Sunday, September 5, 2010

Retirement Downsizing—Thinning Out the Closet

Today I’m wading deeper into the topic of downsizing for retirement. About six months ago, I decided to tackle a major challenge—thinning out my closet. Or more accurately—closets. We have a big house and my clothes are spread throughout five closets. Yeah, I know. I’m pathetic. Adorable and well dressed, but pathetic. But I’m also a Virgo, so at least my closets are well organized.

As with my various collections (see yesterday’s posting), I’ve been quite controlled about adding to my wardrobe in recent years. Generally, if something new comes in, something old needs to go out. That’s helped keep my wardrobe from expanding (unlike my waist…), but it hasn’t helped cut it down.

A digression for my fellow clothes horses: one of the ways I curtail my buying: I estimate the number of times I expect to wear the item. If a top is going to cost me more than $5 per wearing, a bottom more than $10, and so on, I buy the item only if I need it for something special. That way, I can be sure that I’ll really (as my mother used to say) “get my money’s worth out of it.” Of course, “special” is a relative term, but that’s fodder for a whole other posting. Back to thinning out what’s already in those closets.

I needed a plan of attack, and my assistant, Amy, describes the one I devised as my clothes “auditioning” for retirement. Since I’m still employed, I “dress” every day. Each night, I try on clothes for the next day, focusing on items that I rarely wear—things from the gray zone of whether or not to keep them. If the outfit looks bad or feels uncomfortable, the offending item goes straight to the donation pile. If it looks and feels OK, I wear it to work the next day.

At the end of the day, I evaluate how I thought I looked, as well as how “connected” I feel to the clothes. If I feel good about the outfit, it’s a keeper. If I don’t, it goes into the laundry on its way to the donation pile. Amy has become an enthusiastic participant in this process. When I’m wearing something she hasn’t seen before, she asks, “Is that auditioning?” If she likes the outfit, she gives it encouragement, “I hope you make the cut!” When I tell her something just doesn’t feel or look right, she waves to it and says wistfully, “Goodbye, skirt!”

I’ve thinned out a lot of clothes this way, but I’m still two closets over a retirement wardrobe. Any slacks (other than wool ones) that need dry cleaning get donated. Likewise blouses that need ironing. The dress that I affectionately but morbidly referred to as “my mother’s funeral dress” (now far too small)—gone. I know I probably don’t need 18 pairs of black pants, 30 black tops, and 20 pairs of black shoes (and yes, I counted them.) But the pants are different cuts and weights, and the tops have different necklines and sleeve lengths. And the shoes, well, did I mention my co-workers used to call me Imelda Decker?

If any of you have suggestions on how to refine this audition process, please share them. I have nightmares that a month after I’ve donated one of my former favorites, I’m looking for it to wear to some “special” occasion. I just hope it’s not a funeral.

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