Do you think you could write down everything in your closet without looking? I recently challenged myself to do just that after reading and article titled “Deep End: Clothing Analytics” on the new “Reasonably Presentable” blog. Here are the basic instructions that I followed this past weekend:
- First, write down everything you remember owning, including what color it is.
- Put the letter “A” by everything that you feel awesome in every time you wear it.
- Put a “W” next to the ones you wear all the time (of course, the definition of “all the time” can be very relative…).
- Then go wherever your clothes live and write down everything you forgot to write down.
In today’s post, I share my experience of doing the exercise outlined above, as well as what I learned from taking on that challenge. I highly recommend that you read the entire article and try the exercise for yourself. In addition to the instructions above, the author also shares what sorting through your nail polish collection can tell you about your wardrobe, which could be especially useful for some of you.
So How Did I Do?
I actually remembered 91% of my wardrobe without looking in my closet! I remembered all of my dresses, short cardigans, pants, jeans, coats, and casual jackets. I forgot a few of my skirts, tanks, short-sleeved tops, long-sleeved tops, dressier jackets, and long cardigans. In terms of shoes, I remembered all but one pair. Here are the garments and shoes that I forgot:
When it came to my jewelry, however, I didn’t fare as well. I remembered 77% of my jewelry pieces, or a little more than three-quarters. I forgot about three of my necklaces, two of my bracelets, and fifteen of my earrings! Here are the jewelry pieces that I forgot:
What Does It Mean?
I’m not sure I agree with what the author of the article said about those things that we can and can’t remember:
Clothing you can remember easily you likely either love or have worn recently. If you couldn’t remember owning it offhand, think twice about whether it’s worth owning.”
I was actually surprised that some of the items I couldn’t remember were pieces that I would consider favorites, including my burgundy duster, cobalt tunic, and tulip skirt. But it’s true that I hadn’t worn any of those items particularly recently (within the past month or so), which may be why I had trouble recalling them. In my case, not being able to remember things may have more to do with still owning too much in general than needing to let go of specific items I couldn’t recall. This is especially true in regards to my earrings and long-sleeved tops, as I currently own 47 pairs of earrings and 32 long-sleeved tops, numbers which seem to be too high for my lifestyle.
Analyzing the “A-List”
Here’s what the author had to say about “A-list” clothes, those items that we feel awesome in every time we wear them:
Your A-list clothes probably fit some kind of pattern. Think analytically about the comfort, fit, color, durability, maintenance, versatility, and individual quirks of each of your favorites.”
In looking at the clothes in which I feel great every time I wear them, I would say they have these things in common:
- They are in my core color palette of black and jewel tones.
- They are comfortable knit pieces that suit my casual lifestyle.
- They fit me impeccably and are flattering to my body shape.
- They are mostly easy to maintain in that I can machine wash them and they don’t require ironing.
- The patterned pieces tend to either be striped or some sort of black and white print.
- The shoes are mostly comfortable and casual and are predominantly black or metallic toned.
I marked an “A” next to almost all of my dresses, skirts, long-sleeved tops, cardigans, coats, and casual jackets. My track record was not as good in terms of my sleeveless and short-sleeved tops, pants, and dressier jackets. The author didn’t mention shoes and jewelry, but I analyzed those, too. I marked an “A” next to about half of my shoes and roughly two-thirds of my jewelry pieces.
The tops that I don’t feel awesome in either have fit issues or have become too worn out. Many of my tank tops now feel too snug in the chest, as hormonal changes have increased my bust size. If this ends up being permanent, I may end up purging some of these tops when summer rolls around. Some of my short-sleeved tops either need to be downgraded (to be used either for workouts or sleep wear) or removed from my closet, as they are no longer in good enough shape to be used for “out and about” or even at-home wear. In recent years, I’ve been disappointed with the longevity of many of my t-shirts. They just don’t wash and wear as well as they used to, even though I am purchasing them from the same brands as I did previously. I continue to search for better options, but a lot of it is trial and error.
What About Rarely Worn “A List” Items?
If we’re lucky and are managing our wardrobes well, we wear our “A-list” items all the time. However, that’s not always the case for me and likely not for many of you, either. The article’s author suggested that we ask the following questions about those pieces we love but don’t wear very often:
If you have A-list clothes that you rarely wear, why? Do they represent a lifestyle you don’t live? Is that likely to change? Are you saving your favorite clothing for special occasions? If so, why?”
Here are some of the pieces that I feel awesome in but rarely wear:
I don’t wear many of the above items frequently because they’re not really pieces I can wear at home and I don’t get out and about as often as I would like. Also, quite a few of them are summer pieces and our warm weather season was quite short last year. I definitely don’t need to purchase any more dresses, as I don’t wear the ones I have often enough.
I don’t really think my lifestyle is going to change, at least not in the near term, which is why I’ve placed a limit on the number of “out and about” pieces I can buy this year (see this post for more about my 2016 wardrobe and shopping goals). If I cannot wear something at home, I really need to think twice before I purchase it, as I don’t want to end up with even more items that I feel great in but rarely wear. I think that if I purge some of the worn out and less loved items in my closet and push myself to think outside of the box a bit in terms of what I consider “dressy” versus casual, I can get more wear out of the pieces shown above.
I only have four pairs of shoes that I truly love but don’t wear all that often:
I believe that I will wear the shoes on the left regularly this year as the weather warms up, as I plan to pair them with pants as well as skirts for more versatility. The second and third pairs of shoes skew dressy, which is why they aren’t worn frequently, and the second and fourth pairs are not all that comfortable to walk in for more than short distances. I had the heels on the second pair shortened recently, so I believe they’ll be more comfortable now, but I will likely pass on the leopard print wedges this year in favor of a more comfortable printed sandal (on my shoe priority list to buy soon).
What if We Wear Them Often But Don’t Love Them?
There’s one more category of items that I haven’t discussed yet, those that we wear a lot but don’t feel all that great in. Here’s what the author of “Reasonably Presentable” has to say about those items:
Clothes you wear frequently but don’t feel awesome in are likely either acceptable enough but not great or necessities you dislike. Consider what would make those pieces of clothing great for you.”
Fortunately, I don’t have many items that fit into this category, which is probably an advantage of having a relatively large wardrobe. However, some of the pants and short-sleeved tops that I wear quite often don’t make me feel awesome, particularly those pieces I wear when I’m at home. Due to a painful nerve condition, I need to wear loose-fitting, very comfortable pants when I’m seated for long periods of time, such as at my computer. Some of my at-home pants really need to be replaced, but I have not yet found suitable options. Similarly, because many of the short-sleeved tops that I wear at home and for walks and workouts have worn out, I don’t feel great in them but am still wearing them until I buy replacements.
What I’m looking for in such pieces are comfort, good fit, and durability. I want items that are comfortable to wear that don’t look frumpy, worn out, stretched out, or boring. I want stylish pieces in colors and prints that will make me smile when I see myself in the mirror but that I’ll forget about while I’m wearing them. I don’t want to have to compromise either comfort or style when it comes to my at-home wardrobe, but that’s something I’m still working on this year. I would say that I feel much better about what I wear at home these days, but more so on the cooler days than when it’s warmer out. I definitely need some better warm weather at-home pieces, as I feel that I’m sometimes “settling” when it comes to that area of my wardrobe.
What I Learned and What’s Next?
So in doing this exercise, I learned the following:
- I have a fairly good recollection of what I have in my closet, especially in terms of my clothes and shoes (less so for jewelry).
- I still have too many clothes and jewelry pieces.
- I don’t love everything in my closet.
- I don’t wear many of the pieces I do love often enough.
- I still have too many “out and about” clothes and not enough at-home clothes.
- I need to cull worn out and unloved items so I can wear the things I love more often.
- I need better at-home clothes for the upcoming warm weather season.
It has been almost a year since I used the “KonMari Method” in my closet, so I think it’s high time that I do it again. Also, I never used Marie Kondo’s process with my shoes, so I will definitely do that this time around. I’m going to tackle my jewelry first, as it’s less overwhelming for some reason. I will likely do that this weekend and may report on my results sometime next week.
I don’t think I’ll end up purging a lot through the KonMari Method, but another blogger I follow had that same thought earlier this year and really surprised herself with how much she culled. The same may be true for me. We shall see…
It took me two hours to do the exercise I outlined in this post and I feel it was well worth the effort. If you’re at all dissatisfied with your wardrobe, I highly recommend that you give it a go. If it seems too overwhelming to try to recall everything in your closet, perhaps start with a particularly challenging area of your wardrobe. Taking the time to look at what you have, what you feel great in, and what you do and don’t wear regularly can help you to pare things down and shop more wisely in the future.
If you decide to take on the exercise, I would love for you to share what you learn from the experience. If you have other suggestions for evaluating and paring down your wardrobe, I invite you to offer your tips here as well. I also welcome your thoughts and questions on anything I have written here. Have a wonderful weekend! I’ll be back next week with another “photography interlude” and perhaps an update on using the “KonMari Method” with my jewelry and wardrobe.
Brilliant! I have every intention of taking this idea and spinning it all over the place, to see what kinds of implications it might have beyond wardrobe. What about everything in your kitchen? THAT would be terrifying, in our household!
I didn’t think about applying this concept to other areas of my house, but I’m intrigued… I definitely don’t think I could name everything in my kitchen, even though I have pared down quite a bit there. If you do apply this idea elsewhere, I hope you decide to either write about it on your blog or report back here.
I remembered all my items except my wide-brimmed hat, and I use it daily! The only things that do not make me feel good are my dress shoes and my long skirt, but I wear them for only special occasions. Maybe I need to think about saving to replace the skirt so I can feel like an “A” at dressy events every year or two, but at-home replacements seem more urgent. I have increased my wardrobe to 41 to lessen the laundry pressure ( a second sweatshirt jkt.and an extra layering tee), and have reached what you call set-point. Best is I like everything but two things–the dressy items mentioned. I don’t like any dressy clothes, so maybe it will stay like this. The kitchen supplies I think I could list,but we have so many cooking things that I do use. I feel like it’s too much stuff, and our little house could hold no more!
Interesting that you didn’t remember your hat, Helen. Perhaps it’s more utilitarian and doesn’t spark joy? I would say you’re doing very well if you placed an “A” next to all but two items. If you don’t like dressy clothes and don’t wear them all that often anyway, maybe that’s just fine. Focusing on at-home replacements first seems like a good idea in your case (mine, too).
Hi Debbie. I loved this post. It was very thought provoking! As a result of constant purging & being unable to find suitable replacements for worn out items, my wardrobe is now a little too small. I have sufficient clothing for outside wear but my in house clothing numbers are too low. I recently had to change clothing a couple of times during the day (cat grooming & gardening) & I struggled to find something to wear for the remainder of the day. I was able to remember all items & no surprises that my habit of buying for a life I don’t have has meant that a large part of my too small wardrobe isn’t worn regularly. My numbers are 68 clothing (including coats) 35 footwear & 11 handbags. If only buying clothes sparked the same level of joy as buying shoes haha
Just to clarify the reason buying clothes doesnt produce the same joy is due to the restrictions in the type, fabric etc as I have very sensitive skin (psoriasis) & I have to have full coverage due to a history of skin cancer. I adore clothes but rarely find full length sleeves & soft fabric in the style I prefer.
Sharon: what style do you prefer? One of my favorite clothing companies makes stuff to measure using extra-super-soft fabrics that work for *my* extremely sensitive skin. I’m wondering if they’d work for you: I actually just wrote a review of them today.
I’m glad you liked this post, Sharon, and decided to do the exercise. How great that you remembered all of your items, but I know that having a too-small wardrobe can be a problem, too. It seems like you know where you need to focus your shopping, though, on those at-home clothes. I know it can be less inspiring to shop for such things, though. I struggle with that often and like you, have bought too much for a life I don’t have. It’s good you are protecting your skin, but it’s too bad that makes shopping that much more challenging. I can tell you love your shoes! I neglected my shoe wardrobe for the past few years and now need to focus more attention there…
Loved this exercise. I’m at the point where it’s getting difficult to get rid of something because now my clothes are all in the 8-10 region at this point. But as I was writing out my clothes, it helped me to see holes in my wardrobe and stuff I don’t necessarily need. I only have 80 pieces of clothing (including shoes and scarves, but not including underwear, socks), but as I change, so do my needs. I got rid of a hoodie I had forgotten to write about because I really don’t like how tight the neck hole is (and I have no idea how to alter it to make it easier to put on) as well as a jacket I had forgotten about because it doesn’t go with anything anymore.
I’m happy that you found the exercise useful, Jane. The fact that all of your clothes are “8”s to “10”s is a testament to your hard work on your wardrobe and you should be proud of yourself. It’s great that you were able to purge two unloved items by doing the closet memory exercise and that you discovered wardrobe holes that you can focus on filling as you do future shopping.
Good post, and a great exercise for anyone working to downsize, better organize, or reduce buying. Today I know what I own and the things I wear frequently, or seldom. But a few years back when I had a large wardrobe I would have never been able to write down what I had. These days I only tend to forget about my winter wear collection because we have not had cold weather for the past two years.
There’s no way I would have been able to write down all of my clothes a few years ago, either, Terra. I’m surprised I did as well as I did now, but it shows that I have made good progress. I know what you mean about the lack of cold weather, as it’s been the same here. Hopefully our summer will be a bit milder this year, but I know we have it better than most of the rest of the country (and world) in Southern California.
This is an interesting way to look at your wardrobe. I am bummed you did not remember the black-white and yellow tunic. I love that top! Some of your A-list, but unworn, items are sundresses you bought late last summer. So, they’re seasonal and you may not want to reach for them again before July or August.
I recently listed my necklaces and was able to name about 85% of them. Some of the ones I forgot were recently worn. I have way too many necklaces, but they don’t take up space, so I don’t intend to get rid of any at this time.
Good point about my dresses, Barb. It’s been a while since I’ve worn them, so that’s very likely why I forgot them (not because I don’t love them). As for the tunic, I love the look of it more than I love wearing it, sadly. It may not last in my closet, but it did help me to realize that I like tunics, so I will thank it for that (to use Marie Kondo’s practices). You have a wonderful necklace collection and I always like seeing them in your OOTD pictures. If you have space for all of them and you like them, no need to purge any. You’ll know down the line if/when something isn’t working for you, as you seem to be very in touch with your wardrobe and style.
This was an interesting exercise! The few pieces that I forgot about were duplicate items in their lesser-loved colors. Even if I love an item and consider it a basic in my wardrobe, I’ve learned not to buy duplicates at the same time.
That’s a good lesson to realize, Sara. I have had issues with duplicates, too. I still allow myself to duplicate items, but I’m much more careful about it now and usually only buy two of a given style (if at all) whereas it often used to be five or six. Glad you found the exercise helpful!
I would suggest experimenting with some of the items on your rarely work A list to dress them down and/or incorporate them into outfits for everyday wear. Often using them in layers, pink striped T under a long sleeved V top, a black T shirt under or over you red black dress, a gilet to dress down maxi skirts and dresses – long dresses and loose skirts can be really comfortable for home wear if they are loose and soft.
I also periodically demote comfortable and old out and about clothes to home and hobby wear so I can still enjoy them despite them being worn or out of date. Often they get more wear than they originally did because they no longer feel precious. No I don’t feel ‘awesome’ in them, but if I did it would probably be inhibiting. I don’t love my old navy T shirt, it doesn’t spark joy, but it is practical and useful and the joy is in feeling comfortable enough in it to do what does spark joy and make me happy.
Thank you for your helpful suggestions, Lynn. I know I need to think outside the box more with my wardrobe, especially when it comes to items that I deem “dressy.” I have been thinking about wearing the maxis at home during the summer so they seem more wear. I demote some of my out and about clothes, too, now. I never used to, but there’s no reason not to extend the life of pieces we still like but are a bit too worn out to look as polished as we want for going out. I like what you said about how certain things don’t spark joy but can facilitate our experiencing joy because they are practical and useful. Very good point!
Funny that I should read this post this evening as I went on a lunch date this afternoon and when I was looking in my closet deciding what to wear I saw an unfamiliar looking navy knit folded up. I thought to myself “Hmm, what’s that?” When I pulled it out it was a lovely jewelled sweater I bought at the beginning of the winter season. One of those purchases I had to have!!! And here, a few months later, I’d forgotten that it exists. Oh boy !!!
This is exactly why I’ve put myself on my first ever shopping ban. While I’ve whittled down and love most things, this is an example of either (a) too much clothing I don’t even know what I own or (b) I’m still buying things that don’t really suit my needs or (c) a problem with my storage of clothing that I can’t readily see what I own. I’m not sure what it is but until I figure it out I’m not adding a single thing to my closet (oh, it’s hard.)
The nail polish test is interesting but not sure it works for me. I love makeup as well as clothes (also banned trips to Sephora which is bad news for me) but I think of my lipstick & nail polish as a colour addition to a neutral outfit. I love coral pinks but instead of wearing it I use makeup to add that colour. I also love shell pink and think it looks very chic on my nails especially wearing black but I look drained when I wear it as a fabric.
Thanks for the post. Interesting. Still have work to do.
Congrats on rediscovering an unworn item in your closet, Carolyn, but I can understand your surprise at finding it. I used to forget about items in my closet all the time because I had so much. It seems like your shopping ban will be helpful in determining the issues you still have with your wardrobe. You seem to have narrowed down the potential problems quite well. I know I had all three problems at one time and I still sometimes have issues with (b), which is why I’m limiting “out and about” purchases this year. I can identify with what you wrote about the nail polish test, as I have had similar feelings about certain colors. It’s good that we can use lipstick and nail polish as accent colors to add excitement to what we’re wearing. I can see how the nail polish test could be useful for others, though. Best wishes with your shopping ban. I hope you will report back later on what you learn.