October 02, 2008

How Much Clothing Does It Take?

Some people know they have too much clothing. Others are not sure. But the amount of clothing a person needs is far less than most people imagine.

The confusion about clothing comes from the huge improvement in the durability of textiles that happened a generation ago. Clothing made since 1990 is about five times as durable as clothing made before 1970, and we have not yet fully adjusted to this.

Before 1970, everyone needed to keep buying clothing. If you forgot to buy clothing for a season or two, you would find yourself wearing clothing with holes in it. Today that could never happen. If you forgot to buy clothing, within ten years you might be noticeably out of style, but the clothing you have already, if it had to, would probably last for the rest of your life (or until your clothing size changed). Yet people keep adding clothing to their wardrobes as if it were a necessity.

You may wear out your favorite clothing, but don’t wait for that stuff you don’t quite like to wear out. You will not wear it enough times for that to happen.

You do not need a closet full of clothes just to be assured that you will have nice things to wear. There is no need to keep second-rate or stylistically incorrect clothing that you are not likely to wear often. From chapter 11 in Fear of Nothing:

Do not worry about throwing too much of your clothing away. It is more powerful to wear clothing that is “you” over and over again than it is to wear clothing that is “totally not you” for even one day. You need to have enough clothing to get from one laundry day to the next, but what that means is that you only really need your favorite clothing.

Some people who have a closet that is a little too crowded think they need to remedy that by buying clothing a little slower, but that is not the best place to start. You might well need to raise the standards of the clothing you buy, but the quickest way to raise your standards is to go through the closet and take away much of the worst clothing that is there. Then, you’re much less likely to buy more clothing that’s like the clothing you just took away.

If you have lots of nearly new clothing that you will never wear again, please go to the trouble of donating it to a charity thrift shop. More people than ever are buying their clothing in thrift shops now because of the state of the economy, and the money that is raised there typically goes to help hold your community together, a task that is especially urgent now. The thought that some of the clothing you have that is “just not what I wear anymore” could help someone else look good may make it a little easier to part with it.

Do you have too much clothing? What is your approach for weeding out the clothing you don’t like anymore? Please use the Comments link below to add your thoughts on the subject.

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