Before I dive into today’s topic, I want to thank all of those who offered support and encouragement to me following my “On Relapse, Reasons, and Recommitting” post. Many of you told me I was being too hard on myself, and I agree! We all have our ups and downs and we just need to keep picking ourselves up and trying again whenever we falter. So that’s exactly what I’m going to do, but first I have to close out last month by sharing my July accountability update.
Most of you are familiar with my monthly accountability reports, but I know there are at least a few new readers here, especially following the Real Simple article (it’s now posted on the site for those of you who haven’t read it yet). Here’s the drill for the newcomers: I’ve committed to posting monthly accountability updates to keep myself honest and on track with my wardrobe and shopping goals. These posts include what came into and left my closet during a given month, what I wore, and how I did with my shopping budget and rules.
What Left My Closet and Why
We’ll start with the easier part of the equation, what left my closet. During July, I purged nine items from my wardrobe:
- 2 jackets
- 1 cardigan
- 1 top
- 2 skirts
- 1 dress
- 2 pairs of shoes
Two of these items – a jacket and a pair of shoes – were returned for refunds (reasons below), while the remaining seven were either consigned or donated.
Here is a photo of the items I released from my closet last month:
Why I Purged These Items
In addition to posting photos of what left my closet, I also list why I decided to release those pieces. I highly recommend that you keep track of why you purge particular closet pieces, too, as it will really increase your awareness. Pinpointing our reasons for purging wardrobe items can help us notice patterns and avoid future mistakes.
Listed from left to right, top to bottom (from the photo above), here’s what I let go of and why:
- Black embellished sandals – I was very sad to have to let go of these! I really loved the style, but there was a big problem with the straps. I kept tightening them, but they still slipped off my heels when I walked! Fortunately, the shoes were purchased at Nordstrom, so they were more than willing to take them back. I hate having to return things after I’ve worn them, but I only wore the shoes six times and they shouldn’t have been falling off my feet after so little wear. Fortunately, I was able to find another pair of black sandals that I love (see below), and I’ve been happily wearing the replacement shoes over the past few weeks.
- Black moto jacket – I also hated to return this item! I really loved the style and the fit, but the fabric was a problem for me. While trying on outfits with the jacket (before removing the tags and wearing it outside the house), my skin started to feel very itchy and irritated. I’m not sure if it was the merino wool or the acrylic (it was a blend of both), but it just didn’t work for me. Sadly, I had to return it, but I have two possible replacements I’m considering (one is pictured below), so hopefully one of them will work out.
- Black mid-weight parka – I have worn this jacket many times on my frequent walks, but I’ve never been thrilled with the fit. It was always a bit too snug in the hips and would ride up whenever I raised my arms. Since I have another black parka that I like better and wasn’t wearing this one very often anyway, I opted to take it to a local consignment store.
- Denim skirt – I bought this skirt at a consignment store several years ago and wore it a number of times, but I never liked the buttons down the front. The skirt would often rotate a bit such that the buttons weren’t centered, so I always felt that I had to “fuss” with it. I’ve been on the lookout for a replacement for years, but haven’t had any luck. I finally found a denim skirt I liked during July (see below), but the style is quite different. I still like the idea of a straight denim skirt, but the length of the ones I find is usually too short for me with my long legs.
- Metallic flat sandals – I let go of these sandals because they were worn out! That is not usually my reason for purging items, but I hope it will be a more common rationale moving forward, as I’m buying less (well, most months anyway…) and focusing more on wearing what I have. I love these sandals and was lucky to be able to find a replacement pair on sale last month, so the old pair headed out the door. I wasn’t sure whether to donate them or just throw them away (a new dilemma for me), but I opted for donation and letting the charity decide if they’re too worn out for anyone to use. I know that many charities pass on items they can’t sell to homeless shelters, so that’s what might happen with these.
- Black and white print dress – This was another consignment store purchase from a few years ago. I like the dress in theory, but I never loved it on me. It makes me look like I have a tummy when in fact that’s one of the better parts of my body. Even when I’m not bloated (a rarer occurrence as of late), I still look like I am in this dress! Since I have plenty of dresses I like and feel good in, I decided to let this one go.
- Leopard print skirt – I used to love this skirt but didn’t like it the last time I wore it. I’m not a fan of the tan color and the fabric just felt flimsy and fussy. I didn’t feel fab in it, so why keep it around? I’m getting a lot better at letting go of items after one less than stellar wear, whereas I used to give things too many chances before I purged them. I have a large wardrobe as it is, so I don’t want to keep anything that is less than an “8,” even if it’s something I loved once upon a time.
- Navy boyfriend-style cardigan – This was an impulse purchase from earlier this year that should have been left in the store! I found it on a clearance rack when I was shopping for jeans and let my “sales goggles” cloud my better judgment. I thought I was doing a good thing at the time by buying a cardigan in a different style from what I usually wear, but it wasn’t the right type of cardigan for me. The length hit me at the wrong spot on my hips and the V-neck also wasn’t positioned right for my body. I just couldn’t make it work (I didn’t like it unbuttoned), so I consigned it last month, unworn. Lesson learned… Don’t deviate from your list when shopping and don’t ever buy something just because it’s on sale! This cardigan only cost about $35, but it’s now $35 down the toilet.
- Purple print blouse – I was sad to have to get rid of this blouse, as I really liked the color and print. However, it was just too big on me and kept riding up when I wore it. The neckline was also just a bit too low, such that my bra sometimes peaked out at the sides. In the past, I would have probably tried to “salvage” this top through alterations, which would have been risky and potentially unsuccessful. No more throwing good money after bad! This top was also a consignment buy, so there wasn’t an option to size down.
A Few Words about Resale Shopping
I’m glad I’m not shopping resale all that often anymore because a lot of my shopping mistakes occurred in that arena. Although thrift and consignment stores can be good places to shop for some people, it’s especially important to be very picky about what we buy there. If you like to do this type of shopping, check out my post on the pros and cons, as well as my tips for successful resale shopping. I stand by what I wrote in those posts, although I haven’t always heeded my own sage advice! I’ve taken a “time out” from resale shopping after continuing to notice mistakes this year, but if I venture back in at some point, I’ll be sure to re-read my tips and stick to them!
What Came Into My Closet
Now it’s time for the more difficult part of this update… As I mentioned in my post last week, I did a lot of shopping during July. I’m basically happy with what I got – and some of the pieces were birthday presents from my husband – but I went overboard with it all, especially in regards to the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale. I did mostly stick to my shopping priorities list, which I update regularly, so I made few impulse buys. It’s possible that I may end up returning some of the items below, but most of them will stay in my closet and several have already been worn.
I feel like I am a much more conscious and smart shopper these days, but I’m not proud of going over my budget for July, buying so many new pieces, and spending so much time and energy on the process of shopping last month. I did learn some important lessons, however, which are peppered throughout this post and will likely be shared in future posts as well.
Now let’s look at what new items were added to my closet last month. During July, I added 15 items of clothing and 3 pairs of shoes to my wardrobe! I told you it was a lot, but as my mom likes to say (ad nauseum), it is what it is. Five of these items (as well as a scarf) were early birthday presents from my husband (to take advantage of the Nordstrom sale) and two were replacements for pieces that I returned (the black sandals and black moto jacket). I have separated the birthday presents out from the other items in the photos below. While they were gifts and did not count toward my clothing budget or item limit (as stated in my 2014 goals post), I selected them all myself and will share my reasons in the section below, along with the rest of my July wardrobe additions.
Why I Added These Items to My Wardrobe
I believe it’s important for us to understand why we buy new pieces, as becoming more aware of our purchasing motivations can help us to shop smarter. Thus, I share my reasons for buying the new pieces I add to my closet each month. This section is usually a lot shorter than it is today! It was a bit of a marathon session writing this one, but it was a valuable exercise for me to do (and hopefully not too boring for all of you!).
Here are my reasons for selecting my July items, starting with the non-birthday pieces and working from left to right, top to bottom:
- Berry cardigan: Last month, I purged two cardigans that didn’t work for me due to their odd length and crewneck styles. I still wanted to have a few cardigans to wear with skirts and dresses, as I feel cardigans are less dressy than the knit blazers that I’ve worn frequently over the past few summers. I selected this cardigan and the blue and green ones below because the colors are in my palette and will work well with my other clothing pieces. I much prefer the V-neck style because I can just button the top one or two buttons and the sweater stays in place nicely and works well with the scoop-neck tanks I like to wear.
- Black sandals: Back when I purchased the embellished sandals that I had to end up returning, I also considered another Ecco sandal style. I loved both styles but didn’t need two very similar sandals in my closet. After the embellished style didn’t work out due to the strap issue, I was able to find the alternate style online – and on sale! I have already worn the replacement sandals multiple times and l love them. The straps stay on, they’re comfortable, and the raised circles on the front strap add a bit of edge to them. They may not be as edgy as the other sandals, but I like them and feel they are more versatile than the initial style I purchased. I’m glad it all worked out in the long run.
- Black knit moto jacket: I ordered this jacket during the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale, after I had to return the similar itchy style I had purchased during June. I love this jacket, but it’s a bit too small for me. I have ordered the next size up, but it’s on back order until next month. I also ordered another black moto jacket that might work and which I could wear sooner. I can really see the value of having such a jacket in my wardrobe (I love the grey striped version I have), so I hope one of the alternates works out.
- Black maxi-skirt: This was a bit of an impulse buy that I found while shopping for a brightly-colored skirt. I had tried on this skirt in red but didn’t like how it looked on me, so I asked what other colors might be available. The salesperson brought me some alternate options and I really liked the way the black one looked. I wear the two black skirts I have often and I’ve really embraced the maxi style as of late, so I thought a black maxi-skirt would be a good addition to my closet. The only sticking point is that I also have a black maxi-dress that I bought back in May. However, I find myself wearing maxi styles quite a bit (especially this month) and they’re a good fit for the casual San Diego vibe, so I think this will end up being a wise choice.
- Black sweater coat: This was the only off-season item I bought during the Nordstrom Anniversary sale. All of the other items I purchased can be worn this season, if not during the day than on a cool summer evening. This sweater coat is by Patagonia, an ethical retailer from whom I purchased a green sweater jacket earlier in the year. That jacket has seen a lot of wear during my evening walks and the coat is intended for walks during the cooler fall and winter months. One thing that’s nice about this coat is that it can also be worn with “regular” clothes, as it has a more refined quality to it than my other casual jackets. I’ve been trying to only buy items I can wear pretty much right away, but I feel confident that this one will be a winner when the weather cools down.
- Cobalt cardigan: See the rationale for the berry cardigan above. Cobalt is currently my favorite color and I was excited to find a V-neck cardigan in this hue recently. I have already worn it and love it! It looks great with my black and white pieces and will also pair well with grey and other shades of blue.
- Cobalt 3/4-sleeved tee: I wanted to add more cobalt to my wardrobe since I didn’t have much of it in my closet. This tee is thicker in weight than many of the tops out there these days and it fits me perfectly. It’s hard to tell from the photo, but there are some ruching details at the bottom of the sleeves. I look forward to wearing it with jeans and black pants.
- Cobalt maxi-skirt: I finally found a brightly-colored skirt, an item that’s been on my shopping list for months! I love this one because it has two layers, so it’s not see-through like many skirts currently being sold. I like the material, as it can be easily dressed up and down.
- Denim flare skirt: This is the first consignment item I’ve bought in a number of months and I’m not completely sure about it. I like the way it looks, but the fabric is a bit stiff. It may have been a mistake to buy it, but I’m going to wear it and see how I feel. I may have wanted to find a new denim skirt so much that I lowered my standards, but that remains to be seen. I also may be able to soften up the skirt by using fabric softener in the wash.
- Green cardigan: See rationale of berry cardigan above. I love this color and have already worn the cardigan with a black and white outfit. I like the way emerald green looks on my skin tone and with my hair (which is now more of a medium auburn and not so bright red). The sleeves are long enough, too (not easy with my “gorilla arms”)!
- Green open cardigan: I didn’t think I would buy any more open cardigans, but I tried this one on at the Nordstrom sale and loved it. I like that it’s lightweight and somewhat sheer and includes stripe details. I don’t feel it overwhelms my figure the way some open cardigans do, plus it’s lightweight enough that it could easily be belted if desired. The teal color is in my recently refined palette and I feel it’s flattering with my complexion and hair.
- Grey knit maxi-skirt: I bought this as a potential replacement for the grey skirt I added to my closet earlier this year. That skirt isn’t working out as well as I’d hoped. I found it on eBay and bought it because it was similar to a skirt I ruined in an alterations casualty last year. However, it wasn’t the exact same style and didn’t look as good on me as my original skirt. So I haven’t been wearing it and have felt the absence of a grey skirt in my wardrobe once again. I liked the way this new one from Gap looked on me in the store, but I may end up returning it because I don’t like it as much at home (perhaps there were “skinny mirrors” in the store…). The length is also a bit off in that it’s not quite long enough to be a maxi on me and I’m not sure I want to risk trying to get it hemmed. I will likely take it back and continue my search for a grey skirt that I can love.
- Dark-wash jeans for flats: These are exactly the same as the jeans I bought last fall and have worn many, many times. Since I am less than thrilled with most of my other jeans, I decided to buy a duplicate pair of the ones I like best and hem them for flats. That way, I can feel good in my jeans all the time, not just when I’m wearing boots or heels (the other jeans are hemmed for heels). I took advantage of a sale to buy these jeans and am very happy I decided to purchase them. I will likely purge at least one or two not-so-fab jeans next month now that I have these.
Now on to the birthday items (second photo above), almost all of which were purchased at the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale:
- Black top with lace details: I found this top when another shopper asked for my opinion of it for her (that happens to me a lot, actually). I loved it so much that I asked the salesperson to bring one for me to try on. I had to size down to an extra-small (what is up with all of the vanity sizing these days? I’m not that small!), but it fit me perfectly. The fabric is soft and comfortable and there is no looseness in the back at the waist, as often happens to me as a result of my smaller waist and larger hips. This top has the type of special details I’ve been looking for, looks great with jeans, and is casual but with a bit of pizzazz.
- Blue print scarf (also shown below with other accessories): This wasn’t on my list, but the colors work well with the my new narrower color palette. It includes cobalt, black, white, and red, and I love the print. It will work well with many items in my closet.
- Black and white geometric print tee: I was excited to find this top at the Nordstrom sale, as it was an item on my shopping priorities list. It was also an extra-small, so I’m wondering what the really petite and tiny women are buying these days! It still includes stripes, but the stripes are made out of triangles and diamond shapes, so it’s different from the other striped tees in my closet.
- Grey-toned leopard print flats: I have a pair of leopard print flats that I’ve worn into the ground and which need to be replaced. Those shoes are more of a brown tone, but I like this grey tone so much more, as it works better with my cool-toned wardrobe. I like the pointier toe and bow detail, too.
- Metallic sandals: These are a replacement for the sandals I purged due to being worn out. I wore those sandals a lot over the past few years and was excited to find another pair, especially since I have such fussy feet. I know I’ll be able to walk for hours in these and they look nice with my maxi-skirts and dresses, as well as with many of my other skirts. They were on sale, too, so win-win!
- White 3/4-sleeved tee: This is the same style as the cobalt tee mentioned above. I am moving away from buying “multiples,” but am okay with buying two pieces in a given style if it’s a basic or staple item. I had to size down in the white tee (a salesperson told me that the darker items are often smaller due to the dyes used – I didn’t know that before), but it fits great and isn’t see-through like many white tees are. I’m glad I finally found a white top that isn’t so thin that it shows my bra or my skin through it!
And Then There’s the Accessories…
Beginning in May, I also started sharing the accessories that I’ve purchased and why I bought them. Although I have not set a limit for how many accessories I can buy, I noticed that I was starting to accumulate too many of them (which hadn’t been a problem previously). Knowing I will need to share which accessories I buy – and why – on the blog each month is helping me be more mindful with this area of shopping.
Below is a snapshot of the accessories I acquired during July. Read on for my reasons for these purchases.
- Blue print scarf – Reason given above under birthday items.
- Turquoise scarf – I was originally looking for a cobalt scarf, but I liked the way this one looked against my skin tone and with black and white (I was wearing those colors while shopping). It’s lightweight and can be worn year-round in the temperate climate where I live, as is also true of the blue print scarf.
- Black and white beaded stretch bracelet – I liked that the beads were black and white and I don’t have anything quite like it in my jewelry box. I like stretch bracelets because I have small wrist, and cuffs and other styles are often too big for me. This one fits me perfectly.
- Silver dangly earrings with black beads – I like that these are somewhat larger than many of the earrings I own and have a bit of edge to them. I can see myself wearing them a lot with both neutral and bright clothing pieces. They will look nice with the black and silver wrap bracelet that I wear frequently.
- Dark green beaded stretch bracelet – I know this bracelet looks black, but it’s really a marbled dark green and very pretty. I can see wearing it by itself or layered with another stretch bracelet.
A Few Words about My Purchases
So there you have it, my many new items for July 2014! I hope I didn’t bore you to tears with all of these explanations! It’s important for me to do them (and I recommend you do the same for yourselves) so I am clear about my motivations for buying things. I can see by what I typed that a few of my purchases were ill-advised, and it’s likely I will be making another return or two (or maybe more) this month.
I used to buy at least this many new items every month, but now it feels like a lot to me! In my defense, though, July really is the beginning of the summer season where I live and I tend to buy more pieces at the start of each new season. I like to take some time to try on all of my closet pieces for the coming months, evaluate wardrobe gaps, and update my shopping priorities list. I think that in the future, I will just plan to buy more items at the beginning of each season (for me, July and November – we really only get two seasons here). Also, since I like to shop at the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale, I will make allowances for that fact in my shopping plan for the year.
2014 Item Limit Update
When I originally laid out my shopping and wardrobe goals for the year back in January, I decided to purchase half the number of items I bought last year. At the beginning of the year, it felt perfectly doable for me to reach the goal of buying only 38 pieces during 2014. However, as the year has progressed and I have been refining my style and letting go of garments that no longer serve me, I’ve found it harder to keep my purchases to that lower level (yes, I know it still seems like a lot to many of you).
In addition, I made a number of purchasing mistakes earlier in the year and have already purged some of the items that were included in my item limit (I’ll be doing another purchase analysis soon). Some others are still in my closet but aren’t being worn, as they were purchased more for someone else’s life than my own (someone who dresses up a lot more than I do!). I’m getting a much better handle on what I like and what I need, so my shopping success rate is increasing.
As of the end of June, I had purchased 24 items. Gifts and accessories don’t count toward my item limit (I don’t receive all that many, anyway) and two of the items I bought in July were replacements for things I returned (the black sandals and black moto jacket). Therefore, only 11 of my new items for the month are included in my item limit calculation (I realize this may be confusing – will aim to simplify in the future). That means I’ve now made 35 qualifying additions to my wardrobe this year to date. If I stick to my original plan for the year, I can only buy three more things between now and December 31st. While that may be doable, I know myself and the way I work. If I feel like a goal is out of my reach, I often take on a “why bother?” attitude and stop trying. That would likely lead to more shopping than if I simply raised my item limit.
One reader commented in response to my “On Relapse, Reasons, and Recommitting” post that she thought I was biting off more than I could chew by trying to cut my purchases in half. She thought that going for a 25% reduction would have been more realistic. In retrospect, she’s probably right, but I have a tendency to set fairly lofty goals (and too many of them at that) and then beat myself up when I don’t reach them.
While I can’t turn back the clock and change the goals I set for myself for 2014, I can make adjustments – and that’s what I’ve decided to do. I’m going to raise my item limit from 38 to 53 (70% of what I bought last year) and concentrate on adding only high-quality items that are on my shopping priorities list. I may end up buying fewer than 53 items, but I think it’s a good revised goal – reasonable but still a stretch.
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I eventually want to have fewer goals and rules overall, especially since freedom is one of my highest values. I think the increased structure has been good for me during the early stages of my recovery, but I hope to be able to set just a few goals for 2015 and work on trusting myself more.
July Budget Report
My budget for clothing and related purchases (shoes, accessories, alterations) for 2014 is $3000, which is roughly $250 per month, although I allocated a bit more money for some months than others. During July, I spent $494.99, which was almost twice my budget! As of the end of July, I had spent a total of $2008.24 on clothing et al. this year. In order to ensure that I meet my budget for the year, I have changed my monthly allocation to $200 for August through December. I may decide to allocate more money for November, as I tend to shop more during that month (it’s basically the start of the cooler season where I live), but I’m going to see how things go this month and then re-evaluate.
What I Wore
For over a year, I’ve been keeping track of the garments and shoes I wear each month, as well as how many times I wear them. This helps me to better understand which items are my favorites and which ones may be slated for donation or consignment. I like to look back at these monthly tracking sheets to see how I’m doing with my wardrobe. I have also started creating visual representations of what I’ve worn each month. Since I have photos of all of my clothes, it’s easy for me to create folders on my computer containing the images of what I wore in a given month. This allows me to see patterns at a quick glance.
During July, I wore 39 garments and 12 pairs of shoes. Most of the garments were only worn once, but five of them were worn multiple times. Five pairs of shoes were worn multiple times as well. As was the case during June, I purposely wore a lot of items, as I was trying to assess my summer wardrobe and determine which pieces should stay and which should go. As a result, I released several garments and have a few more that may be purged this month.
I have continued to take photos of my outfits and write in my outfit journal each day and have been learning a great deal about myself and my style in the process. I will write an update on that topic soon, but for now, I want to reiterate the value of these practices for those of us who want to streamline our wardrobes, shop smarter, and refine our personal style. I have a much better handle on my style and how I’d like it to evolve as a result of making notes about my outfits and outlining what worked, what didn’t work, and why. I like a higher percentage of my ensembles and have been able to identify the pieces to buy which will have the greatest impact on my wardrobe satisfaction and overall appearance.
Here’s a photo of the items I wore during July 2014:
There’s still a fair amount of black in there, but I feel the overall color scheme has lightened up over what I wore during June. I continue to tighten up my color palette and eliminate pieces that are not in line with that or the image I wish to present to the world. As you can see, my primary colors are black, blue, grey/metallic, white, green, purple, pink, and red. It has become much easier to get dressed – and to shop – since I’ve streamlined the colors in my wardrobe, plus I am happier with more of my outfits and purchases as a result.
That was a very long accountability post – and it took me virtually forever to put it together, but I learned a lot by writing it. I hope it has also been interesting and helpful for you to read about my purges and purchases, and my thought process around both. When I write these updates, I always think they will be incredibly boring for others to read, but many of you have told me that these are your favorite posts. I will definitely continue writing them, but I would really like to spend less time on them moving forward!
I plan to buy far fewer items during August, as well as continue to let go of anything that isn’t working well for me in my closet. This is my favorite season of the year in terms of clothing and I love spending most of my time in skirts and dresses. I intend to focus more on enjoying what I have and less time and energy on the acquisition of new pieces. I already feel like I’ve emerged from the relapse I experienced during July and am ready to put that behind me.
I just celebrated my 48th birthday and have been thinking a lot about my “Full Life Project.” Later this week, I will share an update on that topic and let you know how I’m doing with the parts of my life that don’t involve clothing or shopping. In the future, I’m going to write more about those types of subjects in addition to my posts on wardrobe management, shopping, and personal style. In some respects, the way we do one part of our lives is the way we do all portions of our lives, so I’m guessing many of you have struggles in other areas as well. I find that when I feel better about myself and my life as a whole, I am less compelled to overshop, but I feel a lot more exploration of that subject is needed as I continue my recovering shopaholic journey.
Your Thoughts and Experiences?
Now it’s your turn to chime in. How did you do with your shopping and wardrobe during July? Was it a good month for you, or did you struggle with overshopping like I did? What are your commitments for August and for the rest of the year? How can we support you in keeping you to your word?
I love the discussions that take place in the comments section of my posts and how you support and encourage both me and each other. Feel free to share how you’re doing and what you need, as well as whatever questions you have for me and your fellow readers. I am happy to help and I know others are as well!
Although you scolded yourself mightily over your July purchases, I see two important insights you have gained–not from mistakes but from success! One is that you see you tend to purchase seasonally and therefore will probably spend more seasonally–i.e., instead of a month to month *item* mindset, you’re shifting to a seasonal *wardrobe* mindset. Since that’s the way you wear your clothes and the way they are marketed, it makes a lot of sense. Second, you acknowledged to yourself that you really enjoy shopping the Nordstrom’s sale. That makes sense, too, so you can plan to incorporate it into a yearly shopping plan. Those sales are not the dregs that haven’t sold: they are pre-sales of current merchandise. Nordstrom’s sells quality merchandise, has excellent customer service, and a good return policy. The only caveat, as you point out, is that it’s just as easy to get swept away by a good deal as it is in consignment stores. . .But I think gaining those two insights is really good.
Thanks for pointing this out, Amy. You’re right that I have gained some very important insights from my July shopping experience. I’m definitely going to plan differently for 2015 as a result. I think you mentioned in a previous comment that you shop seasonally. I’d like to move more in that direction and shop less often but buy more pieces when I do shop. I think I will ultimately be more successful using that strategy and my wardrobe will be more cohesive. Hopefully over time I won’t get so swept away by the Nordstrom sale. It was a bit crazy this year!
Another insight I picked up on was that you said cobalt is your favorite color *right now.* I know I get swept up in my current color obsessions so it’s probably a good idea to only choose a few really nice pieces in any particular color in any given season. Otherwise when I get sick of that color or the fashions change, I feel bad about having so much of it and having to get rid of it. I admit I also checked out the Nordstrom sale because I got some bleach spots on my favorite knit moto jacket and wanted to replace it. They were sold out (I guess it was an older style) so I’m going to try to cover the spots with a marker, as I’ve heard this is a pretty good last-ditch effort.
p.s. I am also obsessed with cobalt. My only unplanned purchase this summer was a lovely bright cobalt scarf which I have already worn a few times!
Also: whoever suggested a lint/sweater shaver — you are my new hero! I bought one with some credit card rewards points and it has already saved me a ton of money on things I thought were worn out and was going to replace. My bathrobe and all my lovely smartwool socks look like new again. It has changed my life! Thank you!
Good point about not buying too many pieces in any given color, Sarah. A year ago, burgundy was my favorite color, but luckily I didn’t go overboard in buying pieces in that hue. I still like burgundy a lot, but I expect that my color preferences will evolve over time and it’s a good idea in general not to buy too many things in any given color or style. I went wrong with that in the past many, many times, especially in terms of silhouettes. Then when I got tired of something, I either had to keep wearing it or felt guilty to get rid of so many pieces that weren’t worn all that much.
I hope you are able to rescue your moto jacket! It was Deby who suggested a sweater shaver in her “taking care of summer knits” guest post. I haven’t picked one up yet, but I plan to. I have a few knits that I plan on rescuing that way. I’m glad it worked out so well for you!
Ah yes, thanks Deby! I only spent about $20 on my lint shaver– maybe you could count it as one of your items for a month? Only if you think you’d get good use out of it of course… I run cold like you so my sweaters get a LOT of use, even in the summer 😉
I think I would get good use out of it. I even have a few dresses that have pills on them and could probably benefit from the lint shaver. I wear my jackets and sweaters a lot, too. People have often commented that I have too many toppers for someone living in Southern California, but I wear one almost every single day (the past few weeks notwithstanding – it’s been very hot here, but I know it’s not as bad as in most of the rest of the country!).
I’ve been reading your blog for a couple of months now, but this is the first time I comment.
I want to congratulate you for all the work you’ve done to arrive where you are now, it’s quite impressive.
However, I realized that you often buy things in similar style. I know you realized that for your jewelry, but did you for your shoes? Watching the pictures, it seems to me that you have many flat sandals that look a lot alike. Maybe it’s because we don’t see the details on the photos, I don’t know.
Anyway, I wish you good luck for August, I hope you’ll reach your goals, without being too hard on yourself!
Thanks for taking the time to comment, Gail. I appreciate your praise on my progress. As for my buying things that similar in style, that’s been a pattern of mine in multiple areas and one I hope to break. I actually only have a few pairs of flat sandals, though. The ones I bought during July were replacements for pairs that have left my closet (one returned and one purged). I have more sandals with heels than flats and some of those don’t work well for me because I either can’t walk well in them or they’re too dressy. I’m learning a lot as I go along, but it’s taking me a while to make up for some bad habits and break others!
Debbie, I think you did very well in July. To me, it seems that the true goal is thoughtful and successful wardrobe management. The item limit idea has never really resonated with me. It seems like it is far more important in the long run to create (through the RIGHT additions and subtractions) a wardrobe that meets all of your needs, feels like “you”, and makes you happy.
Thanks, Carter. I agree with you that the true goal is thoughtful and successful wardrobe management. My reason for the item limit was to stop my bad habit of buying too many lower quality, sale, and consignment pieces just because the price was low. I had a bad habit of going for quantity over quality, so my intent was to turn that around by limiting how many items I could buy. But I totally agree with what you wrote and that’s going to be my primary focus moving forward.
OMG Debbie, you actually found a non-see-through white 3/4 sleeve tee??? Please let me know the manufacturer/brand! I may actually break my shopping fast if I could get one – I’m tired of looking and I really do need one.
I am not one to want to enable anyone’s breaking a shopping fast, Kim, but I know how difficult it can be to find certain items! The tee was bought at Nordstrom and it’s by Caslon. However, it looks like the white is mostly sold out now. But I know they sometimes re-stock certain styles, so it’s worth looking again. Here’s the link: http://shop.nordstrom.com/s/caslon-ruched-three-quarter-sleeve-v-neck-tee-regular-petite/3767090 As a point of reference, I bought the blue in a medium and the white in a small. The white definitely ran larger. If you look on the Nordstrom site, there are other styles of Caslon tees with 3/4 or long sleeves that come in white, but I can’t vouch for whether or not they are see-through. I previously ordered a short-sleeved version but had to return it because I could see my skin and bra through it!
I can vouch for Caslon’s quality. The abovementioned moto jacket that got attacked by bleach was by Caslon. I think they do great basics, but don’t feel like you need to break your fast because they have great items each season. I’m also going to order a top from Boden later this fall because I’ve heard they have good quality so I can let you know how the quality is later. I saw that they also had many white tops.
I agree that Caslon has good quality, at least most of the time. The grey and black striped moto I bought back in May is from that brand and so is the black moto I bought in July (that is too small – hope the larger size works out). I haven’t ordered anything from Boden but have thought about it many times. I have been concerned about the shipping and return fees and that’s what has stopped me, but I’ve heard good things about them. I also like that they carry talls and their styles are not too young but not matronly and frumpy, either. Sometimes it’s hard to strike that balance!
I can vouch for Boden quality. I got a neat jersey button up “crinkle” shirt in a black and taupe pattern that has extended my basics delightfully.
Thanks for chiming in, Amy. I may take the plunge later this year with Boden, as I keep hearing good things and like what I see on their website. Your crinkle shirt sounds nice and I can see how it would be a great wardrobe addition.
Caslon is one of the Nordstrom house brands, in which they design and contract the manufacture of in-house. They’re usually good buys for wardrobe staples.
I wanted to comment how great I am finding my clothing journal. I noticed, too, how much easier it was to part with an item that just didn’t work. I wear it, write that it was bad, come home, take it off and put it directly in the donate or pitch pile. No more hanging on to less than stellar stuff.
The journal helped me identify a few holes. I bought two dresses online and they perfectly fit the bill. I bought a few other items online that have to go back – one a cardigan that the color won’t work with the rest of my wardrobe and the other was pants that are too casual for where I work. I have to return a jacket too that doesn’t go with my current items. I get discouraged by these returns but I am committed to only keeping items that fit my style and color palette. I am hopeful that I will make fewer color mistakes as I go.
But overall, the clothing journal has been so awesome. I have even made a list of the outfits that I gave a 10 so I can remember them next summer! And so that I can identify common threads (pun intended) that typify my style. A big discovery for me is that I love close fitting dresses with colorful cardigans. Now, if I can just rein in my over shopping tendency and not buy too many!
I’m so glad you’re also benefitting from the clothing journal, Anne! My experience has been very similar to yours. I also love close-fitting dresses with colorful cardigans and am having to be careful not to overbuy something just because I’ve found that I like it. I was always of the view that if one was good, five was better. But then when we don’t like something anymore, we feel guilty because we have so many! I know what you mean about the returns! Even with how much I bought during July, there would have been quite a bit more if I didn’t return so much. Of course, I expected to return much of what was ordered online, but I shudder to think of what I would have done had it all worked out. There would have been some hard decisions there…
Well, I attempted to buy 2 things in July, even though I was trying to No Buy July – but they both are not staying, so I did it through default I guess lol. I didn’t like the feeling of not being able to shop, the restriction put on myself, but it did give me time to refocus some.
I started this month quick out of the gate with half a dozen things ordered, but again, returns have me back down to 3 items. And after an afternoon in a ‘real mall’ this weekend I’m not feeling the pull for more. A funny thing happened. I shifted my focus away from acquiring items on my list and thought instead in outfit needs. So, instead of ‘white shorts’ I can think ‘fresh, light summer casual’ outfit. That may or may not necessitate white shorts. But the drive to hunt down just the right replacement pair for some Bermudas I’m purging at the end of this season is not paramount in my mind. I think I can safely say if the right pair present themselves, I’ll bite, but if not, I’m okay at least until next summer and maybe without them at all. I may have turned a corner. In the past, I’d get the best of what I could find on offer right now, likely off eBay and maybe non returnable to add to it LOL.
Like you, I realized that I like to buy more seasonably than I used to. I also am going to plan for a bigger first month at the start of the season, and ease off the next month or two to balance it out. Going forward I’m thinking less rules and restrictions will make me shop more intuitively, and not so focused (or obsessed depending on how you look at it) on shopping, out of balance with its importance.
I struggle with shopping bans or time outs, too, Mo. Congrats on seeing it through, though, even if it was a bit by default there at the end. It seems like you learned something very powerful after your mall experience. I think we can focus too much on specific items rather than outfit needs. I know I’ve fallen into that trap too many times and I’m trying to get away from it, too. Like you, I’ve found that if I focus too much on buying an item I absolutely need to have, I can settle and then keep searching even after I already bought something. I agree about having fewer rules and restrictions. I think Carter is right in what she wrote in her comment. I think that I was just afraid to trust myself because of how much I’ve overshopped in the past, but despite my July experience, I HAVE turned a corner and I believe you have, too. I applaud you for the progress you’ve made!
I think you may have bought more than you would like, but you made good choices. What you picked seems like your style.
I bought 9 items in July. A gold necklace and earrings, black and white beaded necklace, a black and a grey top from eBay that were mistakes, a grey and a blue dolman sleeve tops that I love, a black top, and a skirt. I spent $278.04. That brings me up to 42 items I believe.
I would only have 2 more items for the year if I kept to my limit. I am going to do the best I can and want to keep to my budget and buy less items than last year. I also want to focus more on the full life.
I hope you’re able to take all you’ve learned from the previous month and use it in a way that helps bring you all that you’re looking for.
Thanks for sharing your accountability here, Tonya. It seems like your July buys were mostly successful. It seems like our experiences and goals are similar. The full life part of the equation is really what will get us where we want to be, I believe. I don’t know about you, but I think I have a tendency to focus too much on clothes and shopping because that seems easier than putting my attention on other areas of my life. Of course, our wardrobes are important and I definitely feel better when I’m dressing true to myself, but I need to devote more time and attention to other facets of my life. That is more important to me than how many items I buy, especially in the long run. I wish you the best in finding what you’re looking for, too!
Yes I definitely do the same. Whether it is shopping, coming up with new “must have” items, or constant reorganization of my closet, I know my time would be better spent elsewhere. That is where the true happiness and peace of mind will come from.
The fact that we now realize this will serve us well and is probably half of the battle. For years, I really thought my clothes were the problem! I hope we both find true happiness and peace of mind soon. I wish that for all those who struggle with overshopping and who look for contentment at the mall or in an e-commerce store. That’s not where it lives!
I love what commenters above are saying about shopping seasonally. I can see how that would be really effective both in terms of building a workable wardrobe and in terms of breaking the spell of shopping. Some folks have commented in the past that giving yourself a monthly budget and/or item limit simply gives you permission to shop in order to “use up” your allowance. And if it’s a monthly item/$ budget, it gives you permission to shop more or less constantly. But a person who shopped seasonally could go for several months without thinking about shopping. Not suggesting that you have things set up “wrong” currently or that you need to change — just that the idea of a seasonal budget/plan gave me a bit of an a-ha moment.
Just looking at your image at a glance, I can see that the items you’ve purchased really hang together stylistically/aesthetically and are in line with the style goals you’ve set out. I hope they prove very successful in practice!
I think it’s interesting that your 39 garments + 12 pairs of shoes worn in July counts as “a lot of items” for you. My totals were 52 garments + 13 pairs of shoes and I’ve been interested to see that these numbers have been very similar for all 4 months that I’ve been tracking my wears. Also wore 27 of those 65 items multiple times — so again, it’s just fascinating to me how different habits of dressing can yield such different numbers! It just goes to show that there is no one-size-fits-all (har) solution to building a workable wardrobe, even though I think you and I are thinking about very similar principles (at least, my approach has certainly been influenced by your writings here).
I agree that shopping seasonally could really be the way to go, Sarah. The monthly item limit and budget HAS gotten me into the habit of shopping more or less constantly, like you said. I think I have had an emotional need to shop so frequently, too, but it hasn’t been serving me well. I’m very much leaning toward the seasonal approach next year.
I think the number of items I wore was a lot because I spend so much time at home. I can see how those who have office jobs would wear more pieces. I didn’t wear as many items multiple times as you did. When it was cooler, I was wearing more “regular” clothes at home, but in the hotter weather I’ve been back to wearing lounge wear more at home. We don’t have air conditioning (other than a small portable one that is just marginal), so I’ve opted to only wear my standard clothes outside of the house in order to cut down on laundry and clothing care in this heat. Once it cools down, I’ll likely wear about the same number of pieces as you do. I don’t count my lounge wear in my “what I wore” totals.
I’m glad you’ve found my posts helpful in building a workable wardrobe! I agree that there is no one-size-fits-all approach, as our lives are so different. But some of the principles are universal!
I buy a few items (shorts, for example) that are truly seasonal but try to buy items that are multi-seasonal — like the 3/4 sleeve white tee. I live in a 4-season climate but find with layering I can stretch a number of garments from summer to fall or fall to winter, etc. I don’t have the space (closet or otherwise) to store out-of-season clothes. (I also think it’s way too easy to lose track of clothes in bins or in the back of the closet — and this may lead to buying duplicates. I also would limit the amount of purchases I make in any one color (OK, I have a lot of black, but this is my “base” color — I mean an accent color like cobalt. But that’s just frugal me with a small wardrobe. However I think the black top with lace, new knit moto jacket, and the turquoise scarf are excellent items that should allow you to express the “edgier” style you are aiming for. Good job!!!
I keep everything in one closet, too, Dottie. I used to have so much stuff that it had to be in two (or three) closets and I definitely lost sight of some of what I had. I am trying to do better with wearing more pieces year-round. It isn’t as difficult here because we really only have two seasons (summer and spring/fall – no real winter here!), but it’s still a newer practice for me. Good point about limiting the number of pieces in any given color (I have a lot of black, too, as you know). I’m going to keep that in mind, as I do have a tendency to go overboard at times. Thanks for the praise on some of my new pieces. I agree that I am doing well at adding a bit of edge to my wardrobe.
I wonder if, by not strictly limiting your purchases, you aren’t getting as much bang for the buck. For example, I’d like to see how many different ways you can wear the lack top with lace (denim skirt, black skirt, cobalt skirt, jeans, etc.). But you also have several other new items that mitigate the need to experiment with just one top. After all, you have other new pieces to work into your wardrobe. For me what makes a clothing purchase “special” is that it has to work beautifully with a large number of clothes I already own. And I tend to buy only one item at a time, to give myself a chance to fall in love with it. But that’s just me with a dinky clothes budget and closet full of clothes I adore and that work exceptionally well together.
I agree that it might be better to buy fewer things at a time. Your point about taking the time to work a new item into a wardrobe is very valid. Yet I can also see the utility in the seasonal type of shopping that I mentioned in the post and which is being discussed here in the comments. I think that once one has a workable and cohesive wardrobe, even if she is doing seasonal shopping, she likely wouldn’t buy as many items as I did during July. I’ve seen the “French capsule wardrobe” being written about on other blogs and generally those women are bringing in 5 items max per season. It would be much easier to integrate that smaller number of pieces than the large amount I acquired last month. I really don’t intend to buy so many things in a given month again, though!
Dottie, you are so right, as usual. Since reading this blog I’ve instituted a rule that any new item has to go with several items already in my closet. This means that I have to focus right now on building a highly mixable basic wardrobe before adding any more statement pieces. I had my eye on this crazy silk bomber jacket with tiger stripes, which is way more wild than anything I currently wear. It’s not on the plan, though, because I can only think of one outfit to wear it with
Sometimes I just want to come and steal your mixable wardrobe full of quality items 😉
But, here’s my main point, if you have a large wardrobe and still make a significant number of purchases each season, you will still have a large wardrobe. I know that you’ve worked really hard to reduce the number of clothing items, but I don’t see the one in-one out rule here (except for the sandals). And there still seems to be a number of items that leave your closet rather quickly because something is wrong with them (the scratchy moto jacket — did you check the fiber content label before buying?). You’ve seen the downside of consignment shopping — very risky. There’s often a reason why clothes end up in consignment — if they didn’t work for the original owner, and they not work for the next one either. I generally buy only a few items each year (not per season). Last summer I spent the most — replacing a swimsuit, a pair of sandals, black shorts and two tees. All of these were bought on sale (I had ID’d what I wanted and waited for the sale price) so my entire outlay was about $125 — half my annual budget. I spent the rest of my budget for the year on underwear and two replacement heavy cotton sweaters.
Sorry for butting in 😉 I get your point Dottie- and I am very hopeful that I will get to your level one day! It’s amazing to think that if I keep on this journey, one day I will have that smaller closet full of great things and very few needs.
But, I made so many shopping mistakes before I started smarting up (and reading Debbie’s blog) that my closet was a wreak- it was full of things that were poor quality, fit poorly, and were not even flattering. So many that it needed a complete overhaul- particularly after having my daughter and my body changing. Add that to haphazard shopping (which I HAVE gotten better with, but over time), a shopping addiction, and trying to figure out my style and refining both my tastes and my understanding of proper fit, and you can imagine how easy it is to rack up quite a number of purchases. I feel like Debbie and I are often in a similar boat, which is why I relate to her so much! I also need to slow down on purchases now, but I feel like this year I’ve turned the corner and have made some real, tangible progress. I’m much much happier and feel like I understand fit and can identify quality much better than even 6 months ago.
It’s harder for me to let go of items, so while I have made enormous progress in reducing my wardrobe size, it’s currently growing again because I have several items yet to let go of. Many, many of those items that I want to outright replace, I hold on to until I find the replacement and then have worn it enough to feel secure to let the old one go (even if it’s horrible- so weird right?), and several items I’m just working up the ability to let them and the guilt (and sometimes just because I have a memory associated with it, the emotion attached to it) go.
While I don’t do a strict 1-for-1 in and out, Dottie, I have let go of more items this year than I’ve brought in. I just did a count and it’s 45 in and 53 out. This includes my birthday items, as well as things I later returned (and thus are not included in my item limit). I basically just went back to all of my accountability reports and counted the number of items in the in and out photos (just the clothes and shoes, not jewelry and accessories, which I didn’t start counting until May anyway).
While I definitely want to get to the point where I’m buying fewer items each year (and letting fewer items go), I don’t really have the desire to only buy 5 things or spend only $250 per year. We are all individual and have different needs and desires. I respect where you’re coming from and I know it works well for you, but I also know you have a lot of high quality pieces from yesteryear. I would imagine that given the quality of most of today’s clothes, most of us will need to replace more than 5 pieces per year. Even my husband – who is definitely not a shopaholic – replaces more pieces than that and he takes good care of his clothes (but many of them were purchased during the recent lower quality years).
As for the moto jacket, yes I checked the fabric content, but I didn’t have any merino wool or acrylic items in my closet, so I had no way of knowing the fabric would irritate my skin. I feel fortunate that I discovered that before removing the tags and wearing the jacket outside my house. Otherwise, I probably would have had to settle for either always wearing the jacket with long sleeves underneath or consigning it at a loss.
I am much like Meli in that I have a hard time letting go of some items. Sometimes I wait to make sure that the new items I purchased will meet my needs before I let go of old garments that are ho-hum but which I still wore. The guilt plays a role at times, too. I have a number of pieces that will probably go within the next few months. I feel like I am on target for meeting my wardrobe goals. It’s taking me longer than I had hoped, but I feel I’m making progress. I definitely like a lot more of what I own than I did in the past and I’m happier with more of my outfits, too. I believe that each year, I will purchase less than the prior year until I get to a basic replacement level of probably 10-20 items per year. Of course, that is just a guess and I will take it as it comes. I feel happy with how I’m progressing overall. Yes, I bought too much in July, but overall I feel I’m doing okay and moving along nicely with the process.
I’m going to butt in again as well… I think we all admire the place you are at Dottie, but it really does take time to get there. Even if that is the end goal, you have to spend some time and money up front in getting the *right* pieces. We are all still making purchasing mistakes- sometimes you don’t really know if a piece is going to suit you until you wear it a few times. For example, even when you read the fiber content, there are still different grades of a particular fiber (I’m looking at you, wool!) so while you might be able to wear the more expensive, refined version, the lower quality versions might irritate. Either way, I think it’s a skill that takes practice and I think everyone here is doing a great job improving and sharing new tips and skills.
I think we all mean well around here but there can be tension and defensiveness when two different lifestyles are being compared or when unsoliticed advice is given, like in Debbie’s outfit post comments (sorry if I was an offender!). Debbie has mentioned that she is sensitive and I could relate to that as well. I think it’s very brave to put all her mistakes out in the open, using her real name, so we can all learn from them. A great tool when giving advice is to use the “sandwich” method- start with a compliment, present any constructive criticism, and end again on a complimentary note.
Anyway, I definitely aspire to be in a place where I only have to replace a few items per year, like you!
Very good points, Sarah. Thank you (and Meli) for “butting in.” I definitely think all of the regular commenters here mean well (and most of the occasional ones, too) and are trying to help me and others, but you’re right that we have different lifestyles and goals. I don’t remember if you were one of the “offenders” in regards to my outfit post, but I appreciate your apology nonetheless. I really do believe everyone was trying to help, but it can be easy to misinterpret comments, especially when it is in writing instead of in person. I love the “sandwich” method and used it myself in a recent post. I think many of us hope to be in a similar position to Dottie one day, where we love our wardrobes, they work well for us, and we don’t have to shop nearly as much. But you’re right that it takes time and there are often lots of ups and downs. I’m happy that my sharing my journey can help to “normalize” what many of you are going through. That is one of my hopes, that other shopaholics will feel less alone and less flawed.
Of course I don’t expect any one to limit their purchases to $250 a year. I am trying to say that by slowing down the rate of purchases someone might actually have a chance to explore the versatility of each garment and make it “special” in the one’s wardrobe. You are right, it’s easy to misinterpret comments, Debbie, even yours.
Your point about slowing down purchasing and taking time to “play” with the new items was a good one, Dottie. I like that idea, but I also like the idea of shopping seasonally. Of course, when my wardrobe is in better shape overall, even the seasonal shopping won’t amount to a lot of items, so it will probably be easier to combine both tips and make them work in my life.
Oh goodness, my comment touched off a discussion! (I often come back to your posts a few days later to read the comments section, they are that good. 🙂 ) I definitely did not mean to encourage you to beat yourself up for buying “too much” during July. I think the more interesting question is whether thinking about your July purchases as essentially an experiment in “seasonal shopping” pans out going forward. You mention in a couple of comments below that you want to spend less time shopping and more time enjoying what you have, and also that you’ve lost the drive to shop this month. (Similarly, I’ve noticed that there have been a couple months this year when I’ve bought a relatively large number of items — and then nothing for the month or two afterwards, without actually trying not to shop.) If you do make a conscious (or even unconscious!) effort to use and remix these new items that you’ve purchased, I think that would make a really interesting post.
I love that your comment got some good discussion going, Sarah. That’s really what the comments section is for! I didn’t feel that your comment encouraged me to beat myself up. Rather, it really made me think if shopping seasonally might be the best approach for me. I really think it could be, but I would need to be able to exercise good self-control during the other months and either buy nothing or very little then. I’d like to move in that direction for sure. I like the future post idea about using and remixing my new pieces. I will keep that in mind. I’m going to do a purchase analysis post soon and your idea would make for a good follow-up to that.
I really like your blog and appreciate how honest you are! I find your insights so helpful, even though I’m not really a compulsive shopper, but more of a compulsive purger, especially when I am stressed. Then I shop because I really need something after I’ve overly downsized. But I can relate to your comment that all of this is sucking time and emotional energy away from things that are more important to me. Of course, then I beat myself up for that … Crazy, I know. Anyway, thanks for putting yourself out there: I’m sure there are lots of readers like me who always learn something good from your posts!
I really appreciate your kind words, Murphy. I’m glad that my posts still resonate with you even though you are more of a compulsive purger than a compulsive shopper. It seems the underlying issues are much the same, just like they are for overeaters and undereaters (I’ve been both). About the time sink, I’m now seeing that as much more of a problem than I used to. I just don’t want to spend so much of my life shopping and managing my clothes anymore!
Debbie, you’re being much more intentional with your shopping, and reevaluating the limits you set for yourself in order to find a way that works for you. That sounds like great progress to me!
I mentioned before that I was on a shopping hiatus for July, with the exception of one elusive item that I found. It has been quite educational wearing the same clothes over and over. I found that three of the summer tops I purchased this year are too big. I know I have a tendency to buy things that are too big, but I need to be even more careful about this. Last week I repurchased one of the tops in the correct size, and replaced one with something in a similar colour and style that fits much better (I don’t like the third one enough to replace it). I’m quite annoyed with myself about these mistakes, but am putting it down to a learning experience.
I also made one other purchase in July. It was on holiday. I commented on a shop we were walking past, and my husband suggested I have a look. I could have just said “no”, especially as we have the same shop in our city, but it was like I was being given permission to shop… I do like what I purchased, but am also disappointed in myself for not being able to end the month without making just the one purchase.
Even though my shopping hiatus wasn’t 100% successful, it has still given me much food for thought. I was able to see problems with my choices for my summer wardrobe, which I will make note of for reference next year. Also, as I spent much less on clothes than I normally would have, it was nice to have the extra cash for other things and not have to worry about next month’s credit card bill. For the most part I didn’t have much desire to shop, and enjoyed being free from shopping, so to speak, which was interesting. Perhaps I should give more thought to seasonal shopping, as others have mentioned.
It seems like you are doing well, Kayla, both in terms of your behavior and your realizations. The awareness you’re gaining – about buying things that are too big and having a hard time saying no to shopping – will definitely help you moving forward. Even our “mistakes” can have great value, as long as we learn from them. That’s really the approach I’m trying to take now, especially since I am often so hard on myself. Yes, I shopped too much in July, but there are some silver linings in there for me to glean. I think seasonal shopping could really be the way to go and I’m giving it serious consideration. That’s basically what I did in July, but my hope would be that I buy more things only twice per year and then only sporadically shop in between. Seems like that might be difficult for me to do, but I think it would likely be a better way to go.
I really enjoyed your Real Simple article. It was the first time I was able to read it even though I know you had talked about it before (I’m keeping that information clutter down in my home by not subscribing to magazines – with the exception of Coastal Living). Anyway, your article really struck a chord with me (like most things you write) and I find it interesting we had the same reaction to the shopaholic movie.
The other part of the article that stuck with me, and frankly surprised me, was your comments about feeling chatty and extroverted after or during shopping. I never realized it, but I’m guilty of the same behavior. This all made me realize I really need to get more serious about this and get it under control. It’s just so hard. I think I have a very strong compulsion… Sometimes I buy something new every day (I know logically that that’s crazy) but it happens. How did you initially put a brake on your shopping? (Mine is online mostly, I rarely go to the mall).
This realization is making me feel very guilty because I have been battling this for awhile now, and yet I feel as if I’m back at “step 1” again…
I’m glad you liked the article, Chelsea! I should probably re-read it myself… Yes, I definitely get more chatty when I shop, but that’s happening less now that I’m not really going into an “altered state” when I’m in the stores. I kind of miss the burst of extroversion, though, as I am really much more of an introvert. But I don’t want to go back to the way things were, that’s for sure!
In terms of how I put the brakes on my shopping, I think starting the blog and having accountability helped a lot, as did some of the initial rules I set up for myself. I set the bar a bit too high at first, though, in that I was trying to only buy one item of clothing and one accessory per month. That only lasted three months and then instead of setting new rules, I just let myself buy whatever I wanted as long as I stayed within my budget. In hindsight, I probably should have set more parameters around it. One practice that has been helpful (which I didn’t start right away) was to journal (in my case, on the blog) about WHY I purchased particular items, as well as why I let things go. This has helped to increase my awareness and has led to smarter shopping (but it has taken a while). I think another helpful practice (which I’ve done sporadically) is to journal about WHY I shopped (either 0nline or in a store) – what was I feeling right before I did it? I’ve found that I’ve often been trying to avoid either doing something I didn’t want to do or thinking about something I didn’t want to think about. Reasons will vary by person, but I found that the reason was not usually a pressing need for a particular type of item in my wardrobe.
Project 333 helped me a lot, too, as it got me to realize that I didn’t need so many clothes and I also saw that many of my garments were lacking in quality. I learned that very few of the pieces I owned were “8”s or higher and it kind of scared me straight to not buy so much. Of course, I had some setbacks and had to recalibrate, which is why I did Project 333 again this year. Doing some of the exercises in “To Buy or Not to Buy” but April Benson was also helpful. I didn’t do all of them, though, but I will likely revisit that book again very soon and share on the blog.
Try not to feel guilty, as it doesn’t really help anything. I know that’s easier said than done, but the guilt often led me to shop MORE. Try to take things one day at a time and take “baby steps” in the right direction. Perhaps set the target of going one day without online shopping, then try two days, etc. Find some other activities you like to do that will serve a similar need. If it’s to escape, what else could you do? Watch a movie? Read a novel? Play a game? Call a friend? Take a walk? Those are just a few of the things I might do to get the type of “down time” or escape that shopping gives me. I hope these suggestions and insights are helpful. Just keep trying and forgive yourself when you falter. Recovery usually includes lots of ups and downs, as you’ve seen with me. But over time, growth and progress DOES happen!
I first wanted to comment on items you are thinking do donating to homeless shelters. Please make sure to only donate in-season items, because most shelters get so many donations and don’t have the room to store things.
I don’t know about you, but I have a pretty good gut feeling as for whether or not clothing will work for me as soon as I bring it home; if there is any hesitation about something it really should go back to the store. Your gray maxi above made me think of this because I would have sent it away long ago. The longer I debate with myself the more likely I am to just keep whatever it is, and then regret that decision later.
Cobalt is such a lovely color. And it really works on most every complexion! That birthday scarf with cobalt in it is so pretty!!
Thanks for the point you made about the donations, Sara. I didn’t think about that, but it’s a very good thing to remember! I also appreciate what you wrote about the gut feeling about whether or not things will work. I am going to return the grey maxi and the too-small black moto when I’m out and about tomorrow. I’m going to look over everything else, too, to make sure I really want to keep it. The Nordstrom items can be returned later, but some stores have much more limited return policies. Even so, I’d prefer to not hang on to things that are on the fence, as they is that tendency that you mentioned. I’ve fallen prey to that too many times!
I was so looking forward to this post Debbie! I love your accountability posts, and the time and effort you put into them (particularly with detail and explanations)! I think you did a good job shopping for things on your list, and while you may have gotten a lot of things, you are doing well overall which is the most important part. You’re purging more than or at least 1-1 with what you’re bringing in, and you’re being conscientious about what you are bringing home! I understand how much it takes to get a neglected wardrobe in shape- I’m doing it myself. I also underestimated my needs and was overly optimistic about my ability to settle or make do with what I have.
July wasn’t too bad for me, a total of 4 items, and June was good with just 1. August is going to get me in trouble though. I’m already at 9 (and have more things on the way)! All 9 were on my list though, and several of them are replacement items. I ordered MUCH more than what I am keeping (maybe 1/4)- I talked a little about that in a comment in a previous post of yours. I used shopping to distract me from stressing over serious troubles. Not something I ever wish to do again. I think I spent $1500 without even bothering to worry or keep track… not something I am proud of or really want to admit.
I’m not enjoying shopping now like I used to, which is probably a good thing. It’s much harder and less enjoyable when you have a list, and have to be so careful about what you keep! I’m getting better at identifying things I can let go of and what would bring me more versatility, which is good news. Overall, save some of the items on my list I actually really need, I’m really getting tired of it all. I can’t find what I want, it’s exhausting, and I’m inclined to do without at the moment rather than waste any more energy on it than I already have. I’ll probably bounce back, but I feel like I’m having some clarity about this and how much I waste yearning for the next thing instead of appreciating what I already have. Hopefully I don’t lose track of THAT too quickly. I’m just yearning for peace and balance and sanity.
I’m glad you like all the details, Meli. Especially with this post, I worried it might have been over the top. Good job on your shopping for June and July! I can totally understand why you’re shopping more in August given what you shared in the other comment. Stress motivated a lot of my July shopping and even though I am happy with most of what I bought, I’m not happy with how much it was! Like you, I don’t enjoy shopping as much anymore. Now that I’m being more conscious about it, it doesn’t provide the type of escape it used to. I am getting tired of it all, too, especially all of the time and energy I’ve been putting into it! You are so right that we need to focus more on enjoying what we already have.
My June/July were completely without shopping because I was traveling (and had to help my daughter bring her own suitcases back from a year abroad). Truly, it was a relief not to think about it. Both my daughter and I were horrified by the quantities in our closets when we returned. We find ourselves reluctant to start shopping again. (This will pass, of course)
You have beautiful things. Why not take a little break and enjoy wearing them–and getting your “cost per wear”?
Good suggestion, Frugalscholar. I do want to focus more on wearing what I have. I have already lost the drive to shop that I had last month and I’ve very grateful for it. I ordered a few things online early in the month, but I’ve mostly been staying away from shopping over the past week or so. I can see how it would be a relief to have a smaller wardrobe while traveling. I always feel that way, too, especially if I packed effectively. Then I see the full closet again and find it a bit draining and overwhelming. Hopefully, I will continue to move toward less over time.
I have to say how inspiring I find your posts – your self-discipline in doing all of this recording and accounting is really admirable. I find myself wanting to have a photographic record of my purchases too, as well as planned outfits, and to do some purging. It seems to me that wardrobe acquisition and management is a real, definable skill that has not received sufficient attention and is not customarily taught to children, at least in the U.S. (This may just be my own experience, as my mother has zero interest in clothing.) Anyway, thanks for your post, which, as usual, is packed with useful information.
Thank you so much for your kind words, Terry. The recording and accounting I’ve done has been very helpful, as it’s opened my eyes to what’s really going on. I agree that wardrobe acquisition and management is not given enough attention in our society and isn’t taught to children by many parents. I also had a mother who wasn’t interested in clothing. She is more so now, but it has mostly been through my influence. Many of us are having to learn all of this the hard way!
I like the way the colours are developing in your choices of what to wear – and your new purchases will really add to the scheme. The scarves and cardigans are especially pretty. So I think they seem like sensible choices, even if you bought more than you intended, as you are progressing towards a cohesive personal style.
Thanks, Alice. I’m glad that my wardrobe is looking more cohesive, as I’ve been really working on honing my personal style. It’s nice to see that my efforts are paying off!
I like where you’re going with your wardrobe. I think you are learning a lot about yourself during this process. The pieces you are buying look more elegant than what you had previously and the color story is definitely cohesive and, I’ll bet, very flattering on you.
May I respectfully suggest that this next month you try an experiment and spend your entire $200 on one great item. In fact, even better if you can find a $400 item on sale for $200 (take a look at the Halsbrook web-site–there are some gorgeous things on sale there right now). I suspect that you will fall in love with clothes that are of a better overall quality and feel more satisfied with them as a result. Expensive clothes tend to fit and drape better and are often simply more flattering.
Lastly, please don’t beat yourself up about “your shortcomings”. We are all learning together. We get strong by falling down and getting back up.
I’m glad that my new pieces look more elegant and that my color story is more cohesive, Happy Forgiver. I am proud of the progress I am making and very happy to be making fewer buying mistakes. I like the idea of spending $200 on one item. I’m not sure about this month, as I have already ordered a few things online, but if those don’t work out, I can challenge myself to buy one really nice item. I’m not familiar with Halsbrook, but I will check them out. I do have some higher quality pieces and I feel very good when I wear them. The other day, I wore an outfit that I really loved and when I broke it down (in my outfit journal), I realized that it was comprised of higher-end items. It definitely made a difference.
Hi Debbie, I have been reading your blog for about two months and agree with others that you are very inspiring! Thank you for sharing — warts and all 🙂 Like you, I am trying to approach shopping though with a “quality vs. quantity” approach while also keeping an eye on cost per wear. I spent quite a bit at the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale, but anything that didn’t make me feel great went back and what was left were items that will be worn most days (I’m a SAHM) and will look very stylish. My splurge last month was a pair of very expensive black boots at the sale, but they’re very classic and the brand has a reputation of lasting 5-10 years so they were worth the money. You are teaching me to be more mindful about my wardrobe, and I so appreciate it. One question for you — what do you think of personal shoppers?? I have been approached a few times by the the personal shopper “organizer” (for lack of a better word) at Nordstrom to set up an appointment. One would hope that after getting to know my tastes, she could help me fill in the missing pieces. But I could also end up spending more. What do you think? Thanks, and I’m looking forward to future posts!
Welcome, Katherine, and thanks for your comment. I’m glad you find my posts inspiring – warts and all 🙂 Congrats on your success with the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale. It sounds like the boots you bought were a good choice and will serve you well. One of these years, I may purchase such boots, too, as I keep hearing good things.
I have mixed feelings about the Nordstrom personal shoppers. The problem is that they are basically salespeople and work on commission, so they might steer you toward higher-priced items. Even if they are very ethical and keep your needs and budget in mind, they still can only help you shop at that one store. On the other hand, if you work with an independent personal shopper (sometimes called a wardrobe stylist or image consultant), they can help you shop everywhere. Of course, you have to pay those people for their time, but they can often end up saving you money in the long run, as they can help you avoid shopping mistakes. It’s definitely worth doing at least once, especially if you find that you keep buying things and continue to feel like you have “nothing to wear.” One thing I’ve noticed in my area is that some of the malls now have personal shoppers whose services are free. I’m sure they still work on commission, but at least they can go with you to all of the stores in the mall to help you find what you really need. That could be the way to go if you don’t want to hire an independent shopper to help you.
If you do end up using the Nordstrom personal shopper, be careful and be sure to have a list and stick to that list, as they will probably try to suggest other pieces that you may not need. If you go this route – or any of the other suggestions I’ve made – please let us know how it goes, as I’m sure others have been considering such services, too. If anyone else is reading this and has worked with any type of personal shopper – store, mall, or independent – please share your experiences here!
Although I’ve never been employed as a personal shopper, I have given targeted help to two friends who were having trouble with shopping after big personal changes. They graciously let me learn right along with them and we all became savvier shoppers.
One was a friend who grew up in a working class household and learned to stretch every penny. She has become a hotshot, globetrotting lawyer and was pulled between the urge to get a deal on everything and to look right for work in a conservative, upscale workplace. Another was a friend who had not been shopping in years. At all. She had a lot of old items that were random, ill-fitting, plus a few buried treasures.
The first thing was to inventory everything that was being kept. Everything. The inventory list was always with us. Then we listed all the activities that they engaged in routinely–one did lots of traveling; the other was increasing her exercise routine. Finally, we did some experimenting to find stores that reliably stocked the styles of clothing that they liked and that tended to fit their bodies well.
Then we went shopping. Initially, because both women were essentially rebuilding their wardrobes (from student to professional; from no shopping to at least some shopping), the outlay *was* considerable. One needed several suits for court, for example. For her, we bought from one designer, Anne Klein, and picked up one suit with two different pair of trousers and a second skirted suit, the pieces of which could all be mixed and matched with the other separates. These coordinated with simple tops she already had and liked. We added a couple of tops that combined the key colors in her new suits to stretch her ability to mix and match them. The other woman discovered the joys of working out in “technical” gear that really suited her more demanding workouts. That was how she spent her time; that was now where she spent her money. She’d been working out in old, tattered shorts and sweats; the new items lifted her spirits and supported the new life she was living.
Something to emphasize here is that both women hated to shop for clothes. Also, while certainly not rich, both had sufficient funds to cover their needs and a few wants. We did not shop above their price points; neither did we waste time starting the shopping by hunting bargains. The little luxuries and the bargains were something to do after all the bases had been covered in “their” stores.
Anyway, both women ended up happy with the results of items that they picked out, that were within their price ranges, and met their goals. And the goals were THEIRS, NOT mine. I just enjoyed going along for the ride!
Once these women had revamped key pieces that were more in keeping with their actual lives (which was strangely the hardest part for them to acknowledge), they loved it. They wore those clothes out and now shop on their own for replacement items when their favorites wear out.
These are just a few tips from a decidedly nonprofessional who helped a couple of friends out. Do the wardrobe weeding and list of life activities before walking into a store. Find one or two stores that suit your body, your range of activities, and your budget. [Target is one that has worked for me!] And make sure the salesperson takes your desires to heart and doesn’t try to pressure you into buying more or differently that what you need. When you find that person, hang onto her! 😉
Sorry so long, Amy
Thanks for sharing that Amy! (I’m glad it was long). What an interesting glance into the process.
I loved reading this process, too, Amy, and was also glad that it was long so we could get all of the details. It seems like you approached the process with your friends in a very practical and effective way. They were very lucky to have you! I have done the same thing for several friends and family members – and even did it professionally for about two years. I was MUCH better at helping others with their wardrobes and shopping than at managing my own! Emotions often get in the way when it’s our own wardrobes, but we can be ultra-logical with other people.
I think that perhaps friends could really help each other in this respect, but it would probably work better to focus on one person at a time, as opposed to when friends shop with each other and are both looking to buy things. When I shop with friends, I often make more shopping mistakes, mostly because I worry about taking too long to make up my mind. But if the focus is all on one person and her needs during a given shopping trip, I can see how it could work well, especially if the people involved don’t have the money to hire a professional (and are understandably wary about store-sponsored personal shoppers).
I appreciate your taking the time to share your story here, Amy. Lots of food for thought for others!
Thanks, Debbie and Sarah!
I wrote about both friends in the same entry–but in fact they didn’t know each other. The time was spent focusing on one person and her needs.
Thanks, Amy! I so appreciate your reply and didn’t mind the length! You have given me some great pointers, and are right on with the premise that a personal shopper should be someone who shops with you at many stores (that was one thing that kept me from using a Nordstrom personal shopper). I do wish more of my friends enjoyed shopping the way that I do. I used to go with my mom quite often but now that she’s 84 she’s slowed down quite a lot and doesn’t want to go shopping (her main complaints being that stores are too big, too crowded, and the racks are too stuffed!) It’s a shame: she’s very stylish and I could definitely count on her telling me the truth about what I tried on 🙂
Hi Debbie, I have been reading your blog for some months now and I am a shopaholic trying to be a recovering one! You have been a fantastic inspiration and very helpful to me. I have made a lot of progress this year. I have bought much less and about half of what I normally spend. I am in the process of paring down my wardrobe at a slow pace and adopting the one item in, two items out rule. I feel you are are making good progress as well and please don’t be hard on yourself for any slip ups. I don’t think I would have been successful without your help.
Welcome, Sharon! I’m so happy you took the time to let me know that my blog has been helpful to you. It sounds like you are doing very well with your recovery! I’m glad I have played a role in your turning things around, shopping smarter, and paring down your wardrobe. I appreciate your kind words and I am trying to be less hard on myself. I know we all have our ups and downs. Most people don’t share them so publicly, but I’m happy that my journey is beneficial to others who struggle.
What has helped me make better purchases is to immediately wear my new items instead of waiting for the proper weather or right occasion to wear them. Unless it is something I really love for the upcoming season, I’ve stopped buying for seasons to come but rather only for the current season. I use to buy things ahead of time but made so many impulse purchases that ended up being donated that I had to stop and rethink my strategy. I bought more expensive pieces for the quality over quantity thing but it didn’t help me buy less, I just spent more money. I also purged frequently but then I got stuck in the purge/binge cycle. The power pause method has saved me a few times, especially for online purchases but I don’t have enough self control to do that for in store purchases. What made me finally realize why my various methods have not led me to make wiser purchases was because I rarely wore what I bought immediately. I would always wait for the right occasion or weather to wear it. Then they just sit in my closet, I would forget about them and I go out and buy more. Ever since I started wearing what I bought right away, I automatically purchased less without thinking about it. Sounds so obvious but it was a revelation for me! I’ve bought considerably less the past few months since I started to do this. I no longer bother saving my new purchases for a fancier occasion. I wear my new dress to get groceries, to pick my kids up from school. This way, I know very soon whether I truly love what
I bought or whether it should go back to the store.
This is an excellent tip, Wendy! My experience has been much like yours. Buying higher quality pieces doesn’t necessarily help me to buy less or wear what I have more. The real key is to buy things we love and will wear! If something doesn’t suit my lifestyle, I won’t wear it. But what you mention about wearing the “nicer” things for everyday occasions is spot on. I have been pushing myself to do that for many of my dresses and I find that I feel really good and happy when wearing them, even if it’s just to run errands. Of course, it helps if I dress them down by wearing casual sandals and accessories, but no need to wait until something “special” comes around to wear the clothes we love! Now I just need to apply this to EVERYTHING in my closet…
I find going through why something should enter AND go from a wardrobe is a great way to prevent future mistakes. Sooner or later it is all going to click right? 🙂 It is so very easy to overshop with NAS, despite the best pre-planning. I purchased more than I planned, but I’m very happy with my purchases. And unlike past years, I do feel like I made better decisions. Baby steps I guess. Happy Belated Birthday and congrats on your new items.
Thanks for the birthday wishes, Lisa! Hard to believe I’m 48… I usually feel much younger, which is a good thing! I agree things will eventually click if we keep writing about why we add and subtract various pieces from our closets. I definitely can see my progress from even earlier this year, so that’s a good thing. It may take me a while longer to get to where I want to be, but as long as I see improvement, I am willing to stay the course and keep forging ahead one day at a time.