Nothing makes my husband laugh more than when we go somewhere that has a buffet.  I turn into an absolute moron and he gets a kick over my daunted panic when I see people lined up with plates.  I hate buffets for one simple reason, there are way too many options.  Sure, for some, limitless choices seem incredibly liberating, but, for me it isn’t.  My brain literally shuts down.   Despite all the food options laid out in front of me, I always come back to the table with the most mismatched plate of food, like a sprig of asparagus, some slab of meat, a spoonful of something I don’t recognize, a jiggly piece of Jell-o (and I don’t even like Jell-o)….and that’s about it.  As I have come to find out about myself, the more options presented to me the less choice I seem to feel I have.

Too many choices creates paralysis

I know I have talked about Barry Schwartz’s amazing TED talk about the Paradox of Choice, based on his book: The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less, before, but I wanted to revisit it again because I have a whole lot of new readers of this blog since writing about it the last time.   Basically, in the video, Schwartz talks about how it’s easier to make a decision when we have less options to choose from, and that the more choices we have the longer it takes to decide what we want.  Additionally, when we have more options and feel we chose wrong we tend to blame ourselves for the choice we made, whereas, when we are presented with less options, we feel less responsible for choosing poorly.  More choice = less freedom and more guilt.

When I first watched Barry Schwartz’s video I was really relieved to find out that I wasn’t the only one who found themselves paralyzed when presented with too many options.  This affliction doesn’t just happen at buffets with me, it happens everywhere.  My brain shuts down in thrift stores (I don’t even bother going in them anymore), at sale racks in stores, and in restaurants with multiple page menus.  Even when scrolling through the channels on TV I can’t find anything to watch, but always found something prior to having cable.

More is not more, it’s less

You could literally go to a store once a week and find something new to buy.  The shopping habits of the American consumer have changed simply due to how quickly merchandise turns over in the stores.  Worse, we have become to conditioned to believe that more options in our closets will give us more to wear.  Sure, in theory, it’s true, more things more choices.  But does it really solve the problem?  Does buying more really get you dressed any faster or make the time spent staring at your closet in your underwear shorter?  Probably not.  Just like it’s easier to settle on something to watch when you have eight channels versus 800, it’s much easier settle on what to wear when you have less to choose from.

 How to know when you have too much choice in your closet

I have a monthly jewelry subscription to, which I love and, in all honesty, I get for free because I write for them.  Every month I get a box of accessories to add to my collection.  Just today I opened my new box.  I always love everything they send me, and, while I loved what I got today, as I put my new things away I got the sense that a jewelry purge was in order, even though, as you know, my jewelry collection is smaller than average.  How did I know it was time to cull down?  There are a few things that tipped me off that I am happy to share that might help you whittle down your own wardrobe.

Duplication – You may know that I have a one and done approach to my wardrobe.  If I have one thing that plays a specific role I don’t buy multiples.  I have one pair of tall cognac boots, one long gold necklace, one pair of hoop earrings, and so on.  I don’t add new until the thing I own is ready to be replaced.  If I notice I have duplication I purge.  If I don’t I start splitting my wears.  

Take, for example, these two silver pendant necklaces.  They may look different enough, but they essentially do the same thing.  I only need one.  I think I am going to keep the leaf necklace.  Does anyone want the other?

Wardrobe Purging

If you are looking to cull down, look for sneaky duplications that on the surface don’t seem to play the same role but actually do.

There aren’t enough days to wear everything I have

The next thing I consider are how many days there are in a year and how much stuff I actually do need.  My birthday was this week, I’m a Capricorn, and likely too pragmatic for my own good.  I hate tchotchkes, things that are superfluous and unnecessary.  You would think I was a Native American in a past life who believed in using the entire animal when killing it, that’s how bad I am about extras that I don’t use.  They go.

You don’t have to be as practical and discerning as I am.  Some people do feel like they need to be surrounded by pretty things for the sake of being pretty, but if you feel you have tipped over the edge with too many options, you really need to consider just how much of it you really need and if it is humanly possible to even wear all of it.  Keep in mind, statistically, most women wear 25% of their wardrobes 75% of the time.

I will grab something else first

The next thing I consider is if I will grab something else before the item I am getting rid of.  No matter how many choices most of us have, we all gravitate towards the same few things over and over again.  Keep in mind, these multiple options don’t even have to be similar in look.  I recently had a client resist parting with a grey dress  until I helped her identify that she had a blue one that she would always grab before the grey one because she liked it better and it served the same function.  One of the best ways to cull down your wardrobe is to seriously ask yourself if you have something that you like better that already fills the spot.  You probably do and don’t need both.  The simple question to ask yourself is: Under what circumstance will I grab this before something else I prefer?  Trust me, if you have something else you like better you never will.

Getting dressed feels like pressure

I know it is time to purge when getting dressed feels like pressure because I should be wearing something that I’m not.  These things stare at me like, “pick me, pick me!”  When I get these feelings I know I have too much and it is time to start giving things away.  It all goes back to my need to get good use out of what I own.  If something just sits there, pressure and guilt sets in and, honestly, I’d feel more freed up if I knew that someone else was getting wear out of it instead of it just hanging in my closet or jewelry box.

It’s my guess that you probably could get rid of at least 25% of your wardrobe and never miss it.  I am not saying you have to, but to honestly look at just how little you actually need.  If you can’t get rid of anything you currently own, at least try to implement an input/output rule where when something new comes in something old has to go.

Lastly, don’t put too much pressure on yourself to have to get rid of stuff.  I think the pendulum has started to swing the opposite direction and this extremism in minimalism has begun with things like The 10 Item Wardrobe, etc..  The truth is there is no magic answer to a perfectly culled closet.  I have weighed in on this and if you are are looking for more on purging and just how much you need, you might want to read it.

Got any wardrobe purging questions or some tips for how you do it?  I would love to hear from you below!