Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Clothes for seven weeks

This past Friday after work, I spent 10 minutes figuring out what clothes I'll wear for the next 7 weeks.

What this means is that I looked through my closet and organized my clothes into clusters of four outfits per week.  Why four?  I teach three days a week and dress more formally for those three days.  I give myself one "dress-down" day at work.  I also dress-down on the weekends.  On those days, I grab something from my drawers, not from my closet.  So I'm really just picking out the more formal sets of clothes.  This set-up gives me structure (on my formal days) and flexibility too.

After bunching the clothes into groups, I linked each group of four outfits with a hair elastic, so I'd see which clothes belong together for the week.  If there was an outfit that required an accessory (special stockings or a belt or such), I found that item and hung it on the hangar, too.
Before you think that this is over-the-top OCD behavior, I'll share with you what I've discovered about the advantages of doing this.

The most immediate advantage, and the reason I started organizing my clothes this way, is that picking out clothes calmly and quietly on a tranquil evening saves me a bunch of stress  on hectic week-day mornings.   Even though I have a good morning routine and my boys know how to make their own breakfast, there is still a lot of last-minute craziness that can lead to "Decision fatigue".  I don't want choosing my outfit to be the reason I snap at my sons when they ask whether they're allowed to make pancakes instead of waffles, and whether I have lined paper for their notebook, and what to do about the dog barf in the living room, and whether I'll be free at 6:15 this evening to pick up their friend for a sleep-over.

But I've learned that banding my clothes together has a lot of frugal advantages, too.  Like these:
  • I learned I have a lot of clothes.  When I did this the first time one early October, my groupings took me all the way into late November.  Who knew?  All of a sudden I realized I don't need new outfits as much as I thought.  Similarly, the summer outfits I banded together last Friday (September 2) will take me into mid-October.  By then, I'll put them all away and get out my cold-weather outfits.  This means that for more than three months, I won't wear the same outfit twice.  Realizing this cut my personal shopping this past summer down to almost nothing.
  • I learned about the redundancies in my clothes.  When I pick out my clothes by thinking only "what will I wear today?", I focus on single outfits that I might like.  But when I organized ALL my clothes into groups, I was surprised to discover that I had 6 black sweaters.  This is because every time I see a black sweater listed at  50¢ at a yard sale, I think, "that would be a good thing to own; it'll go with lots of outfits".  Now I know that I already own quite enough black sweaters, thank you.
  • I finally decided to get rid of a few of those outfits that seemed like a good idea at the time, but that I just don't like wearing.  It's one thing to keep passing over that outfit, saying "not today, but maybe later."  But when I admitted that I don't want to wear that outfit even 5 weeks from now, I knew that meant "never".  There are some clothes that look good on the hangar but bad on me.
  • A surprise discovery was remembering that the opposite can be true: there are some clothes that look bad on the hangar, but good on me.  There's a black fitted dress I have -- in spite of my penchant for black sweaters, I really don't wear much black, though.  So I avoided that dress for a year or more.  But when I finally put that dress in the groupings and wore it, I got a huge number of compliments on it.  
What I'm about to say might sound like goofy philosophy, but the biggest thing I got out of all this is reconnecting the bulk of my stuff back to my life.  It's one thing to know that my closet and drawers seem to be awfully full -- that's just a sentence about how my stuff fits in my stuff.  It's entirely another thing to translate those clothes into several months of my life.  That's understanding my abundance in a more personal, meaningful way.

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