At long last, we’ve come to my final wrap-up post for 2013. However, this is a not a case of “I saved the best for last.” Rather, I saved the most difficult post for me to write until the bitter end. In fact, this is the post I’ve been dreading writing. But there’s no avoiding it… It’s time for me to face the music and share what I bought in 2013.
This post includes how many items I bought last year and how many I still have, as well as the number of shopping successes and failures I experienced during 2013. As an aspiring optimist, I like to find the silver lining in all life’s situations, yet I won’t “sugar coat” things here. I made some big mistakes last year and I won’t shirk from admitting them to you – and to myself. But I’ll also share what I learned from those mistakes, in the hopes that my lessons will also benefit those of you who continue to struggle with overshopping, bad shopping, and various wardrobe woes.
Sharing the Numbers…
In the past, I only tracked the number of items I bought for one full year, 2011. You can read more on my purchase tracking in this post, but the gist of it was that I brought 168 new wardrobe pieces into my closet that year. I only tracked my 2012 purchases for one quarter (during which I bought 64 new items!), but I would guess that I brought over 200 items into my wardrobe by the time that year came to a close!
The average American acquires 68 new garments annually, which is already an exorbitant number, but my shopping rate was triple that average before I started this blog! What’s more, the numbers above don’t even include the pieces I returned, which was often half of what I bought. I don’t even want to do the math there!
Better, Yes, But I Still Bought Too Much!
The good news is that my shopping improved dramatically during 2013. Instead of amassing 200-plus or 168 new pieces over the course of the year, my total was less than half those numbers. In all, I added 76 new items to my closet last year (I also returned at least 17 additional pieces, but I wasn’t completely diligent in recording that data).
I’m not proud of how much I continued to shop last year. I’m happy that I made a big improvement over previous years, but I know I still bought far too much. And while the number is disconcerting, that’s not even the worst news about my 2013 shopping…
Analyzing the Mistakes
Let’s get the rest of the bad news out of the way right now. Of the 76 new items I added to my wardrobe last year, 19 of them have already been donated or consigned! That’s right, 25% of my 2013 purchases consisted of what I would term “mistakes,” ill-advised buys that should have remained in the stores.
Rather than flog myself for the error in my ways, I prefer to analyze my buying mistakes and learn from them (believe me, enough self-flagellation has already occurred!). Let’s look at my 19 “bad buys” and see what they have in common. I’ve included the photo below so you can more easily follow along:
Here’s a summary of the common elements among my 2013 buying mistakes:
- With the exception of one item (the white tee, which wasn’t so much a mistake as a poor quality item that didn’t wash well), all of my mistakes were either bought on sale or at a resale store! I’ve already written on the hazards of sales and resale shopping on numerous occasions and will mostly avoid such shopping moving forward! If I do venture into such treacherous waters, I will shop with a list and use the “power pause.”
- Seven items fell prey to the “dark side” of alterations in that I tried to re-make these garments via complicated and ill-advised tailoring. The ones that hurt the most were the two coats which were subject to costly – and ultimately unsuccessful – shoulder alterations.
- At least a few of these items were bought primarily based upon one main characteristic that I liked (i.e. color, pattern, or style), while disregarding a quality or fit issue that shouldn’t have been ignored. Examples include the two black skirts and the two striped toppers.
I’m sure I could find more common elements, but the ones above are certainly enlightening. It didn’t take much time or thought for me to understand why my 19 purchasing mistakes from 2013 occurred. I’ve had to learn the hard way about the hazards of focusing too much on low prices, trying to “rescue” clothing through alterations, and not paying enough attention to quality or fit. These have been expensive lessons for me to learn, but I think that at long last I finally “get” it. I expect to make far fewer shopping mistakes this year and intend to put my most common errors behind me for good!
On a Positive Note
I’m happy to report that 28 of my 2013 purchases (37%) have become closet favorites. I love all of these items and have already worn many of them a number of times. Some are too new to have seen much wear as of yet, but I am confident that these pieces will be among my wardrobe “all-stars” at year’s end. All of these items closely match my personal style aesthetic, are in colors I like, and work well for my casual lifestyle.
Here’s a photo of my favorite buys from 2013 (click for a larger view). I hope to have a larger percentage of my 2014 purchases become favorites.
The Jury is Still Out…
Of the 76 purchases I made last year, the jury is still out on 14 of them. The majority of these items were bought toward the end of what turned out to be a very short summer where I live. The cool weather returned earlier than usual, cutting short the time period during which I would have worn my new summer pieces. I plan to buy very few warm weather garments this year and instead focus on shopping my closet and utilizing what I have.
The following items may or may not become wardrobe “all-stars” this year. My hope is that they will all join my regular wardrobe rotation, but if that’s not the case, I will pass them on before the year is over. In my effort to cultivate a smaller and more workable wardrobe, I have no room for “benchwarmers” that simply take up valuable closet real estate. I want everything I have to be worn often and loved!
My Plans for 2014
Clearly, I shopped too much in 2013 and I don’t want that trajectory to continue this year. While I did well in sticking to my clothing budget last year (it turns out that I really DID come in under budget for the year after a final return was credited to my account!), that restraint wasn’t sufficient to mend my wicked shopping ways. I started 2013 with a rule for restricting my buys to one item of clothing and one accessory per month, but I soon abandoned that tenet because it proved too difficult for me to stick to. Although it sounded completely reasonable (and likely is), I just wasn’t ready to dial back my shopping that much. It was too big of a leap for me to make so soon into the process.
Here’s what I’ve decided for 2014. I will cut my purchase number in half! That means I will buy no more than 38 new pieces of clothing over the course of the year. Yes, I know that’s probably still too much to buy in one year, but I feel it’s a manageable and doable goal for me. Of course, I can buy fewer garments, but 38 is the maximum number of closet additions I can make.
There are a few exceptions to my purchasing limit. I’m outlining them here so it’s all in black and white and I can’t get all “slippery” about the rules later down the line. Here are my exceptions to the rule:
- Workout clothes
- Socks (and tights)
- Shoes and accessories (I haven’t been over-buying in these categories, but will work to pare down these areas of my wardrobe this year)
- Gifts from others (I don’t get too many gifts, but am exempting them from the total)
All other garments that I buy will be included in my 38 maximum closet additions for 2014.
The Right and Wrong Reasons to Buy Things
I have created a new shopping priorities list for the year and will aim to only buy the items that are included on this list. The list details key pieces that will make a difference in my wardrobe (many are replacement items), rather than just things I want because I saw them in a magazine or on a style blogger.
In the past, I mostly bought things because they were on sale or because they were listed as “must-haves” by some fashion expert who has no idea about my life or what I like. This year, my intention is to follow my own fashion muse, hone my personal style, and enhance my wardrobe in a way that will work best for me. I’m happy with the list I’ve created and I highly recommend that you do the same for yourself, particularly if you have a tendency to overshop and/or buy the wrong things. Shopping with a list really helps us to be more conscious of what we’re buying, so we’re far less likely to make the types of mistakes I outlined above.
As the year goes on, I will periodically update you on how I’m doing with my item restriction and shopping priorities list. I will also create other goals and rules related to my wardrobe, which I will share in a future post. In addition, for the first time, I will also outline goals for the “full life” portion of my transformation. While I will continue to work on my wardrobe this year (and forever more…), I intend to shift more focus to other areas of my life that were deeply neglected during my shopaholic years. In order to have a full life, we need to place appropriate focus on realizing that goal, so I plan to do just that. I hope many of you will join me in this endeavor!
What About You?
You’ve learned about my 2013 purchases – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Now it’s your turn… How much did you buy last year? Are you proud of your 2013 shopping or do you see a lot of room for improvement? What did you learn about yourself and your wardrobe in the process? As always, I’d love to hear from you! One thing that’s so great about this community is how much we learn from each other. I always gain new insights and knowledge from the comments you all make, so I invite you to share your feedback on this topic.