Quality or Quantity – 5 Reasons to downsize your wardrobe

by Helen

The beginning

Do you still remember your first love? I do, it was a pair of aqua blue 3-inch Steve Madden sandal. After that, I kept falling in love over and over again until my closets were filled with the latest trends. I didn’t really know why I felt the need to buy so much clothes but I did. And it was getting harder to find an outfit because there were so many and I couldn’t find them in the mountain of stuffs.

One morning, after spending 10 minutes to push and pull a bunch of stuffs from the tightly pack racks of clothes, I was short of breath and annoyed. I was annoyed at myself for creating this overflow mountain of clothes and I asked myself: Do I really need all these clothes? How did I get here? When did I buy this much clothe? It got me to analyze what do these clothes means to me.

While I mentally scanned my closet and its contents, I started to reflect on the journey that led me to each piece of cloth and this mini mountain of stuffs that accumulated in my closet. The trial and error, the hits and the misses and how much money did I spend on stuffs that I didn’t even wear that often or never wear at all. Back then, my motto was: latest trend and lot of it. I couldn’t care less about the quality. Quantity mattered more to me.

The Debate

Couple of days later, I got together with a friend for dinner. Over dinner, wine, career and a little bit of male bashing discussion, I posted the question of quality vs quantity clothing purchase. My dear friend was a champion of quality over quantity. She obsessed over cashmere and silk.  I didn’t know how fast she could run until I saw her making a dash to grab the last cashmere sweater at Brooks Brothers. Her ninja legs could move at the speed of a bullet train. She had some good points supporting buying quality over quantity:

1. Longer lasting clothes, less shopping more saving.

It is counter intuitive to say: by paying more per item, you will save more. Her argument was: it came down to casual wear vs office attire. You would wear your office clothes more often than casual ones because you spent an average 40 hours at work plus couple hours of traveling time. Your office wears would be worn out before the casual wear.

But the winter boot was when she got me good. She compared my $60 winter boots that I bought every year to her $300 boot which has lasted for years. If you lived through a Canadian/Siberian winter then you know what I’m talking about. I lost count how many times I stepped outside for couple minutes and then ended up with soaking wet feet because my boots are not fully waterproof.

So, I finally got smart and invested in a pair of Sorel women’s Joan of Arctic boot. These babies were expensive. I paid $300 but they lasted and so warm. Do you want to spend $60 on a pair of boot that won’t last you one winter or a $300 one will ensure you have warm feet for 4 – 5 winters? When you buy quality items, they typically last longer which means less money spent, and less trips to the land of temptation (aka: MALL) and giving in to the spending beast that I called impulse purchases.

2. You will take better care of the expensive items.

When you spend more money on an item, it usually means you really like it and it makes you feel good. When you buy quality, every item in your wardrobe is your favourite. If they are your favourite, you will care for them well and in return, your items can last longer. It is a domino effect, ladies! More importantly, when you look good in your favorite outfit, it will have a positive lifting to your spirit and mindset giving you the confident to tackle your day.

3. You will be less wasteful.

We live in a very wasteful culture. We want more and new stuffs all the time. Just stop for one second and think this through. The more crap you buy, the more crap you eventually have to get rid of. If you’re buying poor quality shirts, you will have to get rid of them more frequent. This will not do your wallet any good.

4. You will save space for more living.

Well, I couldn’t argue about this one. My small mountain of cloth spoke volume. I will shut up now. The less cloth you have also means less time to clean, care for them and ah… yes, more spaces for you.

5. You will shop less.

For the ladies who love shopping therapy likes me, this might is not a plus. What? No shopping therapy, what should we do to reduce stress? For a long time, I loved shopping but then I slowly realized I used shopping to deal with other unhappiness in my life (namely Panda boss). I brought stuffs that I didn’t use because I needed that instant few minutes of gratification to lift my spirit but that feeling was short and fleeting. I ended up not using 1/3 of what I brought and I added more stress to my life because I overspent on shopping for useless stuffs and had to work harder to pay for them. Vicious circle, I tell you

The Purge

Tipsy and deflated but I still had enough brain power to grab the wisdom of my dear friend’s logics. So, I started researching on the best way to clean up your closet. That was when I came across Marie Kondo and her KonMari method. This is one organized lady, I tell you.

To be honest, I thought she was Karen’s long lost twin because they both have this insane drive and determination to follow their convictions. Hum…Tea time with Marie and Karen, I shuddered at the thought. But I was determined to make some changes and my closet was busting at the seam, so there I went. I banned Karen from coming over to my house on the day of KonMari, because she is a first-rate cheapskate and she would talk me into keeping stuffs or grab my thing for herself (which is not recommended in the KonMari method).

It was a simple technique but it was very hard to follow because:

  • First, I had to take everything out of your closet. Cloth, shoes, purse, bags, accessories and everything else must be pull out and on the floor. Jesus! Why did I have so much stuff? I was out breath from lugging things within 15 minutes
  • Then, I had to pick up every item and asked myself this question: Does this item give me joy?
    • If the answer was Yes, I kept the item
    • If the answer was No, I throw it away
    • If the answer was Maybe, then I had one last chance to decide after careful consideration

It was a blood bath. I ended up with 6 bags of stuff to throw away. Karen helped me drop them off at the donation bins and ended up with sore arms. There went thousands of dollars.  What I realized after this awful KonMari exercise was the fact that these stuffs did not just cluster my space but also my mind. I felt lighter and happier looking at my much more organized closet.

There were actually movements in the closet and I could see my clothes finally. More importantly, all the items I decided to keep are things that bring a smile to face or they made me feel good and confident. Why did it take me so long to realize this?

So now I am embarking on a new wardrobe strategy. I planned carefully what I need instead of buying on impulse and I tried to deal with issues in my life thru other means instead of shopping therapy (long walks, punching couch pillows, etc.).

Here is my new found philosophy and method of wardrobe investment:

  • Have a plan.Rather than jumping right into a major closet clean-out blindly, always start with a strategy to keep you on track and be clear on what you need. I started out with pulling my entire closets into middle of an empty room.  Then I pick-up each item, if I feel joy it goes to keep pile. No joy? Then its discard or donation.
  • Plan and set a budget. I know you may hate the B word. I do too, but then Karen set me straight. That budget hawk has her use. Once you have your personal budget, then you can have a plan of what and when you can buy the items that you LOVE but don’t yet have. The most important part in this step is to be honest with yourself. It is what you Love not what you want on a whim. With all the daily expenses in your life, you should never go into debt for the sake of your wardrobe. The last thing you want to have is financial stress for sake of fashion.
  • Bargain hunting. I love eBay. Karen probably told you how she shops. It is true, I got really good deals on eBay for her. Now, I have semi-annual shopping trip also known as my semi-annual clothing haul. Twice a year I, my friend and Karen drive to major outlet malls in US. Armed with our lists of “must”, we brought what we love and no more. I got Tahari, DKNY, Jones NY and Ralph Lauren at bargain price and I had a day of fun with my friend and sister.

In addition, I also took Karen’s mommy’s stylish wardrobe advices. Karen is boring (ex-banker and Capricorn) but she is very logical and good with the budget. If you are also seeing your closet busting at the seam and you spending money on items that you only wear once, it is worth your time to give it some serious thoughts. I am not a therapist but I learn from my experience that:

  • Shopping therapy did not give me long lasting joy
  • Quality is way better for my wallet than quantity
  • Cluster closet is bad for my physical space and mind
  • Dealing with root cause of my issue helps me to have a more blissful and happy life instead of masking my issues with instant gratification
  • Having a plan and making strategic purchases will give me a closet full of clothes that I love and give me lot of joy and confident

There! I will finally stop now. Tell me your wardrobe story. I love to hear from you.

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1 comment

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