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Clothes Closet Economics

September 30 2009

Too many clothes, not enough closet space?

Where to put your clothes can be a problem, especially if you’re planning to buy an older home or a smaller home. What can you do?

A. Buy a bigger home, with a bigger closet
B. Call a reality TV show for help with a closet makeover
C. Store your extra stuff in an off-site storage building
D. Throw away or donate stuff you don’t need

Plenty of people pick option A. And they have the outsized utility bills to prove it.

You won’t get on reality TV unless you have the worst closet in America, and we know you don’t.

You could store the clothes you’re not using, but is that really wise? If it’s bad enough that you’d even consider option C, maybe you really need option B – Intervention!

We hope you picked option D. 

Cop a new attitude

Like millions of us, you’ve done your patriotic best to support the nation’s economy with your discretionary spending, but now you know you can’t do it alone.

Now you’re storing clothes you don’t use and your working closet is overflowing.

You may love clothes, but clothes don’t love you back.  They’re expensive, take up space, they’re addictive, and displace money better spent on other things – like owning a home. With a bigger closet.

It’s time for you to take a course in clothes closet economics. 

The true cost to own that dress

You just bought a summer frock for $200. Summer is three months long. You’ll wear the dress exactly 12 times this year. Next summer, will you bring the dress out? Yes, but it’s likely you’ll wear it half as many times, if at all. The third summer? It will hang in your closet and you’ll never pull it out.

Each wearing cost you $11.11. Was it worth it? Maybe, until you do the math.

Now add in the underclothes ($8), shoes ($10), belts ($4),  jewelry ($30), and handbag ($20) and you’ll see that every time you get dressed, you’re amortizing about $2,500 a month, enough to make a monthly payment on a $400,000 home.

If you really want to make yourself sick, go through each item in your closet and write down what you paid for it. If it adds up to a decent down payment on a house, you’re beginning to get the picture.   

Take charge 

There’s no such thing as investment dressing, because clothes don’t build equity.

For every new garment you buy, another becomes obsolete, because you stop wearing it.  So stop letting yourself be brainwashed by clothing companies that buying something new is the only way to feel good.

How about feeling good by not listening to them?

Here are a few ideas that can help:

  • Create a keep, donate, and throw away pile. If you haven’t had a garment on in two years, donate it. If you find stained, out-of-shape, or otherwise unwearable clothes, throw them out. If this is too hard, weed your closet alone, and then once again with a sensible friend.
  • Keepers should be clothes you love, not sizes you can’t wear.
  • Keepers are multi-purpose. They can be dressed up or down, or transition into the next season with a sweater or jacket. They can go over or under other clothes.
  • Keepers are classic. They don’t scream last year or fashion victim. 
  • Go back over your receipts for the past year and add up what you spent on clothing. Vow that at least 75% of that amount this year will go toward a down payment on a home or toward paying your new mortgage down.
  • Make a clothing budget for new purchases and stick to it. If you choose 10% of your income, go back and read this article over again.
  • Make a new game – how long can you make a good piece of clothing last? How many ways can you wear it?
  • Find other ways to get euphoric – like shopping for houses instead of blouses online.

And when you buy your dream home, treat yourself to a closet organizing system, so you can see what you own – all at one time.