I have long been a proponent of wardrobe tracking. I summarized my reasons for this practice in an essay back in 2013, and I still stand by the points I made at that time. Tracking can help us to better understand what we have, wear, and need. I believe it would be helpful for almost anyone to do some form of wardrobe tracking for a period of time in order to increase their awareness and foster better shopping choices. All of this said, as I began 2019, I decided to stop tracking what I wear. In today’s post, I share my reasons for this decision, what I’m doing instead, and how I feel about all of this now that a month and a half has gone by.
The Upside and Downside of Tracking
I tracked what I wore every single day for eight full years, from 2011 through 2018! I did this via a mostly low-tech method of using hang-tags to capture the immediate data and a spreadsheet for compiling longer-term information and making sense of it. Through my rigorous tracking, I came to understand what types of pieces in my closet were worn often (the “all-stars”) and which items rarely made their way off their hangers (the “benchwarmers”). This information helped to guide my purchasing decisions such that I stopped buying a lot of dressier pieces, uncomfortable shoes, and things that didn’t dovetail well with my body, lifestyle, and personality. I gradually made fewer mistakes and started to see lower cost-per-wear on many of the items I owned.
While there were a lot of positive outcomes to my wardrobe tracking, there were also some negatives. Although the tracking only took me a minute or two each day, the end of the year tabulations occupied many hours. I had to make sure that all my new pieces were added to my spreadsheet and all purged items were deleted. If I were a wardrobe minimalist, this wouldn’t be all that labor-intensive, but with the type of “closet churn” I endured each year, it was no easy feat. I also had to spend a big chunk of time on either New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day entering the year’s numbers into the spreadsheet. Fortunately, my husband helped with this activity, but I can think of better ways to spend that holiday! The data analysis also took a lot of time to complete and even though I’m a “numbers nerd,” it could be burdensome at times.
Then there was the matter of what I learned from my analysis. I was often dismayed to learn that my cost-per-wear wasn’t as high as I’d hoped and/or that I still had a decent number of wardrobe “benchwarmers” in my closet. Sure, my statistics dramatically improved since I first tabulated them back in 2011 and 2012, but they never reached the level of flawlessness that my perfectionistic nature desired. I wanted to have almost all “all-stars” and virtually no “benchwarmers,” which isn’t realistic for most people, including many with much smaller wardrobes than I possess.
In the Interest of “Freedom”…
As with all other years since 2011, my husband and I entered my numbers for last year on New Year’s Day. While we were doing this, he asked me if I was going to continue tracking my wears in 2019. When I immediately answered in the affirmative, he suggested that perhaps it would give me freedom to stop doing it. He knew that I had selected “freedom” as my word/theme for the year and he thought that stopping the tracking would be a good place to start. Without much hesitation, I knew he was right (I married a smarty!) and decided right then and there to stop tracking what I wore each day.
I didn’t opt to stop all tracking, however. I’m still using what I call “the hanger trick” to see what is and isn’t getting worn. This simple strategy involves turning all hangers to face outward instead of inward. After an item is worn (and washed if necessary), its hanger gets turned around to face inward (i.e. the “normal” way). Alternatively, one can opt to face the hangers outward after pieces are worn, and some people prefer to keep all of the hangers facing inward but instead hang worn items either to the left or the right of the closet (such that “benchwarmers” will end up all on one side). No matter how you do it, this simple strategy will give you a visual representation of what you are and aren’t wearing. It’s a lot easier than tracking actual wears, but it still provides valuable data that can help to guide your future shopping and purging behavior.
What I’ve Noticed So Far
After about a month of using the “hanger trick,” I decided to reorganize my closet to help me even better understand the types of pieces I’m wearing. I divided my tops into three sections: those that I only wear “out and about,” those I wear both out and at home, and those that I only wear at home or when I exercise. I don’t think I will maintain this type of organization, but I’ve found it beneficial over the short-term. Doing this has helped me realize that I have a lot of tops that I only wear when I go out.
Such tops aren’t necessarily “fancy,” but they aren’t things I want to wear at home for various reasons. They may be more form-fitting than I like for comfort reasons, or they may be items that I worry about becoming covered in cat hair or easily being damaged by my kitties’ claws. It’s okay for me to have some tops like this in my closet, but I would ultimately like the numbers to be relatively small. I don’t worry so much about bottoms, dresses, and toppers because I don’t have nearly as many of those. Tops tend to be my problem area, so seeing so many hangers still turned outward for weather-appropriate garments in mid-February has given me pause.
By paying attention and shifting things around in my closet from time to time, I think I can gain the information I need without doing the more labor-intensive and time-consuming tracking I used to do. I’m going to try not tracking for at least this year and see how I feel. I can always go back to tracking wears if I miss that data and the information it provides. I really don’t think I will, though. I tracked wears for eight years and I think that’s more than enough (for me). Tracking should serve our needs and like everything else in life, when something no longer serves us, it’s okay (and often advisable) to let it go.
I see myself continuing to use the “hanger trick” long-term to keep me honest and realistic about what I’m actually wearing. Even my husband does this, unprovoked by me. And a beautiful thing about it is that we can start over anytime, not just at the beginning of the year. We can also move unworn items to the front of our closets to remind us to either wear them or let them go. We don’t have to wait until something hasn’t been worn for a full year in order to address it. We get to decide how often we want to wear what’s in our closets and what it means for something to be an “all-star” or a “benchwarmer.”
I’m also going to continue to track what I buy and I’m going to pay more attention to that type of tracking this year and moving forward. Although I don’t share what I purchase and how much I spend on my blog anymore (three years of that on Recovering Shopaholic was enough), I’m going to make sure to update that information for myself each month. Thus far, the only limitation I have set for myself is around how much I spend each year, which is ultimately the most important metric. I have thought about reinstating rules around how many items I buy, but I’m not sure how that fits into my “freedom” theme. However, there is definitely some truth in the adage that structure brings us freedom, so I’m going to give that more thought! I know I will be writing a lot about freedom as the year progresses, so stay tuned.
Now I’d like to hear from you on the subject of wardrobe tracking:
- Do you track your wardrobe? In what ways?
- How has tracking helped you in terms of your shopping and wardrobe management?
- If you used to track but don’t anymore, why did you stop?
- If you have never tracked your wardrobe, why not?
- What tips and suggestions do you have related to wardrobe tracking? (e.g. methods, apps, etc.)
The above questions are meant to trigger your thoughts, but feel free to comment however you’d like. I look forward to reading your input on this topic.
26 thoughts on “Why I’m No Longer Tracking What I Wear – and What I’m Doing Instead”
For years I’ve obsessively tracked my clothes, not only how many wears but what I’ve worn it with to avoid wearing things twice in the same way . I even made notes of the dates of when I wore it. Last month I made the decision to stop. I still track what I buy but only put a stroke next to it when I wear it. I don’t care if I wear the same thing the same way any more because really no one else cares either. It feels good to let it go! Glad you are feeling the freedom to do so too.
Good for you for letting go of the need to never wear things twice, Dianne! You’re right that other people don’t notice or care if we repeat our outfits. I used to care a lot about repeating, too, but that led me to buy too much and also took away some of my joy in wearing outfits that I loved. Here’s to more freedom in 2019 and beyond!
Not only is your husband smart, but it also sounds as if he’s very supportive:)
Your new/old tracking method is perfectly in line with your word for 2019. I’ll note my methods below and assess whether they’re in line with my word for 2019: Contentment
1. Spreadsheet tracker: For years, I’ve tracked purchases of most of my clothing and some accessories on a spreadsheet. I note the purchase date, cost, description, store or brand. After each wearing, I update it with the date worn, then move the row to the bottom of the spreadsheet, so the stuff I haven’t worn in a while (or ever) appears at the top.
Next to the purchase price is a column under which I tally wear value by adding $1 each time the item is worn. (For special occasions, I add $5.) At the end of the row is a percentage which never exceeds 100%. Example:
Purchased Item Cost Wear value Last date worn Brand %
9/28/16 Taupe MK coat $84.79 $60.00 2/7/19 MK 71%
At the bottom of the spreadsheet are totals of costs, wear values, and average percentage. With a glance, I can see my wear value is only at 30%
I will say this method is not hard to maintain which probably explains why I’ve done so.
2. Clothing and accessory Inventory: Late last year, I created an inventory of all my clothes and accessories by item.
Rose Sheath Purple-flowered Gray-Marled dress
3. Outfit ideas: Then I came up with a list of activities for which I dress, from lounging at home to attending a wedding or funeral, and assigned letters for those activities. Then I built potential outfits on paper. Every time I get ready to go somewhere I use that table to build an outfit from an item I haven’t worn in a while. Sometimes this leads to pitching that item. Sometimes it leads to a great new outfit out of existing clothing. After I’ve worn an outfit, I rate it on a scale of 1-10. It’s got to be 8 or better for me to wear it again outside the house. (Eventually, I may up that to 9.)
The creative side of me loves putting together outfits. I also love organizing information, so I suppose these steps bring me contentment. Best of all, with all these pages of outfit ideas, I’m going to have to love an item before I bring it into the fold. So far, in 2019, I’ve added nothing.
I can’t say I’d recommend these steps for everyone, but I think they work pretty well for me.
Thanks for sharing your tracking methodology, Jenn! I love the way you’re tracking wear value (great that you can easily see this information at a glance) and keeping track of outfit ideas. I’m more visual, so I like to keep pictures of my items and outfits. The item pictures will serve as my inventory moving forward now that I’m not tracking wears anymore. I used to take photos of all of my daily outfits, but I haven’t done that for a while now (I may get back to that soon or at least do some outfit creation sessions and photograph those ideas). I also kept an outfit journal for a few years and during my spring and fall 2018 challenges. I aim for “8”s and higher, too 🙂 I’m glad your tracking method is in line with your word for this year, “contentment,” and congrats on not adding any new items to your closet so far this year. It seems like 2019 is off to a great start for you, at least in terms of your wardrobe.
When I read about the tracking and about Projects 333 and 365, I did not know if my wardrobe would be considered small, med., or large, so I counted. Tracking–just in my little brain rather than on paper only and with my little wardrobe–I found I wear the dressier things too seldom. So with a few I have been wearing them on less than fancy occasions. Most beneficial for me was imagining any realistic activity or event I could have in my life in any city we travel to for family occasions in any season. I determined if I could attend and be decently dressed, esp. for my husband’s well-attired relatives! I added only a couple of things over the past decade or so for these stated reasons: dressier coat for cold (second-hand), turtleneck to wear under shorter sleeved top with black pants, light colored pants that are not khakis and can be used for semi-dressy times. It worked! Also, it was fun. It is nice to be prepared for almost anything,plus on some occasions one does not need the burden of having to find a black dress. For although I do not have a lot of clothes or money,I love these topics and exercises as I love your blog and your writing.
The main reason I downsized my large wardrobe a few years back is because too much of anything steals my freedom. Now with less clothes I’m finding it easy to mentally keep track of how often I wear certain items and be aware of the things that spend more time in my closet than on my body. Doing laundry also keeps me mindful as I notice that I’m washing, folding and putting away certain things frequently.
Even with my smaller wardrobe I still feel the amount of clothing I only wear when I leave the house is a bit more than necessary. But I’m ok with it because I love everything I have and don’t have much turn over (churn) in that area and know that I will probably wear much of what I have for the next four years unless something wears out first. For me, the thing I pay most attention to giving careful thought “before” buying or bringing anything into my closet. That’s where I place my biggest chunk of wardrobe management time. It took me years and many mishaps to get to where I am now because I simply did not have a solid grasp of how I wanted to dress myself. Debbie, thank you for the years you published Recovering Shopaholic. Your writings, your work and reader comments helped me get to where I am now.
Ditto with Terra on giving thanks to Recovering Shopaholic. After my last comment from your previous post, I had the urge to read the comments I wrote on your old blog, mainly to see how much or little I’ve progressed regarding my shopping addiction. As I was searching for them, I was astounded with all the work you had put into that blog, not that I didn’t know before but the impact is greater when you look through all the posts in a couple of sittings. Just wanted to give thanks for being around all these years, having a forum to express my thoughts with like minded people really helps to deal with moments of temptation! I realized after reading my comments how similar they all were and still are (except this one) and that I still have lots of work to do. So thank you Debbie, love reading your posts as always.
I’m astounded myself at how much work I put into Recovering Shopaholic, Wendy! When I look back, it actually kind of blows my mind… But what’s important is that my posts were helpful to you and others. I still have a lot of work to do, too, but we both have made more progress than we think. I have always enjoyed reading your comments and I DO see positive changes in what you’ve shared. I really want to go back and read all of my posts and the comments, but that will be quite the undertaking! I’m sure that doing so would help me to move forward, though, as well as give me new food for thought for future posts 🙂
Your first sentence really hit home with me, Terra. With “freedom” as my word for this year, I’m really giving a lot of thought to what is stealing my freedom and how I can get some of it back. We often don’t think about the “time cost” of our clothes. It’s not all about the finances… I have too much out and about clothing, too, especially since there are many days when I’m not out and about! Your point about placing the biggest chunk of your wardrobe management time on considering what to bring into your closet is a very good one. For years, I didn’t place hardly any attention there and I paid dearly for that. I’m glad that my musings on Recovering Shopaholic were helpful to you. I benefited a lot from the reader comments too – and yours were always among the best!
What’s project 365, Gail? I’ll have to look that one up! I think that with a smaller wardrobe, tracking in one’s head will often suffice. Most of us wear our dressier items less often, so it’s good that you have a very small but workable dressy capsule. I have very few dressy items and actually had to buy a dress and shoes for my brother’s wedding last year, but now I have those items on hand for future fancy occasions. You’re right that it’s helpful to be prepared for whatever events might come up, as it’s often stressful trying to find a dress or whatever else at late notice. I remember rushing around to try to find a holiday dress one year at late notice and that was no fun at all!
It’s actually 36/365–instead of 3 or 4 capsules of 33, you make one year-round one of 36 items. If you live in a place with extremes in weather, this might not be feasible, but layering does help. I don’t like the idea of not having everything in the closet together and the practice of adding each season, so36/365 makes sense to me.
Now THAT’s really a big challenge, Gail! I remember someone I knew online doing that after having done Project 333 for a couple of years. Somehow she managed to make it work even in a 4-season climate. I am in awe of people like her and you who make that work. I think a lot of people who do Project 333 have overlap among their capsules as the seasons progress. Yes, layering is very helpful in terms of maintaining a smaller wardrobe. I’m not the best with layering, but I also don’t live in a very cold climate…
I’ve always been a little intrigued by spreadsheet devotees…but I 100% vote for an app like Stylebook (or Cladwell, or whichever works for you)! I’ve been using it for more than two years, and it’s been life-changing. I know you already have all the images for your clothing, so there’s no time investment there to upload them…and it does all the stats you can possible imagine for you. I personally like planning my outfits in advance – I find it saves time – but even if I’m putting my outfit together on the fly, it’s easier to look at 5 shirts in an app and pick one than it is to pull 5 shirts out of the closet to see which works best. (Or sometimes I just get dressed add it later in the day while I’m spending 30 seconds waiting in line somewhere.)
But the big advantage is long term: I click on an item in the virtual closet, and it tells me how many times I’ve worn it and which days…also, it has a whole stat category where I can find out which are my most worn items, which are my least worn, which have the highest and lowest cost per wear, which colors, fabrics and sizes I wear the most, etc. I get that the spreadsheet may be what you’re used to, but apps do all the wok for you, so if the time and energy is the issue, it really doesn’t have to be. I spend maybe 30 seconds a day max using an app to figure out what I want to wear (which is time I would have spent standing in front of my closet anyway – actually, I would have spent a lot MORE time), and zero time compiling stats, and I still have all of the stats I could ever want at my fingertips 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Anyway – it’s maybe worth a try.
Thanks for weighing in about Stylebook, Rachel. I’ve heard a lot of good things about that app and am sad that it’s only available for Apple devices because mine are Android. Since I’m very visual and already have photos of my wardrobe items, it probably wouldn’t be too hard for me to start using such an app (if I can find a good one that works on my phone). Based on what you wrote here, I’m very intrigued! I especially like the idea of putting outfits together on the fly. If I didn’t have to spend a bunch of time compiling stats, I would probably be happy to still have them. I guess I should get with the 21st century at this point, huh? If you or anyone else has a good app recommendation for Android, maybe I will give it a try.
I’m still in the thick of figuring out my wardrobe – it has to be physically comfortable, reflect my style and fit the occasion. This is a slow process, because not only is it challenging to find garments that fulfill all three categories, but most of what I buy also requires some sort of alteration, so I have a fair number of items that aren’t currently being worn. I do track my purchases by date, source, item description, size and price; it only takes a few seconds at the time of purchase, since I buy almost everything on line and keep the information in a note on my iPad. The tracking is mostly to stay within budget, but I also enjoy looking back at what I bought a year ago to see how my wardrobe building is progressing. I don’t track my garments per wear- if I love it, I’ll wear it eventually, and if I don’t, it’ll meet its Marie Kondo fate, also eventually. Like Rachel, above, photographs of all but the newest items are in my Stylebook app, which I use to create outfits when I’m in the mood.
I hear you about the need for alterations, Terry. A lot of my clothes need some type of “tweaking,” too. I try to take them in as soon as possible so I can start wearing them, but I know it can be a hassle. It’s great that you track purchases immediately. I’m trying to do that, too, or at least update my list within a week or so. I like looking back at what I bought a year ago, too. I used to do purchase reviews on Recovering Shopaholic and always learned a lot through doing that (and sometimes what I learned was depressing…). Another ringing endorsement for Stylebook! It does sound like a great app with lots of helpful features. Maybe I will find something similar for my Android phone and give it a try at some point.
I don’t track anything. Basically I just look through all my clothes once or twice a year and donate anything I’m tired of or just don’t wear. As I’ve said before, clothing is not really my worst shopping problem, perfume is, but I have made the decision to stop buying more than 2 bottles a year: one for my birthday and one for the year end holidays. Those are the two times a year I most feel like buying, so I’m limiting it to that. I decided I have enough and it’s time to stop.
I want to instead focus on two things that have been getting short shrift during these perfume bingeing years: travel and home furnishings. I’m tired of being jealous of other peoples’ beautiful homes and not being able to buy nice furniture because all my money has been spent on other stuff. Same with travel. I want to take one memorable trip a year with my husband. The trips we have taken and memories we’ve created are much more valuable to me now than yet another thing to clutter up the house.
Good to hear from you, Tara, and good for you for making commitments to decrease your perfume shopping. I like that you’re still going to allow yourself to buy new perfume for your birthday and the holidays. I love your focus on what you’re going to invest in instead of perfume. That’s a very positive way of looking at things and you’ll be less likely to feel deprived when you’re saving for a memorable trip and for beautifying your home. I totally agree with you about memories being more valuable than things and increased travel with my husband is on my list of goals for 2019, too.
This is all fascinating to me, because even during my days of working full time and being socially active with an overly full wardrobe, it never occurred to me to track anything. I even put together spreadsheets for my husband (at his request) so he would know what shirts and ties to wear with which suits, but somehow I never applied my analytical mind to my own closet. I absolutely believe it would have had an impact on my impulse buying and overspending if I had done some sort of tracking.
However, I can imagine that if I ever did start tracking by wear or outfit or cost or other parameters it would easily turn into a huge, time-consuming hobby in and of itself. I could spend all day every day visually planning outfits if I had a dedicated app, in fact I did that a lot on Polyvore. I love organizing and planning things and unfortunately I tend to focus on that aspect to the detriment of actually accomplishing the things I’m planning. I don’t want to say how much time I spent putting my 2019 planner together instead of doing some job-related things I should have done. All that is just to say I suppose it’s best that I don’t get into a lot of outfit planning or cost-per-wear analysis, knowing my tendencies!
Fortunately, my wardrobe today is so limited that for most items, I can pretty much look at it and remember the last three times I wore it. Still, I love to do a little assessment and reorganization every now and then just to make sure everything fits my lifestyle (and fits me!). You’ll remember from your last post I had some frustrations with my at-home clothes and I have since reassigned some going-out tops to the at-home category. I have to keep reminding myself that dirty shirts from doggy paws and gardening are part of life, while clean shirts sitting in the closet waiting for a lunch date are not.
Wardrobe tracking can be a double-edged sword, Katrina. While it can increase our awareness and help us make better choices, it can also be very time-consuming and lead to TOO much focus on our clothes, which can make things more difficult for those of us who struggle with compulsive shopping. A lot of the reason why I stopped the daily wear tracking is because I want to decrease my focus on my wardrobe and increase my attention toward other things. I love to plan and organize, too, and I resonated with what you wrote that such activities can interfere with actually accomplishing things! I think your approach of doing assessment and reorganization from time to time makes good sense and that’s what I’m doing now, too (like with my seasonal wardrobe challenges). At-home clothing can be difficult because we often don’t want to dedicate the necessary funds (and attention) to it, but I have found that it’s paid off to put more focus there because I’m home a lot more often than I’m out. I still need to focus MORE on this area, but a little bit at a time!
I went to a “style uniform” almost 2 years ago but I have found that my 3 tops in the same size and color have held up over the last year but do look haggard.
I found that having a cream/ivory basic is very helpful in dressing. I could then change up the topper and add a scarf or necklace if hot.
I am really trying to limit my number of items in each category to 5 – my favorite 5 items.
As in – 5 print blouses, 5 sweaters, 5 pair of shoes – but this is for going out of the house.
(I do have 6 prs of the same jeans and 3 of the same top that I mentioned above.)
Two of my cashmere sweaters were finally pulled because I wore them so much that I didn’t like the way they looked anymore.
I added a pair of suede Hush Puppies ankle boots that I got at DSW in dark gray and a slightly dressier pair of ankle boots (Clarks) in brown suede with a zipper.
(I put Abeo orthotic inserts in everything.)
When I looked at my shoes, they were falling apart on the bottom so I passed them along.
Scarves are my weakness so I have a 1-in, 1-out policy on those but I have probably 25-30.
I want everything in my closet to be something that I love or need.
If I need it, I allow myself to buy 1 of the item until I find a piece that is higher on the love scale to serve my needs.
I am allowed to replace things that have worn out, etc but that doesn’t mean that I rush out to replace them.
I allow myself time.
If I have worn something almost constantly for 2 years, it will wear out and I will need to replace it…that is just part of this method.
On the other hand, it has freed up enormous amounts of time dressing and shopping so I have no complaints.
Thanks for sharing about your “uniforms” and your wardrobe management/shopping rules, Maggie. I always like reading about how others have approached these issues. I plan to write about uniforms soon, as I have been thinking a lot more about how having some tried and true uniforms can make getting dressed so much easier. I had uniforms in the past, but kind of got away from that approach and I’m seeing the value in swinging back around to that. I like your 5-item limit in various wardrobe categories. A friend of mine does that, too, and it has worked well for her. The number isn’t the same for all categories, but she’s come around to numbers that make the best sense for her. I think it would be fun for me to try that and am wondering which of my current wardrobe items I would choose! Sounds like you’re doing very well with your wardrobe and I love that you have freed up a lot more time for yourself.
Thanks Debbie! I am always inspired by you. I am happy to share what is working for me at this moment in time.. I went back to school and work part-time a year or 2 ago so I just wanted dressing to be “fast and easy” in the morning. (I keep 4 dresses – 2 casual and 2 dressy in another closet.) I don’t judge anyone’s wardrobe because I have had my share of shopping and fashion issues.
I like the suede booties because I don’t like stiff leather. It can be easier to pick out your favorites than try and pull out your least favorite items – at least for me.
Thanks for sharing what’s working for you, Margarita. It’s always nice to have dressing be fast and easy, especially when one just needs to get going with their day. I agree with you that it’s easier to pick out our favorites. Marie Kondo has her clients choose what to KEEP rather than what to get rid of, and that resonates with me. Part of why I like to do capsule wardrobe challenges is to better get in touch with what I like and what adds the biggest “bang” to my wardrobe. Best wishes to you with your schooling!
I’ve never even thought about tracking, but I will now. I have to alter everything to fit me so I buy anything and everything that looks promising and then end up with five years worth of jeans with the same cut or blazers that I never actually wear…I will try the hanger trick.
Also, I love your hair – I think that gray and white hair is absolutely stunning and it makes me so vitally happy to see women rocking it, especially long.
I have to alter most things, too, Lily. It can be a pain, but it’s worth it to have clothes that fit me perfectly (or close to it). The hanger trick has been very effective for me – and it’s very easy to do. I hope you gain some useful information from it! Thanks for your kind words about my hair. I love gray and white hair, too, and wish I had gone in that direction sooner. Look for another update from me on that topic later today 🙂
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