I have been doing my “half project” for just over a month now and I’m so glad I decided to take on this challenge! It has already helped me to pare down my wardrobe, become happier with my outfits, and better understand what I do and don’t wear and need. In today’s post, I’ll give you an update on how things have gone for me during the first month of the challenge and what I have learned thus far.
What I’ve Noticed So Far
One of the first things I noticed was how much happier I felt with the size of my “active wardrobe,” which is just half of what I started out with before beginning my “half project.” Previously, my main closet felt overly crowded and it was difficult for me to see what I had and to select what to wear. My favorites were in there, but there were also a lot of less loved pieces occupying much of the space surrounding them. After making my challenge selections and relocating everything else elsewhere (to my “holding zone” and my “skinny box”), there was a lot more breathing room in my closet and I could better see what I have.
I found myself feeling confident that a wardrobe of that size – or even smaller – would be more than sufficient for me, provided that it consisted of the right pieces. Of course, that’s what my “half project” is all about: curating a smaller and more workable wardrobe. I’m glad that I gave myself a whole year to accomplish this goal, as it’s going to take some time to figure out what’s working, what isn’t, and what new pieces might fill in the gaps.
As I got dressed during the first month of the challenge, I took note of what I reached for and also went back to keeping an outfit journal, which is helping me to formulate and keep track of my thoughts about what I’m wearing. I kept an outfit journal for about two years beginning in 2014 and found it beneficial in terms of improving my personal style. It also helped me to make better choices when shopping, but since I continued to buy too much and be motivated more by anxiety than necessity, mistakes were still far too prevalent. My hope is that this time around, I will do better because I’m limiting my shopping and have the goal of reducing my wardrobe size by half.
Hitting Rock Bottom and What’s Helping Me Improve
I feel that I hit a sort of “rock bottom” with my wardrobe this year (even though there’s a lot less in there than there used to be) and I just don’t want to keep making the same mistakes over and over again. I have made powerful changes along the way since I started Recovering Shopaholic in 2013, but I’ve also experienced a lot of ups and downs in the past few years, especially in light of going through menopause and undergoing a rough gray hair transition. With the work I’ve done on myself in recent months and the awareness I’ve gained, I’m now in a better place to actually get to where I want to be with my shopping, wardrobe, and style. My “freedom” theme is helping to guide the way, as is my commitment to minimalism and intentional living.
The Dressing Your Truth program has also been very influential in helping me to understand why so many of my purchases haven’t worked out, and it’s also providing a touchstone for the way I’d like to dress and how I’d like to feel about my wardrobe and myself. I realize that virtually all of my favorite pieces and outfits are in line with my DYT primary and secondary types (Type 4 and Secondary 2 – find out your primary type via this quiz or check out the 4 energy types comparison chart). It will be a gradual process to get to the point where my entire wardrobe is true to my type, but it’s a worthy goal to work towards and I know my “half project” will help me to get there.
What I Swapped Out in June
As I mentioned in my rules for the challenge (in this post), I can swap items out once a month, but I can swap out a particular item only once. If I decide to swap something out a second time, it will need to be donated or consigned. I was originally going to limit my swaps to just five items per month, but since I have a cap on how many times an item can be swapped out as well as a limit on how many new pieces I can purchase (only two “out and about” items per month following a two-month shopping pause), I have amended that rule to allow for unlimited swaps.
Since the objective of the challenge is to end up with the best possible half from my starting wardrobe (as well as a small number of strategic purchases along the way), the end result is far more important to me than how I get there. Reaching that objective may require more swaps than I initially anticipated since I’m not sure which items work best for me, especially if I haven’t worn them for a while. Sometimes things seem good at face value but actually aren’t, as I discovered a few weeks into the challenge.
All that said, I opted to swap out 11 items this month, as shown below:
Here’s why I decided to swap out these items and where they are now:
- Berry sweater tunic: I love the color, but I’m not sure about the style. I haven’t been into tunics lately, although I did like them a lot a couple of years ago. I’m also not a fan of boat necklines, as I prefer crew, scoop, or V-neck styles. Since I had never worn the sweater after having it in my closet for many months and because we’re moving into summer now, I sent it on to a new home.
- Black knit coat with ruffle neckline: This coat looks great on the model, but I’m not feeling it on me. It’s also a bit too small to button up fully and the neckline seems fussy. I bought it at an end of season sale in January and have only worn it once. I think I may have been wearing “sales goggles” when I bought it. It’s in the holding zone now and I will revisit it again in the fall.
- Black cardigan/tunic: I bought this as a nightshirt last year, but decided that it was too long. I thought I might wear it as a cardigan or tunic instead, but that never happened. I decided to pass it on this month.
- Black waffle top with patterned sleeves: I usually love waffle tops for cooler weather, but I have rarely worn this one. I think it may be the tan sleeves and the curved hem that are stopping me from reaching for it, but I’m keeping it in the holding zone and will revisit it in the fall.
- Black short-sleeved tee: This tee has always been somewhat too big for me and thus it doesn’t stay in place. I have other black tees that I like better, so I took this one to a local consignment store.
- Black cardigan with white trim: I bought this on my April Nashville trip, but hadn’t worn it. Fortunately, the retailer has a location near where I live, so I was able to return it last week.
- Black long crepe cardigan: I like the look of this cardigan but not the feel. The fabric is kind of scratchy and it’s not as comfortable as other black toppers in my closet. It’s currently in my holding zone, but I may opt to consign it at some point.
- Black sequined tank: I tried to wear this for the first time last week (I bought it at a consignment store last fall), but it felt too tight and flashy. Since I don’t see myself wanting to wear it even if it fit me well, I decided to re-consign it rather than store it in my “skinny box.”
- Black and white striped tunic: This top is from a few years ago and I’ve worn it a handful of times, but I didn’t love the boat neckline and curved hem when I put it on recently. As longtime readers know, I have a lot of striped pieces, so I opted to pass this one on.
- Black and white striped tee: This tee has been worn many times and isn’t holding its shape well anymore, so I downgraded it for at home wear only.
- Gray sweater with navy designs: This was also a Nashville purchase that I tried on based upon a friend’s recommendation. I thought I liked it, but when I put it on again recently, I felt like it washed me out. It was purchased at the same store as the black cardigan with white trim, so I was able to return both items for a refund.
As a recap, I returned two of the above items, consigned/donated another five, and downgraded one for at home use. The remaining three items are in my holding zone and will be re-evaluated later in the challenge.
What I Swapped In
Because I swapped eleven items out of my active wardrobe, I was able to replace them with eleven pieces from my holding zone. As per the rules of the challenge, I’m going to try to replace like with like (i.e. a long-sleeved top for another long-sleeved top) as much as possible. As the challenge progresses, I probably won’t always swap in the same types of items as I remove because I’ll likely discover that I need more in some categories than others. However, this time around, I did swap in pieces from the same garment categories as what I swapped out.
Here are the items I swapped into my active wardrobe this month:
I won’t go through these items one by one, but I’ll highlight some of the features that I believe make them a better fit as part of my overall wardrobe. The styles are more in line with what I usually like to wear. They’re all knits and are mostly quite comfortable in terms of their fabrication. They’re also primarily saturated colors, including black, blue, and green. Four of them are striped, four are solids, and the others include prints that are to my liking. The necklines on the tops are all scoop, crew, or V-neck styles rather than boat necks, and the hems are mostly straight (one is curved, but the fabric is a bit firmer and it stays in place better).
The reason I didn’t include the above items in my active wardrobe in the first place is because I had a rule that all unworn items needed to either be selected or purged. I wasn’t ready to purge some of my newer items, so I included them among my initial selections. I then ran out of room to include the above pieces and didn’t necessarily consider them to be favorites. We’ll see if I was right or wrong in that assessment as I get dressed in the coming months.
Items I Purged During the First Month of the Challenge
I mentioned above that I purged five of the items that were swapped out of my active wardrobe, but that wasn’t all I opted to pass on. I decided to take a second pass through my holding zone and my skinny box in addition to what was in my main closet. Doing this led me to find quite a few other items to consign or donate, including some of my at-home clothing. In all, I ended up letting go of 23 items:
- 3 toppers
- 13 “out and about” tops
- 4 at-home/workout tops
- 1 dress
- 2 pairs of workout pants
Here’s a picture of the items I purged after the first month of the “Half Project”:
I’m keeping track of my reasons for letting go of anything I decide to pass on. In the interest of not having this post become even longer than it already is, I’m not going to list out each individual item. However, I did notice some themes in terms of the common elements among the pieces I decided to let go:
- Curved hems (I prefer a straight hem)
- Poor fit (I’m extremely particular about the fit of my clothing)
- Unflattering colors (especially pale tones)
- Uncomfortable fabric (too stiff or scratchy)
- Too flimsy and/or fussy
- Too short (sleeves, overall length) or too long (usually overall length)
- Too much going on (I like simpler and cleaner styles)
Too Much Time, Attention, and Energy
I’m happy that I’m getting rid of items that don’t work for me and decreasing the overall size of my wardrobe. I’m also glad that I decided to do a shopping pause for “out and about” items in order to better understand what I actually need and what will make the biggest difference for me. I want to stop the wardrobe churn and decrease my shopping mistakes. I have tried to moderate my shopping for years, but I haven’t always been successful in that effort. I’ve recently struggled with buying too much again, so I needed to institute the pause and set some limits for myself. I have actually felt relieved that I wasn’t able to shop for out and about clothing items this past month. I didn’t even realize how much I had gone off the rails until I decided to start the “half project.”
One thing that I’ve really become present to is the amount of time, attention, and energy I devote to my wardrobe. It takes me a tremendous amount of time to consider what to buy, make purchases, do returns, get alterations done, etc. I would rather dedicate that time to other pursuits that will ultimately bring more fulfillment to my life. All too often, my wardrobe is a source of stress and anxiety rather than a source of joy. I feel a lot of guilt about the shopping mistakes I’ve made. It doesn’t feel good to donate or consign items that have been worn rarely, if at all. I would rather donate money to worthy charities (which I do, but I could do more…) than donate clothing that may or may not enrich someone’s life. I used to believe that all of my cast-offs would get a second life, but I now know that isn’t always the case because the secondhand market is overloaded in this country (and many other countries).
On Minimalism, a Glaring Exception, and a Model Example
Minimalism has brought peace to my life in many ways. I enjoy looking around my home and seeing space where clutter used to be. My closet is a glaring exception to this that I have ignored for far too long because I just didn’t want to face the truth. Shopping and clothing have been my compulsion, my distraction, my stress reliever, and my security blanket for many, many years. I’m tired of it. It’s not fulfilling and it’s actually making my life worse in more ways than I realized.
An online friend moved to San Diego late last year and I had the occasion to see her closet awhile back. I was impressed with how streamlined and curated her wardrobe was. This woman dresses very well and I would have guessed that her wardrobe was a lot larger than it actually is. I felt a sense of peace and calm when I looked into her closet. Everything looked like it belonged together and what she has is more than enough for her to wear for her lifestyle, which is very much like mine (work from home, casual outings, etc.). A wardrobe like hers is my goal and I actually believe I can get there now. It will take some hard work and discipline, but it’s doable, even for a longtime shopaholic like me. I’m still recovering and I’m bound to face some hiccups along the way, but the “half project” is definitely helping me to take steps in the right direction and I’m grateful that I came up with it.
Conclusion and Your Thoughts
I hope my musings have been helpful for you in some way. I don’t know how many of you are also doing the half project, but if you are, I’d love for you to share how it’s going for you. I also welcome your input on what has helped you to curate your wardrobe and shop smarter. If you’re still struggling and would like to set some goals and have accountability, I welcome your doing so in this forum. I will be posting regular updates on my half project and you can chime in and share how you’re doing with your own goals. This is a supportive community and if you have questions or are experiencing challenges, we’re here to help and support each other.
20 thoughts on ““Half Project” June Update”
Sounds like you’re doing great! I did a big purge 2 months ago of my Montreal stuff, but I’m getting ready to do another pass this month, now that I’ve had time to think more about how I want my wardrobe to look and what I’ve been wearing. I’d like to eliminate another 20% at least. As I mentioned last time, I’ve decided on very minimal dressup clothes and mostly casual cottons, which is what I love. The problem is I have too many pieces of my best loved things (jeans, tshirts, sweatshirts). So that’s where I need to concentrate my efforts. It’s going to be hard, because I have difficulty giving up things that are in good condition and I like. I already got rid of the easy stuff.
Sounds like you’re doing well, too, Tara. I find that I need to do my closet purges in stages – or layers – as well, as it can take some time and space for me to understand if something is worth holding onto or not. That’s why I came up with this challenge. I figure that if I limit my buying and gradually peel away the excess (or even the least favorite items), I will get to where I want to be within a year’s time, if not less. Good luck with your second pass-through of your Montreal closet. I know it’s harder as time goes on. I suspect my July pass-through will yield fewer purges than this June one.
Hi Debbie, I hope the green & black and teal tops work for you, as I love those colours and believe they could suit you as well as blue or burgundy and add variety (novelty).
I’m in a place where I couldn’t joign in the challenge as I’ve massively downsized my closet, so I do wear everything. My challenge is to stop the churn. As I’ve put on weight (two sizes, mainly in the tummy area), one strategy has been to buy clothes that I could still wear (as is or slightly altered) if I lost the weight : trousers/pants and skirts with belt loops, wide paper bag trousers, buttoned skirt, open front blazers and cardigans. I’m thinking another good, but tougher strategy to reduce the churn would be to do precisely what you wrote about in one of your non-wardrobe posts : finding novelty elsewhere. I’ve been slowly making my routine less boring by shopping for groceries at new places, seeing more of my friends (rather than just speaking on the phone^^). I still have a long way to go to feel free as in ‘my life is the one I have chosen’, but the psychologist and your posts are helping A LOT and I am feeling optimistic. Thank you for this!
I love some shades of green, too, Sam. I actually used to have more green in my wardrobe, but haven’t brought many such shades in recently. Good for you for massively downsizing your closet! It’s a good thing not to need to join in on this challenge. Stopping the churn can be difficult, but your strategy for managing dressing after weight gain sounds like a good one. I definitely think that cultivating novelty in non-clothing related ways will help us in the long run. You seem to be off to a great start with that – starting small often yields the best results. I’m glad my posts have been helpful to you as you work to make life changes.
I forgot to add, re the guilt of donating/recycling clothing rather than donating money, that I found this thread on the KonMari subreddit quite helpful : https://www.reddit.com/r/konmari/comments/bcj90r/konmari_trash_guilt_and_denial/?utm_medium=android_app&utm_source=share
Not saying we as consumers shouldn’t mend our ways, but we’re just not as guilty as we might feel.
Also, re weight gain and body image, as you’ve mentioned it as one of your main issues. Whenever I am tempted to feel bad about myself (and my tummy), I try to think of Nefertiti 😉 Not as radical as “Beyond Beautiful” but works for me!
Thanks for sharing the KonMari subreddit! I should have known there would be one… I look forward to reading the thread you shared. I’m glad you found a good strategy to help you combat negative body image. Whatever works! Sometimes the answers can be simple.
Thanks for sharing your progress. I am also working on reducing my wardrobe churn. Similar to you, I try to analyze what I get rid of to figure out what I do and don’t like. This is helping me become more selective with my new purchases. Slowly it’s getting better.
I’m glad you’re making progress on combating wardrobe churn, Judith. I have found analysis to be very helpful. I just have to remember to keep doing it AND to review what I’ve written to keep it top of mind. Writing about the “half project” will help me to do this and will hopefully remind others to do the same.
I need to find a blog like this for people who buy too many books.
Such a blog may well exist, Debra, as there are so many blogs out there! I did write about my experience with “KonMari’ing” my book collection back in 2015, so maybe that post would be helpful for you: https://fulllifereflections.com/2015/03/09/on-tidying-books-and-what-sparks-joy/
Well that was a lot of changes in a short time! Your explanations for swapping out and purging some items actually helped me understand why I suddenly stop liking some of my favorites.
For example: tunics – loved them for a while, but now I’m changing my mind about them and I have a couple that just seem ridiculously long now. I’m trying to decide if I they would work as shorter blouses or if they would be too boxy. I’ll have to experiment.
Yes, I’m off to a pretty good start, Katrina, but I have done good closet purges before. I struggle more with bringing too much in than with not being able to let go, which is why I needed to add the shopping limits to the mix, too. I’m glad my explanations for purging things were helpful for you. I have successfully shortened some tops, but it depends upon the shape. I think it has worked better with fitted tops than looser-fitting ones, but your mileage may vary. Good luck with the experimentation and let me know how it goes.
You are doing great, Debbie. I’ve made little progress with my half project since I last commented. I did read Beyond Beautiful and found it interesting, but something I could have used more when I was younger than at sixty. My body has it’s flaws, but at this stage in my life, I am working more on my what’s happening on the inside. I loved the quote about not being photogenic, but having the kind of beauty that moves. I take terrible pictures, but some family members and I did a video while at a winery and even though I was sweaty and wearing a goofy hat, I was surprised to find I preferred seeing myself in motion than a still photo. I joined LTY for a month and have watched several videos. I’m definitely a type 2. Probably sub-type 4, but I also have some 1 qualities. The colors I like to wear fall somewhere between the type 2’s and the type 1’s. My coloring is quite neutral and combination of light and soft. I’ve never truly fit into a type with these typing systems, but feel I gain self-knowledge when I explore them.
I know what you mean about Beyond Beautiful, Jenn. I worry that I may be too set in my ways and opinions to benefit a whole lot, but I’m going to read it with an open mind. Good for you for focusing more on the inside. I need to do the same, but so much of my appearance obsession is fueled by intense anxiety that I struggle to let go of it… I love what you wrote about the video and preferring the way you look in movement. I suspect I might feel the same way, but I haven’t seen a video of myself for a long time. Regarding typing systems, I had the same experience of not really fitting into a type, but I’m finding DYT different in that respect, as I truly resonate with Type 4 (especially with a secondary Type 2). I don’t know if I see myself wearing some of the colors, though, especially the neon yellow and orange (and even stark white). I guess I will take what works for me and leave the rest, but I’m learning a lot and am enjoying my Lifestyle membership.
Another type 4 here. I originally discovered your blog while growing out my grey hair. Thank goodness I did find you. Now one year since I last dyed my hair and I am happy with two tone hair that is in good condition. If I keep my hair this length I still have two years to go!
What an interesting topic our wardrobes are. I just hate clutter. (My late mother was a hoarder so that may have a lot to do with it). I live in the U.K. and I feel the cold which does limit the clothes I need.
Last year both my daughters got married. An expensive business also requiring two expensive dresses for me. I decided to limit my clothes purchase to essentials during the year. At the same time I did purge my wardrobe of the items I was keeping in hopes that one day I would like them.
Six months after the end of my challenge I am still buying very little. I came to realise I don’t need many items for my life style. One or two items I have had altered to improve the fit and hopefully I will still wear them.
Another positive is that I now have good underwear which does make the outer layer look better. Also discovered a good brand of thermal tops that work really well under jumpers.
What I would really like is an American walk in wardrobe but sadly English houses just don’t have the space.
Good luck with your challenge.
Nice to hear from a fellow Type 4, Sue, and I’m so glad my gray hair blog posts were helpful to you! One day at a time with the transition, but good for you for just doing “cold turkey,” as your process would almost certainly be longer had you opted to use color along the way. Thanks for sharing about your experience with limiting your clothing purchases last year. I think most of us need far less than we think we do and most of us could probably stand to focus more on things like underwear. It really does make a big difference! I wish I had an American walk-in wardrobe, too, but I do have a fairly large standard closet. My husband lived in England for years and he told me about the much smaller closets (wardrobes) there. I guess the upside is that it’s harder to go too off the rails with clothing with less storage space. Congrats on your two daughters’ weddings! I’m sure it was both exciting and stressful, but I’m glad you experienced some great side benefits with your wardrobe along the way. Best wishes with your gray hair transition. It’s definitely an exercise in patience – and a lot of other things.
I don’t have a problem with devoting time to my wardrobe. It’s like a hobby. I’ve got Facebook friends who collect old typewriters, Le Creuset casseroles, teapots, pets,…. The list goes on. When you think about any of those things they’re shallow, collecting a wardrobe isn’t any worse. Anyway, who needs a dozen manual typewriters? .
The thing I do want to do more of is loving on the wardrobe I already have! It shouldn’t be about the quest for “more” it should be about the quest for combinations that you love.
With the change of season I spent some time constructing outfits from stuff I was switching in. I haven’t quite worn them all yet, but it was a satisfying Saturday afternoon, and I want more of that.
I get inspiration from your essays. I’m about 4 months into growing out my gray hair. I switched my part to hide a particular streak of gray hair and have continued coloring the new part line so I don’t have to look at it every day. In another few months I’m going to go short, maybe an asymmetrical “faux hawk” and flip my part so I have that grown out streak showing. I can live with short..
Probably I’ll be redoing my wardrobe in different colors, my real hair is a lot cooler toned than the color I thought it was that I’ve been coloring it for years.
I don’t mind devoting time to my wardrobe either, Ginger, as long as I’m not making a lot of bad choices and accumulating too much stuff. I totally agree with this part of your comment:
“The thing I do want to do more of is loving on the wardrobe I already have! It shouldn’t be about the quest for “more” it should be about the quest for combinations that you love.”
Good idea to construct outfits for the new season. I need to do that myself, but we’re still having “June Gloom” here and it doesn’t feel like summer yet… It’s probably time to do it soon, though.
Congrats on starting your gray hair transition! Switching your part and coloring the new part line is a great strategy. A You-Tuber named Deb Arndt did that and has a bunch of videos about it. She was able to get through the transition a lot easier that way and now has lovely long silver hair. Good luck with your journey! I haven’t found that I need to change my clothing colors at all, but those who wear a lot of warm tones have sometimes needed to switch in cooler colors with the hair change. It’s hard to know what our real hair looks like when we only see a very small stripe of it for years.
Hi Debbie, I’ve been reading your blogs for several years but never commented before. I wanted to share what made me cut down my wardrobe last year: I moved to a house in the mountains (in Brazil) where it’s cold and humid, with no heating, air conditioning, or clothes dryer, and little direct sun. It’s beautiful here, but EVERYTHING grows mold. If I leave a shirt in the closet for a month, when I pull it out again it’s inevitably moldy. I moved here with a wardrobe of about 80 pieces, all of which I liked and wore regularly, but things did sit unworn for two or three months at a time. To keep them mold-free, I had to haul them outside and put them in the sun at every opportunity, and even so some things would grow mold and I’d have to inspect them and soak them in vinegar and wash them frequently whether I was wearing them or not. A huge waste of time, electricity, and water.
I now have literally two weeks’ worth of clothes, covering all seasons and levels of formality: six dresses, three skirts, a pair of jeans, a pair of shorts, two sweaters, three cardigans, a trench coat, three pairs of shoes, plus a handful of t-shirts and camisoles. (I was lucky not to have to get rid of my other beloved clothes outright – I left them stored at my parents’ house on my last trip to the US.) Everything gets worn and washed so often it has no chance to get moldy. Honestly, after several months I’m bored with these clothes, although they’re all favorites and look good. But I’ve had to accept that this area of my life is simply going to be a bit boring, and it’s no big deal, it’s just the price of living here.
Actually I’m incredibly grateful for how my circumstances have forced me to shift my focus away from clothes – after years of shopping as a hobby, cycling between resisting and succumbing to temptation, waffling over the difference between needs and wants, etc., it’s suddenly not an issue: I don’t want any more than I need, because the maintenance is not worth it. It’s not a matter of virtue or willpower on my part – rather, there’s now a concrete short-term cost to having too much.
Thanks for your comment, Amina. I just saw it today and am not sure why it was held for moderation… I appreciate your sharing your challenges and changes. I had no idea that moldy clothing was even an issue! It sounds like such a difficult situation and so time-consuming to manage, but I’m glad that it led to positive shifts with your wardrobe. I love the attitude that you have about your circumstances and how you’ve found a more manageable situation with your wardrobe and shopping. Your story shows that we really don’t need the huge wardrobes that so many of us have. I’m sure I could get by with even less than half of what I have, but I feel that half is a good goal for me to work towards. I can totally see how having a lot less will bring a lot of peace to one’s life.
Comments are closed.