I’m not trying to brag here, but I often get complimented on my style and having unique outfits and when I explain how little I spend on my clothes and how small my closet is, people are always surprised. I’ve come to discover more and more as I get older that money is not the answer to making things beautiful. People are also surprised to hear that I get ready in roughly 15 minutes each day. I get ready quickly because I don’t like to take a lot of time and because I simply can’t with three small children.
I was listening to someone the other day that said the key to decluttering is to stick to the container. My “container” is smaller because my home is smaller and that’s the container I’ve chosen, so I get to have less things in my container. It’s a great way to look at it! If you have a larger container, you get to have more things in it. There’s no right or wrong just a matter of space.
Having a smaller closet has forced me to be very efficient in my clothing choices. I do not like to have clutter and therefore I’ve found a way to have the style I want with less items, in the budget I’m willing to live with and the function I need for my lifestyle. I always think about function when buying my clothes and then about style – I don’t want to sacrifice style, but if it doesn’t function for this working mom of three – I’m not going to buy it.
I’ve talked about this before, but a recent discussion on this topic prompted me to think a little more about what process I use to make sure my wardrobe works for me, my closet and my budget (again, just like the container – I decide what all of those are and you do too).
Here’s the process I take with my clothes – I hope it gives you the freedom it’s provided me with time, money and confidence.
- Figure out your personal style, what flatters your body, what is functional for your life right now and if it fits in your budget. STYLE: I would suggest doing some homework on Pinterest by creating a “style” board of things you like. After you pin for awhile, you will see recurring colors, styles and items that will let you see if what you like is in your wardrobe. It will give you confidence to buy that next top because you know you like it’s style! BODY TYPE: This isn’t about not liking your body or hiding parts of it – this is about knowing what you like to wear to feel comfortable. If you buy something that doesn’t feel good or look flattering to you, you won’t wear it! I personally know that I feel best in high waisted pants (mom of three over here!) with slim or skinny legs and a looser top. I like longer boyfriend style suit jackets. I like pencil skirts with a loose shirt tucked in and A line dresses. I also prefer to wear heels for work. FUNCTION: Once I know what I like, does it work for my lifestyle? I like heels a lot; however, I only purchase wedges or block heels that are comfortable because I have three children I drop off and pick up from daycare each day and I also run, so I want to protect my feet. I try not to purchase things that require ironing because I don’t have time for it. I don’t usually buy dry clean items; however, as I get older, that quick trip to the dry cleaner actually feels easier than washing something myself at home, so I take my suit jackets and some tops to the cleaners to and from daycare. In my life, I spend most of it at work in professional attire, at home we are pretty darn casual and socially we don’t get too dressed up, so I try to purchase tops that will function for work as well as my social life. I run, so I try to purchase work out clothes that I like to wear hanging around the house as well – the more use I can get the better because it takes up less space and less money. I have three small children so it’s rare to find a spaghetti strap top in my wardrobe because I don’t want to wear a strapless bra and I don’t want to worry about bending over to pick up my children and flashing everyone. These three things – is it my style? it is flattering? and is it functional? keep me pretty much in my budget. BUDGET: I don’t have a set budget; however, I do know what I’m willing to pay and what I can afford at any given time. I also know what I’m willing to pay more for and less for depending on usage level – I’ll talk about that at number three.
- Find out what stores check the boxes of number one and then build rewards! Sticking to only a few stores saves you time and money! Shopping is fun when its leisurely with friends and you’re not looking for something specific, but when you’re talking about needing a black suit jacket – stick to the stores you know and over time you will build up savings and save yourself time. I personally shop Express for business clothes and Old Navy for casual clothes and that’s about it. Express has professional clothes that are a bit more ‘fun’ than your average suit, I know my size and I get rewards with them. You might have to go in the store to try on different styles and sizes, but after that, you can easily shop online confidently. I ship clothes to my office, try them on and if they don’t work they never come home – I ship them straight back. I love online shopping because I search for specific items when they wear out using the filters, so I’m not just randomly looking. If I know my black suit jacket is getting old I start looking every once in awhile and use the filter: CLEARANCE, SIZE S, BOYFRIEND STYLE BLAZER, BLACK = VOILA! If its available I put it in the cart and then I wait (unless its too good of a deal to pass up). I wait to make sure it’s really what I want and need, and I wait because often times in a week, there will be a bigger sale that I can use to purchase it. I once got a winter coat that retailed for $250 dollars and had a vest you could wear separately for FREE because of combining birthday rewards and shopping the clearance section.
- Know when to splurge and when to save and which items to buy first. The items that I build my wardrobe around are bottoms – pants, skirts and dresses because they are the foundational piece of the outfit, I am willing to spend more money on them to make sure it will last and fit really well. I then look for inexpensive “accessories” later to build out my outfits. In my opinion, most tops are created pretty inexpensively these days and I cannot tell a huge difference between a Target top or an Ann Taylor. Or at least, for me personally, its not worth the extra money because they are often under a sweater or suit jacket. I also want to be able to switch them out when they are out of style and not feel bad about it. I personally don’t spend much on jewelry either and I think they often make the outfit! I like to find unique, large earrings that make a statement, but fashions change so I don’t want to spend a fortune on them. My bag is the exception to this rule – I do buy quality and pricier bags because they take a beating. I carry a little mini office around with me and currently diapers and wipes as well so I buy quality and something that will go with most outfits – black, tan, blush is what I own in nice bags. I have found that certain brands such as Kate Spade or Michael Kors often do one large sale a year and thats when I purchase. I have three really nice bags right now and I’ve owned two for over three years now, so budget wise they cost the same as buying a new bag each year and they still look great despite wearing them daily.
- Consistently purge overtime. I continually keep tabs on the clothes I wear and if I notice I’m not wearing it, I decide if its because I shouldn’t have bought it, someone else bought it for me and it wasn’t my style, or because I don’t have something to go with it. If it doesn’t fit right or it was an impulse buy, then I donate it. I just keep a bag at the bottom of my closet and add things over time and then take a trip to Goodwill after the bag has been full for awhile. If it’s because I don’t have something to go with it, I decide if it makes sense financially and wardrobe wise to spend the money on something. My closet is the size of most kid’s closets, and then I have three dresser drawers that I use for undergarments and work out clothes, so the “container” decides what I can keep or add. The only seasonal switch out I do is for work out clothes because again, I don’t have another “container” in my house for clothes – its a small home with little storage areas so that’s all I’ve got to fill!
- Don’t buy if you don’t need it. Sorry, I’m being the bossy big sister here but it’s a rule! Now if you’re out with girlfriends having a fun trip to a boutique or traveling in a foreign country of course, buy something fun! However, when I buy something I don’t need or doesn’t fit the questions of number one, I usually end up donating it in the long run.
- Take care of your clothes and your health and they will last a long time. One of the reasons I don’t need to buy new clothes is because I take pretty good care of them – I have many items that are many years old. I wash my work clothes with cold water, hang them to dry and I wear them several times before washing. I do dry clean more than I used to items that I want to look fresh and I’ve had them re-hem a few items as well to keep them for longer. It also helps that I have been able to stay the same size for several years and continue to wear items year after year. Since having kids, I’ve ditched any low rise items because they just aren’t comfortable for me nor very functional, so you can see – things evolve over time but using all these guidelines is what keeps me sane and stylish for less money and less space!