83: Half Is More

83: Half Is More

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Joy of Less

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Half Is More

Women usually love what they buy, yet hate two-thirds of what is in their closets.

~Mignon McLaughlin

Being the mother of three active children, I enjoyed volunteering at their school and attending their music concerts and athletic games. That is why I was taken aback one morning at breakfast when my youngest son asked, “Mom, are you coming to my doo-wop concert tonight?”

“You know I am, so why are you asking?”

“Well, umm, please don’t wear your clown blouse,” he said.

“So what blouse are you talking about?”

Looking at the floor, he softly replied, “The bright blue one with the yellow confetti specks and it ties in a big bow at the neck.”

He had just described my favorite blouse. Suddenly I started laughing and couldn’t stop because I had to admit it did look a bit clownish. With tears running down my face and a big smile I promised him: “I will never wear that blouse again.”

The look of relief on his face was unforgettable as he grabbed his books and ran out the front door to school. Reluctantly I went upstairs to get dressed for work. Since my favorite blouse was now definitely out, I had to choose another top to go with my navy blue skirt and heels. Stressed, I pulled on a red short-sleeve sweater that was too hot for the sunny September day, but there was nothing else that looked appropriate.

Off and on that day I couldn’t stop thinking about all the clothes in my packed closet. After the birth of my first child I had started purchasing my clothes exclusively from clearance racks to save money. This plan had worked when I was a stay-at-home mother and for the past five years working part-time in the trade school’s construction office. Jeans, T-shirts, and hoodies were my main wardrobe.

However, things had changed this school year. I had a new job working full-time in the school district’s Public Information Office. This first week had been really stressful, between trying to get dressed each morning and learning my new responsibilities.

Knowing I had to make some major changes, I got up early on Saturday to take everything out of my closet, which I hadn’t done in years. Methodically I tossed all the worn clothing and shoes, stretched out belts, and dusty purses into large trash bags. The items that were still in good condition, but didn’t fit or I hadn’t worn in a year, I put in boxes to donate to charity. I kept only the clothes and shoes that fit perfectly and were a solid color. Looking at the few remaining dresses, skirts, slacks, and blouses I could see there wasn’t much left to wear to work.

As I carried the trash bags out to the garage and loaded the boxes into my car, I decided to buy at least two new tops. That afternoon, I went to the shopping center and carefully selected a long-sleeved white blouse and a structured beige tee that would go with everything. Unsure of what to buy next, the following week I signed up for an adult education class that was offered in October. It was for women like me who wanted to learn how to dress professionally for the office. When the big day arrived, there were thirty women in attendance. The instructor welcomed everyone and promised, “In the next two hours, you are going to learn how to put together a simple and basic working wardrobe for the business world.”

She started off by instructing us to purchase a skirt, slacks, jacket, cardigan sweater, shoes, and a purse all in the same color like black, gray, dark blue, brown, or beige. “Whatever your budget, try to buy these basic items from the same manufacturer so the dyes and styles match.”

I had never thought about details like this before, but this was definitely the information I was looking for. Her assistant wore a matching black skirt and jacket to show us the many different looks you can achieve by adding a scarf, belt, or jewelry. At the end of the class, the instructor summarized, “Remember to limit the color in your outfits to your tops and jewelry; and keep an up-to-date wish list of clothing you need or want. By following this easy plan, you will always have something to wear that fits every occasion.”

This simple wardrobe strategy changed my life completely. Over time I bought the basics in black, dark blue, and beige. Of course I still shop the clearance racks, but I only buy an item if it is on my list and in the right color. With half the clothes, I am always amazed and relieved that I have so many outfits to wear.

~Brenda Cathcart-Kloke

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