My Wardrobe, Myself

The intersection of clothing, emotions, and life

Since we’re fast approaching the end of the year, I’m taking a closer look at the additional ways my 2018 theme, “essential,” can impact all of the areas of my life before I select my next focus. Since my wardrobe has long been an area of concern and difficulty (see over four years of posts on Recovering Shopaholic), I’ve recently decided to shine a spotlight there once again. I’ve mused on the topic of “closet churn,” looked at what constitutes a “just right” wardrobe, and did the “plate exercise” to evaluate which pieces I would buy again today.

In the process of this introspection and evaluation, I’ve also “Konmari’ed” my closet twice, once last month and again last week. In today’s post, I’ll share what I let go of and why, as well as what I learned from doing KonMari at this juncture of my wardrobe journey. If you want to read about my previous experiences with doing KonMari in my closet, click here (you can also read about how I applied KonMari to other areas of my life HERE).

closet konmari

It’s helpful to evaluate our wardrobes from time to time and let some things go. 

Closet Creep, 2018 Edition

As this year progressed, I realized that my wardrobe had gradually expanded much like it had before I started my last blog (see my initial closet inventory here – it’s frightening!). While my closet wasn’t burgeoning as much as in early 2013, it was far more jam-packed than I wanted it to be. This became all the more evident when my husband and I moved from our small apartment to our new condo back in mid-June and I had to pack up the entire contents of my closet.

Although packing everything and moving it was challenging enough, the layout of the new place necessitated that my husband and I share the master closet (he had previously used a separate armoire in our old bedroom). Our master closet is quite spacious, but with less room for my clothes than in our former location, everything felt rather cramped. I moved some “off-season” items to another closet, but with the temperate climate and variable weather where I live, I can wear most of my wardrobe year-round. In my apartment, I had gotten to a point where everything except my coats and outdoor-only jackets fit into my main closet. If I wanted to keep it that way in the new place, I knew that something had to give.

I hadn’t gotten rid of much from the start of 2018 through the time of my move. I would occasionally let go of worn out items, ill-fitting pieces, and shopping mistakes, but more was coming in than going out. Life stresses and body changes (the joys of menopausal weight shifts…) led me to shop more than was necessary, but much of what I bought – and kept – this year has been serving me well. I knew I needed to cut back on buying and pare things down, but I didn’t want to just continue with the same “closet churn” that has been all too commonplace for me. This is why I stopped to do some introspection and analysis before I moved on to doing a wardrobe purge. I needed to better understand what constituted a “just right” wardrobe for me at this point of my life before I started jettisoning things. The deep thinking of the three posts I linked to above put me in a much better place for letting go.

Enter KonMari…

You may wonder why I said that I did the KonMari process with my wardrobe in both September and October. Isn’t this supposed to be something that is done in one fell swoop and then not again for a long time, if at all (Marie Kondo states that KonMari only needs to be done once if it’s done correctly)? This is true, but I contend that if one doesn’t have a firm grasp of why something should stay or go, there’s a likelihood that they will hang on to too much or let things go for the wrong reasons. I don’t fully resonate with the key KonMari question, “Does this spark joy?” because a lot of things in my wardrobe don’t make me giddy with excitement, but they do serve a legitimate need (socks, anyone?). I prefer to append “… or serve a valid purpose” to the end of Kondo’s question or instead use The Minimalists’ question of “Does this add value to my life?

When I did KonMari with my wardrobe back in mid-September, I had not yet written my post about applying the “Goldilocks Principle” to our wardrobes and I had not yet done the “Plate Exercise.” Both of these exercises helped me tremendously in better understanding what I need and how I want to feel about my clothes. When I asked myself which of my clothes I would buy again today, I was left pondering why I might keep something for which the answer was a clear no. This thought process was in the back of my mind as I evaluated my wardrobe for a second time by means of KonMari. Although I didn’t get rid of everything I wouldn’t be excited to buy now, a lot of it was slated for donation or consignment or placed into my “holding zone.”

One Confounding Factor

I mentioned my holding zone… Well, mine had grown increasingly larger as a result of those menopausal body changes I wrote about earlier. My body is a lot different than it was in early 2016 before I went through “the change.” I’m heavier now than I was before and despite my continuing to exercise as much as I always have (which is only moderate at best due to my health challenges), a lot of my muscle tone is gone. I used to be able to easily drop weight by eating a bit less and stepping up my exercise, but this doesn’t work anymore. I’ve managed to drop a bit of my menopausal weight, but I’m still up a size from where I was before and my fat deposits have redistributed as well. Some things that used to fit me well at this same weight and size don’t look so great now as a result.

For a long time, I kept hoping that at least some of these clothes would fit well once again. I got rid of the really small and tight items a while ago (I had purchased too many clothes when my weight was lower than usual due to health issues in 2015), but I was hanging on to many other pieces in the hope that they would work for me again. But what I realized through doing the plate exercise is that a lot of these clothes aren’t even my style anymore. If I did end up fitting into them again, I wouldn’t be excited to wear them, so it was an easy decision to let them go.

As for the snug-fitting clothes that I would be happy to wear again, I kept some of them. I only held onto those things that would likely fit me well with a 7-10 pound weight loss, and I’m only allowing myself to keep what fits into the plastic bin that I have designated for this specific purpose. I’ve stored this bin in my garage so I won’t have to see it on a daily basis. I have already reviewed the “skinny bin” another time since I first established it. I did this the night before I took my KonMari castoffs to consignment. Somehow, the fact that these clothes had been out of my closet for a few weeks made me less attached to them and more ready to move them along. It actually felt good to get rid of pieces that just made me feel bad because I can’t wear them.

While I’m hoping to be able to fit into some of the remaining clothes again, I’m not willing to starve myself to make it happen. Been there, done that for far too long during my many years of being anorexic in my teens and twenties. I’m not going there again! If I can’t drop weight through reasonable diet and exercise changes, I guess I’m just going to have to learn to accept my current size, which I intellectually realize is not that horrible. I still have “anorexia brain,” though, so I don’t see myself clearly and am overly self-critical. It helps, however, to wear clothes that I feel good in, which now means more body-skimming rather than the body-hugging styles I used to love.

What I Got Rid of and Why

I have long made it a practice to identify why I’m getting rid of a particular piece that I’m passing on. This quick notation helps me to better understand my shopping mistakes – and style shifts, which guides my future buying decisions. However, I decided to do something different after this last closet purge and create visual representations of my reasons for purging things. I placed photos of my castoffs (I already had photos of all of my clothes) into folders labelled according to why I’m passing things on. I did this for everything I’ve purged in 2018 thus far, not just for my September and October KonMaris.

In some cases, there was more than one reason why I opted to jettison an item. In fact, that was the case more often than not. But the important thing was that I was able to see at a glance why I was letting things go. I found this extremely helpful and I’m planning to make it a regular practice moving forward.

purge reason folders

I created folders related to the various reasons why I have purged clothes this year. 

Here are the reasons I listed for passing on clothing, shoes, and accessories, from most to least common:

  • Too small/tight (items that are uncomfortably snug either all over or in certain places)
  • Fabric issues (scratchy, uncomfortable, didn’t wash or wear well, etc.)
  • Bad alterations (things I bought on sale that were too big for me or items in my closet I tried to “rescue” through tailoring – see this post for my previous thoughts on this topic)
  • Poor quality (an all too common problem these days and difficult to avoid even if you know what to look for when shopping)
  • Fussy (tops that won’t stay in place, jackets that must be worn closed, etc.)
  • Unflattering (things that don’t look good on me with my body changes or maybe never looked right to begin with)
  • No longer like the style (flared skirts and dresses, for example)
  • Bad color (colors that don’t work with my hair color shift, such as certain shades of green and gray)
  • Sleeve issues (too short, too tight, bad shape)
  • Too “busy” (i.e. a print that’s too bold and loud for my preferences)
  • Too long (long cardigans that hit me in a bad spot, a jacket that ended in a “no man’s land” spot, etc.)
  • Too short (an all-too-common issue for a tall woman!)
  • Worn out

Some Patterns and Insights

Sadly, “worn out” was my least common reason for getting rid of something, which tells me that I still have far too many clothes. I’m not wearing most of my things often enough for them to wear out before I decide to let them go for other reasons. When I look at the five items that I let go of due to deterioration (two pairs of shoes, one cardigan, and two t-shirts), only one pair of shoes had been worn more than thirty times (I wrote about the 30 Wears Initiative back in 2016 and it would be helpful for me to do a similar analysis of my wardrobe now…). The other four items became worn out after fewer wears because of poor quality, which was a common reason for purging items regardless of how many times I’d worn them. I’ve noticed that poor quality is particularly an issue with t-shirts and I’m still struggling to find a brand and style that will hold up for a reasonable number of wears.

poor quality t-shirts

All of these t-shirts were purged due to poor quality, among other issues. 

Some of the purge reasons mentioned above are hard to avoid. Sometimes we grow tired of a particular style or it becomes dated and we no longer want to wear it.  Additionally, we can’t always know if a garment is going to be “fussy” when we buy it. We generally need to wear something for a while to determine if it will be a piece we put on and forget about or if we’ll end up tugging at it all day long. If we pay attention over time, though, we may realize that particular fabrications are problematic for us. For instance, I’ve learned that cotton/modal blends don’t tend to hold their shape well unless some spandex is also added to the mix. However, too much spandex can also be an issue because it can be too uncomfortable and clingy. Here are some items for which fabrication was a problem (in addition to the issues with tops highlighted previously, the jeans were too stiff and the capris were uncomfortable and always looked wrinkled):

purged due to fabric issues

I purged these 8 items due to fabric issues – flimsy, scratchy, stiff, etc.

From my notations about why I passed things on, I’ve learned that I don’t like cowl-necks, ruffles, side-slits, or billowy sleeves because of their “fussiness.” I also don’t like jackets that only look good when they’re worn closed, as I like the option of being able to wear them open when desired. I like some embellishments on my clothes and shoes, but there can be too much of a good thing for my preferences. And while I love stripes and polka dots, most other prints end up feeling like “too much” for me such that I won’t wear them enough to keep them around.

these items were too fussy or busy

These 10 items were either too fussy, too “busy,” or both. 

I’ve learned that I can’t settle in terms of lengths, either. Because I’m tall and have long arms, sleeves are rarely long enough for me. While salespeople often tell me, “You can just push them up,” that’s not an acceptable solution for me. Sometimes I want to wear my full-length sleeves at full-length. When it comes to ¾-length sleeves, they need to end far below my elbows or else they’ll be uncomfortable when I bend my arms. I’ve also discovered that I don’t like elbow-length sleeves or sleeveless tops with wide straps. I don’t like the look of the former and I find that the latter overly accentuates my broad shoulders and highlights the fact that my upper arms aren’t as firm as they used to be.

items with sleeve problems

All of these items had sleeve problems – mostly too short (a common issue for me). 

If a skirt is supposed to be maxi-length, I can’t settle on it being a few inches shorter than that or it will always bother me. Likewise, if a jacket or top is supposed to be hip-length, it’s not okay if the hem hits me too high, as that’s not usually a flattering length on my body. I have to be picky about lengths because when I’m not and buy pieces anyway, they generally end up becoming “benchwarmers” that collect dust in my closet before they move on to new homes. I can’t allow myself to be dazzled by a color (hello, cobalt…) or pattern (can we say stripes?) such that I ignore unsuitable lengths on all sorts of garment types. It’s just not worth it! Here are some examples of rarely worn items that I passed on due to length issues:

items with length issues

 I purged all of these items because the length was off in some way. 


I could go on, but I think you get the picture… All in all, I have gotten rid of 87 items this year, the majority of which were passed on over the past two months. I haven’t done an inventory since my last KonMari, but my closet feels much less cramped now and with the exception of a small holding zone and the “skinny box” (which is now only half full), everything is in one place. I could probably still pare down more, but the main thing I need to do is buy less and stop the churn. After all, it doesn’t help to be good at editing our closets if we keep bringing too much in! Both sides of the equation are important, but for over-buyers like me, the input side is where the bulk of the focus should be.

I plan to do a fall wardrobe challenge much like the one I did this past spring (see original post HERE and recap HERE), which I suspect will help me to better identify my favorites. I’m also considering doing my “Love it, Wear it Challenge” (LIWI) again in 2019, along with having item limits in place for how much I will purchase each season.  I enjoy doing challenges as a way to increase my awareness and enhance my learning. I plan to do more challenges next year, not only for my wardrobe but for all areas of my life. Stay tuned… In the meantime, I welcome your comments on this post, as well as any suggestions you have for future topics.

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21 thoughts on “Lessons from My Late 2018 Closet KonMari

  1. Tara C says:

    I’m dealing with a bit of menopause weight shift as well, but years ago I stopped getting rid of pants I love that don’t currently fit (too big, too small) because I have unplanned weight changes. For example, after losing both my dogs in rapid succession this summer and grieving deeply, I lost a bunch of weight and had to dip into my « skinny pants » box. I keep three sizes of pants for this reason.

    This fall I am purging purses and jewelry. About a 15 left the house this week. Next up is the jewelry box, which I am going to attempt to reduce by 30%. I can’t do a one-time Kon Mari clean, for me it has to be a repeated process, letting things go as I feel ready. When the time is right, it feels good and I’m not tempted to backfill by shopping again.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      I’m so very sorry to hear about your dogs, Tara, especially that they passed so close together. My heart goes out to you… It always cuts so deeply to lose our animal friends. Sending healing thoughts to you and your husband.

      I think your policy of keeping pants in case of weight fluctuations is a good one. I’m also a lot more hesitant to let go of pants, unless they are ones I wouldn’t want to wear again due to the style. It’s good to have options for things to wear, especially when one is going through a difficult time and in no mood to shop. I think having several sizes of pants around is helpful and may opt to do that myself.

      Good for you for getting your purse and jewelry purge underway. Best wishes with your goal to pare down your jewelry by 30%. In regards to KonMari, I have been able to do a big purge in other areas of my house (like what I did with the books and CDs, for example), but it takes multiple iterations with my wardrobe areas because that’s my biggest challenge. Others’ mileage will vary, but I’m like you there in that I do better with repeating the process.

  2. Claire says:

    Oh Tara C, I’m so sorry about your dogs. We’ll hold some space here for your grief and healing if it helps. Love and warmth to you.

    I also keep at least 3 pant sizes around (more lately), having learned the hard way!

  3. Claire says:

    I’m glad your closet is feeling more roomy Debbie, what a relief! You have a very sound, sensible take on the “kon-mari” thing. (tbh I give that whole concept a bit of a side-eye b/c of its inherent economic privilege/ableism/etc… but that is just me. You use it well!) I have had to keep several sizes of clothes around all the time for quite a while now, which makes things unpleasantly cramped, but hopefully as I decrease my meds my body can stabilize? Who knows. I hope so. Or at least maybe it can experience a smaller range of variation 🙂

    I hope you’re able to grant yourself some kind and gentle validation about the “churn” you’ve been experiencing. Between moving, menopause, and the heap of crap and inconsistency out there, I think everything you’ve described here is not surprising or unexpected. In fact, you’re doing pretty great! Thanks for opening up about all this, I know it isn’t easy. I always enjoy hearing your thoughts and process around this and look forward to following along your upcoming “challenges”, whatever they may be! ❤

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      I get what you’re saying about KonMari, Claire. I like to take elements from what’s out there and modify it for my own use. There are also some cultural differences, too, since KonMari originated in Japan. Yes, my closet is feeling SO much better now! I didn’t realize how bad it had gotten until I moved. I’m going to mostly focus on wearing what I have now and not buying too much. Easier said than done, though! You’re right that I shouldn’t be too hard on myself about the recent churn. I think I’m settling into the “new normal” finally, but it was really rough there for a while. I do get scared to mention numbers because I got a lot of flack on my old blog, but this is a friendlier place. Not that I mind questions or tough love, but it’s all about who it’s coming from and how it’s said… I hope you will be able to decrease your meds and stabilize soon. I know you’ve had a very rough road with your health and I feel for you. It’s bad enough to feel terrible, but when weight changes are added to the mix, too, that makes it a lot more challenging. Since I’ve moved toward stretchier and roomier clothes, it’s gotten easier for me, but I need to do better with pants and those will be some of the few purchases I’ll feel good about making as I work to reduce the churn and have a smaller and better wardrobe for me. Thanks for your support and I’m glad you’re here!

  4. Tara C says:

    Thank you Debbie and Claire for your caring words about my dogs, it was such a horrible summer. One died in July of congestive heart failure and the other died of lymphoma cancer in September. I was stunned and grief-stricken, it seems I have been crying for months. We just got a new puppy, who while she does not replace our lost babies, she is a balm on our souls.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Your summer sounds truly terrible, Tara! I can only imagine how grief-stricken you must have been. I have been in an extremely low state after losing one pet, but to lose two must have been unbearable. I’m glad that you have opened your hearts and your home to a new puppy, though. Of course, she doesn’t replace your lost babies, but I’m happy that she is helping you to heal. I wish you many, many happy years with your new canine friend!

      1. Tara C says:

        I’m sorry for your loss too. :-(. It is so hard to lose a furry companion.

        1. Debbie Roes says:

          Thank you, Tara, but I wasn’t referring to something that happened recently… I’m sorry if I wasn’t clear, but what I meant was that I have experienced the loss of a pet in the past and remember how devastating it was (we never really forget…). My two cats are still with me, fortunately. One is getting a bit up there in years, but she’s doing okay now and hopefully will be for a while.

        2. Tara C says:

          I am so glad to hear your furry friends are still with you!

  5. Jenn says:

    Tara, I adopted a dog for the first time in 2014. He is one of the greatest loves of my life. I can only imagine (and sometimes do) how deeply it must hurt to lose a canine companion. I’m so sorry for your losses.

    Debbie, I’ve read and re-read your latest post, hoping to absorb all the knowledge and experience you shared. For myself, I’ve noted all the activities I tend to participate in and am keeping track of my outfits and noting the activities for which they’d be appropriate. If something I own is not appropriate for any outside activities, it has to be comfortable enough AND I have to love it enough to wear here at home. I’m also considering the uses of new items before purchase in hopes of making fewer mistakes. And finally, I’ve set a minimum of appropriate outfits needed for each activity, so I can see for myself that I have more than I need in almost every area. As you might guess, I’m one of those geeks that loves spreadsheets!

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      What you’re doing to help refine your wardrobe sounds great, Jenn! I think that making sure we have what we need for the activities we do is of primary importance, but people often lose sight of that in the midst of pretty clothes and/or a focus on what’s “in” at the moment. I have had times when I had a closet full of lovely clothes, but they were for someone else’s life! What you’re doing makes good sense… I love the geeky spreadsheet thing, as I’m something of a geek myself (but not exactly an Excel whiz – my spreadsheets are pretty basic). I really like your “minimum outfit” idea and I’m going to adopt it myself. My activities don’t vary THAT much, but I do sometimes have things that come up for which I don’t have an appropriate outfit to wear and I need to make sure that doesn’t happen often, if at all. I don’t want to do too much “just in case” planning for things that almost never happen, but it IS helpful to have clothes for things you know will occur a few times per year.

      1. Jenn says:

        I’m flattered you like my idea, Debbie. I’m still sort of feeling my way. You might very well find a way to improve on it. I’m no Excel whiz either, but I do find spreadsheets very useful at times.

  6. Terra says:

    Debbie, wonderful post. I love following your wardrobe updates. You have now set out on the same journey I began back in 2013 when I first began reading your other blog. My single goal was to have all of my clothes fit comfortably in the closet I share with my husband. It took me a few years to pare down and I’m finally happy to say that I have reached my goal. Wishing you happiness and all good things on this journey.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Thank you for your comment and kind wishes, Terra. I have enjoyed following your journey, too, and you have been an inspiration for me for almost 6 years now (where does the time go, seriously?). I’m happy to have my clothes fit into my shared closet with my husband now, but it’s not quite “comfortably” yet, as the hangers are still quite close together. But it’s progress, so I’m happy about it! I’m going to keep working on it and will continue to share my journey periodically on this blog. I will have another post on this shortly, as I’m doing a Fall challenge similar to the Spring challenge I did earlier this year…

  7. Ginger says:

    It isn’t easy to not gain weight during menopause, but when you’ve stabilized afterwards it can be possible.
    All the same, if you don’t like how something looks with your modified body, get rid of it. In 3-4 years when you’re on a more even keel you can restock.
    It’s frustrating to have a closet full of clothes that almost fit.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      I have read that most women gain weight with menopause, Ginger, but I’ve also heard that many will lose at least some of that weight after their hormones stabilize. I’m still hoping for that and have cut down on my eating as much as is comfortable (I don’t want to feel starved, though). I agree with what you wrote about getting rid of things that don’t work on my current body, though. My body has been like this for about 2 years now, give or take, and I’ve gradually passed things on. There are just a few favorites lingering in the “skinny box,” but maybe those will go soon as well when I review the box again before the end of the year. You’re so right that having a lot of “almost fits” can be extremely frustrating!

  8. Katrina B says:

    As always, I needed to let this percolate for a while before I popped in with my thoughts. 🙂 My first response is about the trials of menopause. I gained 10 pounds around my middle and it not only changed my sizing but threw my shape into a completely different category from what I’d been dressing all my adult life. Over about 10 years I learned to deal with it, and I’m now finally starting to lose a bit. Very slowly. But the bigger problem was the hot flashes and freakish sweating, and I had to learn how to dress in very loose light layers to deal with that. That was definitely a time of buying, trying, rejecting, and moving clothes around in my life, and I think it will be for anyone.

    So back to your latest KonMari, I know you’re trying to avoid talking about numbers, but purging 87 items doesn’t seem excessive or unusual for a whole year. You’re working toward your set point or the point where you’re most comfortable with what’s in your closet and you’re bound to go a little bit over and a little bit under every so often. I keep thinking that I have the exact right amount of clothes, yet I still somehow have bags of things going out to be donated every couple of months.

    Finally, have you read any of the books about Swedish death cleaning? It sounds like a similar idea to KonMari but possibly less dogmatic. I thought I would start with Margareta Magnusson’s book, but there seem to be a lot of them out there.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      I always welcome your thoughts, Katrina, and like that you allow the information to “percolate” for a while before coming here to comment. I have heard from quite a few women now about menopausal weight gain and it seems that not many of us end up escaping that issue. My weight gain seems to be different from most in that it’s not just around my midsection. Regardless of where it’s located, it’s still really frustrating, as are the hot flashes you mentioned. Fortunately, those have calmed down for me.

      Thank you for saying that my purging this year doesn’t seem that excessive in light of my recent challenges. I guess I should be more compassionate toward myself for the additional clothing buying and experimentation. It hasn’t been THAT horrible and certainly not back the way it was before I started Recovering Shopaholic, so I’m grateful for that. I think I’m getting to a better place with everything now and I feel confident that 2019 will be more stable for me in terms of my wardrobe (and hopefully other areas as well). I have heard of the Swedish death cleaning, but I don’t know much about it. I will check out the book you recommended and maybe will write about that process in the future!

  9. Katrina B says:

    I just read the Magnussen book yesterday (very short), and it is a very gently worded, anecdotal approach to basically the same ideas about downsizing (only keep what you personally truly love). She offers friendly advice that can be adopted over time, as opposed to some of the other writers like Kondo who insist that there is only one way to do things. If you’re interested in learning about Swedish death cleaning as a more systematic process, there are probably better books, but I haven’t reviewed any of them yet. I’ll let you know!

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts about the Magnussen book, Katrina. It sounds like something I would enjoy reading and it’s on my list! There are 3 books ahead of it, but I will read it soon – and I may opt to write about it here, especially if I take some of the author’s advice (which I’m sure I probably will). The name “Swedish death cleaning” sounds intense, but I’m intrigued enough to want to learn more, especially since it’s a different and more gradual take then what Kondo has to offer.

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