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Closet Cleanout – A Statistical Analysis

March 4, 2012
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I have a list of about 5-6 dresses that I am planning to sew for spring/summer 2012. I managed to sew two of them on my vacation week (which sadly, ends today, and I could really use another week to get more sewing done). I did not get nearly as much sewing done this week because I realized that I don’t enjoy my days off if I sew the entire time. Sewing has this way of making the space time continuum virtually disappear for me, and hours will pass without me realizing it. I’ll sit down at the sewing machine at 10am and then the next thing I know, it’s 5pm and I feel like I lost a day. I mainly feel like this because I look at a sewing project and think “this should go together quickly, it’s only 8 steps” and I neglect to consider the fact that I will inevitably screw something up and have to redo something 3 or 4 times.

Anyhoo – I took Wednesday off from sewing after completing a dress that I started on Sunday and finished on Tuesday. I decided to do a little closet inventory analysis and use this as a method of streamlining things. I have mixed feelings about a pared down, streamlined closet. On the one hand, I think it’s a lot smarter economically, environmentally, and emotionally to have a few really nice, well made, well fitting items that I will wear repeatedly and that are not overly trendy or cheap. However, when I discovered fashion bloggers and stores like Ann Taylor and LOFT and designers like Kate Spade and Milly, I had this overwhelming urge to obtain as many different outfits and looks as possible. I have an almost Pavlovian response to slick advertising campaigns and beautiful fashion spreads on websites. I’ll see an outfit or look that catches my eye and I will immediately think “have to have it” and will start stalking the items, or stalking lower cost lookalikes, in an attempt to recreate the look. The problem here is that some of these looks are overly trendy and are worn maybe once or twice, them I am left with an item in my closet that never, ever gets worn again. I also fall prey to the “good enough” mentality, like last year when I wanted a pair of black knee high boots to wear and I ended up purchasing some Etienne Aigner 3″ heeled zip up boots that were really too big on my calves. It was an impulse purchase that I now regret, since I found my perfect pair of boots on sale at xmas time and wear those exclusively, and the Etienne Aigner boots sit untouched.

My closet inventory analysis is by no means complete or comprehensive, but I think I did a fairly good job with it. I started keeping an OOTD log back in September 2010, when I started teaching again after 2 years as a full time grad student. I documented what I wore to work (or out on the weekends) every day, including jewelry, legwear, and shoes. On Wednesday I sat down with that MS Word document, and then used it to create a basic Excel spreadsheet. I made columns – one for pants, one for skirts, one for dresses, etc, and then painstakingly searched the word document for an item – example: Banana Republic black cardigan – and counted how many times it appeared in the document, then logged that in the spreadsheet. Then I color coded the clothing lists, based on where I obtained them – Thrifted, eBay, Gift, Purchased New from Store, Sewn/DIY, and Old, for things that I had purchased before 2010 and thus I felt needed no justification for their existence. That category is of particular interest to me, because I see the clothes that I have owned and worn for upwards of a decade and it makes me analyze why they are still worn and how I can use their characteristics to influence future purchases.

After my analysis (which did not include shoes, jewelry, or scarves/accessories), I had a fairly honest assessment of how often I wear things. Some things get worn a lot – my beloved Banana Republic cardigans (duplicates of the same style in black, cream and lime green), all purchased at a thrift store or from eBay for $10 a piece, have been worn a combined total of 40 times since I bought them in November of 2011. My J.Crew Jackie cardigans (navy, purchased in spring of 2010, mustard purchased summer 2011, and fuchsia, purchased in December 2011) have been worn 22 times. (I tend to wear them less since they are lighter weight and do not cover my wrists, which means they are only really appropriate in warmer temps). I’ve worn skirts a total of 140 times since September of 2010, and pants (including jeans) a mere 54 times. Dresses were worn 88 times. Woven tops/blouses have been worn 65 times, and knit tops 51 times. Cardigan sweaters have been worn 136 times, and non cardigan sweaters 82 times.

After examining this closely, it becomes really obvious which items I need to get rid of. For instance – I seldom wear button up blouses. I just don’t find them comfortable, they don’t stay tucked in, and they rarely fit correctly. So I can’t justify keeping all of them, particularly the ones I have worn exactly once in the last year. I have several pairs of pants that I just don’t wear. For reasons that are not entirely clear to me, I am hanging onto two velvet cocktail dresses that I purchased before the year 2000, despite the fact that I don’t think I have worn either of them since 2003.

I need to empty my closet. I need to make some easy decisions as well as some tough ones. I also don’t want to just haul everything to the thrift store, since a lot of these items are quite nice, have been worn once, and could probably be a lot more useful to someone else. I may try to photograph these items and offer them up in a blog sale and sell them off at $5/piece, just to give myself some extra cash to cover the inevitable expenses of what will most likely be future purchases.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. March 4, 2012 9:06 pm

    Wow you are amazing organized already! I just did a major closet overhaul and while it was a little painful, it is so worth it, especially just to see a less cluttered closet. Good luck!

  2. March 5, 2012 11:06 am

    This is an excellent approach. I tend to have the opposite problem – there are things I’ve worn so freaking often that I should probably just get rid of them on principle.

  3. March 8, 2012 7:37 pm

    Maybe you should help me with mine! I have a problem of keeping everything. I have my keep, give, and sell pile. However upon second thoughts, most will end back in my keep pile.

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