A reader’s question:
Do you have any guidelines for how many clothes to keep/have? It is so hard to follow the “6 month rule.” I know that I end up wearing the same 10-15 shirts and the same bottoms over and over because they fit best, but I still keep the rest of the stuff around *in case* I want to wear it someday once because it *could* go with one other sweater I have.
I also have a huge box full of clothes that may never fit again because I had twins last year. How long do you give yourself before tossing pre-pregnancy clothes, especially if you are not done having kids?
First things first, I never follow the six-month rule that says you give away clothes that you haven’t worn in six months (or in a year). It’s too arbitrary.
Never let organization get in the way of common sense.
I get the general idea, and it’s that if you haven’t worn a garment within a certain amount of time, you most likely never will, and it’s just taking up space. What’s more important to me is not how long it’s been since I’ve worn it, but why I haven’t worn it.
So if something has remained on the hanger, I start questioning it: Is it the right color? Is it too long or too short? Does it make me look frumpy? Is it worn out? Or do I just have too many clothes?
Understanding why I’m not wearing something helps me make better choices on future shopping trips, and I think that’s smarter than simply tossing clothes just to replace them with more later.
I used to work at Saks Fifth Avenue where the attire was “dressy professional” and in other companies where the code was “business casual.” To go to work I felt like I needed a variety of clothes even though I tried to be creative and use what I had in different ways. Now that I stay at home I get by with fewer pieces, and I can wear my favorite outfits many times without anyone else noticing.
My tastes have gradually changed toward having fewer, but better, articles of clothing. I want clothes that I can wear for many seasons and will always make me feel great. If I were to go back to work outside the home again, I think I would stick with this strategy and not worry so much about having variety. Maybe as I grow older I am more confident and not as worried about what other people think, and I’ve also developed more of a sense of my personal style (more classic, and not trendy).
Over the last five years I’ve let my clothing collection dwindle smaller naturally by buying less to replace what has worn out. My current wardrobe is the size that most people take on vacation.
Boxed up in storage, I do keep other clothes that are not in my current size. In the last two years I have been so many different sizes. Let’s see, there is what I consider my normal size, and then there is mid-pregnancy, late pregnancy, post pregnancy and nursing, and even a smaller “gluten-free pants” size. It’s entirely possible for me to go through all of these sizes again, but I don’t want to buy a new wardrobe each time. I think people who tell you that you should only keep clothes in your current size haven’t considered pregnancy and all that comes along with it.
It’s important that my clothes fit me well. Actually, how they fit is more important to me than how many there are, which is why I make do with less variety. I keep fewer, better clothes in each of my sizes, and this helps to manage my wardrobe costs for the sizes that I may transition through for only a few months.
If you keep just the best clothes, they really shouldn’t take up much space. For me, it’s one box stored away to give me a good start, no matter what size I am, in clothes that were specially chosen for me.
Tips on keeping clothes in other sizes:
• Keep only the clothes that you’ll be happy to see again. Keep the best stuff, not everything.
• Don’t save any clothes that are worn out. The maternity pants that you wore every day during those last weeks because they were the only pair that still fit (and therefore have drops of chocolate ice cream stains on them, not that I’m speaking from experience or anything) can be thrown away.
• You want to keep them in a box in your storage space, not in useful closet space with your current size.
• Go through them every year or so to see if you can size down your collection. Even classic styles can change every five or seven years. (Think how different denim looks now from a few years ago.)
• If you think it’s not likely you will wear them again, don’t save them, but don’t be afraid to set clothes aside in case you can wear them in the future. That’s kind of the whole point of storage space: using it for good, not for clutter.