My Wardrobe, Myself

The intersection of clothing, emotions, and life

Years ago, I read an article that posed the following question, “If your house was on fire and you could only save half of your wardrobe, which items would you pick?”  Although the premise is somewhat morbid, the question is quite thought-provoking. Back when I was writing Recovering Shopaholic, I considered creating a challenge based upon this question, but I never quite got around to doing it. However, my mounting frustration with my burgeoning wardrobe brought this concept top of mind once again.

In today’s post, I introduce the start of what I’m terming the “Half Project.”  I explain why I decided to take it on, what I’m hoping to accomplish through this effort, and the rules that I will be following over the course of the challenge. The “Half Project” will last for one year and I will post periodic updates between now and its close on April 30, 2020.  As with my previous challenges, including Project 333 and LIWI, you’re welcome to join in – the more the merrier! I always love when others are doing the same challenge as I am, and I enjoy reading about what everyone is learning along the way.

less is more wardrobe

I’m doing the “Half Project” as part of my freedom theme for 2019. I want to do more with less! 

Why I Decided to Do the “Half Project”

Back in January, I shared that my theme for 2019 is “freedom.” There are many ways in which my life doesn’t feel free and I’m going to address as many of them as possible over the course of this year. It pains me to say that more than six years after I started writing about my struggles with my shopping and wardrobe, I continue to experience difficulties in these areas. In fact, I definitely have to admit that I have backslid since I stopped writing Recovering Shopaholic. While I’m not back to square one by any means in terms of how much I spend and own, my closet is too full and I’m feeling overwhelmed by my wardrobe.

Having too many clothes is getting in the way of my freedom. Not everything fits into my main closet, it’s not easy to figure out what to wear, and I feel a lot of guilt and remorse for having purchased too many items. My husband and I have gone to great lengths to pare down our belongings, but my wardrobe is a glaring exception to our minimalism success story. It feels “off” to have an overflowing wardrobe, especially when deep in my heart, I truly do want to live with less.

I also want my closet to consist only of items that I feel good in and look forward to wearing. I don’t want to keep less loved items around just because I bought them and would feel guilty about letting them go. This is counterproductive to my ultimate goal of freedom, which overrides all of these other concerns. I’m tired of feeling bad about my wardrobe and myself. Life is too short for self-flagellation, as well as wearing clothes that are fussy, uncomfortable, or not in line with the way we want to look and the image we desire to project.

You may wonder why I have once again fallen prey to over-shopping and accumulating an over-sized wardrobe, especially after all of the hard work (and over 400 blog posts!) I’ve done on this area of my life. I explained this situation pretty well back in December and I’m working hard on the underlying issues that have led to it. I have also adopted some practices that are helping me to better cope with my depression and anxiety, which are huge contributors to my compulsive shopping. I still need to be more consistent with these practices, but at least I’m moving in the right direction. Hopefully, by looking inward and devoting more attention to emotional and psychological factors, I will be able to avoid anxiety-related shopping better in the future, but I need to take some steps now to “stop the bleeding.” This is where the “Half Project” comes in…

What is the “Half Project”?

After remembering the morbid house fire question, I decided to re-frame it and apply it to my wardrobe in my thankfully still intact home. I wondered how easy it would be for me to live with just half of my clothes, so I thought, “Why not make a challenge out of it?” I always learn a lot from doing wardrobe challenges and they help to make the often tedious process of downsizing more interesting and fun. So I selected half of each wardrobe category in my closet to wear over the course of the next year. This isn’t just a short-term challenge, though. My objective is to ultimately cull down to a permanently much smaller wardrobe, so my hope is that by living with less for a year, I will solidify this practice as a habit.

wardrobe half project before and after

A smaller, more curated wardrobe is tidier and leads to a calmer state of mind and a stronger sense of freedom! 

While your categories may vary, here’s how I broke things down:


  • Blazers/Tailored Jackets/Vests (I lumped these all together, as I own very few of each)
  • Cardigans – Long (I have a lot of these, as they are my preferred topper type)
  • Cardigans – Short/Mid-length
  • Coats
  • Casual Jackets


  • Jeans
  • Cropped Pants
  • Full-Length Pants
  • Skirts
  • Dresses (included here because they serve as a bottom – and a top…)


  • Long-sleeved tops to wear with pants
  • Short-sleeved tops to wear with pants
  • Sleeveless tops to wear with pants
  • Tops to pair with skirts (shorter length, as I’m not a “tucker” – I don’t have many of these)

As has long been the case for me, I have far more tops and toppers than bottoms. In fact, in almost all categories of bottoms, I didn’t even select half to include in my active wardrobe, as I wanted to make sure that I have chosen only pieces that look and feel great. There’s room for improvement in my bottom pieces for sure, but the ones I have selected should carry me through this year fairly well.

I’m only including “out and about clothes” in this challenge, although I intend to ultimately pare down in other areas as well. The reason I’m not including shoes, accessories, lounge wear, and sleepwear in the “Half Project” is because I no longer have a problem with overbuying such items.

I have already pared down my jewelry such that it now fits into a 14” by 10” three-tier stacker (similar to what’s shown here), rather than the over-sized jewelry armoire that I used for years (pictured here). In terms of shoes, I maintain a collection of 20-25 pairs, which I feel is a reasonable number for me. I rarely buy new shoes and accessories these days and the storage I have for such items keeps my accumulation in check, as there is only room a limited number of pieces. At this point in my life, out and about clothing is my only area of over-shopping, which is why the challenge is primarily focused there.

The Rules of the Challenge

Of course, what is any good challenge without rules? So here are the 10 rules I’ve come up with to keep me honest as I navigate the “Half Project” – and also for you if you choose to play along:

  1. Pare each wardrobe category down to half its original size. If a category contains an odd number of items, you can keep the extra item for your active wardrobe (i.e. if you have 9 items in a category, you can select 5). Your categories can be the same as mine above, or they can be comprised of whatever makes the most sense to you. They can even be as simple as tops, toppers, and bottoms. If you feel that you have too many shoes and accessories, those items may also be included in the challenge, even though I’m opting to focus just on clothing.
  2. All new, unworn items must be included in the active wardrobe. If you don’t want to include such pieces in your selected half, they either need to be returned to the store or passed on via consignment or donation (if an unworn item doesn’t currently fit you and cannot be returned, see rule #4).
  3. Place the un-selected items into a “holding zone,” preferably stored elsewhere from your regular closet. If you are unable to relocate these items elsewhere, push them over to one side and separate them from your active wardrobe by a colorful or distinctive hanger.
  4. Items that don’t currently fit but that you still like can be stored away and revisited later. I have opted to limit this category of items to what will fit in a single plastic storage bin. Once that bin is full, I cannot hold on to anything else that’s too small (for some people, the issue may be that things are too big) unless I remove something else to make room. My goal is to either re-integrate these pieces into my main wardrobe by the end of the challenge or pass them along. I may keep a maximum of 10 items that don’t currently fit me after the end of the challenge.
  5. Once a month, you may swap out items from your “holding zone.” Whenever possible, these swaps should be “like for like” (i.e. a short-sleeved top for another short-sleeved top). However, since you may find that you need more of some item types than others, it’s okay to swap a piece out for something in a different category. But try to stay “in season” with swaps in order to keep things honest. For example, don’t swap out a sweater for a tank top in the summer unless you don’t think you’ll want to wear that sweater again once the cooler weather returns (in which case, it should be passed on).

    I originally limited the number of swaps to 5 items per month, but since rule #6 will manage “churn” within the challenge (items can only be swapped out once), I have updated this rule as of June 4th to allow for unlimited swaps. The objective of the challenge is to end up with the best possible HALF from one’s starting wardrobe. This may require more swaps since many of us aren’t sure which items work best, especially if we haven’t worn some pieces in a while. Sometimes things seem good at face value but are actually not, as I’m discovering several weeks into the challenge…
  6. An item can be swapped out only once (keep track of swaps). If you decide to swap an item out a second time, it will then need to be donated or consigned. The only exception is for size changes, in which case the item can be stored in the off-size box (which I call my “skinny box” because I was able to wear these things when I was thinner!).
  7. No shopping for the first two months of the challenge and then after that, no more than two new items (in the “out and about” category) per month. Take some time with the challenge to get a sense of what you may actually need, if anything. Since the objective is to end up with a smaller and more functional wardrobe, it’s important to keep purchases to a minimum. For many of us, the reason why our closets became so overloaded is that we shop too indiscriminately and buy far too much. The initial moratorium on purchases will allow us to focus more on what we have and to identify any wardrobe gaps that might exist. Also, if we limit the number of pieces we can buy, we’re likely to think harder about our purchases and ultimately make better choices.
  8. New purchases must be worn within two weeks of purchase or returned. If you opt to keep a new item, you will have to swap out something else in your active wardrobe in order to make room for it.
  9. At the end of the year, all holding zone items should either make their way back into the active wardrobe or get passed on for consignment or donation. I have decided that as a compromise, I can hold on to a maximum of 10 holding zone items after the challenge, as there are sometimes logical reasons why items don’t get worn (i.e. they’re formal pieces or they’re for occasions or weather that didn’t come around in a given year). Of course, you may select an alternate number to keep, or you can be ruthless and get rid of the lot!
  10. Items can be donated, consigned, or re-purposed at any time. By “re-purposed,” I mean that an “out and about” item can be designated for an alternate type of wear. As one example, an out and about top may be downgraded to lounge wear or sleepwear. It’s helpful to keep a running list of consigned/donated items, along with the reasons why they were passed along. This helps with identifying patterns of types of items that consistently don’t work out so that hopefully we won’t purchase such pieces in the future.

Closing Thoughts and Next Steps

Over the past couple of days, I have selected which items to include in my active wardrobe and I have moved everything else out of my main closet. In the process, I tried on a lot of things and decided to pass some of them along to new homes. I have separated out additional items that don’t currently fit well to be stored in my “skinny box” (which I keep in my garage so I don’t have to look at it and feel bad) for the time being.

Weight loss has been very challenging for me since I went through menopause three years ago, but I’m slowly making progress in that area. I’m still not sure what’s realistic for me in terms of a post-menopausal size that I can reach and maintain without severe restriction and obsession, but I want to figure this out before the end of the year. I may never be as slim as I was before “the change,” and my body shape and composition have also shifted, but I want to find a way to make peace with my body as it actually is. This is another piece of my “freedom” goal for 2019 – freedom from obsession about – and intense criticism of – my body.

In my next post, I’ll share what I’ve learned from the “Half Project” even in its infancy, and I’ll highlight some of the items I’ve chosen to pass on and why. I’m already noticing some patterns, both in terms of what I’m keeping and what I’m moving on, that I believe will help me to reach my goal of having a smaller and more functional wardrobe. The challenge is already helping me and it just started!

As I mentioned earlier, I’d love to have others join in on the “Half Project.” If you choose to do so, feel free to modify the rules to suit your personal needs. If you only overbuy or have an overabundance in certain wardrobe categories, you can opt to just focus there. You can also choose to do the challenge for a shorter – or longer – period of time or even pare down a smaller amount of items.

I’m open to questions about the challenge and suggestions for how to possibly improve upon it. If you’re doing a different challenge now or did one in the past that you found beneficial, feel free to chime in about that as well. There are many ways to cultivate a more workable wardrobe and different things work for different people. We can learn a lot from each other, too, so feel free to share.

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28 thoughts on “Could You Pare Down Your Wardrobe to Half Its Size?

  1. Michaela K says:

    Debbie, I’m so sorry you’re struggling with shopping and wardrobe issues, and very much empathize. I often feel as if it’s two steps forward three steps back for me despite several years working on wardrobe issues. This blogpost is quite timely for me as I was justing thinking it was time to pare down my wardrobe again. I think” half” might be a bigger goal that I can achieve, but “quarter” sounds reasonable. Thanks for the inspiration and good luck to you! I look forward to your updates.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      I know what you mean about two steps forward and three steps back, Michaela! Sometimes it’s the opposite, which is better, but it’s common to have peaks and valleys in our recovery. I’m glad this post was timely for you! Yes, half is probably too much for most people, but the challenge can definitely be customized for a person’s unique situation. It won’t even apply to some people at all, but sometimes it can be fun and informative to dress with less for a while in order to gain valuable lessons, a la Project 333 and similar challenges. They’re all good, in my opinion! Best wishes to you with your “quarter project” (or maybe it’s more like three-quarters since you would be dressing with that proportion of your wardrobe and storing the rest elsewhere).

  2. krissie says:

    Debbie, Ive just finished reading Dressing your Truth by carol tuttle. Its very good as it helps uou identify the type of clothes made for uour true energy personality. Youd have to take a look at it yourself to identify which one resonates with transcends looks or weight and other such factors. Its the first book ever that has helped me discover why I dont like half of the clothes I buy and have. I honestly recommend it if anything to just be an aid to see if it comes close to the uncover the truth behind your wardrobe choices. Carole is offering it for free at the moment on amazon kindle. Just thought I’d share in case anyone wants to give it a read. Nows uour chance. I found this on a youtube I watch, and downloaded the book yesterday. So just passing on the info.
    Im willing to give anything a go really as for the ladt few years have made some very silly and expensive choices, and spent too much, and still feel overwhelmed with nothing to wear

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      It’s so interesting that you mention Dressing Your Truth, Krissie, as I have just been revisiting this program in recent weeks! I first did the course back in 2012, I believe, but I never fully embraced it. I was directed to consider it again by a friend who I spent time with on my Nashville trip. I did the free course and ordered the style guide. I have also been reading a lot of articles and watching some videos on my type (Type 4 with I believe Secondary 2), but I haven’t read the book yet. Thank you for letting me know that it’s available for free at the moment! I downloaded it this morning and look forward to reading it. I will probably blog about DYT at some point, as I feel it’s already having a positive impact on me and the information in that program informed my “Half Project” choices. I’m glad DYT is helping you to better understand why you haven’t liked many of the clothes you’ve bought. As I look at my shopping mistakes, I’ve realized that many of them were in conflict with my type. It’s all very interesting, isn’t it? I wish you all the best on your journey and hope you will make far fewer shopping mistakes moving forward!

  3. Di Collins says:

    I look forward to seeing how your journey progresses. My wardrobe shrunk in size when I currently made a u turn style wise. But I’m very aware that overshopping for my new style is a danger. I need to take it slowly..I have already bought a few items and it would probably be wise to incorporate that 2 month waiting period to see if any needs arise. I love that you have decided to incorporate the swap out. I always found that helpful when I did my capsules. Can’t wait to hear your thoughts as you progress, good luck.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      I loved when you did your rolling capsule challenge, Di, and I appreciate that you wrote about it for my previous blog (for those reading who want to check it out, here’s the link: I was nervous to incorporate the 2-month shopping pause because I’ve often “binged” on buying before and after hiatus periods in the past, but I feel that it’s the right choice for me now and hope it will be easier under the framework of this challenge and the opportunity to swap things out. I wish you the best with navigating your new style! I will definitely update on my progress with the challenge on a regular basis 🙂

  4. Tara C says:

    I hear you on the backsliding. Last year was positively disastrous for me financially. Both of my dogs getting sick and dying set me off on a shopping binge worse than I’ve ever done. It will take me two years to recover. On the good side, since returning to our condo in Montreal last month, we have gone through a major overhaul of our space to minimize and clear out excess. We have hauled a dozen trash bags filled with clothes, plus half of my books, purses, shoes and pots/pans/kitchen stuff. I am still debating about a couple of things but in general I am very happy with the result. I’m down to one jewelry box and one perfume cabinet.

    The bigger challenge will be when we return to San Diego in October, when I will have to deal with my enormous shoe collection (I am guessing 200 pairs). Unlike you, I have far more pants than tops, so there will need to be a major purge in that category as well. I am dreading getting rid of my shoes as I just love them. But there are too many and it has to be done. I do feel better after getting rid of all that stuff.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      I can only imagine how difficult it must have been to lose both dogs so close together, Tara. It’s totally understandable that you would experience a relapse after something so traumatic. I’m glad that you have a “good side” to report in terms of clearing out the excess in your Montreal condo. It sounds like you made amazing progress there! Good for you for paring down your jewelry and perfume collections along with everything else. Good luck with navigating your shoe collection. Perhaps a “half project” might work there so you can get a better sense of which shoes you truly like most? I have met other women who have more pants than tops, too. I guess it’s all about what’s easier in terms of fit. Pants are challenging for me with my height and shape, so I don’t find enough good ones to accumulate much of an overage. But I definitely make up for that with my tops! I wish you the best with your continued pare down efforts and hope you will report back on how it goes for you.

  5. yettie says:

    I feel you on the challenge of wardrobe management when the underlying factors are more emotional/psychological. It’s a struggle a lot of us can relate to Debbie, you’re not alone in this. I look forward to seeing how your project shapes out. I actually went the other extreme to try and build up my wardrobe this year so I’d get my favorite items to be used less and last longer.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      We all have different challenges with our wardrobes, Yettie. It sounds like you may be what Gretchen Rubin calls an “Underbuyer,” so your challenge is in buying more. Good for you for recognizing that and taking steps to make changes. I think there are a lot of emotional/psychological issues when it comes to shopping (I wrote about many of them on my previous blog, including in this early post:, and people who don’t possess those issues think that it’s as easy as “You just…” I have been successful in paring down and shopping less on multiple occasions in the past, but until I really address the underlying issues, I’m prone to relapse. That’s a lot of what this blog is about, the “full life” part of the equation, although I do still cover wardrobe-related issues here as well.

  6. jenn says:


    Just like you, I’ve struggled with over-shopping and attribute it to some underlying anxiety and insecurities which likely stem from childhood. I think I also have some issues with perfectionism and self-doubt tend to cause me to numb myself with shopping.

    As for the idea of paring your wardrobe down to half its size? I love it.

    My out-and-about clothes are my stumbling block as well. Ironic, since I’m quite introverted and often enjoy NOT being out-and-about.

    In 2019, I’ve been using different methods of paring down. I’m making myself wear all my clothes (except special occasion) and putting them back in the closet in the order of how I feel about them, ranging from love to barely tolerable—and eliminating several. I’m also keeping track of what goes in and what comes out to make sure that overall, I’m making good progress (verified by empty hangers!). But, as I read your blog, I pictured items that most definitely would NOT go in my pared-down half. So, I’m going to try this idea. I’ll start with separating the stuff that will definitely be in my pared-down half from the stuff that definitely won’t be. Then I’ll tackle the rest. (That’ll be the hardest part.) I don’t think I’m going to do it by item, but by total. And I’m not sure what I’ll do about shoes.

    What do you do about cami’s and tanks that are used for layering purposes only? Do you count them? Or are half of them in your pared-down half and the rest stored elsewhere? Oh, and one more question: Does going to the grocery store count as out-and-about? I dress pretty crappy when I go to the store!

    I appreciate your posts so much, including the ones on dealing with anxiety. Though I did not comment, I feel I benefited from them as well. Thank you, Debbie, for being brave enough to share yourself with us.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      I think we have a lot in common, Jenn. I have similar issues with perfectionism and self-doubt that contribute to my over-shopping. Interestingly, I also enjoy NOT being out and about and I spend the bulk of my time at home, so WHY so many out and about clothes?! Thanks for sharing your recent ways of paring down. So, let me make sure I understand correctly… You organize your clothes by most to least favorite after you wear them? That’s a genius way of doing things, but I’m not sure my OCD self could handle having item types all mixed up like that (or do you do this by category?).

      Yes, the middle area of clothes are the hardest to deal with! As I will share in my next post, I was able to get rid of a decent number of items just by getting ready for my “Half Project,” but the items that are still in the “holding zone” will be the most challenging to address. I thought of doing this by total rather than by category, too, but I decided to START by choosing half by category. After I do swaps along the way, it’s likely that my categories will be different sizes than what I started out with. Either way, the objective is to have LESS at the end of the project, so I think we will both succeed in that regard. We can compare notes along the way.

      To answer your questions, I don’t use a lot of layering pieces. Well, that’s not totally true… I DO layer, but the way I’m counting this is that if I sometimes wear the item without something over it, it counts. If an item is ONLY worn under something else, then it’s like an undergarment. But as I said, I don’t have many of those, probably because I live in a temperate climate. In regards to going to the grocery store, I often do that in my workout clothes, either before or after going to the gym or because I don’t feel like putting on better clothes. In Project 333, Courtney says to count anything you wear out of the house unless it’s to work out. I’m not quite as strict with things. I try to wear my nicer clothes when I go out except when it’s to the gym or to go on a walk, but I don’t do this 100% of the time. Since my workout wear is not a problem area for me, I’m not counting it, although I DID pull some of it out and put it in the holding zone to see if I miss it. If you have a lot of the “crappy stuff,” it might be a good idea to count it and pare it down. It’s up to you, of course…

      I’m glad you benefitted from my anxiety posts. I’m sure I will write about that topic again. Those posts were hard for me to write, but I know that not many people are writing about those issues, so I want to shed some light on subjects that we often keep inside. I have long struggled with depression, anxiety, OCD, eating disorders, low self-esteem, and perfectionism (and I’m sure other things I didn’t think to name right now). I guess in my old(er) age, I’m getting braver to talk (write) about these things. If I can help others to feel less alone, that’s a positive thing and it’s well worth braving my personal discomfort to shed more light on things that millions of people struggle with privately.

      1. Jayne says:

        You are helping a lot of people Debbie with your posts. Hugely. And thanks. (I am struggling again with over buying and wasting money and it’s due to many of the same things you mention.)

        1. Debbie Roes says:

          Thank you so much for your kind words, Jayne. I’m sorry to learn that you are struggling a lot with over-buying at present. There can be a lot of ups and downs on the path to recovery. Try to be gentle with yourself, as beating ourselves up for our setbacks often leads to MORE setbacks. Take it one day at a time and celebrate and learn from the good days. We can always regroup and start again, as I am doing now.

      2. jenn says:

        I too think we have a great deal in common, Debbie.

        Yes, I have been organizing the things I’ve worn this year by most to least favorite. And also yes, my (undiagnosed) OCD self cringes at the randomness of the mix. Typically, I organize my clothing by type and color, but it has been helpful to actually SEE what I love: Soft colors in fabrics that move (type 2 DYT tipping toward 4).

        It makes sense to me how you handle your layering and layer able pieces. (I live in Michigan, so layers are often essential.) I work out at home, so the only non-relatives who see my workout wear are neighbors who may chat with me at the mailbox:)

        1. Debbie Roes says:

          Thanks for explaining your process further, Jenn. I admire you all the more for doing things as you are in light of your also being challenged by OCD (diagnosed or not). I haven’t done what you’re doing, but since I have photos of all of my clothes, I have put my favorites into a folder before and it was easy to see what many of the have in common. I’m diving into DYT a lot now and I’m finding it very helpful (I’m a 4 but still trying to figure out my secondary type). I can see why you would need a lot more layering pieces in Michigan than in Southern California! I have yet to visit your state, but I know it gets cold there…

  7. Linda Langelier says:

    “Could you pare your wardrobe down to half” is a fascinating challenge! I thought I’d chip in with my experience. I’m one of many thousands who lost everything in one of various California wildfires over the past few years. I had a narrow escape, and was able to get out with my cats, purse, phone, car, and the clothes on my back. The experience was horrific and losing everything is hard. A friend of mine lost his life. There are so many levels to this kind of experience; each one of us who went through something similar has a different story.

    After the fire, I spent several months running on adrenaline, in some kind of sustained shock mode. Over time I have gradually settled down, bought a new home and have been furnishing it and my wardrobe since then. But I’ll never forget one thing I felt after the fire: amid all the loss and grief, I unexpectedly felt so light and free! But for the cats, I could have picked up and gone anywhere. I loved that feeling.

    As I began to accumulate things again, each purchase made me feel a bit “heavy.” One more thing to account for, take care of. It was an odd realization. The empty open space of my new home was so enjoyable that I almost resented needing to get furniture. I’m fairly judicious about what comes in now. Still make mistakes, some of my purchases don’t turn out to be quite the thing. If so, out it goes, more or less. I don’t want or need a lot of stuff again. Little things still bring joy: several months after the fire, I was digging around in my purse and found one of my favorite pair of earrings. I felt so rich!

    Last summer we were under advisory evacuation for yet another wildfire. Most of my newly-purchased clothes (well, the ones I seem to care about keeping) fit into one suitcase. If I lost everything again, it would not be a big deal. For me, at least, possessions don’t have the same importance as before.

    I wish you luck with this new challenge and I’ll enjoy following along. Your columns have always been interesting and insightful. Maybe you, too, will experience a marvelous sense of lightness by culling down your wardrobe.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Thank you so much for sharing your story, Linda. I’m glad you and your cats were able to make it out of the fire alive and well, but I’m so sorry about the loss of your friend. Stories like yours put so much into perspective about what’s really important in life. So many of us fret a lot about our wardrobes, but when it comes down to a life or death issue, the clothes don’t matter so much at all. It sounds like you’ve learned a lot from going through the loss of your home and are a stronger person for it – and with clarified values.

      You gave me a lot to think about with what you wrote. I didn’t realize until lately that my over-sized wardrobe DOES lead to a feeling of heaviness that I don’t want to feel. When I have traveled, I have definitely felt lighter only having the items in my suitcase to choose from. Even when I’ve had trips extended unexpectedly, I was just fine with the smaller wardrobe and I was happy with what I was wearing (because I had packed my favorites). I’m excited to take on this challenge because I think I just got to the point where I thought, “Enough!” I’m ready to feel more freedom with my wardrobe! I’m happy for you for the lightness you now feel regarding your possessions. What a wonderful outcome from a very difficult experience. I sincerely hope there will be no more advisory evacuations in your future!

      1. RoseAG says:

        That’s interesting that you mention taking a trip/packing a suitcase. Some of my happiest wardrobe experiences have been when I’ve had just a suitcase full of clothes. If I’ve taken the time to choose properly I end up in a creative space that makes me very satisfied with myself.

        1. Debbie Roes says:

          Yes, Rose, having a smaller number of items from which to choose can spur on creativity. That’s one of the benefits of challenges like Project 333, but it also applies to when we travel. I used to pack new items or “benchwarmers” to wear when I traveled, but I discovered that was a risky practice. Now I only pack my favorites and I’m much happier as a result. But that makes me think that I would also be happier with fewer items overall…

  8. Katrina says:

    This is a very interesting challenge! I wonder how I would have fared with it back in my days of overflowing closets. It probably would have been an extremely useful exercise. Up until a few weeks ago. I was down to what I consider the perfect balance, a number of clothes that doesn’t take up too much space in the closet, but gives me enough variety so I don’t feel deprived.

    I am now facing a completely different challenge that’s pushing me in the direction of more clothes, rather than less! I’ve started working part time, and it is in a formal office, so my casual work at home wardrobe is not appropriate. I think I can do it with 2 suits + 4 blouses although I might have to add as we move into the 110 – 115 temps in the summer. My goal is to keep it to a minimum though as these are not the type of clothes I aspire to fill my closet with. My history with work>>anxiety>>shopping is well documented, so we’ll see how well I stick to that goal!

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Congrats on your new part-time job, Katrina! I hope it will be a positive change for you, even though the work wardrobe piece is stressful for you at present. Wow, you live in a very hot place! I think it’s wise to start with a smaller work wardrobe like what you mentioned, as you can always add more later if you find that it’s necessary. I don’t love business clothes, either, mostly because they are hard for me to fit and I often find the stiff and stuffy. But I remember finding items I liked back when I had to dress that way; it just took a bit longer… Bridgette Raes ( has done a lot of blog posts about work wear, so you might find some guidance on her site. You might also want to check out Wardrobe Oxygen’s capsule wardrobe posts: I wish you the best of luck with your new job and I hope it doesn’t lead to anxiety and increased shopping as you fear. It’s always hard to start a new job, but hopefully this one will go smoothly and bring more happiness than angst.

  9. Catherine Graham says:

    Debbie, my heart hurt a bit when you expressed your self-disappointment about your ongoing challenges. I, too, have fallen prey to my overspending habits of late as life got complicated for my family and my son’s medical issues continued unabated. (There is nothing like stopping by the shops to temporarily forget my life challenges.) But let’s get real for a minute…your previous blog was called “Recovering Shopoholic,” for a reason. We are RECOVERING, not cured and, in my view, will always be challenged in this area. You’re an awesome role model for so many, and I deeply appreciate your candor and vulnerability.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      I’m sorry to hear about your son’s medical issues, Catherine. It’s not surprising that you’ve had some issues with overspending in light of such a difficult situation. Yes, shopping can bring us some temporary relief from life’s troubles, but our woes always come rushing back to us… You’re totally right about our being RECOVERING instead of “cured.” I have to remind myself of this truth when I get down on myself. Yes, I am disappointed that I let my wardrobe get too large again, but I can’t change the past and can only look forward. I hope that reading about my “Half Project” will be useful for others. I appreciate your kind words about my writing and I wish you and your family the best. I hope you will find answers to your son’s health challenges.

  10. Lori says:

    Debbie, this is a very timely post for me. I successfully “KonMari’d” my whole house back in 2015 and have been doing really well not refilling the space with things I don’t love or use., EXCEPT when it comes to my wardrobe. Like you, I went through menopause two years ago and recently had a severe ankle injury so I put on quite a bit of weight. Desperate to fit into some clothes, I ended up purchasing way too many items of clothing. I feel like a failure. I am going to try your challenge in spirit by picking out half of all my categories of clothing. I don’t think I can follow all the rules and don’t want to disappoint myself again! I sure wish I could get at the root of why I do this. I tried DYT and ended up being a 4/3. Maybe it is just that “perfecting” nature that I have that causes me to be dissatisfied with nearly everything I put on. I look forward to reading about your challenge. Please don’t be too hard on yourself if it doesn’t go quite as planned, but let’s hope for the best.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      It sounds like we have some parallel experiences and challenges, Lori. I always found it interesting that Marie Kondo recommends “KonMari’ing” clothing first because it’s easier. She obviously hasn’t met some of us! I’m sorry that you have also been struggling with menopause and had that already tough situation compounded by your ankle injury. I also panicked when clothes weren’t fitting me and I bought FAR too much and made some not so great choices. I feel like a failure, too, but I can’t go back and change what has already happened. I feel like I’m better understanding WHY I shop too much, but those insights don’t always lead to behavior changes. I’m afraid of disappointing myself, too, but I have to try to turn things around. I’m going to do my best to stick to my rules, but I will be honest through the time frame of my challenge. I know that I will learn a lot from it and make great progress even if I’m not 100% on target with everything. I think that you can benefit even if you just do the challenge “in spirit.” I did that a few times with Project 333 (just picked out my capsules) and I still learned some valuable insights. Good luck to you!

  11. Jeri B. says:

    Dear Debbie,

    I’m on the verge of starting my paring down. I’ve never counted my clothes! Or shoes, or belts or jewelry. I haven’t photographed much of them. I’ll have to delve into the rules more, understanding that your rules are your ideas to be reflected on.
    Your categories are not the same as mine, mostly due to geographic differences and to a lesser degree because I’m retired. Last year I gave up suits and other business clothes, dresses, skirts, blazers and so on. I never got as far as a thorough sort of all my tops. I primarily wear long sleeve items as a way to prevent skin cancer. I usually wear pants or jeans, but I do wear some skirts.
    I see my top categories being knit, woven and fancy. The short sleeves may end up with the long sleeves. I believe I own three sleeveless tops! Then season would be considered: winter, summer, year- round.
    Toppers are a category of their own. This includes Blazers/Tailored Jackets, Cardigans – Long and Cardigans – Short/Mid-length. For me vests are their own little group.
    Pants and shoes will be the other categories I take on. Jewelry needs doing as well. One category at a time.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Hi Jeri, I just saw your comment today. For some reason, it was in the spam folder – sorry about that! Sounds like you’ve given some good thought to how you plan to pare things down in your wardrobe. If you do opt to do the “half project,” by all means modify the rules and the categories to best suit your needs. I just shared what I’m doing as an example and a starting point. I don’t wear suits or business clothes, either, and haven’t for years, but it does seem like we have some differences in our wardrobes (as most people do). I like your categories of tops being knit, woven, and fancy. I can see how that might be useful, but most of my tops would fall under the knit category… I agree that one category at a time can be a good way to pare down, especially if you’re not going to do a challenge like the half project. There are many ways to approach cultivating a workable wardrobe. Please report back on your process and how it’s going for you.

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