This is just an observation that I’ve made in the last few days, that I hope might be interesting and/or useful for you…
Belovedest and I live in a roomy, but not insanely large, 1 bedroom apartment. For 6 weeks or so, in March and April, we had a TON of additional furniture in our apartment. Our neighbor was having floors redone, and rather than have her pay to put things into storage, we agreed to host things like a SOFA, a BED, a large number of occasional chairs, and a very bulky and fragile glass cocktail table.
We were… crowded. But we were fine; it really wasn’t nearly the inconvenience you might have expected.
After all of the furniture was returned to its home, we realized that we could now get into a closet and a few other places that had been blocked for over a month. And we started to cull the contents; we had first-hand proof that we were able to live very comfortably without a lot of the things that we owned.
But when we got to some of our clothes, we realized that we still wanted to keep them. We WANTED them…
I think this violates all of those rules about “if you haven’t worn it in a year, get rid of it!”
So I thought about why we were keeping things, and if it made any sense to do so…
The clothing we’re keeping is still in STYLE – not at all dated, nor likely to date because it’s classic.
We still feel great ATTRACTION to these pieces – we would buy them again, if they suddenly were destroyed.
These pieces are worth holding onto for future wear – the VALUE of them is such that replacing them in the future would be expensive. We didn’t keep tee shirts, or old jogging shorts – we kept things like silk jackets…
These pieces could be incorporated into our wardrobes with great EASE at any time in the future – they’re the kinds of things that dress up neutrals…
So what am I keeping? Primarily, I was wrestling with a couple of beautiful silk jackets from Eileen Fisher (one has to be 15 years old…) that I don’t wear all that often:
I don’t really know what this all means, except that the rules aren’t always right for everyone, and that you have to find your own way in the world. Maybe I’m just rationalizing (oh THAT’S possible…) or maybe I’m onto something, but either way, I think that there has to be flexibility when we’re dealing with something as intensely personal as wardrobes and self-image…
What do you think?
Taste of France says
SAVE–smart advice. I go through phases–one summer I wore skirts almost exclusively, the next summer it was capris. I didn't get rid of the skirts just because I had a summer of activities that were a little more physical and casual than usual. Plus the skirts feel new after having had some time off.
I wonder if it would be useful to add a "C" for Capacity onto your list. At the moment I have a roomy wardrobe and so it is easy to keep a few of those items that are more marginal. These are the items I would shed easily if my wardrobe capacity halved. However sentimentality or a dose of "just in case- itis" means I keep them while I can.
i just did a really good purge (16 garments went to the thrift shop in one go) due to asking a new question: Would I want to wear this once a week? I don't have to wear it once a week, but I was keeping lots of things that were only okay for an occasional use, but am now left with things, that if i had the occasion I would want to wear that often.
Perhaps is finding the right question that works for each of us that is more important than the actual cleaning out.
I think you' ve hit the nail on the head with that insight ! Finding the right individual question for each of us is the answer as to what and how much we keep in the different stages of our lives . I tend to keep garments for years, as long as they fit, because my colors are often difficult to find on the market, and if I had a much smaller wardrobe, more frequent laundry and wearing of each garment would be required , leading to wear out and replacement requirements. Fortunately, I have a large walk in closet. Even so, I keep an eye on what I can purge with the idea of eventually moving to smaller quarters. Thus far this year, I have purged many bags of seldom worn clothes and about 50 scarves. I had way too much ! I like options, but what I had was crowded, and just plain in excess ! It has become a bit of a game with myself to see how much I can get rid of around the house and in my wardrobe, and yet still feel quite comfortable that what I have is " enough " !
Scotti Vaccaro says
I have a similar situation and it may be related: I sew and can even do couturier work. I have classic camel hair blazers (2), silk blazers, and 1 Italian leather jacket. I have a few additional things that don't fit my usual, daily routine, but are classics and I do wear them when the situation appears. I could eliminate the items BUT I know that I will never find similar items of equal quality because the fashion industry has moved further and further away from refined assembly and quality fabrics and more and more toward "fast" (think cheaply made) fashion. Even in retirement, I have dusted off my trusty sewing machine/serger and more often than not, make more than I buy, which isn't much.
Janice, thank you for this post! i can't tell you how many times i've looked at something unaffordable, or affordable but poorly made, and then gone home and waited for the light bulb to go on in my head – oh yes, that! I recently wore a 20-year-old silk satin suit to a confirmation and a man came up to me and said "i can't tell you how flattered I am to see that you've held on to that outfit." He was the designer, and while he'd moved on from that company, he loved that someone treasured the work he had done there.
That is so cool!
This post is timely for me! As I am switching out my cooler weather clothes for my warmer weather clothes, I am faced with a few items that I've only worn once or twice, but I've been hanging onto them because they're classic and I love them. But, if I love them, why haven't I worn them? I think I'll be doing another round of eBay listings come the weekend……..
Really interesting post and equally interesting comments. I have more than enough clothes. Some colours are hard to find and when they are in 'season' I buy like crazy. I am never stylish and never really in fashion. Apart from neutrals I have decided to not really buy any more clothes but to wear out the ones I already have. There is flexibility in this decision. Capacity is important as I have room now. Way in the future I hope my nursing home has a walk-in wardrobe! Carol S
Madame Là-bas says
I managed 10 weeks in Mexico with a well-chosen selection of clothing but I agree with this post. I have different sorts of clothing (cruise wear, formal) that I might use on a less frequent basis. At this stage of my retirement, I would not buy these items again. As time goes by and life changes, I will gradually cull but it is fun to pop on a pair of pants that I bought in Maui to attend a pool party.
Capacity is an issue but right now we can store my clothing and I'm not shopping this year.
Gail Finke says
I agree! There is no rule anyone MUST follow when it comes to "what to keep and what not to keep" — it has to do with one's lifestyle, the amount of room one has to store things, and a whole lot more. It makes no sense to hang on to something you might wear if you have rooms FULL of things you "might wear" (but don't) and no more room to keep anything. But a few things that you love and that you have room for? What is there to gain from slavishly following some rule ("have you worn it in the past X months," etc.)?
You are definitely on to something. Like another poster said, it makes sense to hold onto items that are unusual (i.e. you would not be able to replace them) and are worn on certain, if infrequent, occasions. I have a black velvet swing jacket that I will not part with. I rarely wear it, but when I do it is perfect for the occasion. I would never purchase such an item again, and I have the room to store it ("C" for capacity!), so I'm keeping it. I think, though, that we have to be judicious in these decisions. Only the very special items qualify. I guess what constitutes a "special item" is really up to the individual. :) OOOhhh wouldn't it be fun to see a series where a "special item" gets incorporated into an every day wardrobe!!
Janice Riggs says
I think that my silk jackets are like your velvet swing jacket – you pull it out, enjoy every second that you wear it, and you look amazingly lovely! If I only wear these jackets once each summer, they're worth keeping just for the sheer delight of admiring them, both on the hanger and on my back. I say that I wouldn't buy them again, but I'm not really ALL that sure…
Yes! I am a beautiful purple velvet embroidered jacket I must have bought 15 years ago and while I went a number of years without wearing it I am so glad that it survived the purges of the last few years! It isn't trendy but it's pefectly me and I love it.
Mary Jackson says
Janics's post and the comments are so timely. I have a walk-in closet and a very large closet in our guest room for holding out-of-season clothes. I did the switch to summer clothes a few weeks ago with a new awareness of capsule clothes concept. No was was I going to get down to 30+ items, but the concept made me think about why I had been saving some. With a difficult figure to fit (and now just getting back into sewing) I bought clothes if they fit – and if they were in my "colors." Why did I have two gauzy, wildly printed, tops that I realized I never wore? Using Janice's SAVE I would have never kept them even one season as the Value wasn't there. Thanks for helping me think differently about what I have kept – most are my Style, but I will revisit whether I am Attracted to them.
Yes, Janice, you are right to keep nice clothes that you like, but may not wear all the time. This used to be considered frugality.
Something has been lost in the extremes of hoarding at one end, and minimalism on the other.
Especially with variable seasons, and for women variable activities, it makes sense to keep the things that seem just right.
Interesting post. I' kept nice clothes for decades thinking I would lose weight then finally purging them. One year later I lost all the weight. But strangely, I don't regret purging. Each time I looked in the closet and saw all the clothes I could not wear was a downer. My spirits actually picked up when slmost everything fit! I I could have stored them away but at the time there was no room. Now I only buy what I know I will love forever. But there are things I won't part with- like my wedding dress that can double as a cocktail dress if I get it altered – too big for me now! And another cocktail dress also now too big that can be altered. I agree that these days it's hard to find quality at an affordable price. I sew and that way at least get good fabrics for simple pants and skirts. My weakness is jewelry! I hang in to them even when never worn for years! Sigh! What do you think about this issue? Janice Collins, Washington DC
I recently purged a lot of mass-produced jewelry that I bought because I kind of liked it, but didn't really get that much wear out of it. I realized that I have a lot of friends who make jewelry and I would rather wear their pieces that I own and love than wear a bunch of stuff that is cheap and not that special. I still have sentimental pieces that I don't wear, like jewelry that my late father gave me, and those I will not part with, but they live in a drawer separate from the jewelry I actually wear.
Great post Janice; I too have "LOVE" pieces, but too much other stuff even after two [small] purges already this Spring. Will keep on keepin' on and glad you kept BOTH coats – stunning!
Maybe what you learned is that you can live "for a while" with less. But life is sort of expansive (it is full of days and seasons, and events galore), and you do mind what you're wearing. So, were I in your shoes, I wouldn't consider ditching them because they were inaccessible for a while. They still fit your body and your life, so I would say that's reason enough to keep them
I have a Laura Ashley silk ballroom skirt (crinoline included!) that I bought when I lived in England…30 years ago. It fits me beautifully and I wear it to weddings, mostly. When I do, I update it to season and decade with what I wear with it. I love this skirt and I am so happy I saved it as I am an inveterate purger. But then, I've also moved 24 times (my late husband was a professional pilot).
I'm currently suffering from enormous regret over some items I purged too quickly that I've seen used in capsule wardrobes here that I couldn't use as well. Now I am trying to find them, again, on eBay and Etsy! :sigh: Live and learn…
Janice Riggs says
I purged a sweater almost a decade ago that I still think of… You make me feel better, knowing that I'm not alone in having these thoughts!
Your skirt sounds delicious, by the way!
I feel you pain, too often I let rules overcome good sense
Just love your take on good classic wardrobe choices, thank you
I have repurchased things I have purged and you know what? I end up not wearing the repurchased items for the same reasons I didn't wear the purged items. The same goes for items that I loved so much I bought 2 of them so that when the one wore out I'd have a backup. Lesson learned. (Although now I have tiny regret over a party skirt I purged last year, but wore maybe once a year.)
Keri @flipflopweekend says
I really related to this post! I get into "purge" mode and then only ditch about one item. I figure as long as I still love something and have room for it, there is no harm in hanging on.
J Scott says
I agree with Jazz about "C" for Capacity. But also — and I think it's the hardest to factor in — is "F" for Fit. Does the garment fit and flatter you? Or are you holding on to it because you'll lose the weight "someday."
Sounds like these items "spark joy," to use Marie Kondo's term. Definitely keepers.
I'm not a great one when it comes to following rules – I tend to think of them more as guidelines. So I would definitely keep those beautiful silk jackets that don't see much wear. When you do bring them out, they are stellar and obviously make you happy.
i recently lost 30 pounds, and i was so glad i did keep some things such as pants, and basic shirts, sweaters and tees…. everything works and i also have some stuff now that fits… i am going to stash some of my larger clothes just in case, some i will be able to take in, i hope. but i don't buy a lot of clothes as a rule, every few years.. so i get really simple stuff
Josephine Chicatanyage says
I agree with you. I keep my good quality items, especially jackets I have some Emporio Armani from 15 years ago. I would definitely keep the second Eileen Fisher jacket..
I can totally relate to this post! I recently purged a bunch of stuff from my closet and put it into bags to give to goodwill, however, I kept the bags in my spare bedroom (big mistake! or not?) and slowly I have been reclaiming a few pieces at a time….I have to agree…..some pieces, whether you wear them frequently or not, should stay in your closet, but then again, I am an emotional shopper and I grow very attached to my clothing. By the way, those jackets are too lovely to get rid of!
Alison Gunn says
I just recently did what has become a semi-annual purge. Purges are always an opportunity to really see the repercussions of years of decisions, some good, most that don't really work out for one reason or another. The process has become more and more conscious, thankfully, and every purge teaches me to buy less, buy better, even wait to find a thing I would not get rid of under any circumstances. But the most often I make a mistake, it is to keep something I *almost* fit into, usually too small but not quite. It's yet another clothes-buying habit I'm trying to break. That and cheap clothes that pill (now I know what causes that I make fewer mistakes). Also, trying colors that I late realize don't look good on me. And finally, bodily changes, which might not all be controllable, have forced items to be purged. This includes shoes, since I've had feet issues that changed my shoe size. I also think that when and if I move out of this over-large house with too many closets, I know the core clothes that will come with me, since my style seems to have mostly settled. Good thing, too, at almost 60. ;-)
You have to be in a kind of fearless state of mind to purge. There are always "but it's perfectly good", or "it would be expensive to replace", rationalization that seduces you into keeping them for another year or… years. But one day you say, All that is true but I still am. not. wearing. it. Anonymous at 6:09, when I did a major purge with an image consultant, she insisted we drive straight to Goodwill with the bags. What I have always found is that after a month I can't even remember the stuff I donated.
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