less is more” philosophy. If someone would have told me that a few years ago, I never would have believed them!

  6. Debbie you have every reason to be proud of your success in reducing your closet items to under 250 and then shopping your closet instead of going to the mall – and the less you have the easier to shop your closet! Sounds counter-intuitive I know but it’s been working for me since I’ve streamlined my closet and stopped clothes shopping altogether for a while.
    Looking forward to hearing about all your future successes 🙂

    • Thanks so much, Megan! I’m glad to hear that you’ve been successful in streamlining your closet. A shopping hiatus can definitely be beneficial for many. It’s been difficult for me not to “binge” afterwards, so my focus is on shopping less and being more conscious of what I buy. I hope to have many more future successes to report here!

  7. Great job Debbie! It’s so much easier with a manageable wardrobe! I finished a closet cleanout today and my numbers surprised me. 155 apparel-including jackets and coats, 32 footwear, 11 purses, and 1 scarf for a grand total of 199. I didn’t count pj’s, yoga pants, ymca t-shirts etc. in this. Considering I started last year with over 500 items I am quite surprised the numbers have gone down that much. I am happy at this number. I plan to go through my closet again a few times throughout the year to make sure that I am wearing everything. As long as I don’t revert back to Ebay and start buying a ton of stuff I should be all set.

    • You are doing so well, Tonya! It’s funny how we have similar numbers (except I have a lot more scarves – still need to pare those down…). I’m very impressed that you were able to pare down from 500 items to where you are today. You’ve really come a long way over the course of 2013 and should feel very proud of yourself!

      • Thanks Debbie! I actually got rid of 12 more items that I was on the fence about, bringing my total to 187. I have 131 items of apparel not counting jackets. At the start of last year I think I had about 90 short sleeve shirts alone. That is pretty mind blowing to me.

      • Yes, that IS mind-blowing! That’s actually a good way of looking at it… I STILL have too many tops, but I did have 129 at the beginning of the year (almost as many items as are in your whole wardrobe at this point!). Congrats on paring down more of those “on the fence” items!

  8. Congratulations! You have made excellent progress! I haven’t done a full closet inventory for a while, so maybe I need to set that as a goal for myself soon. I like the idea of writing out a priority list for shopping. I know one of my priorities is camisoles. This year I grouped all my cami’s and tanks together as I wear them a lot, either under shirts, as yoga/walking tops, or pajama tops. I wanted them to be interchangeable, but I find there are a lot of cami’s that can really only be worn to bed now – either they’re way too short to be comfortable, too thin to be worn in public, stained or hole-y, loose around the bust, or some garish print that was specifically sold as a pj top. So upgrading to fewer, multi-function tops is what I want to do, but something keeps holding me back. Fear of going wild with shopping again? Disappointment at buying boring and useful clothing? Feeling like it’s a waste to recycle stuff that is still wearable, even if only in very limited circumstances? I don’t feel that way with tops – I seem more able to get rid of tops so I can bring in some exciting and different new things. Anyway, all the boring things seem to linger on my shopping list for a long time. I’ve also supposedly been buying some charcoal grey pants for forever, but can’t get enthused. I need to get the boring and yet priority shopping done!

    • I can relate to what you wrote, Sarah. For a long time, I avoided shopping for what I considered boring or difficult to find. Instead I focused my shopping on what was easy and/or fun to buy. That’s what got me into the mess I was in (and to some extent still am in…). I think that having a priorities list and setting limits on shopping can help us not to go wild. Perhaps you can balance the number of “fun” and functional pieces you buy. It doesn’t sound like you’re being wasteful at all with your camisoles, as you seem to be downgrading the more worn out ones for at-home wear. I’ve been doing that with my tops as of late and am feeling much better about my consumption as a result. I plan to do more shopping for the “boring” items this year, as those things will really help me to have a more functional wardrobe. Perhaps you can do the same… 🙂

  9. I wanted to pass along a shopping strategy I have begun to employ recently, that works really well for me. Like most people, I think I tend to gravitate towards a specific family of colors, styles, and silhouettes in my wardrobe.

    In the past, while shopping, I have had the tendency to purchase various iterations of similar garments, telling myself I was just “stockpiling basics”. However, when I began winnowing my wardrobe in April 2013, I found myself having too many similar “basics”, many of which were fine in theory, but not so much in practice–as perhaps they weren’t as flattering as they could be, or didn’t coordinate with other things as well as they ought to.

    Since April, I have downsized my wardrobe by approximately 60% overall (I’m not as good with tracking the numbers as you are, Debbie!), and its now easy for me to remember what I have in the current season’s lineup.

    So, I found myself devising a strategy a few weeks back. Lured by the promise of 60% off sales at some of my favorite stores, I went shopping over a several day period. On each foray, I consciously acknowledged before I even left the house that I had absolutely no earthly need for any garment at this point in time, having so carefully curated mine these many months. I admitted to myself that the sole purpose of my shopping expedition was for the thrill and amusement of the hunt.

    I have learned there is great value in hitting “pause” and this was a good testing ground. I started off in the stores like a huntress, swiftly scanning the terrain and zoning in on specific items that immediately caught my attention, gathering them up in my size. In my previous life, I would have made the swift decision to purchase, without adequate consideration, and then very likely ended up returning the items once I got home and had a “what was I thinking” moment.

    This time, however, before I dashed up to the cash register, I stepped off to the side with my booty and stopped. I gave my full attention to each garment for color, fit, etc. Then I did something new. I mentally visited my closet and asked, “Do I have anything in here already that is too similar to this garment?”, and if the answer was yes, I put it back.

    The end result of my amusing hunting expedition was that I was amused, I enjoyed the retail experience, but I didn’t buy anything. Not one thing.

    • I’m so glad to see you commenting again, Deby. I always look forward to the insightful comments you make. I love the story above! I think that asking the question, “Do I have anything in my closet that is too similar to what I’m considering buying?” can save many of us from having too much similarity in our wardrobes. I wish I would have had that question a couple of years ago, but I’m happy to have it now. Nowadays I’m refraining from even trying things on if they are too similar to what I already have. However, I was focused mostly on color and pattern, but I realize I also need to focus on the TYPE of garment. For example, I have SO many knit tops, so if I buy a top, how about a blouse for a change?

      Congrats on being able to still enjoy the retail experience without adding an unnecessary bloat to your closet! I know those sales can be hard to resist, which is why I avoided them completely this year. Now that I have a newly created shopping priorities list (for what will really make a difference for my wardrobe, not just what I want), that will be accompanying me on all of my future shopping trips. Hopefully I’ll be able to show the kind of restraint you did. Thanks for sharing your win with us!

      • Debbie, the past month has been so busy, I read your blog daily but seldom found the the time to respond! But I vow to do better.

        I have a question though. We talk about being clothing shopaholics, but are any of you out there skin care and makeup shopaholics too? I would like to learn about this….it has been a problem area for me as well as clothes!

      • Whenever you are able to comment here is great, Deby. I think that many shopaholics over-buy in areas other than clothing. I’ve definitely bought too many make-up and skin care products in the past (as well as hair care products…), but that hasn’t been as much of a problem for me recently. I have also bought too many books, magazines (I’ve written about that one…), and gifts for other people. I think a post on other areas of overshopping would be a good one to do! I’m adding it to the list.

  10. Oh, Debbie, how you have inspired me! While I have been tracking the numbers of items in my wardrobe for about 2 years now, I have never before tracked what came into my wardrobe/ left my wardrobe on a month be month basis before. Because of you, I do now. I also list where I got the item (e-bay, thrift, new), any why it left my closet. Now, I am adding the inventory, which I will do either 2x a year, or whenever the fancy strikes me. For many years, my inventories would have looked like yours, if I had tracked them. But I’m sure that the reason I did not is that it would have scared me, and I would have had to face up to the fact that I had a problem. Now, after 3 years of intensive purging of my whole house, my closet looks like this:
    66 items of clothing, including shoes, scarves (my weakness), undies, socks, etc
    13 items of jewelery
    Included in the 66 are:
    17 winter only items (hats, gloves, longjohns, winter boots, sweaters)
    3 summer only (shorts, bathing suit, tank top)

    Sounds like I have a handle on this shopping thing, right? Well, I don’t think I do. For instance, I have added 6 items in January alone! I am still shopping too much! Still thinking about ‘the perfect wardrobe’ too much.
    But I am doing better every month. I am closer to my ‘ideal’. And YOU have helped, so much! All of your other readers have helped me, too, so much! Thanks everyone!

    • Thanks so much for your comment, Marcy, and for letting me know that my posts have impacted you positively. Tracking what comes into and out of my closet has helped me tremendously and I’m sure I wouldn’t have amassed such a crazy, out of control wardrobe if I had started doing that years ago. Congrats on the great wardrobe (and house!) purging you’ve done over the past 3 years! You seem to have a nice-sized functional wardrobe now. You’re right that thinking about the “perfect wardrobe” can get us into trouble, but you’re catching yourself when you overshop and examining your motivations. It’s the unconscious shopping we do that can really get us into trouble, but you’re noticing your behavior and questioning it, which will help you to make different choices. I’m glad my blog and the comments of my readers (they’re the best!) have helped you so much!

  11. I’ve been travelling and read the latest British Vogue on the plane – they had an article on wardrobe tracking!!! (Half a dozen stylish women tracked what they actually wore.)

    • Sounds like a great article, FrugalFashionista! I’ll have to see if I can get a hold of a copy of British Vogue… I think there is one local bookstore that carries it. Thanks for sharing and happy travels!

  12. Wow! I’ve so been enjoying your site and have taken an (almost) full inventory myself! I love clothes but am so overwhelmed as I moved last year into a smaller house, with a smaller closet, and lost another closet which held coats (4 seasons here)….So although my numbers are high – I’m already purging well and have always been one to sell at consignment stores…and try to use the one in, one out rule (well more with purses than anything lol!) – I’m happy to read and visit here – thank you! Shoes, coats and sweaters (about 100…already weeded 20) are my weak spots…also am trying to limit 3 items in per month, and a monthly budget of about $300 (or yearly 3600) which is an improvement …hope I can make it happen! Having a trip to Italy which is a lifetime dream, planned for Sept is helping me to focus I think…

    • Welcome, Sandy, and thanks for your comment! I’m glad you’re enjoying my blog. Sounds like you’re making excellent progress with your wardrobe! Moving to a smaller home forced me to do my initial downsizing a few years ago, but I’ve happily been able to pare things down more over the past year. Having a one-in, one-out rule and purchasing limits (both dollar amounts and item numbers) are good things to have in place. The item limit I set for myself this year has really made a big difference for me. I also really want to go to Italy one day… How exciting for you that you’re going there in September! I wish you continued success with your wardrobe (and a wonderful vacation later this year).

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