I Inventoried My Entire Wardrobe — And It Changed the Way I Shop

published May 17, 2023
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graphic collage showing the reorganized closet of the author surrounded by clothes, shoes, and closet hangers
Credit: Photos: Courtesy of Erika Veurink, Shutterstock

My activity of choice, as a child, was playing dress-up. I was president of the Fashion Club in high school. Friends’ moms would pay me $20 to help them put together outfits from their closets after school. Then, in undergrad, I studied fashion. After that, my first job was in the fashion industry. Now I write a newsletter almost exclusively about the topic. And yet, even I can feel that overwhelming dread standing in front of my closet, thinking the unwavering, familiar refrain: “What should I wear?”

Tired of “discovering” a blouse I’d purchased months earlier shoved behind my jackets or being unable to locate my favorite white T-shirt, I knew something needed to change. My closet was chock-full of hard-to-find designer pieces and quality basics and the occasional feather trim. That wasn’t the issue. My problem was visibility. Without being able to see what I owned, I felt limited to the items right in front of me, which led to boring outfits and limited inspiration. 

Credit: Erika Veurink

Finally, I turned to my favorite operating system, Notion, to create the kind of platform I’d only ever dreamed of since seeing “Clueless” in middle school. Wear Your Clothes is a template for falling in love with your closet, defining your personal style, and feeling excited to get dressed every day. It features packing lists, personal style prompts, and tips for keeping your wardrobe in its best shape. But my favorite part, and the practice that transformed my shopping habits, is the Closet Inventory.

Credit: Courtesy of Erika Veurink

Before I could send the template out into the universe, I had to catalog my closet as a trial run. One Saturday, I pulled everything out of my New York City-sized closet and onto my bed. There were stacks of stripes on my desk and piles of shoes leaning into the hallway. I painstakingly recorded each and every item, making note of its name, category, color, whether I’d worn it in the last six months, and its origin story. A button-up of my dad’s I reached for on the days when I missed him landed in the “Sentimental” section. Same with the Chanel mini skirt I wore to my rehearsal dinner, despite its lack of wear in the past half-year. 

The process took a number of hours with multiple breaks to wonder if it was really worth the tedious documenting. But in the end, it was. Here are some of my favorite takeaways from the exercise. 

Repetition is key to creating a signature style.

I’m someone who doesn’t wear a ton of color — or so I thought before I inventoried my entire closet. It turns out, I have over 50 blue items. It’s the color I wear the most, and, according to the data, the color I’ve collected most ardently. Knowing that blue is my instinctual color of choice has cemented it as a signature in my mind. An outfit I’d have considered boring in the past — a pair of Levis blue jeans and a black sweater — takes on a whole new meaning when I examine it through the lens of my blue-dominant wardrobe. 

Credit: Courtesy of Erika Veurink

When you know what works, you can shop smarter.

Everyone has those aspirational pieces of clothing that they refuse to part with for a variety of reasons. Maybe you hold onto an idea of changing your body or life in a way that would usher in a need for, say, white cigarette pants or suede slippers. Organizing my wardrobe inventory through the lens of “Last 6 months?” really helped to clarify the kinds of items that are more representative of my dream life than my actual one. For example, after cataloging my closet, I decided the only kind of skirts I was wearing were mini skirts. All the midis and maxis had to go. And, news flash, I haven’t missed them once. 

Credit: Courtesy of Erika Veurink

The best clothes you own are the ones you wear.

It sounds simple, but this is the founding principle behind my Notion template. Take the cost-per-wear model, for example. If you spend $250 on a pair of pants and wear them once a month for seven years, they become more valuable than a $50 pair you wear once before giving them away. A closet is an evolving, emotional thing. This whole experiment has retaught me that experiencing life in the clothes I collect can be a great joy, if only I can get past the indecision and start dressing for the life I’m lucky to have.