Friday, June 6, 2014

closet inventory: two weeks later

Two weeks ago, I counted all the items in my closet. After posting about it, I took a long, hard look at my closet. My initial reaction was PURGE! I wanted to get rid of 95 items over the course of the next three months. I was so set on accomplishing that goal that I started purging the following morning. Between Goodwill and the local consignment shops, I got rid of 26 things. (I have a ThredUp bag, but am on the fence about sending it in.)

There are two ways to look at what has happened. We could cheer me on and say, "Way to go, Kate!" But I think we should say, "What are you doing, Kate? But really?" I'm not short on space. I'm not moving any time soon. And although I need money as much as the next grad student, I am not so desperate for cash that I need to sell my clothes for pocket change.

So why did I feel the need to get rid of things from my closet? And why was 300 the magic number? Once I cut down to 300, would that mean I would have to get rid of more before allowing myself to buy new clothes? I've racked my brain over these questions for the past two weeks, and I've managed to unearth a host of issues and reach one conclusion: I want getting dressed to be a less overwhelming experience.

I'll make a confession: I'm not creative. Sometimes I wonder whether I had a hemispherectomy, because, let's face it, the right half of my brain gets used so little, I wouldn't know if it had been removed. I see getting dressed as a creative process, so for someone who is not right-brain dominant, it can get taxing.

Blogging started off as a great way to engage my mind in something other than whatever philosophical work I had been reading at the time. But after a while, getting dressed began to consume me, my time, and my energy. I spent too much time on Pinterest, on blogs, and in my closet putting together outfits. It finally dawned on me this week why I was spending so much time doing these things: 1) I was avoiding my dissertation at all costs, but also 2) I was overwhelmed with choices and options. (I'm not sure which conclusion is more important to have reached, but I know that both are important in their own respect.)

I've gained control over the first issue by putting together a summer reading/work schedule and by reintroducing daily physical activity into my routine. As far as the second issue goes? I'm still stuck. I don't feel compelled to get rid of 70 more things just for the sake of having only 300 things. In fact, the 26 things I've gotten rid of had already been tucked away for years. So the next 44 to leave my collection would probably also end up being long neglected items.

I do like that I got rid of clothes that I haven't worn in years. But I don't feel compelled to finish the purge. Rather than seeing it as a project, now I just see it as a learning tool. I learned what's actually in my closet, and what I don't need more of (read: cardigans, short-sleeve tees, button-up shirts). I've also become aware of some personal issues I've avoided confronting (weight gain, self-satisfaction, etc.).

Ultimately, my struggles aren't with the specific number of things I own. Rather, I struggle with how I've let fashion and style consume me and my budget. (It's no coincidence that most of the items from my closet were purchased around the time I started blogging.) I struggle with my weight fluctuations. (Surely I can't be the only one who has bought a new dress that hides only recently acquired flaws?) I could go on, but hopefully you get the point: there's no amount of clothes that I can get rid of that will resolve these issues. So here's to postponing my closet purge, and instead, working on getting back into a physically active lifestyle and making progress on my dissertation!

What do you think of the business of closet inventory? Is there some magic number that everyone should strive for? Is doing a closet inventory more about the skeletons in our closet rather than the clothes themselves?


  1. I don't think there is a single magic number for anyone. It's all about what you feel comfortable with, your space, and your lifestyle. It all has to work for you! I do think that closet inventories are good for figuring out the type of clothes you have (or don't) and what might help round out your closet more.

  2. I've been thinking about this a lot recently, too. Mostly after my inventory, I was like "so what?" I have stuff, but I don't think it's unreasonable. I don't need to make space or make money. I'm not clinging to things from 2 sizes ago in the hopes that I will be able to wear them again some day. So who cares if I have 300 things or 200 things? Well, I don't know. I haven't had any great epiphany since my inventory, so I think I'm just going to let it ride for now. Ultimately, I want everything in my closet to fit perfectly (which isn't going to happen unless I can stay exactly the same size/shape, and I don't want to stay the same). I do think it's a good idea for me to sort through my closet every 6 months or so, to make sure I'm getting rid of the things I don't wear and just clear the clutter. But otherwise, I don't think I need to make any huge lifestyle changes based on my numbers.

  3. This was a really well-written and thoughtful post! You honestly made me realize why I haven't done a closet inventory. A few months ago, I purged my closet and got rid of TONS of items. I have been thinking of doing an inventory just because it would be interesting to know how many things I have...but I haven't pulled the triggor. I think the reason why is that I'm really content with what I ended up with after the purge...and I don't need to know a number in order to feel good about what I own now. Maybe someday in the future I will feel compelled to count my closet...but for now I'm not going to worry about it.

    I also feel ya on the fluctuating weight thing. I have clothes that are slightly too small, clothes that fit, and clothes that are slightly too big. I know I can't get rid of these things because I've never not fluctuated in weight. Someday I would like to have that figured-out but I'm still working on it!

    But way to go for making healthy life goals!!

  4. I not only love that you've written this post, but that you've put so much thought into it. I haven't done a closet inventory because I don't feel like it's a problem. I regularly get rid of items that no longer fit or don't get worn. I don't think you need a magic number of items in your closet, as long as you are happy about the size of your options. I think it's good that you've gotten rid of some things that you know you definitely don't need/want anymore but you shouldn't be forcing yourself to purge a particular number of items, just particular items (if that makes sense).

    Also, please don't think that you are alone in the whole weight thing. I feel like I'm always fluctuating and getting frustrated that outfits that look great on pinterest just don't look right on me, or when favorite items are a bit too squeezy. Here's to focusing on what's most important to you!

  5. i strongly feel that there isn't a magic number of clothes every woman should own. i've been putting a lot of thought into this as i consider doing my own closet inventory. if you own 300 items but 100 of those are shoes and 5 are sweaters, your closet is clearly imbalanced... and so focusing on the total number becomes irrelevant. i think you have to look at the individual categories and determine what an appropriate number of clothing items to own in each category is.

    but you've hit on something even bigger here recognizing it's more about the process than the end. i'm glad you shared this update and hope you know there definitely are readers of yours (ie: me, for one) who are battling with the same. exact. things. it's so easy to only show the best parts of ourselves in our blog posts or mask what we are unhappy with, but if you don't show those things you never have the chance to realize you're not alone, so thank you kate.

  6. I think that's such an interesting way to look at it. I know that when I cut out all the bullshit from my closet, it was all of a sudden a lot easier to get dressed because there was just...less. which is weird, right? less clothes, more options! I think part of it is blogging pressure - see how much I cut out! look at the small number! look how great I am! but also the consuming thoughts of "blog outfits" - KILLS ME. Sometimes I feel like throwing in the towel because it causes me so much anxiety - do I look overdressed? am I dressing for the blog? does this look dumb? who blogs their outfits?

    BUT. who cares. just clothes, just closets, just hobbies.

    I am afraid to go back and proofread this comment because I know its just babbling but the tl,dr version: we're all right there with ya.

  7. Thanks for sharing this, Kate. I have actually been hesitant to do a closet inventory because I pretty much wear everything in my closet and I don't really have that much stuff. BUT, I kind of want to know EXACTLY how much stuff I have so that's where the draw comes. But I think if I did it, it would end the way yours did. "So, now what?" I think it's always a good idea to go through our closets often and get rid of things we can't wear/don't like, but to choose a specific number seems a little unattainable. Especially since you have an appropriate amount of clothes! A blogger I really like recently did the inventory and her numbers were insane (I figured they would be!). I think in those instances getting rid of stuff might be a good idea, but it seems like the ultimate goal should just be to make your life easier.

  8. I'm so glad you shared this Kate! I spent the weekend doing my closet inventory (the post goes live tomorrow if you'd like to see it) and was quite surprised by what I found. I've been pretty good about keeping my Go Chic or Go Home profile updated so I have an idea of how many clothing items I have. Once I finished clearing out the items I have gotten rid of and adding a few I forgot to add, the final number of clothing items only ended up being 166. I thought for sure I had more because my boyfriend and I share a small closet that already feels cramped, plus I have a dresser all to myself. I don't think there is a magic number that we should strive for. If anything, this makes me feel better about the amount of clothes that I do have. I am constantly re-donating things I've bought or returning items if I still can when I realize they aren't comfortable, don't fit, or just don't work with my closet. Oh, and I completely understand how blogging has made getting dressed more overwhelming. I feel like I have to dress up more for the blog than I probably would in real life which in turn has led to me buying items like pencil skirts that I see look good on others and think I must have. There are a few items I probably wouldn't have bought if they weren't all over the internet. I commend you for noticing this and choosing not to let it overwhelm you anymore. It's a process I'm sure all bloggers go through at some point! Thank you again for sharing this. What great insight!

  9. Thanks for sharing this great pot - I couldn't agree more with all the comments from everyone above. I especially love Fran's comment about "do I look overdressed"? Because I definitely feel like an outfit on a blog that may look just about right often looks a bit done up in real life (and related, a perfect everyday outfit sometimes looks a little boring on the blog). But stick to what feels comfortable! And if you're wearing what we're all wearing everyday (like your jeans, and chambray and scarf to the library) then that's great. Thanks again for sharing!!

  10. The idea of wanting to make getting dressed less overwhelming is EXACTLY why I started blogging, wanted to do a closet inventory, am doing a yearlong shopping freeze, and want to reduce the number of things that I own. I'm glad that you articulated this because I agree with what you wrote. I wanted to cut what I owned in half because Kevin and I are slowly trying to adopt a more minimalist lifestyle and actually use and love what we own instead of just having things that are okay. But that was my personal reasoning. As far as having a "magic number" for women to follow goes, I think that's kind of silly, but I know for me, I needed to put boundaries on what goes in my closet and what stays in my closet. Honestly, the way that I've been structuring things is that I only buy what I have space/hangers for (without having to shove and squeeze things into the closet). I'm tired of justifying my purchases and what I own, and as someone who craves structure (and is also super uncreative), cutting what I own in half is the best way for me to make steps toward that minimalistic, simpler lifestyle that we're trying to adopt. Thank you for sharing your thoughts - I hope you'll still try to document the whole "making getting dressed less overwhelming" thing, because I, too, am super interested in that!


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