How much is enough? In the immortal words of Larry the Cucumber… “I don’t know; how much stuff is there?” (Larry was answering Bob’s query about how much you need to be happy.) It’s funny how that number shifts. Unless you are well on your way to a minimalist lifestyle, I would say that most us have more than we need in our closets, but need is a very relative term… I have no magic item count for an ideal wardrobe. That varies for every person. I have seen people happy with everything from 15 to 300 pieces. Here are a few questions to ask yourself before adding something to your closet. (These are also good questions for a Wardrobe Audit!)
Does it fit my lifestyle? (AND my budget!)
Is the item in your hot little hands something you will wear? Or, as Bridgette Raes asks “Where are you going in that?” A fabulous dry-clean-only millennial pink skirt suit may be a perfect fit, and a great deal, but if you are a classroom teacher of littles and spend your evenings with your own children on the sidelines of the soccer pitch, maybe it is best left on the rack.
As an Image and Wardrobe Coach, people often think I am all about designer clothing. If that’s what makes you happy, and it’s in your budget, fantastic! I shop at all price points, and always try to work within a client’s budget. I may push outside someone’s item-price-limit (i.e. Jane will not pay more than $50 for a pair of shoes.), because the client is not thinking about cost-per-wear and total budget, but about price.
Do I already have something similar at home?
(Or: How many pair of black trousers are in your closet?) Your easy find may be black pants, or colored tees, or tennis shoes, but realistically: How many do you need? This is another Know Thyself (KT) question. How many weeks’ worth of clothing do you feel you need before repeating an outfit? How often do you do laundry? If you are looking at neutral basics, those can be worn more frequently without anyone noticing, but bright or patterned tops do stand out more, so you may find you want more variety. According to a 2015 article by a denim expert, the average American woman owns 7 pair of jeans, and 25 percent of American women own 10 or more pairs. Both groups only wear 4 pair regularly. Are those new jeans going to change your world, or just going to keep the unworn ones company?
Is this a replacement for something I already own? (Corollary: Will I get rid of the piece it is replacing?)
If you have worn something out, or worn it to a lower level of refinement, replace it if a new one still serves your purposes. I try to ask myself, “Do I love this XYZ more than the one I am replacing?” Ideally, a yes means that the old and trusted one can now retire! If you do buy a replacement, what are you going to do with the worn out one? I know people who have new pieces with tags still on, but they are wearing the threadbare one because the new one is for “good.” Really? Get over good. Any day I am still breathing qualifies as good.
Can I make at least three looks with this piece and what I already have at home in my wardrobe?
Here’s the question to help prevent sad and lonely Wardrobe Orphans. You love that breezy boho blouse because it is so different from the closet full of fitted tops you own. Great! Maybe it’s time to try a new silhouette! What are you going to wear with it? Do you pair all those fitted tops with wider legged bottoms for flattering volume and proportion? Then blousy boho top will need a pair of narrow trousers for balance. Do you have any, or will you need to buy a new bottom to make it work? Buying an outfit is fine, but keep in mind that you will only be wearing that outfit one way, and may tire of it very quickly. How about looking for a more fitted top with the same feel that you could wear with at least three bottoms you already have at home? Or go for the experiment, and be ready to buy more narrow trousers later if you like the new look!
Do I love it? On a scale of 1-10 is it at least an 8?
This can be the hardest question of all. There are lots of ways an item can be an 8. Maybe you are tired of cold wet feet. Those new boots, although not your favorite look, will make your winter morning commute more bearable every day for 4 months of the year. That ranks as a 10 for me, but might not for another woman! Ranking a potential purchase comes down to really knowing your values and personality. If you are all about comfort, then that gorgeous scratchy sweater may be a 2 for you, but a 10 for someone else. I see lots of color impulse purchases. Someone loved the color (10), but not the fit (4), or feel (2). Make sure the whole garment is an 8, not just one aspect!
So, When is Enough Too Much?
Abundance becomes too much when you can’t keep what you own in order, you can’t keep track of it, or can’t stop buying. It is very easy to confuse want and need, and to fall into the buy-something-new-for-a-mood-boost trap. (AKA: Retail Therapy.) If you feel like your closet is out of control, you may want the help of someone like me, or if the shopping habit has become an issue, check out Jill Chivers’ amazing site, My Year Without Clothes Shopping. I have completed a few shopping fasts since we moved to Georgia, some for Lent, and twice for a year each, and learned new things about myself each time! If your abundance has become too much, a fast might be just the ticket to appreciating what you do have. If a year seems a bit drastic, maybe just a shopping free month, or start small with a week. Apparently, Americans add about 52 items to their wardrobe yearly. That’s something new each week. Yikes!
Do you have enough? Or too much? Do you define it by number? Or some other way? Please share in the comments below!