Saturday, November 1, 2014

the lizzi chronicles: closet inventory

This is the second post in the Lizzi Chronicles - my good friend Lizzi is moving in with her boyfriend, and is using the transition as a time to clean out her closet, assess what she wants to keep or donate, and to research the best places to donate used clothing and household items. I loved reading this post on her closet inventory, and I keep telling her she finally needs to start a blog because I think she has such a gift for writing and engaging. Please encourage her further for me :)

As I alluded to in my first post, I was well overdue for a closet clean out. And even though I've known this for quite a while, I still needed a wake-up call to convince myself that a serious overhaul was needed. So what's one thing that never lies? Numbers! Except for the arbitrary numbers that are used for sizing in women's clothing, but I digress...

I put together an Excel spreadsheet so I could inventory what my closet and dressers were currently holding. I then went through drawer-by-drawer, hanger-by-hanger, pile-by-pile and tallied up the items based on their style (cardigans, skinny jeans, skirts, etc, etc). My bed was completely taken over by clothing at one point.

I didn't include basics like socks and undergarments because who cares? Socks get tossed when they get holes and bras are useless once the elastic wears out. Jewelry, purses/bags, scarves, and shoes were also left out (for now) since I knew I had enough to deal with just in my fibrous items. I had no idea what my grand total would amount to, and I certainly did not have a gauge for what an appropriate overall number would even be. Regardless, I knew that I had things to get rid of and would likely be taken aback at the end of my inventory. And as you can see from the numbers below, "taken aback" is a bit of an understatement:

Everyday Tops (108)
·    Tanks: 43 (!)
·    Short-sleeve: 21
·    Long-sleeve: 33
·    Button-ups: 11

Dresses (64)
·    (!)

Everyday Bottoms (59)
·    Shorts: 5
·    Skirts: 21 (!)
·    Leggings: 9
·    Skinny Jeans: 10
·    Jeans: 5
·    Dress pants: 9 (!)

Layering/Cozy Tops (67)
·    Cardigans: 41 (!)
·    Blazers: 9
·    Sweaters: 17

Outerwear (31)
·    Vests: 2
·    Light Jackets: 11
·    Raincoats: 1
·    Sweatshirts: 14
·    Winter Jackets: 3

Lounge/Workout Tops (103)
·    T-shirts: 71 (!!)
·    Pajama tops: 7
·    Workout tops: 25
Lounge/Workout Bottoms (32)
·    Lounge pants: 8
·    Pajama shorts: 10
·    Pajama pants: 5
·    Workout bottoms: 9

Grand Total


So there it is. I own over 450 items of clothing. Yikes.

As the totals kept creeping up, I knew it felt amiss for me and my lifestyle. Why do I have 40+ tank tops? Oh, probably so I can pair them with my 40+ cardigans. At least I know my T-shirt total is out of control because of lifelong Badger pride, free shirts from college activities and races, and my buy-all-the-cute-Threadless-tees phase. My workplace is business casual, with an emphasis on the casual, so a lot of my "every day" clothing is also work-appropriate. A meeting with clients is certainly a dressier occasion but it's not like I have to wear a two-piece power suit.

My inventory did the trick -- numbers don't lie, and the truth is that I shouldn't have 464 items of clothing. I was ready to fill bags upon bags of clothing that were no longer worn, liked, or the right size, but I also knew that I could use some help.

This much clothing is not accidentally accumulated; clearly I've convinced myself in the past to keep a few tops here and there along with those worn skinny jeans that don't have a hole in the upper thigh region yet. I definitely needed trustworthy and supportive help, so I enlisted my friends Lauren and Sarah. We have been close for years so my hoarder tendencies were nothing new to either of them, but they also wouldn't let me get away with keeping too many pieces. Sarah came over to my apartment and Lauren Skyped in from NYC, and the consulting commenced!

I already had quite a few items set aside that I was going to have Sarah pick through to see if anything caught her eye for her own closet. Other than those items, I decided to go through my closet style-by-style and grab items that I hadn't worn recently or I was unsure about (for whatever reason) so I could review them with my lady's help. Before we got started, Sarah shared some of the questions she asks herself when she goes through her clothing:

 -- When you come across the item in your closet, are you excited to see it?
 -- Would you choose the item over other similar items?
 -- Do you want to wear it?

They all really resonated with me since I had never asked myself these questions before. I realize how silly the last question seems, but those pieces exist in everybody's wardrobe - a blouse that has never fit quite right but is a gorgeous color or that cute shirt that is now too short thanks to the dryer. And if you find that you answer 'no' to one (or all three!) of the above questions on a particular item, chances are it hasn't been worn in ages or only sees the light of day because you're behind on laundry. Why have clothes that you don't actually like taking up space in your closet?

The three of us got into a good rhythm of deciding what stayed and what got donated, and the donation pile certainly had a few highlights:
 -- Maroon skinny jeans that shrunk after their first wash but I still tried to squeeze in to

 -- A strapless dress whose geometric print Sarah described as looking like a "Windows 98 screensaver"

 -- A few lingering American Eagle peasant skirts from high school that hadn't been worn in years

 -- All dresses made with a "silky" material, as I find them to be either too casual or too bridesmaid-esque

There were a handful of items that we didn't reach a consensus on but I knew I still liked, so a small "keep trying" pile was made since my donation pile was so large. Lauren shared that she'll identify items in her closet that haven't been worn much (if at all) in the past few months, move them to the front of her closet for better accessibility, and make an effort to incorporate them into outfits in the coming weeks. If she finds that she's still not reaching for a particular item, then she knows it's time to part with it. I thought this was a great idea since a lot can change in our closet over a few months, and it's easy for pieces to get overlooked or even forgotten but it's not always easy to identify why. Maybe you just needed a fresh look or you have a few new pieces that will pair nicely with the item in question, or maybe it simply doesn't mingle well with your current lifestyle or tastes anymore. Maybe you really like an item and want to get it back into your rotation but it needs an alternation, or maybe you realize that it's just not a flattering shape/cut for your proportions. 

I know this could sound like my inner hoarder talking, but applying this sort of litmus test to your wardrobe is just another way to keep honing in on your style since it forces you to answer the question of, "what works for me and my day-to-day?" It can also prevent you from purchasing an item that you may already have (five of) in your wardrobe or tried to incorporate in the past without success.

Or you can embrace the "less is more" mentality and simply part with the item, and then pat yourself on the back for having strong willpower. :)

Once the dust settled, I had over 100 items ready to be donated -- nearly a 25% reduction in my wardrobe! Not too shabby, if I do say so myself. I separated my donations into business-appropriate and casual, and then I took my casual clothes to Goodwill and my business wear to the Clothing Center at the Community Action Coalition. The Clothing Center provides free, seasonally-appropriate clothing to individuals and families as well as office professional clothing for women due to the YWCA's Suited for Success Boutique in Madison closing in March of this year. There's certainly no "bad" place to donate clothing, but in hindsight all of my clothing could've been donated to the CAC.

It never hurts to help out friends, too, so I'll continue to offer pieces to a girlfriend if I think something could be especially flattering on her. A clothing swap can also be a good excuse to go through your closet and pick out a few new (and free!) items to play with. You just have to be careful not to take home more than what you came with, otherwise you'll end up with 464 items of clothing. I have done a few swaps with a group of friends in the Madison area and they are incredibly fun! We call it a "Naked Lady Party", and the steps are really simple: throw a bunch of clothes into a big pile, sift through said pile, try on whatever piques your interest, keep whatever you like, and donate whatever is unclaimed. Girl talk truth: I think we just use it as an excuse to drink wine sans pants.

This exercise has also made me much more mindful of needs versus wants, and I will work to keep my closet reigned in as I continue to refine my style. My final post of the lizzi chronicles will be all about how and where to donate a myriad of household objects, but I encourage all of you to start doing a little bit of research in your own communities to find a center or outreach program that can utilize your unused items. Do any of you have a particular place in your city that you take your donations to and/or volunteer with?

See, I told you she should start a blog! I can't wait to see where she stands in a few months after she finishes the closet clean out. She's inspired me to go through my own closet again (my inventory post is here), which I'll update in about a month after Thanksgiving break!