A key reason why I stopped writing my previous blog, Recovering Shopaholic, was that I had gotten burned out on continuously exploring the topics of wardrobe management, shopping, and personal style. I was also tired of being a sort of “poster child” for compulsive shopping. I needed a break from the spotlight on me and my shopping behavior, plus I wanted to write about other things. Although I would periodically publish essays on alternate subjects on Recovering Shopaholic, when I decided to return to blogging, I thought a fresh start with a new site would be the best approach.
I like the fact that Full Life Reflections has a much wider scope, but after taking some space from wardrobe-related topics, I have a renewed interest in writing such posts again. I still plan to keep this blog fairly balanced in terms of subject matter, but since the goal is to explore happiness, peace, and fulfillment in today’s chaotic world, writing about managing “closet chaos” fits in quite nicely. After all, if one’s closet is bursting at the seams and they still feel like they have “nothing to wear,” that doesn’t lend itself toward feeling calm and happy, does it?
A Topic Not Often Addressed…
In today’s post, I’m going to look at wardrobe size and closet churn. When I wrote about applying the “Goldilocks Principle” to our lives last week, I mentioned that I would do a follow-on post about how this concept relates to our wardrobes. I still plan to do this and have been giving it a lot of thought, but what kept coming up for me is how one can’t really look at wardrobe size honestly and authentically without considering the degree to which “closet churn” is an issue for them. These topics are closely related, but I think there is often far too much focus on the former and not nearly enough on the latter. I have been guilty of that phenomenon myself, which is why I want to come clean today and commit to doing things differently.
Closet churn is basically a continuous flow of clothing in and out of one’s closet. Many people who boast about having a “minimalist wardrobe” still shop on a regular basis, but they’re also diligent about purging items from their closets. Such individuals don’t usually consider themselves to be “shopaholics” (as an aside, very few people will admit to that moniker – I can’t tell you how many emails or blog comments I’ve received that opened with “I’m not a shopaholic, but…”), as their closets are not jam-packed and they own only a small number of items. However, if they have a lot of closet churn going on, that may be the area to shine a spotlight on rather than simply counting how many pieces they own.
Wardrobe Size is a Hot Topic!
I have written a lot of posts on wardrobe size and they are among the most popular essays I’ve written. In fact, my 2013 post titled “What is a Normal-Sized Wardrobe?” remains the most viewed on Recovering Shopaholic by far. Additionally, five more of my top 20 posts are on the subjects of wardrobe size and paring down a large wardrobe:
- “How Many Clothes are Enough?”
- “Normal-Sized Wardrobe Revisited”
- “Reader Question – Help with Paring Down a Large Wardrobe”
- “What is Your Ideal Wardrobe Size?”
- “Decisions, Decisions… The Keep or Purge Question”
I linked those posts for those of you who are interested in the topic and want to read more. There is some overlap in what I wrote about, but there is value to be gained from each article, as well as the many wonderful follow-on comments from readers.
The Elephant in the Room
In my essay on paring down a large wardrobe, I mentioned the proverbial “elephant in the room,” which is closet churn. I stated that “while there are lots of downsizing tips that can help, they won’t do much good if you keep bringing an overabundance of new pieces into your closet.” I recommended setting an item limit to help reduce the inflow of new items while one is also working to pare things down. Those two parts of the equation have to go hand-in-hand: what’s coming in and what’s going out. Otherwise, any efforts toward wardrobe downsizing will only be short-term measures and it won’t be long before the closet gets overloaded once again. This seems extremely obvious and straightforward, but it’s all too easy to delude ourselves and feel virtuous about our purging successes while pulling the wool over our own eyes about our overshopping.
Closet churn is a huge problem for me personally. I don’t struggle all that much with purging things from my closet. If I’m not loving and wearing something, it’s usually not that difficult for me to pass it on via donation or consignment. The only significant purging challenges I encounter are around pieces that don’t currently fit me (still dealing with some menopausal weight gain that’s hanging on for dear life), items that were expensive, and things I think I should love but don’t. Those are some sticking points for sure, but in all honesty, the shopping part of the equation is my real difficulty. I haven’t been able to consistently adhere to an item limit even though I’ve done well in sticking to my clothing budget all years but one since I started Recovering Shopaholic in 2013. Although I give myself credit for not spending a fortune on clothing anymore, the churn is an issue that needs to be addressed.
On “Closet Creep” and Set Point
My recent move and the remodeling we’re doing to our new home have highlighted the fact that my wardrobe is once again too large. While getting new flooring installed, we had to move the contents of our rooms around to clear out the spaces that were being worked on. I noticed that my “holding zone” (items that either don’t currently fit or are on the chopping block for being purged) had grown inordinately large. Those items are back in what’s now my office and since there isn’t a door on the closet at present (the old ones were taken off to do the flooring and it will be a few weeks before we put new ones on), I see them all day long. This fact and the upcoming flooring of our bedroom (which houses my main closet) are propelling me to do another “KonMari in the closet.” I’m excited to pare down, but before I do, I felt the need to explore the closet churn issue.
My “out and about” wardrobe has been hovering around 150 items for the past few years now. Whenever the number creeps above that, it starts to feel like too much, so I think 150 items is my current “closet set point” (and has been for some time). I’d ultimately like to lower my set point and have a smaller wardrobe, but that goal is not nearly as important as reducing the churn. I don’t want to purge 25 or so pieces this week only to have the number creep back up over the next few months. It would actually be better to keep what I have and try to make it work than it would be to pare down, give myself a false sense of security, and escalate my buying frequency shortly thereafter. Of course, the best scenario would be to get rid of what’s not working for me, wear what does induce happiness, and only strategically add new pieces when a real need is identified.
Why Closet Churn Happens and How to Stop It
Why have I not been able to do this? Obviously, I could write a whole series of posts on this topic and I have explored the myriad reasons for overshopping in quite a few Recovering Shopaholic essays (including this one and this one). Those of us who struggle with compulsive shopping have to find alternate ways of meeting our needs, as no amount of new clothes, shoes, and accessories can fill an internal void or change our life circumstances. I continue to work on all aspects of my life and I share a lot of what I’ve been thinking, exploring, and changing here on the blog. My word for the year, “essential,” has worked a lot of magic in my life and I feel less stressed, overwhelmed, and anxious than I did when 2018 began. In the last third of this year, I’m going to place more focus on my physical environment and look at what’s essential in my wardrobe and in my home.
So, how can we stop closet churn? There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to that question, but I always like to start with awareness. Maintaining lists of what’s coming into and leaving our closets can help us to recognize the sheer waste of it all. Asking ourselves important questions about why we’re either buying or purging something can enable us to identify patterns that are emerging on both ends. Doing so can assist us in writing “do not buy” lists so we can stop purchasing the types of items we don’t ultimately hang on to and things that are already well represented in our closets. Once a do not buy list has been created, it should be reviewed before each time we purchase something new. We can also create an “okay to buy” list for the things we actually need, which will enable us to make more inspiring outfits that work well for our bodies and lifestyles. I’ve found that the more specific such lists are, the more effective they end up being. If they’re vague and ambiguous, it’s a lot easier to go astray with our shopping.
Conclusion and Your Thoughts
In my next post, I will share my lists, as well as some additional thoughts and exercises to help you “right-size” your wardrobe for your particular lifestyle needs. I’ll also update you on how I fared in shopping the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale (NAS) in July/August (which I initially wrote about here). In the meantime, I’d love to get your insights on the topic of “closet churn”:
- Is closet churn a problem for you, or has it been in the past?
- Why do you think that closet churn occurs?
- What has helped you to stop the continual inflow and outflow of wardrobe items?
- What do you feel is an appropriate wardrobe size for you and why?
The questions above are intended to spark your thought process, but feel free to comment in any way you’d like about the topics addressed in this post. I look forward to reading your words of wisdom. If any of you are headed out to the malls or shopping online this holiday weekend (in the U.S.), here are a few posts from the archives that you may find helpful:
- “Shopping Check-in and Revisiting Sales Strategies”
- “Avoiding the 3 Most Common August Shopping Mistakes” (also applies to September!)
- “Beware of Sales”
- “On Sales, Marketing Messages, FOMO, and Shopping”
- “Step Away from the Computer”