How to track your wardrobe (+ free template!)

79

wardrobe-inventory

I’m starting off this year with a little experiment.

A few weeks ago, I noticed a gaping hole in my wardrobe. I didn’t own a rain jacket.

Now, I live in Portland, OR where it basically drizzles 9 months out of the year. And while it’s easy to get by without a rain jacket (I’ve been doing it for a few years, I guess), I realized that if I had one it would see pretty much constant use. In other words, the cost-per-wear would be extremely low.

Contrast this with some of the other parts of my wardrobe. I own about 5984932822380929 light cardigans. While they’re great for layering and I do enjoy them, I only really wear about half of them. But when I see a good one at the thrift store, I just can’t pass it up — even though I have enough.

How does this happen? How is it that I ignore the obvious holes in my wardrobe for so long while continually acquiring more of what I don’t need?

I decided to clean out my closet, and to try something new while I was at it…

The wardrobe inventory:

The beginning of the year seemed like a great time to clean out my closets. But this time I did it differently. Instead of randomly pulling out things I hadn’t worn, hemming and hawing about what to keep, I decided to take an inventory, and write down exactly what I own.

Here’s what I did:

1. Inventory.

I went through my closet and inventoried all that I had, using a spreadhseet. On the left column of the spreadsheet, I put some general categories: skirts, blouses, knit tops, etc. In the second column, I wrote how many I had.

You can get as specific as you want here. I had a main category for knit tops, but then broke it down by purpose into things like “warm pullover sweaters,” “knit tops / t-shirts,” and “light layering sweaters.” You could also categorize things by season if you live somewhere with big changes in climate through the year.

inventory-01

These are my actual numbers. PLEASE DO NOT SHAME ME. Ha! I own way way way more clothing than I thought I did. This is mainly because I’ve collected a lot of vintage that is squirreled away and doesn’t get worn, plus I put things away seasonally so I don’t see it all at once. I had absolutely no idea I had this many dresses.

I’m embarrassed that I recently mentioned here that I don’t own a huge amount of clothing. Obviously I was fooling myself!

I also made sure to take any staples in my wardrobe and list those specifically. These are things that get a lot of use, and that I’d need to replace when they wear out, so I want to make sure I know what I have. For example, under “pants” I made sure to have a separate line for “dark rinse jeans,” something I wear at least once a week.

2. Decide what staples you don’t have.

Is there anything missing from your inventory that you actually need? Staples that you haven’t gotten around to replacing yet?

My non-existent rain jacket would be a good one to include here. Ballet flats for Spring would be another staple that I’m currently lacking.

3. Decide how many you need.

This is the hard part.

It’s time to take a good hard look at what you have and decide how many of each you actually truly want in your life. In the third column, I wrote this number for each item.

inventory-02

One thing I’d say is try not to look at how many items you own when you’re deciding on a number. I noticed that while I was doing this, the number of things I currently have would heavily influence how many seemed like the “right” number.

This process might be embarrassing, particularly if you’ve collected things you don’t use much. I’m pretty embarassed by the number of vintage purses I have that just sit on a shelf. They should really go to better homes. I don’t even think about them.

On the other hand, there are categories of things I wear all the time (day dresses) and I don’t mind having a lot of them. I get a lot of use out of them, as long as they meet the criteria I outlined.

Then there are things I wear a lot (pants), but because they’re so basic, I only need a few pairs.

It is totally up to you, based on your own personal preferences and lifestyle. You don’t have to feel bad if you want to have a lot of options in one area, if you know that you’ll use them.

It’s all about having more of what you use, less of what you don’t.

4. Calculate the difference.

In the fourth column, I used my spreadsheet to automatically calculate the difference between column two and column three. In other words, subtract column three from column two.

inventory-03

Aha! Now I can see at a glance what I have an excess of, what I have the right amount of, and what I don’t have! Missing pieces have a negative number, excess have a positive number, and just right are zero.

4. Decide on criteria.

This was really interesting for me, though I think it’s optional. For the fifth column, I wrote notes on any criteria for purchasing or making an item in that category.

inventory-04

For example, under “sweater dresses,” I wrote: “warm, classic, neutral.” I figure if I have only one sweater dress, it should be basic and warm. Make sense?

5. Using your inventory.

At this point, you’ll probably have some definite actions that you’ll want to take. I know I did.

You might want to start getting rid of stuff immediately. You might have a new list of sewing projects to pursue.

Personally, I immediately made a list of things to make myself this year. Intrestingly, many of them were knitting projects, which I hadn’t anticipated. But now, looking at my “to make” list, I can see it’s full of things I’ll actually wear a lot!

For stuff I have excessive amounts of, mostly I decided not to get rid of anything else (other than the stuff I culled while doing the clean-out/inventory), since it’s all still useful and wearable and there’s no reason to waste it. I just won’t worry about replacing it when it wears out on its own.

The main point is, you will now have a complete picture of where your time and money has gone, and perhaps where it should go in the future.

I plan to keep my inventory up to date whenever I buy or make something new. Of course, I’ll change things and edit it as time goes on, as undoubtedly my preferences and style will evolve over time.

By the way, if you think all of this work sounds crazy, it really didn’t take much more time than any other big closet clean out. In fact, I probably spent less time deliberating over what to keep and what to donate than I normally do.

Free template!

Do you want to try this out yourself?

I took my own inventory and generalized it slightly to create a template you can use. You’ll still need to customize it for your own wardrobe, but I think this might save you a lot of time. It should automatically calculate column 4 for you. It will also automatically calculate totals for each category (so if you enter the number of button-downs, woven blouses, and woven shells, it will tally up the total number of blouses for you).

It’s an .xlsx file, and you should be able to open it in Microsoft Excel, Apple Numbers, or Google Spreadsheets (which is free).

Download the Wardrobe Inventory Template!

Sarai Mitnick   —   Founder

Sarai started Colette back in 2009. She believes the primary role of a business should be to help people. She loves good books, sewing with wool, her charming cats, working in her garden, and eating salsa.

More about our writers

Comments 79

Inna thewallinna.blogspot.com

Perfect timing! Tomorrow I planned to go through my wardrobe for a yearly cleaning :)

Victoria Callas callasatnight.blogspot.com

Thanks! As a person who “never has anything to wear” I really appreciate these tips – as soon as exams session is over I’ll fill up this spreadsheet (thanks!) and finally will see what really is happening in my packed-but-oh-so-empty closet :)

Melissa

I think it is a good thing I live in a tropical country and I favour cotton more than any other fabric. On the other hand, it also struck me that I actually don’t own any button down blouses. I avoid them for years now. Doesn’t help when they don’t stayed buttoned up. Guess that is the problem of buying blouses from the store. They fit mainly B cups and if I get larger size, it has too much ease.

Nora damenora.blogspot.com

Thank you so much. Right now my wardrobe seems to be composed of work clothes and sweat pants — this will be a huge help bringing some balance!

lisa g notesfromamadhousewife.blogspot.com

this is a great idea! it would definitely help plan for a wearable wardrobe. i hate having garments i slaved over get little to no use just because i didn’t consider how much it would get worn; something i’ve definitely been trying to change!

Lisette vintageorbust.blogspot.com

Thanks for putting this together and offering it! I’ve taken count of what I have many times because I don’t have a lot of storage space, so my closet can get really out of hand if I’m not careful! However, I’ve always done it on notebook paper and then lost it. This will be very helpful!

Krista

Thanks–great idea!

Julia lookingformypearl.blogspot.com

I was JUST talking about this yesterday with a friend, minus the genius excel template. I was planning on having a clothing swap with my friends, which would get rid of surplus and help fill the gaps. Plus add a little wine and cheese and it’s a fun girls’ night!

Belinda turquoisepolkadots.com

This is a fabulous idea! I’ve been trying to build my wardrobe based on the Lucky Shopping Manual but I never seem to be able to keep track of what I need vs what I have, so I’m definitely going to try your spreadsheet out. Thanks for sharing it!

Lisa S.

I have been contemplating doing something like this for a while. Thank you so much for sharing!

ShanniLoves shanniloves.blogspot.com

This is awesome!! Thanks for the template. I’m gonna have some fun tonight. Oh btw, I would gladly give those vintage handbags a new home. ;)

Jess sometimessewist.wordpress.com

This is such an awesome idea! I love spreadsheets, and I definitely need to go through my closet. There’s a lot in there I don’t wear, and I really don’t have enough closet space (just one 5 foot closet pole!) to warrant keeping all of that in there. Thanks, Sarai!

Kristonlion fearsome5.wordpress.com

Oh my gosh Sarai- this is incredible! How come I haven’t thought of this before! I love that you have so many dresses! I’m wondering what I have! Oooh I am just so excited to get some free time and do this! Thanks!

Sarai colettepatterns.com

I’ve always loved dresses, I guess! They are so easy. Instant outfit!

I think I have a lot because I’ve bought vintage for so long. They never go out of style, so I don’t get rid of them.

Beata redpointtailor.wordpress.com

Well… I have done it 2 years ago… it is very good excercise … it helps in making decisions on the fabrics, patterns and wardrobe I need… and want to make/sew.
Thanks!

Pam anotiontosew.blogspot.com

I love it! What great information, thank you. I am so going to do this. BTW, I’m sure I too will be ashamed of the amount of clothing I own. But as for the number of cardigans “I own about 5984932822380929 light cardigans”, I’m afraid I can’t count that high, so I would just have to fudge the numbers!! LOL

molly

thank you! this is just what i need. i have a nearly empty closet which is just as embarrassing as having too much. way too much black, a lot of paint-splattered/grub clothes, bits and bobs from well-intentioned people (but nothing truly wearable). oh– and i sew! but it’s way too much fun to make cute little tops and bottoms for my wee lads– meanwhile mama here can’t seem to find a suitable outfit in the morn!

Sarai colettepatterns.com

Well, this exercise did get me to throw out a kelly green paint-splattered t-shirt (that I originally got for free). I only wore it to go running because it was so soft. But Kenn made a face whenever I had it on, ha!

keri

Thank you! I was planning to do this on my own, because there are alot of gaps in my wardrobe and I wanted to be able to better plan my sewing for the year. Now I’ll have a shortcut with your template. Although I think I’ll fill in the “I want to own” column first, before I do the closet clean-out/inventory – i think I can be more objective that way.

Sarai colettepatterns.com

That’s a really good idea, Keri. I might do it that way if I were to do it again. It was hard to be objective after seeing what I already had.

Anne Sharkey tulleandtweed.com

Thank you for this, currently having a clear out so great timing.

Dorien

I’m definitely going to use your template! I made the Amy Butler raincoat a couple of months ago and I love it, already planning another -more demure- one.

Melanie queenoftheflies.blogspot.com

This is a great idea! except I need a few more columns somewhere for the “clothes that actually fit me” and “clothes that might fit me again when I’ve lost the baby weight” and “clothes I wish I could throw away but can’t because nothing else buttons around the waist after the holidays.” :)

Sonya sonyaphilip.com

I LOVE that you own so many dresses!

Marlise pomme-et-asperge.blogspot.de

Thank you for the template, Sarai! I wanted to do an inventory for a long time. I just moved and was surprised how many black knit tops I own:-) But then again, I wear them almost daily and use them for layering as well. I will definitely use your template for better wardrobe planning and hopefully sew less clothes that never get worn…

jen thefabledneedle.com

I can totally see the UX/IA person coming out in you! :) I used to inventory my Barbie clothes for fun as a kid so I can relate to this.

I also have way too many sundresses and light cardigans but having lived in L.A. for most of the last 12 years it’s no surprise. But it does get cold here and somehow I’ve survived with insufficiently warm clothing; during my last trips to Portland, Seattle and Boston (in the fall) I was freezing and yet a really warm coat never seemed like a practical thing to buy. This season I’m finally getting some warm things and it makes such a huge difference in comfort level. I’m learning that some of the not-as-fun clothing (a.k.a. practical) purchases are well worth the cost if it means feeling good! (Feeling good in a different way than when wearing 1930’s dresses.)

I don’t know what the magic number for me is in terms of clothing types but perhaps because I’m getting older I find having too many things (things in general) become a burden I can almost feel physically–maybe you can relate?

Man, I’m rambling. Thanks for the food for thought (as usual)! I purged my closet late last year but I want to go another round but this time taking your advice and write things down. I remember a post you did about sewing clothes you actually need/will wear (as opposed to pretty dresses which is fun but not as practical) and I’ve really taken that to heart.

Sarai colettepatterns.com

Yes, I can definitely relate. To my mind, material possessions are a very real burden, because they cost money, and money costs time, which is something you can never get back. They also cost time directly: thinking about them, shopping for them, getting rid of them. I wonder how much of our lives we spend managing our stuff?

That’s why I think it’s important for me to get a lot of pleasure out of what I do have. Sewing helps because it’s (almost) always a joy to make something yourself.

Renata renataperito.com

Thanks for the template! I never thought of tracking my wardrobe like that, but your great explanation makes the advantages obvious.

Laura

This is such a simple but brilliant idea. Thanks! I’ve got a huge scarf collection…winter, summer, square, long. you name it. I tend to collect scarves from places i’ve travelled to, not because i planned it that way but just because i really like scarves. At the moment i’m trying to think of a way to hang my scarves on the wall so that i can see them rather than packing them away in the closet (plus it frees up alot of space for the other stuff!)

daiyami

Laura, I have several tie hangers that I use to hang my 70-ish scarves, and I definitely wear them more often because they are hanging out in the open.

(search Over the Door Tie and Belt Rack, I have ClosetMaid’s)

Abby sewgetdressed.blogspot.com

I don’t remember where I first saw this (probably Pinterest), but I hang my scarves from clothespins on a piece of twine strung across the inside of my closet door. It looks so nice like that that I end up leaving my closet door open all the time so I can see them. :) I posted a picture of it on my blog if you want to see it. http://sewgetdressed.blogspot.com/2012/09/wardrobe-planning-color-and-new-school.html

louize grtescp.wordpress.com

For my scarves I use one of those hanging shoe tidies (http://www.ikea.com/be/fr/catalog/products/10185588/) – I roll my scarves up, a different color in each compartment. It works really well, is easy to see what I have and easy to put scarves away again when I get home.

Ramona

I love this idea and it’s the kind of thing that I would just wish I would do. But with a free template ready to go, I am going to do it!
Thanks!

Sewing Sveta sewingsveta.blogspot.com

Nice idea! I have the file with my clothes, but I need to add there the column I want to own, this will be pretty useful for me! Thanks!

Julie

Thanks so much for this spreadsheet, and for posting your own numbers. I too collect vintage, which means my closet is always jam-packed. Additionally, I substitute teach and tend to wear different things to do that than I do in my normal everyday life. So I think this is going to help me take a really good look at what I have too much of and what I need more of.

Deb

I have problem with keeping clothing that I love but that no longer fit due to weight gain. I’m always hoping that I’ll lose the weight. As a result I have a lot of clothing, but very few that I wear.

Melanie

What I am wondering is what is a “reasonable” amount of a specific type of clothing? I have always been wardrobe poor, and after filling out most of the spreadsheet and looking at Sarai’s numbers I may be worse off than I thought. What is a respectable number of dresses, skirts, blouses, knit tops, and skirts to have? I have been trying to build a wardrobe, but I never know how many is enough? Currently I have 3 day dresses, 5 blouses, 4 skirts, 3-5 knit tops (depending on if you count ones in the closet versus ones I actually want to wear), no jeans, one pair of black pants, one ill fitting brown corduroy pants, and the most kick *ss going out dress ever! Looking at these numbers I have roughly a week’s worth of clothing. What’s more appropriate? 4 weeks? Any ideas?

Sarai colettepatterns.com

Melanie, I think it’s completely up to the individual and what you feel comfortable with and will get use out of.

I don’t want to make anyone feel bad for not having tons of clothes because I honestly think I have way too much, especially in certain categories! For example, I have scads of “going out” dresses because (1) they’re fun to sew (2) vintage dresses tend to be fancier than modern daywear and (3) they last forever because I rarely wear them! I’m really sort of embarrassed that I’ve hoarded this much.

I think it’s all about reaching an equilibrium where you use what you have and have the variety that you’re comfortable with and makes you feel good. It might take some experimenting to find that point, though.

daiyami

Re reasonable numbers–I think in terms of repetition. I could wear the same basic black pants to work twice a week and no one would blink an eye. But I’m only comfortable re-wearing my colorful dresses (which I love and which people compliment/comment on regularly), about every 3-4 weeks. Hence, I have a ridiculous number of work clothes.

As Sarai says, find your own equilibrium–which depends on personal style, space available, daily context/work/play/etc, and also on how often you want to do laundry.

Cheryl

I also have a ridiculous amount of work clothes – probably could go 4 weeks without a repeat (I don’t do black so no black pants & jackets to mix & match). But I have to run small load of laundry if I go more than a long weekend dressed casual – I have enough tops but not bottoms! I’m probably OK on the mix of clothes I have now if I add another pair of capris and/or jeans.

Can’t believe I’ve never done anything like this – I live & die in spreadsheets at work and people laugh at the spreadsheets I create for vacation planning & packing! Like another commenter I’ll probably be very specific when I fill it in – especially with colors. I’m getting ready to retire in the next year so this template will be a great help when I get ready to change the emphasis of my wardrobe. Thanks Sarai!

Shelly shellystorey.blogspot.com.au

Thanks for the template, Sarai. It’s so much better than anything else I’ve ever used.

Elisabeth projectreclaim.wordpress.com

LOL! I too live in Portland and only own 1 jacket with a hood (just FYI I got a great deal at the Columbia Outlet in Woodburn!). Although I do have lots and lots of other coats. It might be an addiction. And I own 890301 little, fancy summer dresses and tank tops. And only like 2 pair of pants that aren’t jeans. Yikes. But this is a really great chart and I clearly need to use it! It would be nice to have one in my purse so when I make impromptu stops at the store I can check what I really need!

Sarai colettepatterns.com

If you have a smart phone, you could stick it in Google Spreadsheets and probably access it from your phone anywhere! Just an idea. :)

Jilly Be jillybejoyful.blogspot.com

This. Is. AWEsome! I’ve already customized some adjustments and printed it out, and with a few more tweaks this will be EXACTLY what I’ve been wanting to do! But honestly, never would have done…..until now, because you’ve done all the hard work for me! :D (laying out charts & such in Excel is just not my cup o’ tea….)

Thank You!

Kathy notyouronions.com

That’s funny because I’ve been on a bit of a spreadsheet craze and I’m going purge my closet tomorrow but I never thought of combining the two. Thanks so much!

Rachel

I downloaded the template and had trouble opening it in Numbers until I noticed that the file has an extra “.xls” on the end. I just renamed it and was able to open it then. Thanks so much for such a great tool!

Kate gruenekleider.wordpress.com

I just did this a while ago, but I got more into the details of each piece (color, cut, fibre). I came up with 61 pieces sans underwear, shoes and accessories. Really helps me to pick a new project based on my true needs, not what I think (or want me to) need!

Sue Walker sueonabike.blogspot.com

Thanks for the template. I just moved to a more temperate climate and it will be very helpful for updating my wardrobe.

eyejs

No, not for me – this way too scary to even contemplate!

Wanett sownbrooklyn.com

Muah!! That was the virtual kiss you deserve for this post!! I just organized (read-put away the laundry) my clothes yesterday and “found” so many things I forgot about. This will go so far to helping with that! So. Thank you! Muah!

Also, I can’t pass up cardigans either. I left a ombre polka dotted one in the thrift, because I reasoned that I had enough, and I can’t stop thinking about it!

Sølvi solvi.se

What a great template.Thanks! I love how you´ve defined things in specific categories. I use (and try to keep it updated) a software called Dress Assistant, which basically does the same as you have done, but I can add a picture and tags and stuff as well. I am not nearly good enough at keeping it updated, though. It doesn´t really tell my much about what I am missing in my wardrobe, but it´s good for keeping track of what I have. :-)

VIVI

Bloody Awesome! Thank you!

astitchtoofew astitchtoofew.wordpress.com

This is a great idea, Sarai! I think I’ll give this a go. I actually really don’t have an extensive wardrobe and I have a lot of gaps that need filling, so this will help me really prioritise what I make. Thank you for sharing it!

Jacqui birds-of-a-thread.com

I can’t wait to try this out. In fact, this post inspired me to follow up on something I’ve been meaning to do for a long time: photograph specific outfits I wear (or want to wear) frequently and catalog them for reference. I think it would be useful to take that a step further and photograph/ catalog each individual item of clothing in conjunction with your template.

Thanks for the motivation! Some initial results (featuring a Ginger skirt I just completed) are on my blog.

Vicki

Thank you so much for the spreadsheet. It will come in very handy. I already realise I have no bouses- oops. Thank you.

The Knitting Archaeologist knittingarchaeologist.wordpress.com

Holy crap is this useful!! Thanks for getting me back to thinking about this.

Rae Veda

I can’t open the file in numbers or google. Why is this?

Tiff

Thanks for the template! I decided that this year I would finally set an actual clothing budget for myself, (including things like shoe repairs and dry cleaning, which I’ve been putting off), and this will help me stay on track as I fill in gaps in my own wardrobe.
I have to ask– what do you consider a gardening blouse? I usually just look like a laundry pile when exercising or gardening, but I love old novels where a sturdy tweed suit is considered ‘work clothes’.

Sarai colettepatterns.com

Oops, I should probably have left that one out. That one is a bit too specific, I guess. I like to have 1-2 lightweight long sleeve button-ups (usually from the thrift store) for doing yardwork in. That’s because they’re loose and light enough for hot weather, but cover up my skin so I don’t get burned.

I find they do the best job of covering the places most likely to be sunburned: my arms and the back of my neck.

Sarah

Oh my gosh. I was so happy when I read this, because I did the SAME thing last winter and made an inventory of my clothes! It helps a lot, and I too was surprised. I realized that I have waaay too many scroungy t-shirts that I would never wear in public.

I’m so happy I’m not the only one who had this idea (my boyfriend thought I was a huge dork when I did it :) ).

louize grtescp.wordpress.com

What a fabulous idea – I have been psyching myself up for a wardrobe clear out for a while now, this spreadsheet may well be the push that will make it happen – I love me some numbers :) I have a “fixed number of coathangers” rule – I refuse to buy more coat hangers, so when I run out of empties I have to purge old items to hang new items… and as I have been on a sewing spree these past weeks, I am fast running out of hangers!

MaryAlice

Regardless of method of culling or adding, I have a difficult time ridding my closet of clothes I have made, and made from good fabric. It is easier to rid myself of ready mades, unless they are truly special. So far I have managed only to roll the items up and store them in boxes. I can see each piece. I begin to think of remodeling or using pieces for something besides clothes. But I also have a large stash I’d like to reduce, too. What to do, oh, what to do?

sarah sky skyandlady.com

don’t feel bad. I had a friend ask me once how many dresses i had because she had never seen me wear the same one repeatedly. i went home and counted and it turned out i had 89. I love them all. I grew up with only hand me downs so it is the one thing that makes me feel like i love and appreciate myself. I still want more.

sarah sky skyandlady.com

one more thing, i also used to be homeless and owned only one outfit, and would just take clothes out of a free box and put mine back into it whenever i wanted something different. When i look at all my clothes i know that part of my life is over.

Patricia stenaros.blogspot.com

Brilliant! Thank you for re-posting this in the end of the year wrap up. My wardrobe is disheveled and paltry and I think this will help me focus my efforts.

Michelle Marie

Thank you so much for reposting this is yearly tips. How lovely that you only have 12 categories for shoes. I will be expanding that one!

Adrian

This was so helpful, thank you for sharing!!

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