Saturday, August 27, 2011

Living Richly In Retirement: Downsizing My Closet (Sort of)

Note:  Remember that post about living on a couple hundred dollars after the mortgage?  And the one about the emergency fund needing to be hefty (which it will be in two weeks, not now)??  Well, the temperature in my house is now 90 degrees, with the thermostat at 78.  The best laid plans......

Lately I've been working on paring down my closet.  It's been a challenge. While there's nary a minimalist bone in my body, I have been trying to find ways to make my closet work more efficiently and eliminate some unneeded items. I have a working wardrobe that I haven't used since 2006. I've also lost weight and some items simply no longer fit. On the other hand, I have some color and fashion challenges. I'm unwilling to do laundry more than weekly, and want to be able to wait longer if the need arises.

In my search to make my closet more workable for my life today, I've visited many a web page, including the 333 project.  While I'm fascinated with this challenge and admire those folks who participate, in it's current form it's not a fit to me, at least from my perspective. 

Why?  Well first, I think that this challenge works better for people who live in a climate with few extremes of temperature.  While its 105 (yes, 105) today in Dallas, we also have ice and even the annual snowstorm.  Not just that, but I divide my time between Dallas and Denver. Without a separate Denver closet, I need access to certain clothing much of the year.  I also think the challenge works better for those who keep a "coordinated" wardrobe. That is, those folks who start with neutrals and add a few pieces. My closet is full of color.  A natural "spring" (sorry folks, fashionistas and color mavens will understand), with the exceptions of pants I wear turquoise, yellow, soft green, lilac, soft pink and the like. While many of these colors will mix and match, the fact is I need more pieces to do that. And since I wear colored jewelry rather than bimetallics, I would end up with 33 pieces of jewelry!

What to do?  Come up with a "challenge" that works for me.  In my case my challenge had two parts.  First, to eliminate every thing I did not absolutely love (and had not worn the past season). Second, to limit myself by types of clothing. My (as yet unreached goal) is to limit myself to ten of each kind of clothing (short sleeved tops, long sleeved tops, sleeveless).

While I'm not yet finished with my downsizing, honoring these challenges has been quite revealing.  It's also made my closet much easier to handle (when you have a two person walk in closet and its full, life can be interesting).  In the end, my downsizing (and ongoing challenge) has had multiple results.  First, everything I put on is good quality and comfortable (other than a few items specifically designed for yardwork).  Second, most of my clothes these days can go from quilting to school to book group, wherever they need to.  Third, most things match with little effort. 

While I'll never be a 33 items of clothing kind of gal, I'm glad I went through this purging and organizing session. It shows that even a "hands of my stuff gal" can learn a few minimalist techniques to make herself more organized in the long run.


  1. My closet is currently over full. But in my defense I live in Canada where even when it's 105 outside it could go down to the low 50's in the evening. I seem to need clothing for at least two seasons in my closet all of the time.
    I could start the day in jeans, t-shirt and sweater, change to shorts and tank top after lunch, then back to the warmer clothing again in the evening.
    It does tend to drive us Canuks crazy, hence we talk about the weather ALL OF THE TIME!!

  2. sounds like you have found the right balance for you. Extreme weather does seem to require a larger and more flexible wardrobe. Congrats on the weight loss by the way!

  3. I'm like you, I like my clothes and the variety. While I often think " I can do that!" in reality, I haven't yet. I am 54 yo, work full time and need clothes that work equally well at wotprk or to go out. DH and I don't do super fancy, but casual very nice for dining out, ect. I also like a good mix of color. In Miami where we live the temperature can be oppressive but it's freezing at work. So like you, I'm buying less but I like to have the variety.

  4. Guys have it so much easier. Mix and match for us means jeans and a T-shirt. Color coordinated means no black sox with sneakers.

    If true, why do I have 7 pairs of jeans and at least 30 T-shirts?

    All of us, male and female, could benefit from a closet downsizing.

  5. I took a look at the 333 Project page and it isn't bad but I am not sure I could do it either except when it comes to clothes I never have many in my closet anyway and I am not much on the bling so don't have a lot of that either. Shoes are not a biggie in my life either. But now this has really got me itching to get into the rest of the house because I have loads of dishes, cups, utensils and that is just the kitchen. The drawers all around the house are just too full and I need to purge.

  6. Probably one of the best things about living in Florida is that you can go any where in jeans, a tee shirt and flip flops. Even so, my closet still bulges with little used and probably, never to be worn again, clothing. Not sure why I'm hanging onto the stuff, other than the thought that "I might just need that some day." Thanks for setting an example for the rest of us. Maybe it's time to clear the clutter.


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