Updated: Nov 24, 2019
Clothing is the go to area to start a spring clean. For most, making a dent in the wardrobe seems to be the default entry level for any kind of decluttering. We also have a cultural safety net knowing that there are plenty of places to sell or trade clothes as well as accept charitable donations.
As our environment constantly changes, we adapt by making sure we are fully prepared for whatever is thrown at us. There is no doubt about it, we need options. Especially living in the UK. We need clothes to cover every eventuality on our lifestyle spectrum - work, play, indoors, outdoors, hot, cold, wet, dry, events, socials, meetings, interviews, celebrations, commiserations, just out or out out. Because we accumulate so many clothes over time, you would think we utilised thousands of variables and used all of what was on offer, right?
A recent study looking into the perception and reality of clothing waste showed that people in the UK believe that 39% of their wardrobe is unused, but when tested the reality was nearer to 73%.
66% of adults in the UK claimed their houses are full of stuff they never or rarely use.
72% of shoppers admit to having completely unworn clothing in their wardrobes, with a further 51% confessing to being aware that they would probably never wear the item when they actually bought it!
I didn't know it at the time but I was definitely in those groups. I was all about options, loads of sports gear, 40-50 t-shirts, 30-40 shirts, 20 odd pairs of jeans, 8 suits, 7 hats, 10 scarfs, 9 ties, 7 belts, oh and the endless varieties of converse. Every morning I opened the wardrobe, I was supposed to be inspired with the large volume of choice, but the reality was I had favourites. There were go to items and then there was the rest. The backups. Time and time again i'd go to the tried and trusted shirts, the perfectly fitted skinny jeans and the suits that were in my top three. There were even times where i’d mentally prep myself to wear a ‘backup’ shirt, only to put it on, take it off again and stick it back on the hanger.
I was only using 30-40% of what i owned but I insisted on keeping the other stuff in reserve because;
I thought if I kept the tighter fitted clothes, they would motivate me to get back into them (don't remember it ever happening).
Some of my clothes would be worth more in the future or come back into fashion.
If I got rid of my football kits , i’d be accepting the fact that i didn’t play football anymore.
When I needed to do DIY i’ll have a selection of t-shirts i can choose to ruin.
It was a gift and I felt bad to sell it or give it away to someone else.
One day i’d need it Just in case
I had options, but they weren't meaningful options.
Even whilst travelling, i overpacked. I spent more time stressing over how to fit a trilby into a backpack than planning activities. I didn't take it in the end, after some wise words from my partner, and the only time it was referenced was that it could have been used as a fancy dress accessory in New Orleans.
We even had to send a box of clothes back home midway through our trip because we just didn’t wear them, plus we’d bought more in the various places we travelled to. We had to go to a hardware store on a freezing cold Ljubljana morning, find a big enough box, buy tape to seal it, find a post office, fill in loads of forms and then pay for the heavy parcel to be sent across
europe. The joy.
It was gradual but these experiences, plus moving house twice, unlocked the reality that I just didn’t need that many clothes. I was finally ok in letting go of what some of them represented and actually enjoyed curating my wardrobe with quality not quantity.
Funnily enough, my shopping habits also got exposed a little. I’d head to the same online retailer and start with an idea of buying something but then end up buying a few cheaper and lesser quality items that kind of met the objective. Of course, i’d receive them and they wouldn't be quite right, so i’d either settle for my poor choices, which then became backups, or repeat the process.
My desire to stand out was also quite an eye opener. I’d be drawn to bright colourful things thinking that i needed to look different, but of course that was all bollocks.
Everything in there now are my favourite things. I don’t have to spend time pondering and stressing out over what to wear everyday, whatever i pick out is going to look good and i get my money's worth. I still like to buy stuff but now rather than being tempted into adding random things to the collection, i am intentional and know what i need.
Do you have too many clothes? The survey says, yes probably.
If you like structure, set up some rules for yourself, for example anything you’ve not worn (apart from seasonal wear) for more than 100 days, you have to wear in it the next week otherwise it gets donated. Whatever works for you.
Or for something a bit more radical, check out Project 333 which looks quite fun.
I still evaluate what I have every few weeks, different things spring up and only last week I donated a pair of brown shoes I hadn't worn for a year. I’ve also just noticed I have a jacket i’ve not even considered wearing for years so that will go. I think I wore that jacket once and the pockets were so small that I almost lost my keys.
Anyway, if it’s time for you to filter down your wardrobe, do it properly. Sell what you can and donate the rest. If you’re not ready but know deep down you need to, drop me a line, i’d be happy to support!