BeforeYourNext Birthday-DeniseFisher’s Blog

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Wardrobe Organization By The Numbers – The 28-Outfit Seasonal Collection

Posted by denisefisher on March 27, 2009

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The accumulation of stuff expands to fill the space available for its storage. And then it really picks up momentum.

As I wrote in my post, Packing For Paris, it’s better to think of your clothing items in the context of outfits, rather than individual garments. That assures that each of your clothing items goes with other articles of clothing or, perhaps, stands alone as its own outfit. This perspective also keeps you from having an imbalance of a particular clothing category. You can end up with far too many turtleneck sweaters or T-shirts for your needs (these surpluses can sneak up on you without you even realizing it), and these excess garments easily make themselves part of your permanent collection and while they’re seldom worn, they take up valuable real estate in your closet and dressers.

So it helps to have a plan for your wardrobe. And the most practical plan to implement is a plan with numbers. You can choose whatever numbers work for your situation. In reality, the numbers are fairly arbitrary. But choose the numbers first, and establish them as your wardrobe policy. This helps you avoid getting stuck or overwhelmed in your wardrobe assessment and organization project. You have enough decisions to make about what to keep and what to purge. Eliminate some of your decision-making by establishing a wardrobe quantity policy. It’ll be one less thing to have to think about.

I’m going to show you a generous wardrobe quantity policy that I developed for use in a temperate mid-west or mid-Atlantic climate that assumes a wide array of activities (and hence, a fairly wide array of clothing needs). This assumes a small quantity of “presentation” outfits (what you might wear to an interview or when making a presentation), a small quantity of dress-up outfits (what you might wear for a special evening out or for an afternoon wedding or graduation), a sufficient quantity of outfits for working around the house (clothing that you would wear when doing yard work or cleaning out the refrigerator – clothes that could sustain a permanent stain without you freaking out), and the remaining majority of outfits being “everyday wear” (this would vary from person to person, based on what your every day activities involved – it could even include “presentation” clothes or “work around the house” clothes if those are the activities that you usually do on most days).

Here’s how the numbers come out for my wardrobe quantity policy:
     – 28 winter outfits
     – 28 summer outfits
     – 28 spring/fall outfits

That’s about one month’s worth of non-repeatable clothing outfits:
     – 4 weeks of winter outfits
    –  4 weeks of summer outfits
     – 4 weeks of spring/fall outfits

For each season, I use this breakout:
       4 presentation outfits
       3 dress-up outfits
       7 work around the house outfits
     14 everyday outfits
     28 outfits total

If each season lasts 3 months…
     – January, February, March – winter
     – April, May, June – spring
     – July, August, September – summer
     – October, November, December – fall
…And if the designated outfits are worn “evenly,” that means each outfit will be worn about 3 times per season.

Twenty-eight outfits per season (no repeats for a month) and only 3 repeats of any one outfit per season may seem excessive at first glance. But when I did my wardrobe assessment and reorganization, I reduced my clothing items by more than a third to reach these numbers. Unless you’ve done an inventory on your wardrobe, I expect that you will be shocked to find out how many garments you actually own. And remember, the number of 28 is for outfits, not individual clothing items. If your clothing items are fairly interchangeable, you’ll be able to mix and match them to create even more combinations. If the number that I’m using is too high for you, choose one that suits you better. The goal is to create a wardrobe policy that works for you.

Of course, the 28-outfit policy, in my example, requires that seasonal outfits designated for spring are recycled for wear in the fall rotation. This policy flouts the fashion industry’s rules regarding separate styles and colors for spring and fall, but who says I have to comply with their marketing ploys? That’s part of what created the problem of overstuffed closets in the first place. My spring-fall policy also means that this collection of clothing will get twice the wear of the other seasons, but the rotation won’t be back-to-back, and wearing an outfit six times over the course of an entire year isn’t at all unreasonable.

Keep in mind that the wearing schedule is totally tentative. Neither seasons of the year nor seasonable weather conforms to the calendar, so transitional adjustments will need to be made; and you may have to borrow from one of the adjacent season’s outfits when an unexpected heat wave or cold spell comes through.

The other thing to consider when establishing your wardrobe quantity policy is the space you have available for storage. Ideally, you will have room to store all of your clothing in the same general location (hopefully in the same room, except maybe outer garments, uniforms, or other specialty items). But if you need to rotate garments in and out of storage (in less convenient locations), I’d recommend keeping the spring-fall collection on hand and rotating out the winter and summer collections. That will allow you to make seasonal transitions more easily and will keep the adjacent season’s outfits available for those unseasonable weather days.

Go, take a look at your closet and dresser drawers, and do a quick count and estimate of your inventory. Then start formulating your own wardrobe quantity policy, by the numbers.

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9 Responses to “Wardrobe Organization By The Numbers – The 28-Outfit Seasonal Collection”

  1. Polly said

    Keep writing! I come here everyday 🙂

  2. Thanks Polly! Those kinds of comments are every blogger’s dream. Consider my next post dedicated to you. (Since only serious readers will delve into the comments, I doubt that anyone other than you will read this, so I’ll give you advance notice of the topic – it will be The 3-Year Wardrobe Plan.)

  3. Polly said

    I’m having trouble with too much casual. I’d like an ‘around the house’ wardrobe guide please 🙂

  4. Ah, a living example of a clothing category creeping up on you and taking root without your intention. In the upcoming post, I will discuss how to mindfully plan for new wardrobe acquisitions. Hopefully that will address your current imbalance, and allow you to transition your “around the house” outfits to ones that reflect the image of your household status (maybe from that of “household lounger” to “madam of the manor”).

  5. […] Wardrobe Organization By The Numbers – The 28-Outfit Seasonal Collection […]

  6. […] Wardrobe Organization By The Numbers – The 28-Outfit Seasonal Collection […]

  7. Laura said

    Denise- I was just getting ready to pull everything out of my closet, when I thought… maybe the internet can give me some advise on how to determine HOW MUCH STUFF I NEED TO KEEP!!! Perhaps a plan will help me to finally succeed at the task of organizing my closet/clothes. I can’t believe I pulled up this blog first thing! It is exactly what I have been looking for! Thanks so much for sharing your thoughtful ideas! I am looking around your site and can see that there are MANY other topics that I can’t wait to read about! But – I am determined to stay on course – (the closet!) for today! Will look forward to other blogs soon. Thanks again! LSM New RULE *** Plan first, then dig in!***

  8. Lisa said

    I absolutely love this. I had this same idea when I was in my twenties but was told by a few that it was ridiculous. Haven’t thought about it in years. Coming across your post was such a great feeling. Since my twenties I have noticed and continue to only wear my favorites even if other items are right in front of me. I have tried to organize my clothes for the past year and have only gotten rid of a few items per month; but have also received 2x the items as gifts during that period. Thanks for posting this. Lol, you have a new follower 🙂

  9. Thanks Lisa (and Laura – how did I miss responding to that comment?). Glad to be able to share ideas that others find useful! Most of my posts are based on actual things I have tried and found successful. There are plenty of conceptual ideas out there that sound good but have not been put to the test. I’m currently on hiatus from my blog while I’m taking a momentary detour in my career. But I’m making notes for new posts, and planning a future comeback.

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