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Building a Wardrobe Phase 1 – Mega Purging and Needs

Building a Wardrobe Phase 1 – Mega Purging and Needs

My wardrobe hasn’t been intentional since…high school, possibly?

For the last few years (I refuse to count), the uniform has been jeans, a hoodie or half-zip, and shoes I don’t need any hands to put on.

I’ll go back as far as I can remember. Picture a grad student in a sweatshirt by day, barista in black by night. Then, my wardrobe turned professional for a minute and a half before it shifted to maternity business casual. Onto postpartum in-between business casual, then stay-at-home mom in yoga pants. Two more cycles of maternity and post-partum in-between, and here we are.

I describe the current state as not pregnant, not in-between, likely true-to-size, and not a walking milk-barf, drool and grape jelly canvas. And at this stage, somehow nothing works. Time to start building a wardrobe, a real one.


But first, a mega-purge

Oh, the stains. The wrong sizes, a few leftover maternity pieces, dresses I’d never wear, and plenty of professional clothing for a job I don’t have. Sound familiar, ladies? Because I know I’m not the only one.

Yes, I did the KonMari thing once. But I wasn’t being honest about what my life looks like when I decided to keep so much.

That picture is an affiliate link, which means I’ll receive a small commission from purchases made through this link. Purchasing decisions are yours to make.

In other words, it was time to clear out and get some clothes. After pitching the obvious – everything that was either ruined, ill-fitting or irrelevant – my closet was pretty bare. I’m not exaggerating. It was a symptom of years of just not paying attention to that sort of thing.

Onto the needs assessment

Okay, here is where I decide which pieces I need.

Pieces. That’s funny. I’m building an entire wardrobe, minus a few camisoles for layering. You have no idea – it was so, so bad.

Historically, this would be the part where we go to Target and get one t-shirt in every color and call it done.

Not this time. I’m frustrated with things that wear out, and it’s time I look a little more together when Mister and I bump into one of his colleagues or clients. I wanted some nicer things that would last.

To Pinterest I went, looking for a capsule wardrobe how-to or just a list of things I should have in my closet. Finding minimalist wardrobe lists discouraged me – these would be more clothes than I’d ever owned and way more than I felt I needed. But, they were good places to start building a wardrobe. I used what I found as a basis and created this checklist to pare things down to the bare necessities.

Next, time to shop!

This is the part where we get excited, right? We’re female, so we should get all giddy about skipping through the malls, all care-free?


Nope. I don’t like it.

I don’t expect I’ll ever get excited about clothing, but for now, we’re getting somewhere. Purging was huge, and it’ll force me to go get some things and choose them intentionally.

Next time we talk wardrobe here at Intentionalish, I’ll tell you how I survived the shopping part of building a wardrobe and (gasp!) enjoyed the process.

Have you been rocking the late-for-finals look since 2005, too?

Good, because you can do this with me.

Your steps this week:

  • Throw out the obvious. Stains, holes, funky colors, clothes that no longer fit your situation, clothes that you don’t feel great in. Pitch ’em. You can even thank them if you’re tossing KonMari style.
  • Take an inventory. Find yourself a list of what you need, and check off what you already have. It’ll give your shopping some direction, especially if you’re out of your element like I am. I created a checklist you can use as-is or adapt for your own needs.

Getting dressed should be effortless, error-free and always result in a got-it-together-ish presentation. You with me?


Why the KonMari Method Works, According to Science

Why the KonMari Method Works, According to Science

I’ve mentioned before that I’m a proselytizing believer of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. No sooner did I roll up my last pair of socks did I feel my mindset change. I knew I needed to be more intentional about what belongs in my home and around my family, but I couldn’t figure out how to go about weeding out the keeper items from the rejects. Until I read the book.

The KonMari method turned traditional decluttering methods upside-down and inside out, then rolled them into neat little categories that made perfect sense. But there was more to it than the categorization, and as I read, I started thinking about why this method worked.

Then, the aha! moment came. Remembering a college Behavioral Economics class that centered around consumer purchasing decisions, I began to think of our homes as tiny economies. As I read through the book, oddly I recalled names of Behavioral Economics principles as I came across them. (Amazing, what sticks with us and what dissipates once the exam is over.)

These ideas have been thoroughly researched and have made their way into commercial marketing methods. Now, if we are aware of them, we can balance our own mini-economies within our walls. No wonder the method works. Here are some of the concepts that Kondo takes on to break us from from our hyper-consuming and hoarding tendencies.


Diversification Bias

Before we left for our epic Vermont road trip, I loaded up my Kindle with everything I could possibly want to read. I needed a fiction option, a couple of business books, a few recommendations from my favorite personal development writers and two biographies. I was ready.

How much did I get through? About three-fourths of the fiction one.

When choosing items for future use, we tend to want variety. But when we choose items to use now, we are more sure of what we will actually use and we don’t look for an assortment.

Kondo encourages us to live in the present and select or keep items that we love and find useful today, not in the future. With that mindset, we don’t need nearly the quantity of items that we predict we need for some unnamed time period down the road. So, we give up the imagined need and keep items for now.

Decision Fatigue

Thinking about a decision even for a second seems like a nearly idle activity, but it requires effort. Think of decision-making as a fuel tank that can be depleted. Making too many decisions, or making few intense decisions throughout the day leads to an empty decision-making tank, and we run the risk of poor choices once we’re running on fumes. Self-control and self-regulation are the first to go once we’ve exhausted our decision-making reserves.

The KonMari method emphasizes the path of least resistance to get to your things. She recommends arranging clothing in a way that we can see everything, and we can what we want to wear is always in plain view. Similarly, she advises organizing our belongings in a way that we always know where everything we own is. If we do not have too much and it’s easy to put back in its place, we will not spend time and energy searching for things.

This eliminates the unnecessary decisions that we are not even aware we’re making. Sifting through clothing until we get to our garment of the day is like saying “no” to everything we move out of the way. When we lose our keys, we are essentially making a series of decisions about where to look before we find them. When we love everything in our closet, when everything has its place, we save our decision-making muscle

Loss Aversion

The idea behind loss aversion is that losing something has a much bigger psychological impact than gaining it. People are more likely to engage in risky behavior avoid loss than to gain something.

Kondo takes the sting out by telling us to thank the discarded item for its service. Even when that dress still has tags on it, you thank it for teaching you more about your own style and preferences. It feels strange at first, but it does change your thinking in a way that makes it easier to part with items.

Regret aversion

We humans go to great lenths to avoid the shoulda, woulda, couldas. As with fearing loss, we also fear regret. We don’t want to toss something that we might need again someday, or that we might purchase again in the future because we’ve made a mistake.

Kondo prepares us for the unpleasantness of regret. She acknowledges that we might make a mistake when discarding, but not to worry. The benefit we will have derived from all of the successful rejections will greatly outweigh any short bouts of regret we feel from making an oops.

Status Quo Bias

Status quo bias is related to loss aversion. Often, we know we should make a big decision but through inaction we show a preference for things to stay the same. This holds even when the cost (mental, monetary or other) of the change is small and the decision will make a substantial difference.

Sunk Cost Fallacy

We really, really don’t like to give up items once we’ve paid good money for them, nor do we like to change behaviors once we’ve invested lots of time or money into something. The sunk cost fallacy is the perception that we’ve made an investment and now we’re committed, even if it would benefit us to let go of an item or a goal.

The KonMari method tackles the sunk cost fallacy in two ways. First, she carefully explains the various costs of keeping something we don’t need, want or like. Second, her method first works on items easy to part with, gradually proceeding to difficult, effectively easing the pain of letting go.


Herbert Simon coined the fusion word “satisficing” to describe the tendency for people to choose the option that satisfies and suffices, rather than optimizes.

In other words, we say, “yup, that one is good enough.”

Marie Kondo tells us that we should keep only items that spark joy – quite a change if you’re a “good enougher” like me. A spark is abrupt and attention-grabbing, and joy is a feeling of nothing less than delight. Something that satisfices us doesn’t do those things, so we resist the urge to settle and purchase only the ideal.

With “does this spark joy” at the forefront, we more readily give up things that we don’t love, and we’re more conscious about what we bring into our homes.


The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up doesn’t introduce groundbreaking ideas. However, the book does frame known concepts in a new context. Generally speaking, people tend to share ways of thinking and behavioral tendencies. Those tendencies can be used in or favor or to fill up our homes with things we don’t need. Marie Kondo, whether she realized it or not, decided to use her knowledge for good.

My shrunken laundry pile couldn’t be more thankful.


Readings that informed this article

Read, D., & Loewenstein, G. (1995). Diversification bias: Explaining the discrepancy in variety seeking between combined and separated choices. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 1, 34-49.

Vohs, K. D., Baumeister, R. F., Schmeichel, B. J., Twenge, J. M., Nelson, N. M., & Tice, D. M. (2008). Making choices impairs subsequent self‐control: A limited‐resource account of decision making, self‐regulation, and active initiative. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 94, 883‐898.

Kahneman, D., & Tversky, A. (1979). Prospect theory: An analysis of decision under risk. Econometrica, 47, 263-291.

Seiler, M., Seiler, V., Traub, S., & Harrison, D. (2008). Regret aversion and false reference points in residential real estate. Journal of Real Estate Research, 30(4), 461-474.

Samuelson, W., & Zeckhauser, R. J. (1988). Status quo bias in decision making. Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, 1, 7-59.

Arkes, H. R., & Blumer, C. (1985), The psychology of sunk costs. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 35, 124-140.

Simon, H. A. (1956). Rational choice and the structure of the environment. Psychological Review 63(2), 129-138.

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