Wardrobe By Number

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“Be Kind:” One of the new shirts I obtained to replace the threadbare ones.

Many minimalists have some sort of magic number for either their clothing or total items owned. You hear of people with 100 possessions, 37 clothing items, etc. I have always said that minimalism is not so much a numbers game as it is being content with only having what you need or have space to store. There are times when I do enjoy playing by numbers, but I had yet to apply a numbers concept to my clothing. 

For my wardrobe, instead of going by set numbers, I have always gone by space available. I use one closet for my clothing and I do not want the closet to be stuffed to capacity. I have a four drawer dresser, and as long as everything fits in the assigned drawer without being crowded, I do not count number of items.

I do laundry one day a week. As long as I have enough clothing to get through the week until laundry day, I do not count the number of clothes I have. When I was a child, laundry was a once a month thing and it was a huge production.

As a child, your clothes were always in garbage bags. There was no dresser and no closet to store clothes. You had a garbage bag of clean clothes and a garbage bag of dirty clothes. Laundry was not done until you were literally out of clothes and were not able to get dressed tomorrow without wearing something for the 5th time or just being naked. 

I remember being dropped off at the laundry mat with several garbage bags of laundry and a $20 bill to obtain quarters. Laundry could take an entire Saturday. It was a chore to be endured. Frequently, clothes were worn multiple times no matter how dirty they were because we just did not have the money for quarters to do laundry. 

As an adult, I do laundry once a week. I am currently very privileged and have both a washer and dryer in my house. Theoretically, I can do laundry whenever I want. I could do laundry every single day if I wanted. I do not want to spend my life doing laundry and I do not want to get in the habit of being dependent on the luxury of having a washer and dryer. Laundry once a week is reasonable and sufficient. 

Last year, I went through and updated all of my underclothes. For the first time in 5 or more years, I updated my bras, underwear and socks. I am very glad I did that before the pandemic hit. As every single item in life is either scarce, hard to get, or expensive, I am grateful that I have new and clean underclothes. That is one less item I have to worry about obtaining. 

This year, as we are quarantined and I am home more, I have noticed that many of my tee-shirts are becoming threadbare and see-through. They have deteriorated to the point where they cannot even be donated. They can be used as rags, but they are no longer suitable to be worn. Two tee-shirts in particular are surprising. I had bought them just last summer at a rather high-end store. The fact that they only lasted a year is very disappointing.

Normally, I would not notice the threadbare tee-shirt issue, as I only wear tee-shirts two days a week. Five days a week I would be in the office in my business casual wear. Since business casual attire is expensive, I have not been wearing it while working from home. I am “preserving” it for when we are able to return to the office and I have to wear business casual attire again.

So, I have been living in shorts and tee-shirts this summer. The threadbare tee-shirt situation is forcing me to take a new look at my wardrobe and it’s requirements. While I have previously focused my wardrobe on available space, I am now looking at my wardrobe by numbers. Maybe it is pandemic related, and I am trying to exert some sort of control by doing wardrobe by numbers. Who knows? There is some comfort in knowing exactly how much you have and that what you have is enough. 

Here is what I have determined is going to work for me for wardrobe by numbers. My formula is based on the premise that laundry is done once a week, on the same day each week. For me, laundry day is Monday right now. 

Given that every Monday is laundry day, that means I need at least 8 outfits to make it a week from one laundry day to the next. Yes, there are 7 days in a week. But you don’t really want to do laundry while naked, so you need an 8th outfit to wear on laundry day. If you want flexibility in your schedule, then you need more than 8 outfits. You may need 10. 

For example, if you are not able to stick to a strict schedule where every Monday is laundry day, then you need more than 8 outfits. Say one Monday you are really busy, and can’t do laundry until Tuesday or Wednesday. Well then, you better have more than 8 outfits or expect to wear things multiple times.

I am going to take advantage of the luxury of in-home washer and dryer and go with 8 outfits. If I had to use the laundry mat, then I may go with 10 or 12 outfits. For me, 8 will work.

Here is how my formula is going to be put in action:

For my business casual work clothes, I am actually not touching them right now. I am just letting them be until it is time to wear them again. The formula that I have devised for them when the time comes is as follows: 

8 tops

4 bottoms

2 sweaters / cardigans / extra warmth layer

For work clothes, this formula is actually a little excessive, as work clothes are not worn everyday. They are worn 5 days a week. As far as bottoms go, since I work in an office environment that is not overly messy, I am okay with wearing a pair of pants twice before washing.

Some people will suggest when minimizing your wardrobe that you should do away with the distinction between “work clothes” and “home clothes.” To do this, it is recommended to dress up your “home clothes” a little, and dress down your “work clothes” a little so that you have one wardrobe kind of in the middle and whatever you wear is fine for work or home. If this works for you, fine. It does not work for me.

I prefer to have two separate wardrobes. The reason why is that I find office attire to be extremely uncomfortable. If I had a job where I could choose the dress code or that did not have a dress code, I would not pick business casual. I do not want to wear “work clothes” any longer than I absolutely have to. As soon as I come home from work, I change because my office wear is so uncomfortable. 

Some people will argue that if that is the case, I should purchase more comfortable office wear. That is an oxymoron. Comfortable office wear does not exist. My preferred standard uniform is something like shorts and a tee-shirt or jeans and a hoodie. I digress.

For my “home clothes,” I have the following formula to see me through 7 days of working from home:

8 tops

4 bottoms

6 extra warmth layer

For summer, my 4 bottoms is 4 pairs of shorts. For cooler weather, my 4 bottoms is 2 pairs of jeans and 2 pairs of yoga pants. So, I do have seasonal elements to my wardrobe. I plan on wearing each “bottom” twice before washing. 

For tops, I do have tank tops for summer. I am pretty sure there are 4 of them. For the 6 extra warmth layers, I have 4 flannels shirts, and at least 2 hoodies. When the weather is cooler, I like to layer things on top of my tee-shirt. Tee-shirts are the first layer that is worn pretty much year round, so those get a lot of use. 

For tops, I prefer to wear them once and then wash them. Especially in summer, when weather is hot and we are sweaty, I do not like to wear a shirt twice. That just feels gross.

I am applying the same concept to my pajamas. Even though I am now wearing pajamas twice before washing and could get away with 4 nightshirts, I already have 8 nightshirts, so I will use what I have. I am not going to get rid of nightshirts just to get down to a certain number. However, this means that as nightshirts wear out, I will not replace them. If one night shirt wears out and leaves me with 7 nightshirts, I am not going to replace that night shirt. I will wait until I get down to 4 or 5 nightshirts before replacing one.

I currently have 4 bottoms for my night wear as well. That keeps with my current formula of 4 bottoms. There are other aspects of my wardrobe that are slightly “over number” right now as well. For example, I have one storage tote labelled “winter,” This storage tote holds all my sweatshirts, sweaters, and other “extra warmth layers” for winter. I am not sure how many extra layers are in there. The winter box may be another situation where, instead of getting rid of items, I simply do not replace things that wear out. 

My wardrobe formula is currently acting as a minimum threshold. My available space idea is a maximum threshold for clothing. The reason why I decided to come up with numbers for the minimum threshold is that I am looking at replacing at least 4 threadbare tee-shirts in my wardrobe. So I seriously began to question if I really need to replace them.

The answer is yes. Now that I am home in quarantine, I do need to replace those tee-shirts. Tee-shirts are my base layer year round. However, given that I spent $20-$30 apiece on two tee-shirts at a high end store last summer that barely lasted a year, I do not want to make another worthless investment in my wardrobe like that again.

This year, I opted to replace those tee-shirts with some more affordable options, each below $10. Time will tell if the tee-shirts I purchased for less than $10 each last longer than the ones I bought for $20-$30. If I have learned anything, it’s that just because something is expensive, does not mean it is good quality. 

The only aspect of my wardrobe this does not apply to is my running wardrobe. That has its own set of rules and is a post for another day. 

In general, my wardrobe goal is 8 tops, 4 bottoms, and 2-6 extra warmth layers to allow for seasonal fluctuations. This works for me with doing laundry once a week. While some categories may be above those numbers, I am not going to get rid of items just yet. I am simply not going to worry about replacing things that wear out. 

This gives me one less thing to worry about while giving me the illusion of being “in control” of something in the middle of the pandemic. 

How do you organize clothes? Do you use available space or wardrobe by numbers? 

 

Revisiting The Rule of 3

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I have previously written about how I incorporated the rule of three  into my decluttering goals. At the time, my goal had been to ensure that surfaces contained no more than three items that I found to be either meaningful or useful. To go all KonMari  again, I do not see the point in wasting space to contain items that do not bring me joy. I also do not see the point in wasting precious time in cleaning, dusting, or organizing items that are not either meaningful or useful.

I am proud to declare that I have been quite successful in minimizing all surfaces so that they only contain three items.

Having surfaces that contain only three items simplified my life in such a way that I decided to take the rule of three and run with it. I also applied the rule of three to my walls. I went through each wall in my house, and there are now only three decorative items per wall. I cannot tell you how much easier it is to clean my house now that there are only three items per wall and three items per surface.

When I applied the rule of three to my walls, I noticed that many items that were on my walls did not bring me joy. I decided to replace those items with things that do bring me joy. For example, I had some of my photography printed and framed, and now my artwork is gracing my walls, were previously was some commercial print that I neither liked no held any personal meaning to me.

Some walls in my house have less than three items on them. Some have only two items, and I am looking at a wall now that only has one thing on it. It is very relaxing to sit in my living room either before or after a long day and be able to enjoy sitting there. I also now have less things to dust, windex, and clean.

The rule of three inadvertently spilled over into other aspects of the declutter process as well. I culled my wardrobe again. While I am one of these people who will probably never have only 33 or 37 or 42 items of clothes, I do want to be sure that I only have clothes that fit my body well, that I love to wear, and that fit into my dresser and closet without overflowing my available space.

My dresser contains four drawers, and I have decided that one drawer is for pajamas and nightwear, and everything must fit into the drawer. If the drawer starts to overflow, then I need to get rid of items so that everything fits comfortably. I applied the same concept to all underclothes, such as socks.

One drawer contains my jeans and other pants that do not need to be hung in the closet. My work pants are hung in the closet so that they are not wrinkled. As most Americans. I realized I had an obscene number of jeans. I culled my jeans so that I only have three pairs. That is way more than I wear in a typical week. I kept my three most favorite pairs. Applying the rule of three to my jeans has also allowed me to upgrade. I was able to replace one of the $10 pair of Walmart jeans with a $40 pair of Levi’s, which I’m sure will last me much longer, and I am way happier with the fit and feel of them.

In applying the rule of three to the closet, I have three sweaters for when it is cold in the winter, three summer dresses, three hoodie sweatshirts, and three suit jackets. I currently have five pairs of work dress pants, but that will soon be decreasing to four. I have a hard time finding dress pants that fit, so I like to keep more than three pairs of those.

So while I may not have an overall goal number concerning the amount of clothing I aim to own, I have been trying to apply the rule of three to individual categories of clothing. Of course, for shirts, I have way more than three. Shirts do not seem to be as sturdy as pants. For work, I have nine v-neck shirts in various colors (that I will need to gradually replace, as they are becoming worn). I am hoping to get that number down to seven.

I do have a drawer of shirts that I wear when not working that include running shirts, baseball, hockey, and football shirts. I honestly do not know the number, but they all fit quite comfortably into their assigned drawer, so I am not concerned about their actual number. What I have been trying to do is to be sure that I am wearing everything, and if anything is in any way uncomfortable or does not fit well, then it goes into the donate pile.

I only want to be surrounded by the things that I love.

Have you incorporated the rule of three into your life? Have you applied it to surfaces, walls, or drawers? I am finding that it allows me more time to be with the ones I love and do the things I love because I spend less time cleaning and having to weed through mounds of clothing.

Even if the rule of three seems daunting, start with one surface. Choose just one stand or shelf and apply the rule of three. See if it helps to simplify your life.

Nothing to wear

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One of my favorite bloggers is Courtney Carver, who authors both Be More With Less  and Project 333. Courtney helps to bring minimalism into the realm of reality acknowledging that the movement is not an exercise in sacrifice or denial, but rather an effort to live life more fully with the people and experiences most important in our lives.

To this end, I have been following the Project 333 movement, without exactly conforming to its specifications. I honestly am completely unaware of how many items of clothing I have. My efforts have been to strive for an amount that is enough without being overwhelming. Over the past few years, I have been trying to move away from the familiar distain of standing in front of an overstuffed closet complaining I have “nothing to wear” to a more simplified and streamlined morning routine. My goal is for all of my clothing to fit into my closet and dresser without having numerous storage bins scattered around the house trying to contain the overflow. I want to be comfortable in my clothes while being able to meet the demands of the activities in my life. I want to wear things that I love every single day.

Since following Project 333 and putting many of the suggestions into action, I have found that I spend less time doing laundry, less time worrying about going shopping for certain items of clothing, less time packing when I travel, and more time enjoying things in my life that were previously lost due to never ending cycles of laundry.

I have less decision fatigue and less stress in my life. I am no longer running late in the morning throwing various items of clothing around only to come home to a mess of shirts and pants scattered around the bedroom.

Perhaps some of the most helpful tips I have garnered from Project 333 include only wearing what I love, and choosing items that are timeless. If I wear something and find it to be completely uncomfortable or frumpy, then it is the last time I wear that outfit and it ends up in the donate pile. I am then left with items in which I am comfortable wearing every single day. I have noticed that this has left me with a uniform of sorts – dress pants or jeans paired with v-neck tops in various colors. While uniforms sound boring and remind me of private school when I was a teenager, they are in fact, quite versatile. I have plenty of colors to choose from and can mix and match items if I stick to solids and minimize prints.

Minimizing my wardrobe is definitely a work in progress. I am still not quite sure what to do with all my race shirts, and I still have one storage container full of clothes that is too many for my comfort level. My goal is to have all my clothes fit into my closet and one dresser with perhaps one storage bin of seasonal items that rotate in and out. I am currently at two storage bins, mostly due to race shirts and some sentimental items that I have been putting off facing.

Getting dressed for the day is quite simple. If I hit the snooze button too many times, I am no longer slowing my morning down even further by trying to decide what to wear. I can virtually pull any pair of pants out of the drawer and match them with the nearest top. I have kept my dress slacks and dress skirts with blazers for more formal or professional events such as when I defended my thesis. I have some sundresses that I love to wear for the summer.

Laundry has always been something that stresses me out. I was typically doing two to three loads per week. I don’t understand how one person can produce so much laundry! Now that I have streamlined my wardrobe, I typically have one load per week, sometimes two if I am washing a load of running gear. Growing up, I remember laundry day was always this huge event, where the car was literally loaded with clothes. Once a month, I would be dropped off to do 10-15 loads of laundry. We needed a huge amount of clothes to be able to make it to laundry day once a month. They were not even in laundry baskets – there would be huge trash bags full of clothes. I do not ever want to spend one entire day each month doing laundry again. Creating a capsule or minimalist wardrobe may mean that you have to do smaller loads more frequently, but it is better than losing one entire day per month to laundry.

I am fortunate that I now have a washer and dryer at my house and can avoid the Laundromat. However, if you do have to use the Laundromat, it may be easier to spend two hours twice a month than an entire day once a month. Can you pare back your clothes so that you have enough to last two weeks instead of an entire month? Less clothes means less stress in maintenance and ensures that you are only wearing what you truly love and not items that don’t fit well or don’t feel right.

I have learned that my experiences are more important than what I am wearing. I do not need a t-shirt for every place I visit or event I attend. Memories of the experience are more important. With a streamlined wardrobe, I can easily find what I want, and am not spending a lot of time washing, drying, folding, and ironing. I take that time and spend it with my family and friends.

If you find yourself standing in front of your closet every morning with “nothing to wear,” you may want to consider Project 333. The best part is, you can break the rules. You do not have to feel like it is an exercise in sacrifice or denial, if 33 does not work for you, then try 58 or 75. Whatever works for you is fine! The goal is not the number; the goal is to simplify your day so that you have more time doing things you love. Maybe your goal is not a specific number, but maybe space issues like mine. Maybe you want all of your clothes to fit in a certain container or area. However you choose to incorporate Project 333 into your life, you will feel the effects of the program in all aspects of your life. You will have more time and feel happier being able to engage in activities you love with less stress.

With the holiday season upon us, we can all use less stress and more time with those we love. It’s time to stop standing in front of a stuffed closet with “nothing to wear.”