The following is a guest post from Mette Balslev Greve, who shares her journey from being a “sale-a-holic” with three jam-packed closets to becoming a conscious shopper with a pared down, cohesive wardrobe. Mette, a self-described “nerd,” used her love of planning and systems (a girl after my own heart!) to turn things around quickly and powerfully. She shares her wardrobe management and shopping processes, as well as many of her fun and stylish outfits, on her blog, The Yogastic Shopping Planner.
If you would like to be profiled in the “Stories of Recovery” series (you can be anonymous if desired), or if you have an idea for another type of guest post on “Recovering Shopaholic,” please connect with me to share your thoughts.
I guess I used to be a “sale-a-holic.” I’ve bought so much on sale during the past 10-15 years that I had three jam-packed closets full of stuff last year. I really liked some of it, but it was hard to tell where the good stuff was. I couldn’t see the forest through the trees. Lots of the items still had price tags attached. I used to say that I loved having new things in my closet, but they just needed some time to “settle in” before I wore them.
When my trained eye read the newspaper, my heart would start racing whenever I found ads for sales, pop-up outlets, or the like. I’d start planning how and when to get there, and once I got there, I would start just left of the entry and then meticulously work my way around the place. My family has taken many trips around the world during which bargain shopping was my first activity choice. I even Googled beforehand to see where the nearest outlet was so I could work a stop into my trip schedule.
When I visited a sale, I touched everything, tried lots of items on, and “struck gold” again and again. Or at least I thought I did… What I didn’t realize was that most of what I carried home would mostly just sit in my closet. I would wear my new pieces because I felt I had to, but after a few wears, I’d put them in the basement, mainly because my bedroom closet was so full, the hangers didn’t move. Then my recent purchases were out of sight and often out of mind.
I didn’t really feel bad about my behavior, but looking back it wasn’t the best way of building a wardrobe. And I wasn’t very aware of what I was doing, as I had tons of stuff that didn’t go with anything else in my closet.
I also created endless lists of items I found on other people’s “must-have” lists on the internet. If any online expert wrote that a white shirt was a must-have, I put it on my list. Essentials, must-haves, top 10 – you know those kinds of lists. I put everything on my own list and you know what… it ended up being four pages long!
At some point, I set a maximum amount for how much I could spend, but there was an additional rule: If something was marked down more than 50%, it didn’t count. Yeah – great idea, right?
I do have a list of the clothes I owned from back then, and there are 378 items of clothing on it. If you do some math, and say I’d wear 3.5 things every day, I would statistically wear each item only about three times in a year. Hmmm…
Turning My Wardrobe Around
Browsing around the net one day in early 2013, I watched a video created by Danish style coach, Tini Owild. She had the tiniest closet I’ve ever seen and I suddenly felt mortified by the size of my own wardrobe. But I was also very enthusiastic about acting on the unexpected impulse/urge I felt to pare down.
And so I did… cold turkey, out of the blue. It didn’t come out of frustration, but only from watching a professional go through her closet and comparing my her super streamlined wardrobe to my non-functional one.
My inventory was already very organized into categories, so I went through all of them –through clothes, accessories, and makeup. I narrowed it all down big time. I went through each category and marked the items I loved. The rest was all placed into the giveaway pile. I had just one simple rule – I could keep the things I loved. My additional rule of thumb was that I aimed to keep just 5-9 items in each category.
After this initial purge, my list of clothing was down to 169 items. I had gotten rid of 55 % of my wardrobe in one go. I put the cast-offs in my basement for a month and I told myself it was okay to retrieve anything I felt regrets about letting go. During that month, I didn’t go to the basement to get one single thing – as in nothing. It all stayed in my hidden hideaway. One reason for this was that I had deleted all the purged items from my inventory.
A side-note: Every day, I get dressed using a list of items randomly selected by a computer program I created over two decades ago (read more about this on my blog). Since the purged items no longer appeared on my random list, I didn’t think about them at all.
Paying it Forward with My Closet Rejects
When the month had passed, I called friends, colleagues, and family, who helped relieve my load of cast-off items, one woman at a time.
After 15 women and girls had been to my basement one or two at a time, trying on clothes, chatting, having fun, and carrying huge loads away with them, I took the rest of the items with me to work. Then the whole thing started again. Ten of my colleagues benefitted from my surplus. One was so excited about my shoe selection that she left with seven pairs. She kept asking, “Is this all right?” She had wanted a pair of red shoes for so long, and now there they were. Actually, my process spurred a few other people to do the same thing afterwards, and I ended up getting a great top from one of my colleagues.
When all was said and done, 25 women had relieved me of about 200 items. That worked out to be eight items per woman on average – they were hauling! After this process, there was just one small plastic bag full of clothes for me to take to the thrift shop, and I felt great!
Next Steps After the “Big Purge”
After ‘The Big Purge,’ I started working with my wardrobe a lot more consciously. I began thinking about colors, writing down styles that I liked and disliked, and reading about wardrobe building. I pretty much read everything I could find on building a workable wardrobe, and from this experience, ideas started forming. I now have a color palette that I’m thrilled about and I know which cuts of clothing suit me the best. And you know what; I have a great wardrobe now!
I continued the purging every now and then since my initial cull, and today my inventory is down to just 109 items of clothing. That’s 29% of what I had a year and a half ago, and I’ve never had a more functional and coherent wardrobe. And I’ve never had more to wear than I have now.
I now try to only purchase items that are very different from what I already have. That way, buying something new will extend what I have and make my whole wardrobe feel new again.
What Happened with My Things?
Still, after a year and a half, I see my old stuff everywhere… A scarf on one of my colleagues, a ring on my friend’s hand, a t-shirt on DD-15’s best friend, and even one item on a girl from DD-12’s class this past Friday.
My “little exercise” from last year has had so many benefits, it’s hard to keep track. To start with, I had lots of fun with each of my 25 guests. We talked and laughed, and they were so happy to get great things, many of which were new or like new. I still see my cast-off items everywhere, the women who have them still tell me how much they love their new pieces, and they’re out of my house and no longer cluttering my space.
I recently met up with one of my close friends, who was wearing a sweater that I’d given her. We talked about all of the fun we had when she came by my basement for her “treasure hunt.” She told me that she’d gotten so many compliments both on that sweater and another one she’d worn the day before.
Another friend wears a ring (inexpensive) I gave her all the time and people always ask her about it. A rather poor PhD student from work took home a huge bag of my clothes and later told me that many people have complimented her on her style change!
Not only did I help myself by letting go of excess closet items, my actions also benefitted 25 women in my close environment. I see them wearing my clothes and I enjoy hearing their stories. So having a “hidden holding zone” for one month was the safe way for me to do it.
After I’d pared down my wardrobe, DH and I were able to remove a whole closet from our bedroom, which made space for a chair and table where I can do my hair and makeup every morning. I love itJ.
Shopping Today – and My Shopping Calendar
I no longer attend sales or visit outlets. My heart rate remains stable while reading the paper. I’m now at peace with shopping.
Have I regretted giving anything away? Well, I’d be lying if I said I had no regrets, but that’s mainly because I started refashioning items a year ago (see a few of my projects here) and I can see how some of the things I gave away could have been refashioned into something I would wear. But I sleep well at night; it doesn’t really bother me that much.
The best thing I have today to control my shopping is my five-year shopping calendar. I sat down one day, did a lot of planning, and made myself a calendar where each purchase I’ll make for the upcoming five years has been plotted out. The idea is that I expect my wardrobe to renew over a five-year period. It works much like plotting in when to call your dentist for a new appointment to make sure you make regular visits to the dentist. Here, I plot in when to buy what, so I make sure that everything will be renewed within the next five years.
I’ve always been big on planning and building systems, so building the calendar was so much fun for me. The quick idea behind it (read more in this blog post):
I figured out how many pieces of clothing I needed in every category, e.g. how many cardigans, how many sweaters, how many sneakers, etc. Let’s say I felt I needed three cardigans in my closet at all times. I then wrote down that I should purchase a new cardigan in January of Year 2, September of Year 4, and June of Year 5. Three cardigans, purchased over a five-year period. I did this for all wardrobe categories and then put it all together on a calendar. I moved things around a little bit to balance every year and each month within a given year, so I wouldn’t have to buy 12 things one month and nothing the following month.
I know this will sound completely insane to many people (believe me, I’ve had comments on it), but I love it. I create a Pinterest board every month to help plan out my purchases, and it’s like Christmas all year round. I know what to get – not in great detail, only the headlines – and my wardrobe pulsates in joy from my new purchases and the old things I purge. It breathes J.
In Retrospect – Why the Sales Addiction?
I don’t think I can come up with a good reason for my former addiction to sales. I loved “the chase” and would feel great before, during, and after a great shopping event. I didn’t really feel bad about my shopping, but when I realized that it didn’t do me any good in the long run – and that my wardrobe would be a lot better with only the good things – I was ready to make a change.
I owe it all to the video I watched in early 2013. It’s in Danish, so most of you won’t be able to understand what’s being said, but you’ll still be able to see the beautifully organized closet! I recently created a closet video of my own to showcase my now not-so-large wardrobe. You can check it out here if you’re interested (it’s in English!).
I have a strong need for systems and planning, and shopping at sales was my system for getting new stuff. If something was cheap, I would get it. Then I tried the “must-have” lists that ended up being four pages long. Now I have my calendar, and it has worked wonderfully for me for six months and counting. It limits my shopping, it has the element of surprise, and it’s tailored to my needs.
Here are a few links to some of my favorite style-related websites and books (the last two are in Danish – great for the Danes out there but can also be translated via Google translate):
- Into Mind – blog focused on perfect style, minimalism & the perfect wardrobe
- Putting Me Together – blog for those who are learning to work their closets
- Color Your Style: How to Wear Your True Colors – book by David Zyla
- From OK to Hot – website of style coach, Tini Owild (in Danish)
- Christina Wedel – Danish style coach and author of “What Suits Me?”
I hope these resources – and my story – will help you on your journey to shop less and build a workable wardrobe that you love! I welcome any comments or questions that you have for me.
A big thank you to Mette for sharing her story! Read about Mette’s continuing journey using her shopping calendar – and much more – via her blog, The Yogastic Shopping Planner.
It’s probably not polite to do so, but I’ll throw in the first comment: thanks for asking me to guest post, Debbie 🙂
I don’t think it’s impolite at all, Mette 🙂 You’re very welcome! I love your post and I see that it’s already generating some excellent comments. I will probably chime in a bit here and there, but I see that you’re doing a great job in fielding the responses and don’t really need my help. I hope a lot of readers go and check out your blog, too. Thanks again for writing the post and I look forward to following along with the conversation!
Well, I’ve had about five times as many visits as I normally have, so yes, it generated a lot of traffic!
That’s great news! I hope you get a lot of new readers as a result of this guest post. They won’t be sorry, as your posts are always interesting and I love how you include lots of photos!
A lovely post Mette. Thank you for sharing your story. I sincerely enjoyed this post, your blog, your closet video, and the links you provided. What I love most is that your theory works perfectly for those who want lots of options and “expressions” (love your description) and yet it also works well for those of us who want to keep a smaller more minimal wardrobe.
I used to think that ‘more of a good thing’ would be better, but I realized that having more of the same didn’t bring anything new, buying more of the same wouldn’t give me more options, only more clothes. To me that is crucial. I want to look different every day. I change my hair and style expression all the time and my closet must be up for the challenge or I’ll get bored. I realize that only half the world’s population (probably?) feels like this, and the other half loves to have the same ‘expression’ every day, but I’m definitely with the first bunch. I’m glad you liked the post, Terra :-).
I really enjoyed your post Mette! Thank you for sharing your story. Tini Owild’s video was very inspirational – even though I couldn’t understand exactly what she was saying. It inspired me to remove a few more things from my closet as my goal is to end up with a closet like hers.
“I used to think that ‘more of a good thing’ would be better, but I realized that having more of the same didn’t bring anything new, buying more of the same wouldn’t give me more options, only more clothes.” I love this. I do have a limited number of looks that I like to wear but I feel compelled to collect all the options available. So I end up with lots of the same thing. I like everything but couldn’t possible wear it all. I end up wearing favorite items only a few times a year.
I’m glad you liked the video – it’s great that you can get something out of it, even if it’s in a language, you don’t know:). You’ll reach your goal, I’m sure, and the key is to have the items be different. If you have a limited number of looks, that you like to wear, then it shouldn’t be too hard?
I also enjoyed watching the video and REALLY wished I could understand what she was saying! I was fascinated by her wardrobe, though. Everything looked very high quality and unique. I was struck by the fact that it was all neutrals and that she didn’t have that many shoes. All of the shoes were fabulous, though, and I wouldn’t be able to walk in many of those stiletto heels! I loved her look and her edgy pieces. I kept trying to read what was on her shirt, as it was in English 🙂
I could see how this video would inspire both Mette and Leah to get rid of things! I have a goal of having a wardrobe like that, too – smaller, high quality, unique, true to my personal style. I’m getting there, slowly but surely. My biggest task will be to stop buying so much in general and to focus on unique, high-quality pieces. I have to let go of my “addiction” to getting a deal and to “more.” It’s not an easy task, but at least I know my marching orders!
Mette, I agree with you wholly! I too used to think that ‘more of a good thing’ would be better, but I realized that having more of the same didn’t bring anything new, buying more of the same didn’t give me more options, only way more clothes. And I’m in your camp! Although I prefer to have a small amount of clothing and do have a defined style, various aspects of my life call for me to express myself differently (such as camping or hiking, at the ranch or a rodeo, the beach, or a “typical” day in the City) and I want to, and love to, dress accordingly. Again great post! Thank you.
Thanks Terra – I’m glad I’m not the only one sees things this way 🙂
Wow – somewhere in the world is someone who shopped just like me! I am fascinated by this story. My own life for many years has revolved around buying bargains? at T K Maxx(UK), T J Maxx(US) and multiple outlet malls. I lost count at 400 items – MOST, I’m ashamed to admit – unworn and totally impractical for my lifestyle. Many still bearing their sales tags. Unlike Mette, I’m not interested in “cheap”; my haul is reduced price designer items. My latest purchase, FYI, is a black leather jacket by Eli Tahari reduced from $998 to £140 (about $200).
Mette can’t “come up with a reason for her former addiction to sales”. For myself, I can, and I truly believe that most compulsive shoppers will have a reason – even though they may yet not have figured this out for themselves. For me, when I was five years old, I was confined to an isolation hospital for several weeks whilst my polio was treated. Every day a package would arrive from family and friends who were not permitted to visit me. On the day of my discharge, I was taken into the hospital gardens to watch whilst all my new “goodies” were destroyed in a bonfire. I was sent home with a tatty doll and even more tatty book. As years passed, I lived my life without incident until I suffered life-changing injuries in an accident. As I improved, I shopped – as I said, reduced price designer stuff (that was expensive despite being bought on sale). No more rubbish for me…..
Somehow I relate the two incidents – since my accident, I believe I have been somehow compensating for having all my new stuff taken away from me all those years ago when I was just five years old. What I’m really ashamed to say is that whilst my wardrobes (eight) look like a boutique for a smart, slim fashionable woman, I have put on so much weight that very little actually fits me.
Thanks to Debbie and other women who I have discovered sharing their secrets on blogs, after several years I am clearly managing to get my life back on track – I’ve managed to get rid of about one hundred items but I have a long way to go yet. I’m about to re-read Mette’s story and follow the links.
Wichery, what a sad story. I’m curious as to if you have always known this to be the reason or it is something you’ve figured out later on? It just sounds so terrible – what on earth was the reason for them burning all the things you got? And at five years old, who is able to understand any reason given to them… No wonder you compensated. It sounds like you did more or less like I did – the higher the reduction, the better, and then the actual garment came second. I wish you all the best in getting your life back on track and with your further purging.
I’ve never been deprived of anything – as far as I remember. I was a shy kid, extremely shy, overly sensitive to other people, didn’t attend the other kids birthdays, didn’t want to sleep anywhere but at home, but I don’t know how this could relate to my bargain-hunting. Only that maybe my shopping made me feel more outgoing and ‘on top of it’. I’m not ready to say these things are related, but it is the only link I see – and I’ve never made this link before, your story made me think more about the ‘why’.
Mette – Thanks for taking time to reply. I’ve loved reading and re-reading your posting. I just happen to believe that there is usually a reason why we do what we do.
Re burning my things – It was an isolation hospital. Probably there was a danger that they might have spread polio germs outside in the real world.
As I grew up I tended to live a minimalist life style – buy a new coat, for example, and give away the one it replaced. Buy a new book and give away the one I had just read. Wear one pair of shoes until they needed replacing.
The trouble started YEARS later after I had a major accident and the medical profession did not treat me properly. Perhaps they had also not treated me properly when I was only five years old? When I was well enough, I started to buy things – clothes, shoes, books…Not one book but probably six at a time. More shoes than I could ever wear. Enough clothes to start my own boutique 🙂 Subscriptions to six fashion magazines…
I was able to shift the books first; I’ve never read a book twice so that wasn’t too difficult. I’m down to only one magazine subscription (although I sometimes still buy Vogue and Bazaar). Then I discovered clothes blogs and started reading that other women have the same kind of problem with too much shopping and too much stuff. I don’t think I can do as you did and get rid of so much all at once but I have made a good start. This week is a bit hard because my daughter wants to off-load things at a car boot sale, and I’m unsure what I want to part with. Small steps, but I will get there.
I’ll keep checking in at your blog, so much to learn from you. Thank you.
Your story is so fascinating, I can’t believe you had to explain the isolation issue to me, here I was just thinking that these people were just being abusive to this little girl :-). Of course, sorry about that.
And what a radical change in your life with the second accident. Going from minimalist to serious over-shopping. And now slowly but steadily finding a middle ground that works for you. Your story really gives me the chills – hugs to you for being so honest and for writing these nice words. Maybe a Project 333 could be a way for you to get more insight? I haven’t done one myself, but you could say that my big purge was my own version. Deleting the items from my closet, and from my inventory, and then keeping it in the basement for a month to see if I would miss anything.
Thank you so much for your comment, Wichery, and for sharing your story. I found myself wanting to give you a big hug as I read what you wrote! Although I can understand the need for burning your things, I don’t understand why they made you watch. That seemed like a cruel thing to do to a five-year old. I think that what happens to us when we’re very young often has a strong impact on us, but sometimes that impact isn’t felt until years later. Sometimes it’s after another traumatic event, as in your case, and sometimes it’s not so absolute.
I know that part of my shopping problem stems from growing up in an affluent community as part of a less affluent family. Many of my classmates dressed to the nines every day and never wore the same outfit twice. My parents divorced when I was 14 and my mom struggled financially after that. I was often told, “We can’t afford it” when I wanted to buy something new. My father moved far away and I rarely saw him, but he sent me money and gifts on a regular basis. I learned to reward myself with clothes and related items. I never wanted to feel “less than” around my peers ever again, so I started overshopping as soon as I had the means to do so (even if those “means” consisted solely of credit cards).
Wichery, I wasn’t able to make changes as rapidly as Mette did, either. My changes have been much more slow and have been marked by quite a few ups and downs, as you know if you’ve read this blog for any length of time. I think that if there are a lot of emotional issues behind the shopping, it can be a slower process to change. We have to find other ways of meeting our emotional needs.
I’m sorry you had to go through two very traumatic events and my heart goes out to you. Keep taking small steps and you will get to where you want to be. Mette gave you some good advice. Project 333 helped me a lot, as I was able to experience dressing with less for a short period of time without getting rid of things. If that seems too scary for you, try putting some of your clothes (even half) into a “hidden holding zone” for a period of time to see how it feels and what you miss. I’ve done that, too, and found it helpful. Different things work for different people, as we are all different. Just keep trying new things and see how you feel. If you have specific questions, feel free to ask them here, as you will receive answers. I may even opt to address your questions in a future post! Hugs to you and best wishes!
My favorite part of your story is seeing other people wear your old things and really love them. I’ve had a little of that too, and it feels wonderful. I have a necklace right now waiting for a friend of mine- she borrowed it once and really liked it, and I’m ready to give it to her :). Thanks for the reminder!
I think I want to do a wardrobe tour in photos one day. It’s so fascinating to see/read about other peoples closets! I watched your video and loved it. I think I’d do better to listen to your advice of only buying items that are very different from things you already have. It’s a new way of thinking about not ‘splitting’ wears of items. I probably won’t do it for everything though, because I have a few key silhouettes that I stick to for my style.
Giving the things to people I knew, was a great addition to the joy I got from purging. It made me feel even better about what I had done. And I for one would love to see photos of your wardrobe! It’s not often that we get to look inside other women’s closets and it’s always an inspiration.
I haven’t been to your blog before, but just took a quick look. I love your capsule wardrobe for Project 333 – and maybe I do see a few similar things, I guess they are part of your key silhouettes (blazers, sheet dresses, cardigans?), but your tops, skirts and pants are very different in style, so maybe you’re already doing the ‘different’-thing, at least in your capsule:-).
Btw, is it possible to subscribe to your blog – I can’t find where to do it?
Thank you Mette! You are right in that I have a lot of similar items, but I am moving towards diversifying a little more now. You are right- cardigans and fitted dresses are my ‘thing’! I added a subscribe option, thank you for asking and thank you for looking at it!
I also work on a multi-year planning/shopping time horizon but I don’t track items like Mette — I guess I’m just too lazy. Nor do I plan to turn over my wardrobe every five years — I try to hang on to clothes for more years than that. As I tap out this reply the clothes I am wear (except for undies and shoes) are all over 8 years old. I too saw the light about 25 years ago when I saw the closet of a very well-dressed friend. It was astonishingly small yet I never really noticed that she wore the same items over and over again (she did, but just in different combinations and with different accessories). It’s not VOLUME of clothes that creates style, it’s a carefully edited collection of quality clothing, all of which working together to create an unending number of ensembles. In fact, having too many clothes is the nemesis of style.
Dottie- “having too many clothes is the nemesis of style’: I wish I had know that a long time ago!!!! I think so many women (including me) pursue the look or style, but to attain it they think they have to have bulging wardrobes to do it. It’s even worse for those of us who read popular style blogs- they always look so great and modern, but usually each post is at least ONE new item if not an entire new outfit, hence the thinking you have to buy constantly! Worse was when they would showcase celebrity homes and you’d see the massive ROOM(s) of clothing and shoes (and many style bloggers have this as well and post pictures). I feel like I’ve finally learned this lesson and I’m eternally grateful to Debbie and yourself and the rest of the commentors that have helped me see the light and truly learn. I’m at 75 pieces of clothing and 61 accessories/shoes right now (not including loungewear)- and am still slowly purging. I work at a professional office full time in a large-ish city (and interface with clients), run after my almost 2 year old child at home, and go places almost every weekend with and without my husband. I live in a true 4-season climate with severe winters (cold&hot upstate NY- right in the lake effect region). I used to own ~260+ items of clothing and ~130+ accessories/shoes, which was my count around the end of 2013- so less than a year ago. A 65% reduction, or I have 35% of what I used to! I feel better, lighter, have an easier time in the mornings, and feel more put together than ever.
The part I’m working hard on now is the compulsive/impulsive shopping- I’ve vowed to stop shopping for the rest of the year and then do a 20-piece wardrobe challenge next year to help with that. I’ve purchased 55 items this year- it’s MUCH lower than what I have done in the past, but it’s 40% of my current wardrobe. Waaay too much turnover. Part of it couldn’t be helped since I always bought cheap before, and many of my things didn’t fit well or were not worth attempting to keep– but now everything’s in pretty good shape (maybe 85%+) so I need to stop bringing more things home.
Meli22 — I am SO impressed by your decision (and follow-through) to reduce the number of clothes while increasing the quality and versatility of what you own. It”s a challenging process — as this blog demonstrates over and over. Less really is more.
So we both figured it out from looking at another woman’s wardrobe – that is so great how we get out inspiration from others. My five-year-turnover is a challenge for me since the vast majority of my current wardrobe is less than four years old. I have very few things, that are older. In fact, I only have eight items that are more than five years old. I did a review of these things about a week ago, and most of them are not going anywhere. By choosing five years for my calendar, I’m trying to make myself choose items that will last me longer than they have in the past. If they last longer than five years (some will, some won’t – that is also built into the calendar), I’ll be thrilled!
The trend in fashion for clothes that are quickly discarded troubles me. When I buy something I love I want to keep it and wear it forever. I have a number of clothes that are nearly 20 years old and still going strong (coats, skirts, sweaters, and a few blouses). However, it’s harder and harder to find clothes made of quality fabrics, well-constructed and timelessly designed to span several years. I allow for a small amount of “unplanned” obsolescence in small but trendier purchases and inexpensive clothes — basic tees for summer and so on. I would be delighted to have a white tee last 5 years! But everything else is purchased with the intention that these clothes “work” for years and years.
I fully understand where you’re coming from, Dottie and it is true, that some trends only last for a very short time – the worst examples are less than one season. They are easy to spot – first you think they are hideous, then everybody get them, and then they are hideous again. Stay clear of those! Other trends have a longer life span, say 3-5 years, where the skirt lenght, sleeve length, color, material, cut and so on may look like they are classics, but I personally find that very very few items will be truely timeless. The same goes for hair cuts, architecture, cars etc. You may see the trends return after 20-30 years, but when I see photos of myself from 20 years ago, there are very few pieces from back then that I would willingly wear today, let alone the hair! Do I find this disturbing? Hmmm…not really. To me it is just part of the renewal process that is going on in every aspect of life around me. The amount people are buying is truely disturbing, but when the wardrobe is small, I don’t think the 5-year renewal cycle that I’m aiming for is a problem in that respect. I’m trying to be more conscious about it and keep several items for much longer than 5 years, and then pair them with something more up-to-date. Then the whole look will still be modern and ‘timeless’. I think we’re trying to do the same thing :).
That was very interesting Mette. Thank you for sharing it with us. I am much happier now that my wardrobe is so much smaller than it used to be! I also gave away quite a bit to my friends and see them wearing those items often. At least someone is getting use out of my excess.
I’m glad you liked my story. Paring down my wardrobe has spread to all aspects of my life, so I’m with you on being much happier with less.
I’ve had a small wardrobe for several decades but I also have extended the “less is more” concept to other areas of my life. This summer I’ve been tackling paperwork and made huge headway. Tomorrow I’m having yet another garage sale to get rid of more “stuff.” This may be the last one. My basement had only a water heater and furnace in it — nothing else. My garage is almost bare too. It’s incredibly freeing not to be burdened with detritus.
Ahhh Dottie – great minds must think alike! I started the ” big purge” in 2007 and finally had the last garage sale 2 years ago leaving as you did a hot water tank and furnace in the basement, one trunk of items from my daughter’s years of growing up and not much else.
Every level of the house from closets to drawers to main areas received the same treatment including the office- it was a long journey but oh so worth it . My motivation came from reminding myself that should I kick it today, then my daughter was stuck dealing with it all which would be an awful last legacy to leave her.
The feeling of lightness in all areas of life these days is indescribable .
I’m doing the math here – does that mean I’ll be where you are in six years from now? Great! We’ll probably still have youngest dd at home living with us, but for a limited time by then. It is the perfect time to scale down, isn’t it. Right now, a lot of things leave the house, but there are still quite a heavy in-flow as well, so I’m not quite where you two ladies are yet.
I did the same thing and for all of the same reasons and I agree, it feels wonderful!
Thanks for this post Mette and Debbie! I follow Mette’s blog so I already knew most of this but it was an excellent refresher. As I’ve been trying to reduce my wardrobe to only those items I truly love, my sister has been the recipient of my off-casts. A few years ago when I was moving, I also gave her a lot of my nice furniture. Every time I visit her I get to see my furniture being used and enjoyed. Same with the clothes. It does make me feel good that the items found a new home. I still need to get rid of some clothes and accessories so my dear sister will be getting some more……
How great that you have your sister receive your excess items. My sister and I also share a love of beautiful things, but we’re very different in build, so it’s mainly accessories – and shoes, that we exchange. We’ve been to a few shopping and style events together where style coaches or stylists share their tips and tricks, and it’s just always so much fun.
That was very interesting, Mette! I love how you were able to go “cold turkey”, and to set up a system that works for you and stick to it. I don’t have much trouble getting rid of clothes, but I’m terrible at following shopping limitations or systems I set up for myself so I still buy more than I need. This is something I need to work on. Thanks for sharing your story!
You’re welcome – I’ve had hundreds of systems through the years, the calendar looks like something that really works for me. I think it’s because I don’t see it as a limiting factor, but the complete opposite.
Excellent point, Mette. “Limitations” that we can view in a positive way definitely work better, and can even be fun. Good food for thought 🙂
Great post, Mette! Thank you. It is very inspiring how you have been able to get all your clothing down to ONE wardrobe! I loved your video too, and love the idea of having each item of clothing very different from the others so that you can create different looks. I hope to emulate that one day.
I find it very difficult to get rid of clothes, so I am in awe of you being able to purge everything at once. I am slowly, SLOWLY reducing my clothing but for me it is a long journey. I also have three wardrobes along a whole wall of my bedroom. AND a dresser, AND another unit which has the laundry basket and some shelving. My clothing and accessories used to be completely overflowing out of it all, and some of it used to get left in another room because it couldn’t fit. At least now it all fits comfortably in my room and is organized, and I have brought the bed linens and towels in from another closet. Plus I have some empty shelves. But if my boyfriend and I are ever to move in together, there is more work to be done so that either he can have a wardrobe in my house plus dresser space or I can fit my stuff into half of his closet and dresser. Still, at least slow progress IS progress after all.
I used to think it was difficult to get rid of clothes too – but somehow it just clicked last year. I badly wanted things to change and did the safe way with keeping it around for a month. It sounds like you are moving in the right direction. We are all different, and at different stages in our life 🙂
You’re right, Sarah, that slow progress is still progress! Look at how slow my progress has been, but all of those little changes add up over time. Sometimes it’s two steps forward and one step back (and sometimes there are even more steps back than forward), but if you keep plugging away, you’ll get there. Having a goal to work towards – like moving in with your boyfriend – can also be very helpful. You can use this blog to state your goals and for support. We are all here to help each other! Congrats on how having some empty shelves and more organized areas – that’s something to be proud of!
Mette, I especially like how you display your color palette with the swatches. I’ve identified my true colors thanks to Zyla and Color Your Style, and I think I will copy you and put swatches up together of the color families. My closet in organized by color and then by item type as that works best for me. I love seeing the array of the palette and it makes it easy to see what isn’t going to work and needs to go.
My culling is a work in progress. I did a major purge and organizational project this spring but there’s more for me to do. The improvement in my quality of life (and my outfits!) has been great so far and it will be interesting to see where the next phase takes me.
Thanks Debbie for this guest post!
Another Zyla! I bet you can see, that I put in more options than the eight, but I thought the colors looked differently depending on the light/time of day/my mood aso:-). I like having them in my closet and be reminded about them every day. I do have a Color Me Beautiful binder as well, but I keep that in my living room. It sounds like you are enjoying yourself! Good for you :-).
I totally agree on shading variations with the eight different colors and I’ve copied that approach with my own colors. I’m going to hang it beside my closet as well.
Thanks for the great idea!
Great job minimizing your wardrobe … doesn’t it feel better with all that space? 🙂
Oh yes :-).
I was looking for closet tours like Tini Owild’s and Mette’s on YouTube and I came across this video of Mama Minimalism (aka Carrie LeighAnna) and her 8 dress wardrobe! Her whole wardrobe is 8 dresses and a couple sweaters! I was so inspired I got rid of three boxes (to consignment) and 2 bags (to Goodwill) of clothes and accessories. Still not anywhere near 8 dresses but much better.
Here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X0Ba-uTEELI
That is impressive! And btw, 8 is a great number – I try to have no more than nine of anything and preferably five, so that I can still remember what I have. Any more than that, and we humans are not capable of remembering :-). Thanks for the link!
I loved that video SO much, Leah – thanks for sharing! I found it very inspiring, too. Congrats on getting rid of so many clothes as a result of watching the video!
I love how she wore a bunch of her dresses backwards. I don’t think I can do that with any of mine, but I’m going to see if I can. I will also keep that in mind when buying future dresses. Of course, I liked how she had a few black and white and striped dresses in the mix. I’m wondering if she really NEVER wears pants or other items besides those 8 dresses. I’m going to read the comments on the video page to learn more, as I’m quite intrigued. The three tips she gave at the beginning of her post were excellent! I love this video so much that I’m going to include it in my next links post 🙂
I’m glad you liked it Debbie! So many minimalist closets are way too casual for me and contain so many colors that I can’t relate. I loved her wardrobe and found it inspiring because I could see myself wearing all of the dresses and being quite happy. I think in one of the comments she says something about hiking in her dresses and I have done that before – only once by choice-and it was fine but I felt a little silly. I could see having her wardrobe with a pair of jeans, a few more shoe options and then exercise clothes for more strenuous activity.
I feel the same way about a lot of minimalist closets, but I could see myself in her dresses, too! I read the comments and she said she got all of them in thrift stores – pretty amazing! I don’t think I could get by with a wardrobe that small and she even said in the comments that she’s probably going to add more soon, but the video illustrates how to do more with less. I can’t imagine hiking in a dress. I had a hairdresser in the past who never wore pants and she used to walk/hike in skirts and dresses all the time. I would add the options you mentioned to the wardrobe in the video, but I’d be fine with a core wardrobe of dresses, especially if I lived in Florida. Contrary to what a lot of people think, it DOES get cold in Southern California, but not so much in Florida from what I’ve heard from those who live there.
I live just north of Los Angeles and it does get cold but I wear tights, boots, a sweater and a scarf with a dress and that’s enough for all but the really cold days we randomly get. I’ll have to read the comments more closely.
Such an interesting story. I love charts, spreadsheets and statistics. For many years I kept a note of what I purchased, and wore for special events, but lately have been using spreadsheets to record successful combinations, and develop seasonal capsules.
The statistic that stood out for me was your 5-year replacement cycle. I keep lots of much loved favourites for far, far longer, and am happy to do this so long as they are in good condition. Which might partly explain why I have so many things. My goal is to slowly prune down my 260+shoes/scarves to under 200 total within 4 years; but I’m now going to factor in a 8-10-year replacement cycle and see what that means in terms of planned purchases and budget. Back to my tables and lists!
I love reading about others keeping track of their wear and doing all these statistics – it makes me feel a little bit less weird ;-). I put in the 5-year replacement cycle to challenge myself as I have very few items that are more than 3 years old. Some items are likely to wear out sooner and some will last longer, but I tried to accomodate this in the calendar as well. And I will change it if it stops making sense. If I could stretch it to 8 years, it would be great! Do you plan your purchases in the same way?
Kudos to getting rid of so many items at the get-go. I am a very slow closet purger but it is a huge weight lifted when one finally does get rid of items that are no longer in use. And as a fellow fan of numbers, it’s nice to learn that someone else is also using spreadsheets for their wardrobe.
It seems like we’re quite a few who are fond of numbers. I guess I just had so many things that were ready to go. If what I had in my closet back then had been of the same quality (meaning better fit, color and style) as what I have today, I couldn’t have done the quick purge. And I agree, it feels great to make room for the good pieces we have.