October 18, 2017

When More Clothes Don’t Actually Help Us


When More Clothes Don't actually Help Us

 The things you are about to read? I know in my head. The things you are about to read? I believe in their incredible value, but honestly, it’s a struggle for me.

No one would ever claim I’m a minimalist and with my Frugal Fashionista wardrobe, this is a huge area that I need to work on. I don’t feel a need to buy more, but one of the ways I live life is through my creative bent and so that has manifested itself with buying inexpensive clothes and having fun with an “out of the box thinking” type of wardrobe. To some degree, this is fine, but when my closet and drawers are so stuffed with clothing articles that I don’t even know what I have, it’s a problem. I’ve been working on it – a lot!!

It’s a balance and it feels really good to just get rid of bags and bags of clothes, leaving room for more of what I love. I have a long way to go and a pretty funny story that goes along with it, but until I share it, I’ll let you mull over Katie’s words below.

She’s sharing her thoughts about when she did her No New Clothes Challenge. Believe it or not, I could do this without a problem because I have so many darn clothes. 😉


Have you noticed? In this consumerist world we tend to get overwhelmed by the need to buy more things. In particular, we fill our closets with clothes that are simply unnecessary. (I know I’m certainly guilty!) Author and activist Elisabeth Cline discovered:

The average American woman purchases 60 pieces of brand new clothing every year. 

I can see this. Can you? I’ve watched women fill their arms with piles of clothing to try in the dressing rooms–and that’s not just when there’s a killer sale! Are they buying all of it?

I took on something I called The No New Clothes Challenge in the summer of 2009. For well over two years, my husband and I survived in the clothes we already had. I was even featured in a fashion magazine for it! Of course at some point, my things were wearing out.

Which is something else Elisabeth talks about–how the quality of our clothing has plummeted. (Isn’t that just exactly what our moms keep complaining about?) We’re needing bigger closets. We’re chasing trends.

We’re feeling inadequate.

Why have we let ourselves feel this way? How do you suppose clothes shopping has become a hobby?


Elisabeth says:

The average American woman owned nine outfits in 1930. Nine!

I would so love to read the book where she found this data – Service and Style: How the American Department Store Fashioned the Middle Class

I recently stumbled on a clothing project from 2005. A woman named Alex Martin decided to wear the same dress every day for a year. She didn’t style it with hundreds of dollars of accessories or own several of the same dress. She just kept wearing the same one – day in, day out.

“Did I look crazy?” she wrote in her online diary. “Most people in my professional circle didn’t even notice that I was always wearing the same dress day after day — my take on that is that we’re all too busy with our *own* appearance, family, work, etc. to keep a tally on everyone else’s wardrobe rotations!”

And then this anonymous woman said, “In my 20s I was worried about what people thought of me. In my 40s, I didn’t care what people thought of me. In my 50s, I realized that they weren’t thinking of me all along!

So today I have an interesting question for you:

How many pieces of clothing do you think you could happily live with? Step away from what other people think. Forget about what you worry that they must be thinking. This question is just you.

How much clothing might be your happy point?

Storycatcher and award winning journal crafter Katie Clemons, mother and entrepreneur has appeared on HGTV, given a TEDxTalk, and washed sticky finger prints off every appliance. She also blogs at Making This Home about simple, handmade living from a vintage airplane hangar in Montana, USA.


  1. Heather Anne says:

    Hmmm … 3 skirts, one pair of exercise capris, 5 t-shirts, 5 long sleeved shirts and 5 sweaters … at least that’s what I’m working with right now. I’m extra puffy right now because of a med I was on and nothing else fits 🙁


    Jen Reply:

    I get that, heather. My pants don’t fit either which is when I knew I had to start my no carb month. haha Those peanut butter balls were calling my name one to many times.


  2. Traci shared this comment over on FB, I thought was great.
    “I’m good at sending items out the door but I am too good at bringing more items back in. I want to become a little bit more of a minimalist when it comes to my wardrobe. I enjoy shopping, even frugal shopping, way too much. That was interesting about the ladies owning nine outfits, on average, back then. And yes, the quality of the clothing I am buying isn’t very good anyway. This blogger touched on that recently: http://www.frecklesinapril.com/2015/08/investing.html


  3. For those of us — definitely me — who are challenged in this area, I have found something practical that works.

    For ea pair of shoes you bring in, you must remove two from the home that same day. No sitting in a donation box or bag indoors – all the way out to the outside trash, or, all the way out to your vehicle if you’re donating.

    Once out, they are not allowed back in.

    Use black trash bags for donating and for trash, i.e. the kind you cannot see through to see what’s inside. No peeking, no exit remorse.

    If you have a serious overflowing abundance problem at home, then make it 4 out for every 1 in. Many times in a store, the item I wanted to purchase, was not worth the sacrifice of 4 beloved items at home.

    Do this for everything. For ea beauty aids you bring in, you must remove — COMPLETELY — from the house, two beauty aids already in the home. For ea piece of clothing you bring in, you must COMPLETELY remove two from the home. For ea tie in, 2 out. For each belt in, 2 out. For ea purse in, 2 out. For each new towel in, donate 2 old ones to a women’s shelter or animal shelter. For each pillow in, 2 out. For ea piece of jewelry in, 2 out.

    And remember, if the new ones come INSIDE the door, the ones going out must go ALL THE WAY OUT TO THE OUTSIDE OF THE HOME.

    Set a deadline rule that works for you – mine have to LEAVE THE HOME COMPLETELY all the way out the door and be outside, within 60 mins of the new one coming in. No dithering, no peeking in exit bags, no procratinating.

    When I get sidetracked or the 60 mins is not possible, then the new one has to go BACK OUTSIDE to my vehicle, with a time limit of 7 days or I can’t keep it and the item will be returned. No ifs, ands, or buts. If I can’t get this simple exercise in decision making and letting go DONE within 7 days, then I didn’t need the new item to begin with, and it is returned.

    Also, get rid of clothes that don’t fit. When you put something on and it’s too tight, it says ugly things to you. It is saying, “You gained weight”, or “You need to lose weight”, or “You have cellulite”, or a hundred other uncomplimentary things. GET RID OF IT if it says anything ugly or unpleasant to you. It may be beautiful, it may be beloved, it may have been a core piece when it used to fit; but anytime it says something ugly it HAS TO GO.


    Jen Reply:

    So SOOOOO good!! Thank you for such practical advice. 🙂


  4. I think I am getting closer to an ideal amount for me. I bought a pack of 35 nice hangers from Costco and weeded out until all my hanging clothes fit on those 35. Now I’m working on making my one medium dresser less stuffed. I’d like to get to about 50 pieces plus undergarments. I’m not a fashionista and I don’t like storing out of season clothes outside of my closet. For now I’m not weeding out more, rather, I’m letting things wear out and not replacing them. A good portion of my wardrobe does not fit well as I’ve gained weight, but I keep it with the rest and do have hope that those quality pieces will fit again.


  5. At the end of last May I finally tried a “capsule” wardrobe. I’d read lots about them, but most were professional wardrobes and didn’t have the color or flexibility I love. Without setting a number, I laid out on my bed what I thought I’d want to wear in a month. I made sure things coordinated well so each top went with several skirts/bottoms, etc. I ended up with 40 pieces (not counting underwear, workout, swimsuits) that I hung all together in a small section of my closet.

    I decided to try it for a month and see what I thought. After a month where I felt deprived NOT at all, I traded out less than half of my items (total switching out time less than 30 minutes). At the end of two and three months, I did nothing at all. This week I bought two new items and took a few others out of my selection.

    It’s been great! And I still wear all the variety of styles, lengths, colors that I love.


  6. Pretend you are packing for a two week trip. Do this once for summer and once for winter. Get rid of everything else, (including makeup and jewelry)


  7. really! Your comparing women who lived almost 100 years ago. Our lives don’t even resemble that further more shopping is cheaper than therapy and better. It also gives women a chance to bond and support each other


  8. I’m currently wearing a t-shirt I got in high school 20 years ago. Clearly I don’t care about clothes too much! I could easily go a year or two without buying any new clothes for myself, so honestly this is something I need the opposite kind of advice about. 😛


  9. Linda, I love your advice! We are going out of town for 2 weeks in November, so I have the perfect chance to try it!


  10. Wow. I know this isnt what I’m suppose to take away from this article. But the average women buys 60 new items of clothes every year???? Jeeze. Lucky if I get 4 or 5 pieces a year…now my kids get new clothes every season cause the grow so much. Wow, talk about a lesson in Yep, your poor!! But I can say, I am content with the things I do have and am happy to get just a few new things a year. I’m also cheap and plus size so I wait for the holiday sales when I do buy! And I buy the best quality I can afford.


  11. Like your story.
    In fact it is very refreshing to live out of a suit case for a month…..


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