I’ve been meaning to write about this for a year now. So here it is.
For New Year’s 2015, I made a resolution unlike any I had made before. I wasn’t going to promise to get more active or cut down on my wine consumption (I realized that was a complete pipe dream years ago) or to stop swearing. This year, I was going to challenge myself in a Tiny way. I was going to wear everything in my closet. I would be wearing each item once before I began to wear things for a second time.
Why? Well, I was falling into the same habit that many people have – wearing only our favourites. I needed to edit, to cull, to downsize. But I couldn’t decide which pieces I wanted to get rid of. We all have the same excuses: Well, I don’t really love it but it’s perfectly functional. It doesn’t fit right in the waist but I can cover it up with a long shirt. I don’t wear white because of my work environment but everyone should have a white button-down shirt in their closet.
I currently live in an older house, built in the 70’s. The closet I use measures 58″ wide. It was a disaster. I was always running out of hangers, things were squished in so tightly that it was difficult to get pieces out and even more difficult to get them back in. I had forgotten what I even owned. In fact, I actually only ever opened one side of my closet so all my favourites were on one side. But what lived on the other side? And those weren’t the only clothes I owned, I still had my winter stock stashed away in a trunk!
If I’m going to be living on a semi-permanent basis in a significantly smaller space then I need to seriously get a grip on my clothing. I mean, when you look up Tiny Houses, have you ever wondered where they store all their clothing? Have you ever considered how few pieces they have? And what it would be like to only have three pairs of pants? I had. I was curious. But I was a long way away from being able to fit my closet into our cabin.
I was inspired by Project 333. It’s a site that helps you minimize your wardrobe into the basics. Thirty-three pieces for each one of three seasons (winter, summer and spring/fall). Now, I didn’t think I was ready to go all the way down to only 33 pieces. But I had to start being more aware of the stuff I had. And this was before I employed the KonMari method, which took me even further (read about that experience here). But at this time, in January 2015, I was determined to take the first step – to be mindful of what I wore.
So the rules were simple. I started at one end of the closet and pulled out the first item. This was the item I had to wear. After wearing it, I would decide if I enjoyed wearing it or not. If I did, it would go back in the closet at the other end. If I didn’t enjoy wearing it (you know those items that you are always readjusting throughout the day, or you’d forgotten that they rode up in an awkward place, or you just never feel really comfortable in?), it would go into the donation pile. If I really didn’t want to wear it that day for whatever reason, I had to put it back in the closet at the end of the ‘yet to be worn’ clothes. (I had a ribbon tied between the ‘worn’ and ‘yet to be worn’ clothes.) If, by the time I had gotten to the end of my ‘yet to be worn’ clothes, I still did not want to wear them, they also went into the donation pile.
There were a few items that were exempt. Bottoms, for example. I have a hard time finding bottoms that fit me well so I never have too many of them. I did very little editing in that department but I did try to wear all of them before repeating. Accessories (jewellry and scarves) I could repeat. But I was keeping track of which I wore on a regular basis and which ones I didn’t. If at the end of this project, there were pieces I had never touched, off they go. Workout clothing, hiking gear, pyjamas and underwear were not included either.
I don’t know what other people’s closets look like but I’ve been in some houses in which the closets are massive. And filled. I already knew that I had less clothing than the average Canadian for the simple fact that I hate shopping. HATE. IT. (Unless it’s for outdoor gear for hiking, snowshoeing, Search and Rescue or travelling. I’m all over that.) Plus, I had actually googled the question “How many pieces of clothing does the average woman have?” and I didn’t find any facts but I did come across blogs that had numbers of pieces in their own closets. For example, one woman had 124 tops after purging. I also read that the average woman adds about 64 pieces to her wardrobe every year (wow…that’s more than one a week). I never actually counted how many pieces I had or how many I donated or tossed but I think it’s a safe bet to say I had fewer than that.
So if I wore each piece only once, how long would it take me to get through every top or dress I had? That was the Big Question.
Well, it took me three and a half months. 14 weeks! 98 days! If you had told me at the beginning of the challenge that I would be able to wear a different piece of clothing every day for that long, I would never have believed you.
It was an eye-opening experience for sure. I was able to get rid of a lot of clothing because I decided after I had worn a piece, that it didn’t suit me, wasn’t comfortable or whatever and donated it. At the end, I was left with a few pieces that I loved but just couldn’t bring myself to wear (usually fabrics that are ‘cold’, colours that don’t suit my freckled complexion or pieces I had since realized weren’t really my style).
I noticed a couple of other things during this experiment. There is a little voice in my head that always reminds me not to wear the same thing twice in a row. As if, people will notice and think less of you for it. I think this contributes to the need to constantly be buying new clothes. But I noticed that people didn’t really notice what I was wearing at all, much less keep track of it. And to be honest, I don’t really think that much about what other people are wearing nor would I judge someone who wore something twice in a row. In fact, in many countries, wearing the same outfit more than once is normal because those are ‘good’ clothes and ‘good’ clothes are taken off after work and ‘house’ clothes are put on (clothes worn at home for cooking, cleaning and playing.) In fact, this habit it very true in my life. Which is probably why my clothes last a very long time. Which works to my advantage since I hate shopping.
I also noticed that a style was starting to emerge. I had bought a lot of clothes that were perfectly functional, conservative, solid-coloured work clothes. But they didn’t bring me joy. Whereas, making a promise to myself to wear everything allowed me to get creative with pieces I hadn’t worn as often because I thought they could have been considered too loud, too busy or somehow inappropriate.
Because I had discarded all the items of clothing that weren’t my style, didn’t fit me properly or were somehow worn-out (a tiny hole in an undershirt, pilling on a comfy sweater, etc.), I started to really notice that I felt great when I looked great. When I wore something that didn’t look great, I also felt it.
In September, I employed the KonMari method of tidying up and I have reduced my closet contents even more. Now it has become second nature to recognize which items I no longer want. I have created so much space in my closet and dresser that I now have no off-season clothing in storage. And I haven’t regretted giving up anything yet.
Here’s a count of the clothing I now have in my closet (again, for all four seasons):
- 40 tops
- 10 dresses (both ‘nice’ dresses and everyday dresses)
- 10 sweaters (I’m always cold)
- 2 sweatshirts/hoodies (that I actually wear in public); 3 that I wear around the house
- way too many scarves but I love every one of them!
- 3 pairs of jeans
- 16 pairs of pants (including capris and hiking pants)
- 5 pairs of shorts
- 5 coats (of varying degrees of warmth)
- sport gear…well, that’s another beast altogether.
- Total: 91 pieces of clothing I wear to look presentable
Frankly, it still sounds like a lot. And I think that’s part of the problem. It actually sounds worse than it looks. So looking in my closet, I think, I don’t have a lot. But counting up 40 tops makes me wonder Why do I have so many? Two weekends ago, Soldier Boy went through his closet and donated two garbage bags full of clothing and he still has a full closet. I would bet that most people in North America would significantly underestimate the amount of clothing that they own.
I encourage everyone to simply go through their wardrobe and count their pieces. You may be shocked. You may have a good laugh at what you find. You may be inspired to make your life more joyful and keep only the things that speak to you. You may find that less is actually more.