I have too many cardigans. It’s almost like I have an addiction to cardigans. If you peer into my closet, you’ll notice a sea of cardigans lined up in front of you, which may cause you to ask:
“Why does one woman – who spends the bulk of her time at home in loungewear – need SO many cardigans?”
In today’s post, I explore areas of duplication, why they can occur, and what to do about it.
Now, your “thing” may not be cardigans. It may instead be jeans, shoes, graphic tees, or trendy blouses. It doesn’t matter what you buy too much of – or have too much of; it’s likely a source of anxiety for you, just like my overabundance of cardigans is for me. And if it’s a source of stress in your life, it bears exploring what’s going on and how you arrived at such an overloaded state of affairs.
When Duplication Is Okay – and When It’s Not Okay
Before we delve deeper into the problem of over-duplication, I want to stress that it isn’t always bad to own a lot of a particular type of item. For instance, if you work in an office and are required to dress in business clothing, perhaps your assortment of blouses or suits gets worn regularly. Or graphic tees may be such an integral element of your signature style that it makes sense for you to have a vast collection. I’m not talking about these types of duplication, because if one owns a wide array of certain types of pieces and actually wears them frequently, there’s no problem that needs to be solved.
The situation I’m addressing in today’s post, however, is quite different. What I’m referring to is when we do not regularly wear the items in question. Instead, we wear them rarely – or not at all – and it causes us to feel guilty. We might feel that we’ve wasted money – and sometimes a lot of it. To add insult to injury, even when we realize what’s going on, we still might not be able to stop buying jeans, shoes, t-shirts, blouses, cardigans, or whatever.
My Cardigan Obsession and Collection
Now that I’ve given you a few examples to outline the problem and highlighted a couple of situations in which duplication may not be an issue, let’s step out of the hypothetical and back into my specific situation of cardigan overload.
Mid-length and duster-style cardigans are part of my signature style, so it makes sense for me to have a decent-sized collection of them. They work well with my statuesque height (I’m 5’10”), they’re comfortable, and I like the way they look on me. I typically pair them with slim pants or jeans, fitted or fluid tops of all sleeve lengths, and mid-heeled shoes or booties. I feel good in this “uniform,” and I believe that it’s slimming and in line with my three style “guideposts”: dramatic, polished, and elegant.
I own cardigans in a rainbow of colors, as well as a small assortment of patterns (mostly stripes, but also dots, space dye, tweed, and marled prints). The problem is that there’s a lot of duplication within my cardigan collection. I don’t have just one cardigan in each color or pattern; in some instances, I have several very similar cardigans, which is not a good thing.
How We Can End Up with Many Similar Items
I don’t want to have so many highly similar items, and I didn’t set out to own multiples in the way that I do now. What I wanted was to find a moderate number of amazing cardigans that I love and can’t wait to wear. But sometimes when I wasn’t able to find exactly what I was looking for in the stores or online, I did a bad thing. . . I settled. I bought an item that checked some of the boxes, but not all. I thought that what I was purchasing was “good enough” and that “it would do,” but inside my subconscious mind, I intended to continue looking for something better.
When we purchase something on our shopping list that isn’t quite what we truly wanted, that item often doesn’t get checked off the list. Instead, we continue searching for a better representation of the item, and we may keep buying more and more similar pieces in our ongoing effort to find the “Holy Grail” item that will ultimately satisfy our desires.
One “tell” for this type of behavior is when you bring a new item home yet go weeks or even months without wearing it. In the back of your mind, you might be thinking you’ll find something better, at which point you’ll then return the substandard garment hanging in your closet. This might be okay if you actually do the return, but many times the deadline passes and you’re unable to get your money back. You’re then stuck with something you don’t love and aren’t wearing.
Lather, Rinse, Repeat
To try to assuage our guilt, we periodically push ourselves to wear our unloved items (what I’ve termed “wardrobe benchwarmers”). If we’re lucky, we realize we like an item more than we thought and move it into our regular garment rotation. But more often than not, we feel “ho, hum” about our outfits all day long when they feature one of our benchwarmers. At the end of the day, we shove our mediocre – or worse – pieces to the back of our closets, where they become perennial dust collectors. Then the next time we want to wear say, a blue cardigan, we head out to the mall – or open a browser window – to search for something better than what we already have.
Lather, rinse, repeat. If the above scenario happens often enough, it’s entirely possible to end up with five or more very similar pieces, only to still be searching for the one garment that truly checks the box in question. And that, my friends, is how I’ve ended up with so many cardigans! I have a lot of “okay,” “it will do” cardigans that I don’t love, and a much smaller number of cardigans that I feel great in and can’t wait to wear.
An Epiphany and a First Step
I had an epiphany about this issue recently while trying to put together my outfit for a get-together with a friend. Instead of working out on my elliptical trainer that morning like I’d planned to, I ended up trying on every single one of my cardigans. I was determined to figure out which ones I loved, which ones I hated, and which ones I was on the fence about. Fortunately, five less loved cardigans were still eligible to be returned, and I plan to sell at least three more on eBay or Poshmark.
I moved the “on the fence” cardigans to a separate section of my closet to increase their visibility. I plan to wear them soon to decide if they’ll work for me on not. I’ll likely donate a few of my “on the bubble” cardigans, as I don’t see them evoking the dramatic, polished, and elegant vibe I’m aiming for. Before I purge a single garment, though, I’m going to document the reasons why it doesn’t work for me (which may be a follow-on post). It will be helpful to understand which features of my castoff pieces have me feeling “meh” versus fab. That way, I can better avoid buying anything similar in the future.
Dealing with the Overload – A Step-by-Step Process
I’m not going to beat myself up about my cardigan “addiction.” Instead, I’m going to learn from it and vow to do better, armed with my new knowledge. That’s what I recommend you doing, too, if you find yourself with too many of a particular category of wardrobe item in your closet.
Here’s a step-by-step process to help you deal with the overload:
Step One: Dedicate some time to try on everything in your problem category, preferably paired with appropriate accompaniment pieces (what you might actually wear the item with). It’s easier to determine if something does or doesn’t work when you make an actual outfit with it.
Step Two: As you try things on, divide them into three groups: love, don’t like (maybe even hate), and “I’m not sure.”
Step Three: Put the loved items back into your closet, optimally organized by color and pattern.
Step Four: Bag up the “don’t like” items (or set them aside for selling on a resale site, such as eBay or Poshmark – but set a deadline for when you’ll actually do those listings).
Step Five: Set the “maybes” aside in a visible place (perhaps on a garment rack or at the front of your closet) and vow to wear them as soon as possible, at which time you’ll make a concrete determination about their fate.
Tips to Streamline Your Editing Success
As you’re doing your try-ons, it’s helpful to jot down your thoughts about each piece – what you do and don’t like about it. When you opt to pass something on, make a few notes about your reasons for doing so.
When you later wear your “maybe” pieces, ask yourself how you feel in them:
- Do I feel comfortable both physically and emotionally?
- Do I feel true to my personal style when wearing this?
Be as honest with yourself as possible, and try to make a “keep or toss” determination about each maybe item immediately after you wear it (or while you’re wearing it). If you’re still unsure, wear the item a second time shortly thereafter and push yourself to decide at that point. It shouldn’t take more than two wearings to determine an item’s fate.
If your questionable item is a wardrobe staple, you may feel that you should retain it as a “placeholder” until you find something better, but that’s only a valid argument if you’re actually wearing the piece in question. If you’re not wearing it anyway and you just don’t like it, there’s no good reason to keep it! Don’t hold on to anything out of sheer guilt. Forcing yourself to keep something just because you feel guilty for buying it isn’t going to make you feel any better. In fact, you may feel worse every time you see the offending item hanging in your closet unworn.
Facing the Truth about “Sunk Costs”
You need to face the truth that the mistake has been made and your money is gone. Yes, you might be able to recoup a portion of your losses by selling unloved items online, but if you’ve been reading my posts on that topic (including this last one), you know that it’s a lot of work and not exactly a cake walk!
But whether you opt to sell, consign, or donate, get rid of anything that makes you feel bad! Hindsight is always 20/20, and all you can do at this point is learn from your mistakes and choose differently the next time around. If it’s a case of “it doesn’t fit me now, but it might later,” at least get it out of your closet! Everything that’s in your closet should fit your current body, lifestyle, and style aesthetic.
The process I outlined above is what I’m going to do with my plethora of cardigans. I already went through part of the process when I tried them all on and made my initial determinations, but I need to finish the job. I’ll report back soon and let you know how it goes…
I hope you found this post to be helpful, especially if you also have an overabundance of certain items lurking in your closet. If that’s not your situation, good for you, and I hope I still held your interest and provided some value.
If you have any additional tips or suggestions you’d like to share for how to stop the madness of buying similar pieces – or too much in general, please include them in the comments section. I look forward to reading your words of wisdom, and I wish you all the best with your wardrobe management journey.