Sunday, November 11, 2007

Kickstart your fashion mojo without buying a thing

I've learned a few things from my own challenges battling disorganization and clutter. Throughout my twenties, I moved every year or so, and this forced me to go through everything and cull my belongings on a regular basis. I could pretty much fit my possessions in a Honda Civic hatchback.

But we've been blessed to put down roots in Chapel Hill for seven years now, and the downside is that I finally started to feel buried under all of our stuff. Our books and clothes were particularly overwhelming us with the sense that we just didn't have room give everything a "place."

So I have experimented with adopting a policy of "unshopping." Apparently there is a whole unshopping movement--see, and my friend Perri Kersh's excellent Enough is Enough blog--but I am going to tell you about my personal approach to engineering a wardrobe upgrade without buying anything new.

Sometimes when you feel like you have nothing to wear, it's really just that you:

1. Have nothing clean to wear

2. Have lots of old and/or yucky clothes cluttering up your closet resulting in a situation where...

3. You don't really know what fashion gems you have tucked away in the midst of the junk.

Moms in particular are susceptible to fashion clutter, because let's face it, when you have kids, you accumulate a lot of stained t-shirts and a wardrobe that is at least temporarily unfashionable. Fun/depressing fact: if you do a search on the photo-sharing site Flickr for "fashionable mom," almost all the photos that come up are either extremely UNfashionable moms OR Victoria Beckham.

The good news is that you can significantly upgrade your wardrobe without buying a thing. In fact, if you are unhappy with your wardrobe, you shouldn't buy anything new until you've gone through the unshopping process. The key is to get rid of things that are not working for you. If you can't wear it or don't like it, it's not doing you any good. You can donate clothes that are in good repair, and either mend of pitch worn-out clothes.

Mojo Mom's Unshopping Strategy:

They key to my image upgrade is to get rid of your yuckiest clothes and promote your nicer clothes to everyday wear.

If you are beyond the mess-intensive nursing/baby/toddler years, throw out any item that is stained, worn, ripped. You may want to save ONE old t-shirt and not-nice jeans outfit for art projects, but celebrate your maturing family by LETTING GO of your outdated schlumpy-Mom Wardrobe.

Feel like you have nothing to wear even though there are plenty of clothes in your drawer or closet? Good--start by looking at those "nothing to wear" clothes as a place to start unshopping. A good way to find your "nothing to wear clothes" is to wait until you have a huge pile of laundry saved up: the clothes you do wear are in the pile, and the clothes you don't wear are still in the drawer.

Some of your favorite clothes may get caught in a dry-cleaning or hand washing dead end. Look for those neglected piles of dirty clothes and get them cleaned. Voila, you may have just redoubled your wardrobe with just that one step.

It may be time to say goodbye to some of your beloved oldies. Even if you have the legs to wear a baby-doll dress, does that image still suit you? I am all for saving some favorite or unusual clothes for future kids' costume wear, but if you can move these items out of your main closet, do so.

Even if you are not at your "ideal" weight or shape, start putting your best fashion face forward as you are now. Don't wait for a mythical "someday...." If you haven't worn an item in two years, seriously consider getting rid of it.

After you've concentrated your wardrobe to the "best of the best," see what you have left and start wearing it. I think most Moms (ahem, speaking from experience here) would benefit from getting rid of their crummiest tier of clothes and promoting more of their "nice" wardrobe to everyday wear. Cut out the sweatpant/sweatshirt ensembles and dreaded "Mom jeans" and kick everything up a notch. There's nothing wrong with jeans, by the way, as long as you do the work to find a pair that truly fits and flatters you.

It's a little more work to stay on top of the laundry/dry cleaning process when you wear nice outfits, but putting in that effort will extend the use of the clothes you already have.

It may seem like I am stepping out of my normal Mojo Mom realm here, but isn't just about fashion, it's about living consciously. Take a step back, get rid of clutter, and enjoy the best of what you already have. Think about the image you are projecting: is it really you? Dig out of the classic Mom trap of "letting yourself go." Really think about who you are now, who you want to become, and how you can align your best inner self with your presentation to the outside world. This is about taking good care of YOU.

On a related note: the holidays are upon us in full force and are taking up more and more of the calendar every year. Remember when "Christmas shopping" started AFTER Thanksgiving, rather than before Halloween? I'd like to propose that we establish Unshopping Month between Halloween and Thanksgiving. It's a great time to get rid of things you don't need so that you can enjoy the best of what you already have. And that's something to be thankful for.

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Blogger Florinda said...

How timely - I did some "unshopping" yesterday, and we just delivered a couple of huge bags to Goodwill. I could probably stand to do even more of it, but I freed up some space and reminded myself of some clothes I'd forgotten (your #2 point). It allowed me to see that there's very little I really need to add to my wardrobe, and that goes along with your great suggestion about rethinking how and when you wear things. I also agree that this is a great time of year to make a habit of "unshopping" - it made me feel pretty good! Thanks for a great post.

6:47 PM  
Blogger MojoMom said...

Thanks for your comment, Florinda. I got a kick out of writing this post. Afterward I went upstairs and went through my own closet, which I hadn't thoroughly evaluated at in a year and a half. I found over 100 empty hangers from the dry cleaner that had hidden themselves among my clothes. I also filled a large box with clothes to donate. This was just after going through MY clothes. You could of course do this for every member of the family, and don't get me started on TOYS.... I have to break it into baby steps or I get totally flooded and paralyzed.

Just wanted you all to know that I practiced what I preached. And if you ever see me out and about in schlumpy clothes (Yes, I still have a few), let's just say I am operating in "Secret Agent" mode :-)

6:57 PM  
Anonymous Lisa Giebitz said...

Heh, if I had my way, there'd be NOTHING Christmas related out until December 1st.

As it is, I've been hearing Christmas music in stores for two weeks now.

I feel like the whole thing's just not as much fun if it starts months in advance.

12:21 AM  
Blogger High Heeled Mama said...

So true, so true. I have recently gone through my own closet purge (based on living in a small, old home when folks apparently didn't need more than two closets in the entire house) and was amazed at how much better I felt. I didn't really find much I didn't know about, but the mad dash to get dressed in something decent to run errands in isn't nearly as stressful now that I can see what I have instead of being distracted by the clutter.

And don't get me started on the Christmas stuff I've been seeing since before Halloween. It's almost as bad as the way-too-early start to the presidential race.

7:31 PM  
Blogger mbbored said...

I just went through my closet this fall. I had 4 weddings to attend in 7 weeks and thought I had nothing to wear. But I forced myself to go through my closet and dump everything that wasn't flattering, stained, torn or didn't fit, and lo and behold I rediscovered 2 dresses, 3 pairs of trousers and a few blouses I haven't worn or seen in ages. I spent $30 to have a $100 dress tailored and I was even ready for the black-tie affair.

4:14 PM  
Anonymous Kathleen said...

Don't see your email address anywhere which is where I'd rather send you this information but it would appear a scraper is posting your content here:

8:59 AM  
Blogger MojoMom said...

Hi Kathleen, I am aware of the blog scraping problem and trying to figure out a response. Thanks for noticing--it is a very annoying situation for all blog authors.

1:06 PM  

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