Creating a Shopping Priorities List – Why and How

In a number of my previous posts, I’ve mentioned the importance of shopping with a list in order to avoid impulse buys and purchasing mistakes.  I’ve also referred to my own shopping priorities list on occasion, but other than the partial list I included at the end of this post, I haven’t provided many details.  The lively discussion in the comments sections of my “March 2014 Accountability Update” and “Creative Math and Playing by the Rules” posts made me realize I need to write more on the topic of shopping priorities.

Shopping priorities list

Do you have a shopping priorities list? Do you use it?

In today’s post, I outline why I believe shopping priority lists are important and share my own list with you.  I also point you towards several other resources to help you plan your future shopping for clothing and related items.

Why Have a Shopping Priorities List?  A Personal Tale…

The best way for me to convince you of the importance of maintaining a shopping priorities list is to share a piece of my personal story.  For years, I gave very little forethought to my shopping.  I shopped whenever and wherever the desire came upon me and bought whatever struck my fancy.  This practice led to a very large and highly disjointed wardrobe.  I had hundreds of pieces in my closet and many of them were highly similar to each other in terms of style, color, and silhouette.  I adhered to the “more is more” philosophy and never stopped to question whether or not I truly needed that ninth black skirt.

Fast forward to January 2013 when I started this blog and began to make an effort to mend my dysfunctional shopping ways…  Once I started to analyze my wardrobe and my purchasing habits, I saw a lot of problems with both.  With a closet as jam-packed as mine was and with the amount of money I spent on clothing, shoes, and the like each year, I should have been better dressed than I was and I should have been more satisfied with my wardrobe.  But my wardrobe was not meeting my needs, not by a long shot!

The main reason my wardrobe was in such a sad state of affairs was that I had given very little thought and planning to it.  I shopped as a way of filling my emotional needs and bought items based upon feelings rather than rational thought and intellect.  Clearly, the way I had approached my shopping for many, many years wasn’t working for me at all!

Stop the Insanity!  A New Approach…

Since the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result, I decided to adopt a new approach.  I opted to inject a lot more rationality into my shopping and to start using my brain when I shopped instead of my much less reliable feelings.  One of my primary tools in this effort is my shopping priorities list.

Although I had cursorily kept a shopping list in the past, I rarely held myself to it.  If something pretty, flashy, and a “great deal” presented itself to me, I generally purchased that instead of the items on my list.  Of course, such behavior just led to more of the same problems with my closet, which had become an unmanageable and overwhelming mess!

Now I wish I could say that I’ve always adhered to my list since starting this blog, but longtime readers know that’s not the case.  I’ve still experienced a number of stops and starts and have continued to make shopping mistakes along the way.  But that’s okay, as change doesn’t happen in a linear fashion and we all encounter ups and downs on the path toward recovery.

How Accountability Helps in Recovery

As most of you know, I’ve been posting monthly accountability updates ever since I started this blog.  These updates outline what came into and left my closet, as well as how much I spent and how well I’m adhering to my shopping rules. These monthly updates have been instrumental in the recovery I’ve been able to achieve thus far.  Knowing that I will have to “face the music” with my readers (as well as my husband and myself) each month has gone a long way toward keeping me on track.

Although I report on my reasons for bringing in and letting go of pieces in my accountability updates, one thing I haven’t shared is a list of my shopping priorities and how well I’m doing in sticking to that list.  Well, that’s about to change!  In just a moment, I’m going to share my shopping priority list for the remainder of 2014 (and potentially beyond).  Then in each of my upcoming accountability posts, when I outline what I bought the previous month, I will report on whether or not those items were among my planned purchases for the year.  You’ve all been great in keeping me honest, so I know you will help to keep me on track in this respect as well.

How to Create a Shopping Priorities List

But before I tell you what my shopping priorities for the year are, I’m going to let you in on how I came to create my list.  It’s my hope that the strategies I used to construct my shopping list will assist you in coming up with your own list.  Of course, there are probably other suggestions you can add to the mix, so I welcome any and all comments that can add to this discussion.

Below are the steps I have taken to create my shopping priorities list.  There are three main considerations I kept in mind as I put together my list.

What Are the “Missing Pieces”?

Often, when I get dressed for the day, I notice an item I wish I had that would really pull my outfit together or take my look to the next level.  This could be a coordinating topper, a statement piece of jewelry, or a comfortable and cute pair of shoes.  In many cases, these “missing links” come up time and again in the form of a thought that begins with, “I wish I had a ….”  These are the types of items that belong on our shopping priorities lists!

Some of our “missing pieces” are destined to become wardrobe workhorses, those items that more than earn their keep in our closets.  At times, such pieces can be difficult to find, but if we practice the “3 P’s” of patience, pickiness, and practicality, our efforts will definitely pay off!

What Are Our Replacement Needs?

Sometimes there are items in our closets that we wear so often that they become in need of replacement.  Our favorite pair of shoes or go-to jeans may be showing signs of wear and not look as fabulous as they once did.  Since it can take a while to find suitable replacements, it’s a good idea to start keeping an eye out for version 2.0 before our closet favorites are on their last legs.  Pinpoint your wardrobe replacement needs and keep them front and center on your shopping priorities list.

What Modernizing Touches Can We Add?

Not only does the fashion world continue to evolve over time, so does our personal style aesthetic.  Pieces we used to love may no longer hold our favor and we may wish to edge our style into new territory.  In addition, if we love clothes and fashion, we may want to make sure that we stay current and modern in the way that we dress.

Of course, there are always so many new trends entering the fashion scene that we can’t possibly keep up with all of them.  For that reason, it’s useful to select a few favorites that we can translate via our existing wardrobes and perhaps a few selective purchases.  Style blogs and Pinterest can help us to identify new pieces that will help to modernize our wardrobes and keep moving our style along through the years.

This is an area of caution, however. Those of us who are prone to overshopping often have a tendency to want to participate in too many trends and we may desire to overhaul our closets each and every season.  So it takes some discipline to identify just a few pieces that will really make a profound difference in our personal style.  Capturing in writing the modernizing touches we wish to add to our closets can help us see if we’re trying to change too much at once and if we may need to do some constructive editing.

My 2014 Shopping Priorities

Now that I’ve outlined the process through which I construct my shopping priorities list, it’s time to share my newly edited list for the remainder of this year.  Since I’ve already bought my two items for April (and will share what they are in my next accountability update), I have 18 items remaining in my purchase allowance for 2014.

Below are the pieces I hope to purchase in the upcoming months.  The items that are replacements have an “R” in parentheses after them, while “missing pieces” have been highlighted by an “M.”  The remaining items on the list are either modernizing touches or items that I feel will take my style to the next level (and are indicated by an “S”).

My list is categorized by item types:  tops/toppers, bottoms/dresses, and shoes/accessories.  Some list items are very specific, while others are more vague in nature.  Although I believe it’s best to be as specific as possible in order to best guide our shopping, it’s not always easy to spell out our priorities in explicit detail.  As I become clearer about my needs, I will fill in the gaps as appropriate. I was going to indicate the month in which I hope to purchase each item, but I decided to keep things simple for now.  While I will definitely shop with particular items in mind, I will also keep my eyes open for everything on my list.   We never know when and where we might find things!

Tops and Toppers:

  1. Denim jacket (R)
  2. Grey short jacket or tank (R)  – may possibly get both
  3. White top to wear with skirts (M)
  4. White top with special details to wear with pants (M)
  5. Tie-waist cardigan to wear with skirts/dresses (M) – white, blue, or grey
  6. Bright v-neck cardigan to wear with skirts/dresses (R) – cobalt, purple, green
  7. Special top in cobalt, red, or grey (S) – standalone piece, modern style
  8. Houndstooth or black/white geometric print top or topper (S)

Bottoms and Dresses:

  1. Grey knee-length or midi skirt (M) – casual style
  2. Black maxi-dress (S)
  3. Black straight-leg jeans (R)
  4. Denim skirt (R)
  5. Bright skirt or pants (M)
  6. Bright dress (M) – color other than blue

Shoes / Accessories:

  1. Black flat sandals (M) – modern, strappy, comfortable
  2. Multi-color flats (M) – ballet slipper style
  3. Tan sandals (R) – modern, strappy, comfortable
  4. Bright  (preferably cobalt or green) or black/white purse (S)

That’s my list as it stands today, but I may opt to make revisions as the year progresses.  If I do revise the list at any point, I will share the modifications in my subsequent accountability update. Any modifications that I make will be done at home, not while I am in a store faced with a tempting item.  I definitely want to make sure that my future purchases are things that serve my real wardrobe needs, not things that only serve to fulfill momentary wants!

Other Helpful Resources

While I hope my suggestions for creating a shopping priorities list are helpful, I also want to share some other resources to assist you with any purchase planning you opt to do.

  • The Ultimate Five Year Shopping Calendar” – Reader Mette recently started a new blog following the discussion on my “On Creative Math and Playing by the Rules” post.   Recently, Mette created a shopping calendar which allows her to plan her purchases over a five-year period.  In this fascinating post (especially for the “numbers geeks” out there!), she outlines her approach and provides lots of details and examples.  I may opt to adopt Mette’s calendar in 2015.
  • The Four Implicit Categories in Your Shopping List” – Fashion expert Angie from “You Look Fab” specifies the four distinct item categories which generally comprise our shopping lists.  In re-reading this post just now, I realize that I need to allow for Angie’s category number four on my list, those “unexpected delights” that we absolutely fall in love with on sight.  I think Angie is right that we need to allow for some element of “magic” in our shopping (but shopaholics will still benefit from using the “power pause” before taking the plunge with our purchases).
  • Ask 2 Questions – To Shop Like a Personal Shopper” – Image consultant Karen Hughes shares a basic method and some powerful questions to ask to help us shop like a personal shopper.  While this article is geared toward fall shopping (from last year), the tips provided are useful all year round.
  • How To:  Seasonal Wardrobe Update” – This classic post on “Into Mind” outlines a five-step process to use for updating our wardrobes each season (or whenever the need arises).  Particularly germane to today’s discussion is step 4:  write a shopping list.
  • Wardrobe Architect:  Planning Your Pieces” – This is part of the “Wardrobe Architect” series on the Coletterie Sewing Blog.  While the entire 12-week series is worth reading (even if you don’t sew…), this particular lesson focuses on planning to add new pieces to one’s wardrobe.  Some good visual examples are included, as well as a useful exercise that will help you create your shopping list.

Your Feedback and Suggestions

So there you have it… my mistakes, my philosophies, my shopping priorities list, and some useful links.  I hope this post has been helpful to you!  As always, I welcome your feedback, questions, and suggestions.  If you have other tips and strategies for wardrobe planning and shopping prioritization, I invite you to share them with me and your fellow readers.  If you are reading this post via email or through a feed reader and wish to comment, please click here.

50 thoughts on “Creating a Shopping Priorities List – Why and How

  1. Interesting shopping strategy. I have never had a shopping list such as you outlined, but played along in my mind while reading about yours. The conclusion I came to, is that I do not need anything right now, and I can wait for that something special that will find me later on in the year when I will be traveling.

    • From what you’ve written before, Cornelia, it sounds like your wardrobe is in pretty good shape. So I’m not surprised to learn that you don’t need anything. Good for you! I hope to be in a similar boat before too long. If I stop aiming for quantity and buy higher quality pieces that actually meet my needs, my wardrobe will get better and better over time.

  2. Dear Debbie,
    Congratulations! This is perfect. I love how you have categorized everything with the letters. And, you are right, it is often difficult to find the right piece that is a replacement or missing item. The quality of garments today just don’t seem as wonderful as in the past, for all the reasons you and others have written of so eloquently.

    I look forward to your updates re. your successes in following these lists. Thanks also for the interesting links. Will you at any time be sharing how you are combining the garments you have in your wardrobe; that is, making items coordinate with each other? You have so many lovely things that I think it would be beneficial to see how you combine an item, with the other things in your wardrobe, to extend its usefulness, as well as giving your readers some new insights into your skills in coordination. You write so well that it is easy to figure out what you mean.

    I realize that may be far off in the future, but the, I can hope…

    Best regards,

    • Thanks for your comment and for the future post suggestion, Kirsten. I can certainly write about how I remix my wardrobe pieces, although there are many others out there who are writing posts on that topic. But since I write about building a workable wardrobe, I can see how some posts on mixing and matching the new pieces I buy could be useful. I will add your topic to my list!

  3. Several years ago I had a wardrobe that was mostly casual items with a few orphans thrown in. It suited my day to day life, but when we would go to dinner at a nicer restaurant I would struggle to find something to wear. About six years ago my cousin got married and I literally had nothing to wear. The stores that year carried about two styles of dresses-neither was flattering on me. I went to about a million different stores and websites and paid top dollar for an outfit after searching for several months. After that I came up with a list of things that would be appropriate for any occasion that I might find myself in. It worked too. When my other cousin got married I already had the dress, shoes, and jewelry.

    Since I did this there are virtually no holes in my wardrobe. Every once in a while I need to replace a pair of jeans or shoes. I can honestly say that I could purchase five things or less this year and that would take care of any real needs I have. I buy things because I want them not because I need them. So I try to make sure that I love them, that they work with other items in my closet, and that they fit well and are a good color for me.

    The only things that I have on my list right now are a sweater dress to replace one that doesn’t fit, a long sleeve shirt or two since I passed along quite a few of mine that didn’t fit or that weren’t the best colors on me, and a short sleeve top that I am stalking, waiting for it to go on sale. Somehow I doubt that I will only buy three items for the rest of the year. The good news though, is that I am pretty content with what I have and that I don’t feel the need to replace most of it.

    • Sounds like your wardrobe is in pretty good shape, Tonya. It seems you learned a powerful lesson from the cousin’s wedding outfit debacle. I have been in such situations, too. It amazed me that I could have SUCH a large wardrobe and not have outfits for all potential life occasions. That is still the case in some respects, but my list is helping me to turn things around. I think it’s fabulous that you only really need three items at present. I probably don’t actually NEED everything on my list and some can definitely wait, but the list helps to focus my shopping so I don’t just buy more of the same.

    • I think this is a good approach.
      The well-planned wardrobe is one where you never have to run out and buy an outfit for an event. I know from my own experience that buying something for an event often results in an item that you never wear again. For instance, consider a wedding. You might say, “I never get dressed up, I don’t need a formal dress.” Then you end up either wearing something out of place to the wedding that pops up, or you go buy something that isn’t your style but fulfills the requirement.

      I think it’s better to have a slot in your closet for “formal event” and fill it at your leisure. You’re more likely to have something 1) that suits your lifestyle and concept of formal, 2) you didn’t pay top dollar to acquire, and 3) wear the outfit more than once. It’s part of my “if you own it you’ll wear it” philosophy.

      • Very wise words, Ginger! It’s always easier and better to have time to find the right wardrobe pieces instead of having to buy things at the last minute. I remember having to buy a dress for a party the day of the event once and that didn’t go well at all! I think I only ended up wearing the dress that one time and I didn’t feel all that fabulous in it when I wore it. I had to “settle” for “good enough” or “okay” instead of something I really liked. Not a recipe for success…

  4. Thanks for walking us through your thought process. In the past my shopping list has been more of a wish list than a well focused list.

    • That has been true for me, too, Lisa. Some of my items are still more wishes than needs, but at least I’ve put more thought into it this time around.

  5. I started writing down all purchases in 2012. Then in 2013 I embarked on my first list driven shopping year. I was ambitiously trying to buy one item each month. I had things listed month by month, coinciding with the season. So, a jacket in Jan, a sweater in Feb, jeans in March, shoes in April, dress in May, etc. I did fairly well with this, again getting 2 of each item per month instead of one. But it fell apart a little at the end of the year, when I moved back to FL yet again.

    This year I attempted the same. Still struggling with keeping the amounts down, but I am doing well getting ‘list’ items. I have a few trendy, fast fashion type tops I imagine might only make it one or two seasons that weren’t on the list. But overall, making, and following, a master list has been the best thing besides creating a budget that I did for my wardrobe.

    It makes me think of the big picture and what those missing puzzle pieces are that will pull it all together better. This includes, as you say, picking some trends to incorporate to refresh and modernize your look. It also allows this bargain hunter to buy bigger ticket items by buying less over all. Lastly, recognizing workhorses that are soon to wear out *before* they actually do, and searching for their replacement before hand, is a brilliant strategy to keep from having more wardrobe holes or gaps crop up.

    I’m not sure I’ll ever get to where I don’t stray from my list or plan, but I don’t think I’ll ever go back to shopping without it.

    • Your comment illustrates perfectly how a list can be helpful, Mo. It’s probably the rare person who adheres exactly to her shopping list, but the list helps to target our purchases and keep us on track. It seems like your list has definitely been helpful for you. I can see how moving to a very different climate (and culture) could shake things up quite a bit, but overall I’d say you’re doing very well!

  6. I no longer have such list. I compiled a ‘missing pieces’ list last spring and am of two minds about it. In a way, I think it was an excuse to keep looking and continue shopping while deep down I knew I really needed nothing… (If you are looking for a ‘perfect’ item, you are purchasing certain items again and again trying to find the right one. For me, the list was an excuse to buy multiples… Nude courts – first pair too dressy, second too pink, third just right… Navy belt – first one too short, second one too gray… Taupe bag: first too structured for everyday, second poor quality, third possibly too small… ) I think I found the last truly useful missing pieces when I bought a couple of light gray t shirts at Uniqlo. So be very careful and return the item if you have even the tiniest doubts about it! In some ways, missing core items can be a good thing – it forces one to be creative. I missed a basic (the neutral t shirts) for a full year and that definitely made me more adventurous and creative. I wore my rarely worn clothes much more often and also found creative replacements.

    I’ve continued the non-exposure strategy (no fashion blogs, forums, no shop browsing) and it seems to be working! I have no shopping urges. And because I’m limiting internet time, I have had more time to spend with friends and family members. I’ve felt less exhausted and found time to run errands, finish reading a novel, start another, bake and cook for the family. I’m also exercising more and we’ll take a short trip later this week. Diverting attention away from shopping triggers definitely helps!

    • You made some good points, FrugalFashionista. Shopping lists can be both blessings and curses and they definitely aren’t for everyone. I agree that I have to be very careful about what I buy and to steer clear from buying multiples in search of that elusive “perfect” item. I think one thing that’s different for you than for me is that you seem to have a very firm sense of your personal style and how you like to dress. I’m still working to figure that out, so the list is helping to guide my process. Over time, I may not need to keep up the list, but I’ll keep it as long as I find it useful.

      Congrats on your continued success with the non-exposure strategy! I agree that such an approach can really help. I find that the more I focus on other things, the less drawn I am toward shopping. Enjoy your trip later this week and keep up the great work!

    • I use this “non-exposure strategy, too — and I work in a retail setting! I don’t shop — I have a very basic “Needs” (NOT “wants”) list that includes pjs, underwear, and new dress boots in the fall. With my tiny clothes budget, I’ve have to abstain from shopping until boot season. This isn’t a hardship — there’s very little to entice me to shop. I think the system you’ve developed, Debbie, should help you determine WHY you are purchasing an item — to replace a garment that bit the dust, or to find something to round out your wardrobe. But why so many cardigans? Don’t you live in God’s country — the best climate in the US? I have 2 cardigans — and I survived the polar vortex!

      • Having my list and the two items per month limit is already helping me, Dottie. Since I’ve purchased my two items for April, I stopped shopping. I did browse through a few catalogs I received, however, and I am kept my list in mind as I looked. I was able to dismiss almost everything in the catalogs by keeping my priorities in mind. It was very freeing! As for the cardigans, I do live in Southern California, but I live by the water where it’s quite a bit cooler (but certainly no polar vortex!). I run colder than most people, so I wear some sort of jacket or sweater pretty much every day. My cardigans actually get more wear than most of my other clothes!

  7. After going through my closet and tossing 35% of it in a bag for goodwill due to things not fitting after dropping a significant amount of weight in the past 3 months, I sat down and typed up a list of things I “needed” on my phone. Of the entire list, the only things I could really argue for needing is new work shoes with support, and a pair of dark denim skinny jeans as I was wearing my favorite pair when I injured myself and had to have them cut off in the emergency room. I have a few other things on there to round out my wardrobe, but overall, I feel I am set for the rest of the year. I’m going to do my best to stick to this list as I have 2 outlet trips planned over the next 2 weekends, and will be striving for self-control as I shop with my mom/grandma, and my girlfriends.

    • You seem to be doing great, Melissa. I’m glad you’re well on the way to recovery from your injury. Sorry to hear that a favorite pair of pants was destroyed in the ER. Hopefully you will be able to replace them soon. Congrats on being “set” in terms of your wardrobe and best wishes on your outlet shopping with friends!

    • Thanks, Debbie! I tell ya, having to be cut out of my favorite Levi’s was more traumatic than breaking my ankle!

  8. Just made my list!! And I can see by looking at it how much having the few items that are on it will make my closet work better. Now…can I go shopping and actually come home with only what’s on my list??!

    • Congrats on creating your list! I’m glad you found it to be a helpful exercise. I agree that sticking to our lists can be challenging. I find that reviewing my list right before I head into the mall or store helps to keep me focused. Sometimes I shop for one or two things in particular, but reviewing my list keeps my priorities top of mind in case I see other list items while I’m in the stores.

  9. I agree with FrugalFashionista that a list can sometimes lead one to buy multiples of items that are not quite right. I think a lot of my shopping mistakes have to do with not being sufficiently “picky” and “patient” but I am definitely working on that.

    That said, I think a list can definitely be helpful, if nothing else because of the way that it forces you to be thoughtful about wardrobe planning rather than just buying what appeals in the moment. I think you have done a really nice job on your list. I notice that a lot of the “M” items reflect your desire to inject some new silhouettes into your wardrobe, I think it is good that you have thought through how to do this in a concrete way.

    I did notice though that you had filled up your 18-item quota for the remainder of the year with these items, leaving you no wiggle room to just fall in love with something. I totally understand why that kind of thing is dangerous for shopaholics, but I have also observed that sometimes when I buy such items they become real workhorses. (Of course, right now I am probably conveniently forgetting about all the ones that don’t!) For example a single sweater outside my usual color palette can (SOMEtimes!) give me more outfit options and more of a sense of variety than three sweaters that are “my colors.” I wish I understood better exactly when and why that happens!

    • I have struggled a lot with not being picky or patient enough, too, Sarah. That is at the root of many of my shopping mistakes. The list has definitely helped me with wardrobe planning, which was something I never did enough of in the past. I feel a lot more focused now, which should help me to shop a lot smarter. Yes, I wrote 18 items on my list, but I realize that I’m not likely to find all 18 this year. If a few of them move into next year or maybe never even happen at all, I’m okay with it. I considered leaving a few spots blank in case I fall in love with unplanned items, but I think the way I’ll approach such situations is to use the “power pause” and take some time to consider what won’t get bought should I decide to spring for a passion piece. I think that if I don’t act on impulse, I will be better able to make good decisions. I feel better having some sort of plan because my emotions got me into a lot of trouble in the past.

      • I think this might be a step in the right direction for you Debbie but just be careful as it is a slippery slope! I think you will havek to focus on items that you are 100% satiesfied with – no more ‘this will do for now’ – they need to be something you love immediately but that also satisfy your quality criteria. When shopping for basic core items, only buy things you would be able to wear immediately. Someone earlier suggested a high natural fiber percentage rule, that is also something worth considering as it will automatically weed out some of the tattiest choices.

        The curious thing is that when I’m working towards my full life goals, I can wear a polyester-viscose top (I usually loathe synthetics) and feel fantastic or all black (definitely not my color) and feel great. I mean, my style is defined by who I am, what I say and how I feel, from the inside out. Clothes actually have marginal role in it if you define personal style this way – they are something that have a supporting role, not the main character. For the longest time, I believed that my clothes and accessories defined me – really very silly as I am not a paper doll 😉

      • Frugal, I found that it was a slippery slope for me too! And I agree with all of what you wrote.

        But Debbie, I agree, keeping a list in the beginning is a good place for you begin. It will help you discover your style and redirect your focus so that your shopping isn’t willy-nilly. I was an emotional, willy-nilly shopper once upon a time, so I understand. Still, time has taught me that having a few holes in my wardrobe can sometimes be a good thing. I don’t need everything I “think” I will need. Also, it’s good to have clothing needs/wants that we don’t get to have. I believe it’s best to get away from shopping as much as possible and do, or think, about other things instead. Shopping and thinking about clothes just drives more thoughts of missing pieces, replacements and wants, and it’s an endless cycle. Which is fine if a person wants to remain rooted in the closet. And sometimes being in the closet with our clothes and with thoughts about our clothes is necessary and fun. But I find that I do better overall when I do other things more, and think about my clothes less.

      • FrugalFashionista and Terra, you both made some excellent points! I agree that I should be very picky about what I buy and not buy anything that’s just a “placeholder.” Aiming for natural fibers is helpful, as I tend to be less happy with the synthetic items in my closet. Having the list is already helping me. I haven’t shopped since I wrote it, but I am keeping it in mind as I page through catalogs and magazines. I find myself actually wanting LESS, as I really want to focus on my list instead of the many, many items which catch my eye.

        I do NOT want to remain rooted in the closet. I still think I spend too much time on clothes, even though it’s a lot less than I used to spend. I think it will continue to even out over time as I get my wardrobe into better shape (it will never be perfect!) and as I devote more time and attention to other areas of my life. It’s so true that we are not paper dolls and our clothes do NOT define us! Clothing can be a means of self-expression, but it’s only one of many…

  10. I agree with Frugal Fashionista, who wrote this about why she no longer makes lists:

    “In a way, I think it was an excuse to keep looking and continue shopping while deep down I knew I really needed nothing… ”

    Unless we are naked and barefoot, we don’t really NEED anything. We WANT quite a few things. For me, having a list is just another excuse to shop for the “one perfect thing” that will fill the void. Surprise! Nothing ever does.

    • You’re right that shopping is more about wants than real concrete needs, Bette. In truth, we just need to be clothed, not to be in new and trendy pieces. This whole shopping discussion is kind of a high class problem, as my husband calls it. But since I know that I will shop anyway, I find it helpful to have some sort of plan in mind for what I’ll buy. The haphazard buying of previous years didn’t serve me at all. As I’m working to shop less, I find the list helpful in keeping me focused and more on target. But I don’t expect the clothes I buy to fill my emotional void (which persists). I know I need to find another way to fill that and this is still very much a work in progress that I will be writing more about very soon.

      • I really look forward to hearing more, Debbie — thank you for your thoughtful reply (to me and others).

  11. I am excited to report that after my big closet cleanout last week, i took a car load of stuff that was “almost right for me” to consignment and another load to goodwill! Now, my hangers actually move in my closet and it appears much more workable. There’s no going back!

    On the down side, I am feeling major guilt about all the $$$ wasted on all the clothes I just cleared out. AND I hope that I cleared out the right things…it makes me nervous that I got rid of so much. I hope I have enough to wear (I know I do…but I still worry)

    Feeling proud though 🙂

    • You are doing SO well, Chelsea! You are definitely right to feel proud of yourself. The nervous feeling you have about getting rid of things is normal and something that many of us feel after clearing out our closets. Most of the time, we won’t miss what we let go of. Perhaps once in a blue moon, we might regret letting go of a piece or two, but far more often we’ll feel a sense of relief at unloading the burden of too many (and often unworn) clothes.

      One tip… Make a list of what you’re getting rid of and why. The WHY part is important because you can always refer back to your list if you find yourself lamenting letting go of a particular item. When you see the reason (bad fabric, lack of comfort, fussiness, etc.), you’ll likely be able to release any feelings of regret that crop up.

    • I am so familiar with the feeling of worrying that you’ll regret getting rid of things after a wardrobe clear-out. However, I’ve done it SO many times and find it is best just to be ruthless and if you have any doubts about an item just get rid of it. In the long run, despite short-term doubts I have never once actually missed anything that I donated.

      What I *have* regretted is grabbing things back out of the donation bag at the last minute to sneak them back in my wardrobe. They just sit there for another six months, still have all the same things wrong with them and always get donated again in the end!

      Regret over spending the money is also hard, but if you give the clothes to charity it’s a good feeling that at least someone else will benefit from your mistakes.

      • I think you guys are right – I am worrying for no reason. It was just a big step and I think I have a lot of feelings about it.

        The one thing I do know for sure, after doing a major closet cleanout, is that I don’t want to do it again! (I don’t mean that on a negative way) I just mean that I hope to quit buying so much and keeping so much at once that a major closet cleanout is NEEDED. I hope I can learn to only bring in a couple key pieces over time and par down my remaining closet in a more garment by garment fashion. You know?

        I hope the shock and guilt associated with this last cleanout will keep me from overbuying and set me on a good path with recovery 🙂

      • I’ve pulled things out of the donation bag before, and yes they do sometimes go back in.
        But, I had whatever it was to fill in the gap I thought I needed it to fill at the time. Otherwise I might have been shopping for it again.

      • There’s a great discussion here! I think there are many ways to go about the wardrobe purging process. I used to hesitate much more with it and place things into a sort of “holding zone” to allow myself time to change my mind. Usually after a month or so, I was ready to let those things go. These days, I’m finding it much easier to get rid of things more quickly. I was consigning things for a while to ease the blow of spending money on things I didn’t wear, but I think I’ll just donate my cast-offs to charity moving forward. It’s less time-consuming and I won’t be as tempted to buy things in the consignment store (which hasn’t led to very g0od purchases for me for the most part).

        You’re doing great, Chelsea! I get what you’re saying about not wanting to have to go through such a big purge again. I feel the same way! Although my wardrobe is still too large, it used to be twice as large a year ago and probably 3-4 times as large a few years back. I do find that tracking what comes in and out and keeping myself accountable is helping to keep the size of my wardrobe more manageable. Having limits for how much I can buy is also helpful. I used to bring 10-20 (or more) new pieces in to my closet each month and it was very difficult to keep up with it all!

  12. This past weekend I switched out my closet, and the next day it snowed, so go figure! Right now its in the mid-30’s where I live! But, at least this gave me plenty of time to organize my spring/summer wardrobe, and I was pleased with my own progress from excess compared to one year ago.

    Last year at this time, I embarked on my version of Project 333, which I called Project 198. The idea was to have two 6-month seasonal wardrobes, because of the way our seasons run here it seemed more practical and flexible. I called it Project 198 because I determined that I was going to pare my capacious wardrobe down to 99 pieces per six month season. I culled out each seasonal wardrobe by about 65% on average, by having fewer multiples, less color choices, and making sure that things really coordinated in style AND color, instead of my past hit or miss way. I chose my color palette by doing the exercises in David Zyla’s book, THE COLOR OF STYLE, which I have found to be far more helpful than the various seasonal color palettes that have been popular for many years. And to my wonderment, once I knew the colors, I found that it really makes a lot more sense to buy separates as part of collections, instead of running from store to store hunting for coordinates. I feel a lot more put together as a result!

    Happily, I can report that I ought to change the name of my Project 198 to a lower number because I somehow exceeded my expectations: by bringing my spring/summer wardrobe down to 77 pieces (including my new purchases this past week), and fall/winter is down to 85 pieces.

    This does not count shoes or bags at this point. However, I have cut down to three bags per season: a black, a brown, and a color–and I did not buy a new bag this season–which is major for me. I carry large tote bags for work with smaller cross body bags for quick trips to the store, etc. I’ve found the best cross body bags are vintage Coach bags from the 1990’s! They come in a lot of colors, if you search on ebay and Etsy.

    So I went out shopping this weekend and the color palettes are less than stellar this season. If you like black, white, navy, khaki and coral–you are in luck. Fortunately, everything I was looking for was either black or white, so I very quickly dispatched with my seasonal shopping so far. I’m happy to report I am significantly under budget for this season too!

    • Thanks for the update, Deby! I remember when you started Project 198 and I loved that you took the basic idea of Project 333 and made it your own. You have grown by leaps and bounds since then and seem to be doing SO well now! Your wardrobe sounds a lot more manageable, cohesive, and workable for your life. The numbers are a lot smaller, too. I know you are very into bags, so the fact that you didn’t buy one this past season is a great achievement. Great tip about the vintage Coach bags on eBay and Etsy. I think a lot of the older bags were made better than the ones we can buy new today. Congrats on getting all of your seasonal shopping done! I hope the weather will cooperate for you soon so you can start wearing your spring/summer wardrobe.

  13. Deby this sounds fantastic and something like that would work for me as well!
    I’ve had my colors done professionally about three years ago but the palette I got overemphasized brights. But I’ve found I feel more ‘me’ in neutrals. An occasional bright color is fantastic with my vanilla ice cream whites and faded blues and taupes, but I certainly overdid them…
    I love crossbody bags and am really intrigued by the vintage Coaches!

    • Frugal, you can find David Zyla’s book at your public library. it will really make a difference in how you assess your best colors. I was always classified as a Winter, but always felt that palette was too cool and strident for me. Red was always a problematic color for me–too harsh or bluish. I discovered my best red, based on my skin tone flush color, is a medium slightly coral red, for example.

    • I am intrigued by the David Zyla book, so I’m going to see if I can get it from the library. It seems to take the seasons concept for color and make it more personal, which I like. I like the various tools for color, body shape, etc., but I think such things should be more guidelines than hard and fast rules. It’s important that the way we dress feel true to who we are (like FrugalFashionista feeling better in neutrals and only occasional brights). It’s the same thing with trends. Trends can be fun, but since there are SO many of them, it’s good to just adopt the ones that resonate most for us (and even then do it in moderation).

  14. Good post, Debbie. You are doing well. And you certainly make the rest of us think! I don’t have a true shopping priorities list. I don’t feel I can yet, as my wardrobe is still TOO BIG to contemplate filling all the holes I might find if I truly pared it down and got a handle on it. What I have been doing is I suppose is planning the next few items to plug the immediate holes. Which is still a little bit like just thinking about what I would like to buy, but I suppose better than just grabbing whatever pretty thing is on sale. Hmm. I have plenty of work still to do, both mentally and in paring down.

    • It’s taken me a while to create what I feel is a workable and realistic list, Sarah. A year ago when my closet was still very packed, I don’t think I would have been able to do as well, so I definitely see your point. We all need to start where we are and take the next logical step toward change. Your strategy of plugging the immediate holes sounds workable. Any thinking and planning we do is definitely better than shopping on impulse!

  15. This past winter has got me putting wool pants on my list.
    I looked for some in February, but at that point all that was around were premium brands.
    I don’t care how wonderful the pants are, $400 for pants was out of the question.
    But, as cold weather clothes come into the market this summer I’m going to look for wool pants. I expect I’ll be able to turn some up in my price range.
    Planning your wardrobe across seasons means you can shop when the selection and price variety is plentiful.

    • I think that one of the good things about having a list, Ginger, is that we can look for items when they are most readily available. You probably will have an easier time finding the wool pants when all the fall merchandise comes into the stores during the summer. I often have a hard time finding what I need because when I think of what I need for the current season, what’s in the stores is all for the NEXT season! I don’t know if I’ll be able to find everything on my list this year. I will keep the items on my list until I either find them or I decide I really don’t need them anymore. I suspect that things will shift a bit as time goes on, but I hope to find much of what I need at some point.

  16. I’ve been super busy lately and while I read this post, I have not had the opportunity to comment until now!

    I did a post recently on my own shopping priorities. It is really helping me right now to focus, particularly when I get the ‘shopping bug’. There’s a few very pretty items that I ‘want’ right now, but they are much further down on my list and it makes me realize that I am trading things I ‘need’ for things I ‘like’ because they are new!

    I’ve done well this month so far IMO. I spent more $ at the tailors (resulting in more items I can WEAR), and got a new inexpensive handbag (I had an interview and couldn’t face dragging in that raggedy thing I had). I feel like the compulsion to shop has abated a bit. I found my replacement flats and my low/mid heels that I need at great prices, but am likely going to do a long ‘power pause’ and get them next month. I would love to have them but my budget is maxed out this month and I don’t feel inclined to go over. This is a huge sign of progress- I don’t normally CARE if I go over my monthly limit, and just roll over to the next month.

    • I’m glad you chimed in on this post, Meli, as I have been reading your blog updates with great interest. I can relate to what you wrote here. I have a long history of trading things I need for things I like! That hasn’t served me very well, hence the list I’m using these days. I’m glad to hear that you are getting more wear out of existing pieces through tailoring and that you are feeling less compulsion to shop as of late. And congrats on taking the power pause with the shoes instead of going over your April budget!

  17. I certainly understand why a priorities list could be beneficial, but am a bit conflicted about whether and how to develop one for myself (or with what parameters). On the con side, I don’t want permission to buy an item just because it fits general description on a list. And I mostly have a full wardrobe already and should really be saving purchases for something that (i) I love, and (ii) is quality and will stand the test of time. I feel like I need some flexibility to be open to items not on the list. One of my best purchases of all time was what might be deemed an ‘impulse’ buy of a investment-priced dress that I just fell in love with. I feel powerful and chic every time I wear it, so not all spur of the moment purchases are bad for me.

    On the pro side for list-making, I can always benefit from increased focus. For example, when I saw these entries on Debbie’s list, I definitely saw some of my own tendencies/behavior:

    Grey short jacket or tank (R) – may possibly get both
    White top to wear with skirts (M)
    White top with special details to wear with pants (M)

    And I think what I would want to really question myself on if this were my list is, where there are arguably similar items listed (and/or items currently in my closet that are very similar to what’s on the list), what are the features that are really important to me? Am I perceiving a need for two items when one will suit (provided it is perfect one)? The list making-process can really call you out on those questions. It also helps you think about things by category (e.g., if I already have 5 tote bags, a tote, no matter how special, probably shouldn’t be on the list).

    So I really like the ‘priority’ list concept, but want to think about whether I would want to apply some tweaks that permit some creativity/flexibility but still provide the proper amount of focus.

    • I really appreciate your comment, Joanna. You raised some very good issues! I think that for people who don’t fall in love with clothes every other day (like I used to…), waiting to be inspired can be a good way to go. I remember once when I was shopping with my mom, she fell head over heals for a necklace but questioned whether or not she should buy it. I pushed her to get it because she RARELY had that type of visceral reaction toward anything in a store. I told her that if it were me, I would push myself to WAIT because I find things I love and want to buy all the time (and I may not actually love those things once I get them home).

      As for your comments on my list, your questions are good ones. I think that many of us are guilty of buying “multiples” when, in fact, we may do perfectly well with just ONE. I could see the utility FOR ME of buying all of the items mentioned, but that was after some careful analysis of my individual wardrobe. But in the past, I would buy lots of similar pieces “just because” and that really didn’t serve me very well. I think you’re right about keeping a bit of flexibility in our shopping lists to allow for some creativity while still keeping focus. I mentioned that I may update my list before the year is over. I like the structure, but I don’t want to be totally “married” to it.

    • Sorry about the error and thanks for the correction, Mette. I have updated the post accordingly.

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