Friday, January 31, 2014

January 2014 Budget

Budget-
Originally $109.09 (total $1800,$600.01 for November and the rest divided monthly)
Changed to $0 out of pocket for this month and $0 total next month.
No more than 45 items total for the year.

Spent: $0 out of pocket but $46.71 on an amazon.com gift card and $112 out of return/eBay earnings.
Totals: $0 out of pocket, $46.71 on gift cards, $112 on returns and eBay earnings.
$1800 left for the year out of pocket.
3 new items entered my closet this year so far. I can buy up to 42 more items this year.

What came in:

  • Fergalicious Sammi Pump $46.71 (free shipping!). Used amazon.com gift card so $0 out of pocket.
  • Little blue bubble necklace, gift from a friend.
  • Reiss Angel Dress, $97 ($112 with shipping). Had $57.01 from returned jacket (see this post) and $56.41 in eBay earnings (have not paid fees yet). $0 out of pocket.
I bought the pumps to replace my everyday black pumps. They were so worn and the heel was so torn up I had to trash them even before I even had replacements. This was a true need because I wear simple black heels so often. I got lucky with these- ordered my regular size in pumps (7) and they fit perfect. They turned out a bit more pointy than I expected but they're still classic and beautiful. I've worn them several times already since I purchased them.

The necklace was a gift from a coworker. While I never would have bought it, I like it. It is not the huge bubble necklace we've seen on every blogger under the sun. It's smaller scale and I hope I will use it.

The dress was something I've been pining for all month. I did many 'power pauses' and stopped myself from buying it over and over until I was SURE I was going to use it well and wasn't just enamored with the idea of it. The price dropped even further as I waffled in agony over this! I wore it the morning after I received it (yesterday, 1/30!) and I love it. My 'regular' size fit perfectly- to the point that it almost looks custom fitted. The style is a '10' on a scale of 1-10 and is exactly what I have always aspired to in my style- classic, elegant, a little sexy and fitted, structured, and I feel POWERFUL in this type of garment. The only issue is that after a few hours of sitting at my desk at work, the fabric did wrinkle in the hips, but it was not very noticeable at least. I'm hyper sensitive to detail and while it stinks, the dress is still lovely and I will get a lot of wear out of it. The price I got it at is astounding- $97 out of an original $360 is pretty spectacular in that I had the opportunity to buy something like this.

The great thing is that the items I selected myself do follow the Strategic Shopping list I made, and they meet all of my criteria!

What I got rid of:

I put a lot of things in the sell pile- a few dozen items at least! But, I actually sold the following:

3 necklaces, 3 cardigans, 2 blazers, 4 tops/sweaters/camis, 1 skirt (13 items)

I also trashed a couple old worn PJs and a pair of too-worn black pumps.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Appending Goals

In addition to my budget, I've added some new goals for this year. Posting about them kind of makes it official, and makes me more accountable!

45: Purchase 45 items of clothing and accessories or less. This includes everything except undergarments and pajama/workout clothing, which are items I never purchase unless I really need them. I'm unsure about adding in gifts or other things to the total, but I may!

10: Wear everything a minimum of 10x this year, excepting formal wear (i think there's 5 or 6 items total in that category including shoes). Those that I don't will be strongly considered for purging.

I'll be detailing these things in my monthly reviews- perhaps all in one budget post or separately a budget and a wardrobe use post.

Account for other purchases: Just for my own awareness, I want to account for the ins and outs of the things I purchase (not grocery or staple toiletries, and not purchase amounts) that don't fall in the wardrobe budget, called Clutter Count. I want to remind myself that my pursuit is minimalism, and that I am absolutely not deprived. It's so easy to think 'but I haven't bought ANYTHING this month' when it really isn't true. Getting an idea of what I'm bringing home will be a neat thing to see, especially at the end of the year!

One last thing, I'm starting the 30-day challenge tomorrow. I'm planning on blogging about the experience and the outfits!


Thursday, January 23, 2014

Wardrobe size/How much is enough?

I've done a fair bit of purging, honestly every couple days I'm sorting through SOMETHING. My wardrobe has taken the brunt of my scruitiny however. I did get a few clothing gifts for christmas but all but a coat have been relegated to loungewear. I did however find a few surprises in my alterations bag that I forgot about. My total keeps on fluctuating, but I'm at approximately:

Current Totals

Tops: 22. Work: 13, Casual: 9
Sweaters: 6
Cardigans: 10
Camis/tanks: 8
Skirts: 4
Dresses: 10
Pants: 20. Work: 11, Casual: 9
Jackets: 4
Coats: 4
Necklaces: 29 (counting 1 set of pearls I forget about because they're put away).
Bracelets: 10
Earrings: 22
Shoes: 17 including snow boots. Not counting house slippers or ice skates..
Scarves: 3
Hats: 1
Bags: 1

I am still in the evaluation process and am likely to find more items to let go as I figure out what really is working for me and what is not.

But all this has made me ask myself, how much is enough? I don't want anything to go unused, but I also hate wearing my favorite things quickly to the point where they need replacement. If I want to wear things 12x a year (low number, not too low and not so high that I'd be replacing things constantly) then how would I work it out? Some items are seasonal, while others I wear all year long and a very few pieces are special occasion only and to be honest I'm lucky to get 1x a year out of those items. I prefer tops that are 'dressy' to casual and wear casual tops very infrequently, and I don't wear dresses or skirts casually.

Example: I wear casual pants 3x a week (IF I leave the house on the weekend). That means that I have 156 maximum opportunities to wear casual pants, and for 12 wears each I need 13 pairs (and since I have 9, I seem to be doing well in this area, but I know that I have many 'benchwarmers' in this category). If I am being honest with myself, I average 2x a week in casual pants, and am perfectly happy with repeating jeans and wearing them much more than 12x a year. That means I really only need 8 or less pairs (perhaps even as extreme as 5 pairs!). And in reality, I'm actually only using 3 pairs of jeans regularly and the rest very infrequently. See how complicated this is? End of the story is- I should cull from this section if possible, but should not add unless replacing.

So it seems that for me, certain types of items should have more or less wears per year. I'm thinking pants should be real workhorses while tops, skirts, and dresses less so. I'm still figuring out what my ideal would be and am trying to apply that towards what I actually have and what makes sense for me to do.

So here's the question for anyone reading: How do you know if you have 'enough' or what is enough to you? How does your wears per year look like, or have you not considered this? I'd love to hear from you, even if it's just to say you're just as confused as I am :-)

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Needs vs. Wants

So, getting past the 20th was a real challenge for me (my 'reward' coupons for my favorite store expired). I don't think I've ever been off the hook for not using them before. Baby steps here people! I didn't buy anything for myself and I'm thrilled and a little relieved. I don't know why I feel compelled to spend, as if it was the last sale or last coupon ever.

Something I did do though is spend $10.49 and $15 at etsy.com on some vintage children's books for my little girl- the exact books my mother used to read to me. I used eBay earnings to make the purchase and couldn't be happier- there is STUFF, and then, there is stuff that has a value that the price tag doesn't reflect. These books are like that to me- and clothes, no matter how much I enjoy them, don't compare. I'm still fighting my shopping demon- I have $25.49 less to go towards clothing for myself, and it stings a little. Being a minimalist rather than a maximalist will take time. I'm too used to having my cake and eating it too!

But back to my wardrobe- the things I keep finding that I actually need are not the things I like to shop for. I need a pair of replacement black flats and I need to replace my 'handbag' that also is a diaper bag and lunch bag in the way I use it. It's beginning to fall apart, same with the shoes. It's not been those things I've been pining away to buy! I need to focus on the real NEEDS more and less on the latest and greatest from my favorite stores!

One last revelation I've had deals with something that Debbie Roes calls 'benchwarmers'- items that you wear extremely infrequently (her definition I believe is less than 2x a year). I still have a lot of benchwarmers despite a smallish,  recently culled closet. I pulled out one of my benchwarmers on Sunday to wear- a pretty black open cardigan with chiffon and lace layers in the front. I love the style of it and always pick it first to keep in a cull. Well, now I know why it's a benchwarmer- it is too small for me. I've made this mistake too many times (buying things a size too small) and I feel like I finally have learned my (expensive) lesson. And again this morning- I tried to wear my black leather jacket (see worn here). It's also too small (I outgrew this one), which is why I never wear it. How many times have I tried something on, didn't like it/felt 'off', and just put it back in the closet instead of in the sell/donate pile? I always assumed I wasn't doing it right and would find the perfect outfit for it later. I need to start trusting my gut instinct, and asking myself WHY!

Sorry for the rambling/haphazard content of this post!

Anyone else have any recent revelations, or have anything to share?

Monday, January 20, 2014

Hidden Messages

Do you ever feel like the universe is trying to tell you something? I have almost daily, and yet have been struggling to continue forward and let go of my old habits. I see things that connect with what I am attempting to do every day- like little messages I've been left that tell me I am doing the right thing in pursuing minimalism. Even my fortune cookie told me yesterday: 'When having has become too much, it is the same as not enough.' I need to continue on and make this change!

I've decided (I am not totally happy about my decision, but that is why I think it is important to keep pushing forward) to NOT spend any money on purchasing new items this month, even though I begin a shopping ban in 10 days. I've decided to get my bag of stuff to the tailors and get the repairs and alterations that I need done. I tell myself that it'll be like having a bunch of new things in that I'll be able to WEAR them. Trying to focus on need over the emotion-charged act of BUYING, and following my own advice which I always intended to do but never followed through with (getting those alterations done).

I hate to stress how hard it is to change, but you know how the saying goes- no gain without pain! And this is emotionally painful for someone who literally is a spoiled child who is used to getting her own way (reasonably, but still spoiled all the same).

Friday, January 17, 2014

Struggling

It seems the higher level of stress I experience, the more intense the shopping bug bites. I'm having a real hard time fighting it! At work I'm overwhelmed and it's amazing how fast my mindset shifted. I was feeling great and on the right path to my new-found direction in 'minimalism', and then suddenly I'm impulse shopping (and very nearly clicked the order button several times). I'm trying to figure out why and how, and I've really amazed myself with all the internal excuses, struggles, and just how SNEAKY I really am. I'm trying to justify shopping in so many ways, it's pitiful. Here are some of the things I have been telling myself:

'I'm working so hard, and so much overtime, I DESERVE to spend some of it on myself.'
'I can really use X and X and X, they would be so versatile' etc.

When faced with the limit I put on myself in terms of money (no spending this month) I'm getting creative again. I have a $100 gift card and ~$40 in ebay earnings so far, and when that proved not enough to satisfy purchasing everything on my list I decided I could add in the $64 return and still 'spend no money' out of pocket. When even that didn't add up to enough, then I started contemplating being sneaky and hiding the purchases. I don't like the idea of bringing home a boatload of things right now and showing them to my husband who is aware of the no spend month, and I wanted to circumvent it by hiding once again even if I stick to the amounts available. I'm ashamed of myself! 

The idea of missing out on the sale (everything I want is on sale right now) and the fact that I could miss out completely because they are selling out fast is almost painful. Obviously I am a spoiled child who is used to getting her way, because not bringing home everything I want is not something my brain wants to accept. After trying to budget it many different ways with the funds I have, I know it just won't work.

Here are SOME of the things I want and why:



White Blouse- I have this in black and it gets a TON of wear. I have been looking for a nice white top and this really fits the bill. I am determined to get this top sometime. Its $68, and I have a $20 off $80 coupon and 5% off. If I purchased this with a pretty pair of inexpensive earrings I total $60.89 for the two.

Black Cardigan- This is a great basic and WHBM makes really nice, high quality cardigans. I believe I would wear it a lot. I have a black cardigan that is sparkly and I don't like wearing it as often as I do because it doesn't 'go' the way a simpler one would (and is scratchy). It also is on amazing markdown at $27.99 ($88 orig) after coupon.

Blue Reiss dress- This is a stunning versatile dress. I don't have many dresses that I can wear to work and this dress is just my thing. It's also on amazing sale at $144 (orig $360) plus $15 for shipping.

Black Skirt- Just a simple black skirt, which is exactly what I have been 'needing'. I have a wool pencil skirt (needs alterations, but may just get rid of), a teal pencil skirt, and two printed a-line skirts. I don't have anything simple and versatile and this would be great. Again, on super sale and should be high quality. $34.99 with coupon.

If I don't get any of these items this month, I'm on a shopping ban next month and will likely miss out. The feeling of possibly not getting what I want is the worst to battle with.

“Wanting less is a better blessing than having more.” 

I came across this quote last week and was enamored by it, but am finding out that it is much more difficult to practice the ideal rather than just admire it.

So far, I have only made one purchase earlier this month- a replacement pair of black pumps (had to trash the old ones) using my $50 amazon.com gift card. This was a necessary purchase and already has been in constant rotation. But my brain doesn't want to 'count' those as shopping! I'm holding on, and have not made any decisions yet. Just looking to see if anyone else has felt this way and if anyone has any advice!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Shop your closet 30 day challenge

I've been thinking on and off about doing an exercise in not shopping. I was so unwilling to entertain the idea in the past that I think it's a sign that I really need to do something to break my addiction. I've done shopping bans in the past, but always cheated and then binged when it was over so I've put some thought into how I was going to manage it this time.

I was going to do a challenge this month because I'm short on discretionary income this month anyway, but I have eBay earnings and gift money which I plan on spending and that really pixies on the spirit of the ban even if I'm not spending my own money out of pocket. So, the decision is that I'm on a shopping ban for 30 days from January 31st to March 1st (March 2nd I am free). I cannot spend any money, not even gift cards or eBay earnings, on clothing or accessories. To prevent a binge, I've added the rule that I cannot blow this month's and next month's budget money in March either. I'm breaking it up and redistributing the $ instead, because ending a ban with a shopping spree (even when budgeted for) is opposite my intentions. So now the budget goes from $109.09 a month to $133.33 effective March 2nd.

The challenge I decided to follow is the 30-day Shop Your Wardrobe Challenge by Jill Chivers and comes with inspiration for how to dress each day. I'll post the 30-day inspiration list and hopefully blog the outfits I do for the challenge which, again, starts January 31st.

Wish me luck!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Signs of Progress

I wanted to write a bit about the black faux-leather jacket I ordered from Express on November 27th.

I ordered it in size M, same size ( ETA: not same style) as the burgundy jacket that I kept and love to death. It was too large, and even though I had overshopped, instead of returning it I only exchanged it for a size S. 

It came in today, and I was so excited! I tried it on and it fit well and looked pretty good. It was definitely 'badass' and the tough edge I like to combine with my girly tops. The faux-leather was the best I've felt ('buttery' soft) and to top it off it's $64, originally $128.

At this point I would normally have torn the tags off, buried it deep in my closet, and thrown away the packaging deep in the garbage before my husband got home and noticed it.

I looked at it for a while. Thought for some time. I asked myself, is this your perfect black leather jacket? Do you love it or is it just 'good enough'. Is the shape flattering? Will I be able to wear it often and in different situations?

Answer is no to all of it. There's no waist definition, which is the part of my body I care to highlight the most. The zip is asymmetrical and I didn't like how it looked unzipped which means it wasn't too versatile. It doesn't look good with dresses or skirts because it is belted at the hip (drop waist?). It was too rough-and-tumble to wear to work and look right with my work style. So I'm returning it. Yes I would have a few occasions to wear and enjoy it but my standards are too high at this point to go for a jacket I'll only wear a few times a year.

I showed my husband the jacket when he got home and explained why I was returning it even though he and I both liked it. And promptly wrote this post via moble lol!

I feel like I'm making huge leaps and bounds in my progress lately, and that happy feeling is much better than any other feeling!

How to Edit/Purge Your Closet Part III

This is the last and final phase of Editing/Purging your closet. See Part I here and Part II here!

Once you've lived in your recently purged closet for a while, a second and more-in-depth review will really be beneficial. You'll have a new perspective and a fresh eye when going through everything.

Do an In-Depth Review (2nd Edit)

1. Make sure you've prepared first!

2. Pick a category again and pile all that stuff in front of you.

3. Look at each item individually. Rate it on the following:

*Fit (does it fit well, without pulling buttons or constricting you, without bunching or loose gaping? This requires trying on things you have not worn!)

*Color (do you like the color, is the color flattering to your body and skin tone?)

*Form (does the style of this item please you, is it suited to your personality or your style, does it flatter your body shape?)

*Appropriate (is it appropriate for your lifestyle, your age or place in life?)

*Use (is it useful in your life, does it get worn often enough to keep it?)

*Emotion ( do you feel amazing wearing this, do you have sentimental value for this item, do you enjoy it?)

Notice I don't mention price! What you spent on something means NOTHING- be it $1 or $1000, the money was spent and there is nothing you can do to change it. Price should never justify the space an item takes up both mentally and physically. If a top was only $10 and you wore it once, how does it compare to the $100 top you wore 20 times? That's right, it was more expensive because you paid $10 to wear it once versus $5 a wear for the top (cost per wear). But what if now you rediscover that $10 top and wear it 10 times? Cost-per-wear is a great concept when shopping for new items but doesn't really work for purging. The money's already gone. Use value is far more important- if you'll wear something and enjoy it in the future, that is value. Looking at a $150 coat on the hanger that you don't wear only makes you feel guilty about wasting $150. Get rid of it- you'll feel better and someone else will get a chance to enjoy it. The best part is when you're out shopping and see a coat you love and will wear often, you'll get it instead of being held back by the one sitting on the hanger at home.

Once you've decided what to keep for sure, put it back in the closet. The 'maybe' or undecided items should be put away for a length of time and put on probation- if you don't reach for it (say, a month or 3 months) then get rid of it. Remember there always will be pretty clothes for sale! I used to keep things because I was afraid that I wouldn't have 'enough'. How funny that seems now! Enough is such a vague term. The average person can get by stylishly with only 33 or less garments and still look different every day! And slowly replacing sub-par items with well thought out ones is still an option!

4. Go get that purgatory bag from the first edit. Most of these things can be let go, since you have not reached for them. Sort through it using step #3 above.

5. Re-inventory your things. Having an understanding of what you have is vital! I talked a bit about wear opportunity, and I'd like to suggest you targeting how many items in each category is optimal for yourself. Once you get to that number you can practice the one-in, one-out philosophy (buy a top, let one go). I'm still figuring out that number for myself. If I wear a top 12 times a year, I need approximately 26 tops all inclusive (6 opportunities a week). Obviously that doesn't account for seasonality or occasion, but it's a starting point for certain!

Review and On-going Purging

Reflect on what you've let go and why. What led you to making mistakes when buying? Try to identify patterns. I was influenced heavily by the bloggers I read. I mistakenly thought buying things I liked on other people, and that a big selection/wide variety of things was how to get good style. Wrong! Great style is far EASIER to achieve with a smaller wardrobe and less choice. Use the list of things you need to replace/wardrobe holes to shop with instead of the I-see I-buy I-want monster of the past. And remember that just because ONE TIME you wanted grey booties for a particular outfit, it is NOT a wardrobe hole. A wardrobe hole is something you'd wear several times a month and NOT skip over something similar you already have in favor of the new item.

Continue to let go of things as you go so that your closet never becomes overstocked again. You'll be refining your style and you'll find (if you're like me) that your fit standards get more rigorous and your eye for buying great, versatile items more keen. I'm in this phase right now myself. You may find you don't need to buy much if anything.

I've personally taken the extra step of looking at my storage, figured out what comfortably fits and what I approximately NEED, and am paring things down so that I can store everything in a way that makes it all fit well, not be overstuffed, and so that I can easily SEE everything I have. I'm tired of clutter, and I know that if I can't SEE something I won't use it. I've applied these principals to my lounge wear, underclothing, and even other parts of my house like the bathroom medicine cabinet! I'm on a real roll when it comes to reducing the clutter/stress. I'm looking at what I have with a new perspective-what do we need, what can we use, and not with the aimless 'want' monster of the past.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

How to Edit/Purge Your Closet Part I

I've seen a lot of people on various blogs/forums ask how to do a purge. Since I've done this so many times, I figured I would put the method I have found that works for me out there in the hope it works for you.

I really think that the entire process should take a few weeks, not just one day. Of course you can take and leave parts of my advice and do a mini edit in much less time, but this is particularly designed around a full and thorough review for someone who needs to do so. I'll do this in a few posts because it is such a wall o' text!

Preparation (every time you edit)

1. Do your laundry! Having things in the laundry just confuses me on how many things I have, and that is a pretty important thing to know for part II.

2. Clean up everything and organize. Put your pants with your pants, tops with tops, shoes with shoes, necklaces with necklaces. Pick up those spare things (or stuff in other closets) around the house and put them all in the same place.

A benefit to having everything in one place where you can see it- it can help you let go of sub-par items when you see you already have several really great ones. It also helps to see what you are short/missing in your wardrobe.

Do a Quick Review (1st Edit)

1. Pick an item category (pants for example) to go through. For immediate satisfaction, pick the smallest category so you can feel accomplished! Pull all of them out and pile them in front of you.

2.  Do a quick sort into the following categories- A) I love these and they fit, B) These need repairs/tailoring, C) These don't fit, D) These are 'OK' or I don't like them. Anything not salvageable should go straight to trash.

3. Put category 'A' back into the closet. 

4. Look at category B and if there is anything that you love and want to save via repairs or tailoring and is worth the expense. Get a bag and place these items in there to get fixed. The other items should go into trash  (needs repairs) or donate/sell bags (needs tailoring).

5. Look at category C. If your weight fluctuates a lot a few of these items may be worth keeping, but honestly I think you are better off purchasing new when it does. While you may have loved those jeans in a size smaller/larger last year, you may not like them as much if and when they do fit again. In particular, cheap items really are not worth holding on to when compared to the space and stress they will give you. And I hate to stress this, but stop trying to make too large or too small items 'work'. Properly fitting garments are the core foundation of being stylish and put together. Fit is everything! Put what you decide not to save in donate/sell.

6. Look at category D. Divide into two sections- A) I don't like these at all and never wear them, and B) These are just 'OK'/I wear these frequently despite not loving them. 

Donate/sell the items in (A) regardless of what you've paid for them or how many times you've worn them. 

The items in (B) will be the most challenging to sort through. Basics (items you need to make other items work but don't LOVE) and/or items you wear a lot should go back in the closet for now. For the other items- if you can't make a decision quickly whether to let them go or keep them, put them in a special place or bag away from the rest of your items that we're going to call 'purgatory'. We'll talk more about purgatory in the next two phases.

7. Get those items in the sell, donate, trash, and repair/tailor bags outta there! If you don't get those items repaired or to the tailor in a set amount of time (give yourself a day, week, or month but stick to it) then they have to go in the trash or be donated. They do you no good sitting in a bag waiting to be fixed so you can wear them. The same goes for the donate bag- and worse, it's tempting to go through it once more. Don't do it and trust your gut instinct. You're not likely to be wrong, and even if you are there are always wonderful pretty things available for sale.

8. Count up your items in each category including 'purgatory' and repair/tailor items. If you want to feel accomplished, count up what you've let go too! I recommend dividing each category out like this:

Tops: 96 (Had 115 but let go of 19)
Work-Appropriate (Dressy): 60
Casual: 30
Evening/Date: 6

Don't combine sweaters or layering camisoles/tanks with your tops- make sure each separate category has its own function.

Make sure you do this edit to every category of clothing, shoes, and your accessories. It may take a couple days so don't stress yourself out. The next post will discuss the period in between your first edit and the second edit, and what you'll be doing with those numbers you counted up.

Check out the next posts for How to Edit/Purge Your Closet Part II and Part III.

How to Purge/Edit Your Closet Part II

This is Part II of How to Purge/Edit Your Closet. See Part I here and see the next post for Part III.

Consciously Dressing

Take a week or three off before doing the second round (Part III).

In the meantime, keep wearing your clothes as regular, or even step up your outfits with some effort and inspiration. Wear as many things as possible/convenient. See if you reach for and wear anything in 'purgatory'. If you do just put it back in your closet for now.

When you wear your clothes, make an effort to notice what you are wearing, how you feel in it, how it fits, even what would make the outfit better or more 'you'. Write down the things you need to replace or items that would make your wardrobe more versatile, and be conscious about shopping for only those items if you must go shopping. Try to minimize shopping, as that can just compound the problem. I personally recommend a full out shopping hiatus and focusing your energy on dressing your best with what you have.

Another really good thing to do is take a look at the number of things you have (we counted them up in Part I) and THINK about them. For example, work-appropriate tops. If you have 60 of them, and wear them 5 days a week, that is 260 days. This works out to an average of 4 wears per top. Is this the usage you really want for your money and storage space? A huge selection of options may sound like a great thing, but in reality it's causing waste of space, money, and even time choosing. The added stress really isn't worth the trade off.

As you do this the hope is for you to pinpoint what is working for you and what is not, and why. This is how I have been developing a great, cohesive personal style for myself!

A last note on fear- these are just objects. Letting them go is not going to hurt you, and most likely will liberate you. Fear of regretting a decision you make is hard to get over, but the worst thing you can do is not make a decision! Hanging on to STUFF you don't use for years is not the solution- the money is gone, and beating yourself up over it does no-one any good. Move on and do better in the future!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Wardrobe Purging Part II

I talked about purging my wardrobe the other day and how liberating it has become. I mentioned how I had a lot of items on 'hold' for review that I wasn't sure about keeping. Well, I went back and did another purge and did a quick review of accessories as well. I identified 2 tops to put away with my maternity wear (actually worn during my pregnancy) and 4 more to sell. I selected a dozen and a half other accessories and 1 pair of shoes to sell as well. The worst part is I found a pair of shoes I ordered last year and forgot to return, so I'm listing them for sale as well.

I have identified several other items on 'probation' and haven't made up my mind just yet. I wanted to downsize my accessory collection (for instance, I have literally more than 8 blue necklaces) to make room for a new piece or two to add variety. I don't wear my pieces and I want them to be used, and I want them to all fit on my jewelry hangers without adding more (I have 28 hooks plus a bracelet and necklace stand). So right now post purge I have exactly 28 necklaces, 13 bracelets, and 22 pairs of earrings. I even edited my underthings and socks!

The same rule of use it or lose it goes for almost everything else- if I don't wear or love something it should go, which gives me room and the opportunity to replace a few things with things I DO love. But can any woman love more than dozens and dozens of accessories equally? That is the question my friends. We'll see how this goes.

I'm in the process of writing a couple-part post about the process I've been using to purge/edit. I feel FREE, liberated, amazing after finally letting go of all this emotional and literally physical baggage. I used to feel shame and overwhelmed when looking at my stuff, and shame when buying new items I could actually use and stuffing them in an already overly full (albeit small) closet. I feel great now not having all those things reminding me of wasted space, dollars, time, and failure. I feel happy when I open my closet even though I have fewer 'choices' (re: things I didn't use and beat myself up for not using them and choosing better things). The funny part is that I didn't realize the amount of stress it was causing until it was gone!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Strategic Shopping

I want to share the new strategy I will use while shopping along with my budget to keep me on track. I plan on using these 5 main criteria to choose new clothing items:

Fit
Before purchasing/keeping an item I need to ensure proper fit. Does it fit me currently as is? Only small needed alterations will be acceptable-hemming and shoulder straps alterations. No more buying things a little too small or are ‘almost’ but not quite right.

Color
When choosing an item I need to ensure not only that the color flatters but that it will work in my current wardrobe. I want to stick to my current color pallet and perhaps even pare down my colors. Currently I have Black, White, Grey, Navy, Tan, and Chocolate Brown as neutrals. Non-neutral colors are Kelley Green, Teal, Cobalt, Red-orange, Red, Burgundy/Wine, Royal Purple, Raspberry, and Coral.

Style
I need to ensure the style of the item works with items I currently have and I don’t need to buy more to get use out of it. Additionally, it generally should not be too similar to anything I already have in that I don’t want a closet full of duplicates. It also must flatter my body. Lastly, I need to make sure that it fits my lifestyle (90% Dressy vs. 10% Casual, very minimal ‘occasion/date/cocktail’ wear). This is very important to point out because I have an unbalanced wardrobe compared to my lifestyle.

Use Value
When choosing an item I need to make sure I will really USE it. If I can’t or don’t want to wear something within the next 30 days, then I should not purchase it. There can be exceptions but they have to make sense (such as buying a winter coat when they're on sale to wear next winter).

Price
I need to consider price LAST. If it meets all the above criteria, then I need to make sure I will get sufficient wear (or enjoyment) out of the item to justify what I spend. Good deals are not good deals if it doesn’t fit the other categories.

In addition, I am planning on shopping using a list. I want to shop exclusively from my list, which looks a little like this:

Things that need replacing
*Black ~3” closed toe heels
*Black or metallic versatile flats
*Winter Coat
*3 Lightweight/summer tops

Wardrobe ‘Holes’
*Short blazer for dresses
*A couple versatile jackets/blazers
*A non-black neutral pair of closed toe pumps
*Versatile white blouse
*A few work-appropriate tops- printed moreso than solids
*Black pencil skirt
*A couple work appropriate dresses and skirts
*Fitted black cardigan
*Versatile printed cardigan (in my colors)
*Nice belt for pants

Wish List
*White tiered WHBM top (I have the black one and it is FABULOUS)
*Cognac, grey, or chocolate brown heeled boots
*Ankle Boots
*Non-black neutral cardigan
*Replace some of the tops that are not my favorites

Wardrobe Purging

I was inspired by Debbie Roes’s blog, Recovering Shopaholic, to completely weed through my clothing some weeks ago. It inspired me to let go of many things- a coat I kept out of price guilt that didn’t fit well, things I had been given that didn't fit or weren't my style anymore, things that I bought but never wore because of fit or style issues, things I no longer fit in etc. I ended up with quite a pile of stuff to part with immediately. Combined with the other purges I have done over the last year, my wardrobe is much much smaller than what it was.

Here's the current state of affairs vs. the previous numbers (numbers are approximate, there’s been a lot of in and out and the numbers only reflect a total at one time point rather than total number of different garments I owned at any point this year, which would be a little higher):

10 dresses vs. 14
5 blazers/jackets vs. 19
4 coats vs. 6
4 skirts vs. 19
28 tops vs. 95
6 sweaters vs.10
12 cardigans vs. 27
8 camis/tanks vs. 10
22 pants vs. 35
19 pairs of shoes vs. 26

Overall, a total reduction of 143 items, or 55%. There are quite a few things in my current wardrobe that I am going to give a trial run to and make a decision on in the next three months if I am keeping or not. I feel like I’ve made a lot of progress, but more importantly feel much less stressed when standing in front of my closet in the morning and deciding what to wear. It just makes more sense and I’m happy to say that I don’t start my day with that sense of shame and guilt like I used to. It was my normal and I never realized how it was affecting me until I changed it. I don't feel I have it quite right yet though. I would like to reduce casual tops, add work tops, skirts, jackets, and dresses. Not in any mass quantities!

The most eye-opening thing though post-purge was what I HAD vs. what I THOUGHT I had.  Once I sorted out everything and organized my things back into my closet, I had 3 blazers and only 1 was versatile enough to wear often. I only had a dozen tops that were office appropriate (and not all of them are really up to par). I had another dozen+ casual tops!  My needs and my closet do not match. I dress in a ‘dressy’ business casual 4 days a week, a ‘dressy’ casual on Fridays, and my weekend wear isn’t too far from my Fridays. So I need a wardrobe of 90% professional wear and 10% casual wear ideally. I actually have more casual/non-work appropriate tops than I do dressy ones, so this makes zero sense. I also own way more casual pants than necessary. The funny part is that I kept buying to fill a perceived need (something for the weekend!) that I didn’t have but didn’t know it.

I’ve been working on a strategic shopping plan in addition to my new budget so that I can stop this vicious cycle of in and out, and hopefully so that I can make better FEWER purchases and fewer mistakes. I’ll talk more about this in the next post.

Does anyone else have any experiences with wardrobe editing to share? Any suggestions?

Thursday, January 2, 2014

New Year, New Plan

I've talked about budgeting and over shopping many times on the blog before, but never followed through to the end. I've never been able to stick to a budget before. I always start out very motivated and while my true personal beliefs align  with minimalism and frugality, I always seem to lose my grip after a few months and go back to consumption and less saving.

I developed a problem with spending too much/over-shopping back in late 2008 when my husband and I went through a very painful, stressful, and depressing 7 month separation (not in the relationship- physical distance due to circumstance/necessity). To cope, I developed a shopping habit that got a bit out of control, even spending money I didn't have and, yes, hiding purchases. I did fix the debt issue almost immediately, but often spent all my extra money on clothing and still hid purchases out of a sense of guilt for buying so many things. I don't remember having any need to shop or thinking about shopping often before that awful time period, and I certainly never spent too much on clothing. Just recently I've been able to admit the whole shebang to myself. 

The hard part is that like any habit or addiction, it is very difficult to change your behavior even when the source of the problem is long gone. I still kick myself thinking about all the wasted $ I spent. Even recently I binged, spending $800 after returns on clothing (at least now I have a better sense of what I need/will use/proper fit). And the sense of shame for the hiding is too painful to admit to anyone in person yet.

This year, I want to finally succeed at sticking to my budget. I've thought a lot about my previous failures and hope to start fresh with a clearer perspective and free of some of the shame and guilt. 

What I did really want to share today is 
my new budget and the strategies I am using to stick to it.

2014 Budget
$1800/year. $109.09 per month, $600.01 for November.

I came to this number after much thought and research. I've set the bar higher and lower than this number in the past and have never succeeded either way. One reason is that the number I chose had always been arbitrary and represented nothing more than a number to me. The drive to get everything I wanted/imagined was deeper than some magic number and I really wasn't ready to confront the root of the problem or why I hated limiting myself. I came up with excuse after excuse and used some creative budgeting. Lately I've read a few articles about budgeting and most experts recommend staying at or under 6% for clothing, and some like the MMI have guidelines are even lower- 4% of your take-home pay (after taxes). I personally always spent way more than this, but I didn't ever have a real guideline or clear plan. When I set this new budget, I decided firstly that the number had to be one that was reasonably achievable for me, because I don't want to fail. I set it as a percentage of my personal net pay (I did not include my husband's salary, but I went with the higher net and not my take home). I won't say the exact percentage but it is higher than 4% (again, I need it to be reasonable). I'd like to reduce more next year and one day meet the MMI guideline but let's get through this year first!

I also looked at all of my items both for an idea on cost per wear but also to see trends in my spending. I tend to spend the most in November- I love the sales and fall is my favorite season for clothing because I love jackets and light layering. I decided to keep 1/3 of the budget just for November sales, because I am likely going to buy a lot despite having only one month left in the budget and I don't want to overspend, so this is my way of saving for the event.

I still dislike the idea of no or extremely limited shopping. My excuse of course is rebuilding/refining my wardrobe into one that fits my new career path. If I go cold turkey I will binge when done, that much I have experienced in the past. But I at least have a clearer view and a focus now. I know I could do much better/closer to my ideal, but I'm not ready/fully committed yet. I do hope to get there one day.

New Budget Rules
*I can apply gifts towards the budget (including gift cards or cash).
*I can apply net earnings from selling old clothing on ebay towards the budget.
*I cannot accept gifts from my husband, as we budget everything else together and it comes out of the same pot of money regardless of intention
*Tights and necessary underclothing items come out of the grocery budget as always. I don't buy these unless I really need them and have never used this as a spending loophole.
*ETA: Shop strategically, more to follow in another post

One of the ways I have thought about to keep on track is to use a prepaid visa only for spending on clothing/accessories. It's a way to keep myself from spending any more than what I budget for. I can't do cash since most of my spending is online, but this is a great alternative. And I conveniently have a $100 prepaid visa (reusable) gifted to us from my parents... I also want to hold myself accountable and do a monthly budget progress report.

I've done a lot to try to reduce my drive to spend (and still looking for ideas and tips). I've unsubscribed from e-mails from all but my 4 favorite retailers. I'm trying to focus on other activities, tracking my cost-per-wear, and even have eliminated from my blogroll the most triggering blogs I read. I've also searched for and added new blogs to read that focus on minimizing, budgeting, and fighting over-consumption and shopaholism.

Do any of you have advice for me or would like to share your personal strategy?