How Much Do You Wear (And Waste)?

Posted by Jill Chivers in Shop Your Wardrobe Strategies, Shopping, Clothes and Emotions

Today I’d like to ask you how much of your existing wardrobe you wear.  Is it 10%? 50%? 90%?

One of our current My Year Without Clothes Shopping members is taking her year on the program to analyse this.  She’s using a system to track the items she is actually wearing (she turns the hangers round the other way once the item has been worn; and she has a tagging system for folded items).  Items she’s not wearing get moved to a secondary closet.  At the end of her year, she’ll know for sure how much she’s wearing.  For now, she’s saying that her numbers tell her it’s a small percentage.

Less than 30%

The much quoted statistic is that most women wear 20 – 30% of their wardrobes.  Whenever I speak and share my year without clothes shopping story, I have women volunteer this information to me – they are wearing 10 – 30% of their wardrobes.  I’ve not met a woman yet who tells me she’s wearing close to 100% of what she owns.

For many of us, the same items are on rotation – leaving the majority of items in our closets unworn, untouched, unloved.

What a waste!

What an extraordinary waste!  Not only is this a waste on a practical level (think of all the good uses those clothes could be put to, if not by you then by someone else who could enjoy them and get good value out of them) but it’s an emotional waste, with an emotional cost to pay, as well.

When we are surrounded by so much and use so little of it, it starts to form a pattern in our minds and souls.

The word “waste” is truly appropriate.  It’s like having a pantry full of food, and only eating 10% of what’s in there. Leaving the rest to rot and waste.

Unlike food, clothes do not rot. (Okay, some clothes rot sometimes – moths, silverfish and other creepy crawlies can attack them and gouge holes in them.  Plus they may ‘go off’ style-wise (pale denim, high wasted, narrow-ankled jeans ring any style-gone-off bells, anyone?)).

But in general, unlike food, our clothes can sit untouched, unworn and unloved in our closets for years.  Decades sometimes.

Surrounding us, reminding us silently yet unrelentingly with the evidence of all this waste.

That can’t be good for our psyches.

How much of your stuff is never or rarely worn?

I had a reader contact me recently.  She was motivated by our 12 Secrets to Less Shopping, More Style Free Report to conduct an experiment in her wardrobe.  She went into her wardrobe and pulled out the pieces she wasn’t wearing.

It was a huge pile – much more than what was left hanging in her closet.

She then went through each item and recalled (or estimated where she couldn’t remember precisely) what she’d paid for it.  She toted this up.  Guess what number she ended up with?

It was close to $11,000.

That’s a lot of unworn clothing.

That’s a lot of waste.

That’s a lot of money she could have used for something else.  Some spirit-lifting, life-enhancing experience.  Or as a savings cushion.  Or to pay down her mortgage.  There are so many other things she could have done with that money.

Instead of have it manifest in a huge pile of unworn (and ultimately unwanted) clothes, handbags, belts, shoes and accessories.

It’s a shocking waste

It’s shocking really, this kind of waste.

Too many of us have unworn, unloved and ultimately unwanted clothing hanging in our closets, don’t we?  I still do, despite being many years along the road of healing from my compulsive overshopping.

Your mission

This is your mission, if you choose to accept it.  (and you can’t guess your way through this activity – it won’t work.  It will only yield helpful, and accurate, data if you actually do it).

Go into your closet and do a quick experiment of your own.

  • Pull out the items you wear most often.  Put them on your bed or in another room.

  • This will leave in your closet the items you aren’t wearing, either at all or rarely.

  • Count up what you don’t wear, either ever or rarely.

If you spend 10 – 30 minutes doing this, you’ll have some real data on what you are wearing.  And what you are wasting.

You might find it illuminating.  You might find it provokes you into taking some action. Action that will clear the clutter and leave you feeling great about what you choose to keep.

How much are you wearing?

And how much are you wasting?


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    2 Responses to “How Much Do You Wear (And Waste)?”

    1. Julia says:

      20 months ago or so, I started going through my closet. Over the course of several months, I tried on 95% of everything that wasn’t a message t-shirt or of a style I like to wear frequently (I have a great many bra-top camisoles, in not as many colors as I have camisoles, and it’s a reasonable assumption that any given one is worn at least several time a year). I modeled each item for my husband and a good friend; if they both reacted badly to it on me, it was tossed into a ‘donate’ pile. I think I filled at least 5 18-gallon containers to heaping with things to get rid of.

      I just now went into my closet. I think I’ve worn at least 70% of everything in there since the culling ended. Having fewer things in there makes it easier for me to find everything, and so I have 3 or 4 options in some situations instead of just being able to find 1 or 2 of them, and I wear all of them over the course of the appropriate season.

      (I didn’t bother totaling what I’d spent as I culled; some of the items had been gifts, some had been thrift-store finds. Much of what was discarded fit me just fine when I was 25, and didn’t fit when I was now over 40. Oddly enough, favorite t-shirts purchased in high school fit just fine now, where they didn’t 3 years ago.)

      This still doesn’t address the 2 drawers of shirts in the dresser. (I don’t use the dresser for my clothing anymore, but there are other things that it’s useful for storing, such as sheets.) I will need to address that at some point, but not this month.

      • Jill says:

        hi Julia – it’s amazing to really go through your wardrobe and see what’s in there, isn’t it? Tossing/donating 5 18-gallon bags is a LOT of things to unload! But the outcome sounded like it was incredibly positive for you – a wardrobe that works much better for you, and is streamlined. Perfect!

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