Category Archives: Economy

How I learned to purge my clothes closet

Now that the fall season is upon us and winter is at our heels, I finally got down to business yesterday cleaning my clothes closets. I do this periodically, in season or not, only because I can’t stand a messy closet. My motto: Clean closet, restful soul. The same goes for what’s under my bed.

But after a morning spent purging, folding, hanging and sorting, I barely made a dent. Oh sure, I dumped the obvious – a stained blouse, shoes that are painful to wear (no matter how many Dr. Scholl pads I put in them), boxy, unfitted jackets and forest green trousers that make my ass look twice its size (what was I thinking?)

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The purple boots get tossed

But I held onto items – a pair of purple tweed boots with stiletto heels and a green quilted suede jacket, for example, things I had not worn in years. I had no compelling reason to keep it or to toss it. I was in organizational limbo.

As a result, I still had a closet full of clothes and shoes and handbags taking up precious space. And to be honest, the excuse for holding on to these things has nothing to do with sentimental attachment  (like when it’s time to let go of your daughters’ baby clothes). Nope. It’s because, you never know when you’ll need a pair of purple ankle boots. Right.  Everybody knows that defense would never hold up in the Stacy and Clinton court of law.

This morning I worked on a client’s SWOT analysis, a method used to evaluate a business project based on its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. When I was a kid, my dad called this “The Ben Franklin Method.” Probably, Ben used this method to determine that a volunteer fire department was a good idea or that this country needed a post office.

Indeed, a SWOT analysis can be highly effective in determining whether an organization keeps or nixes a project . So I was thinking: could it work for deciding whether to toss a pair of shoes?  

As it turns out, it can.

Although a SWOT analysis can be complex, delving into such issues as budget constraints, local and global competition, market saturation and user acceptance, I used the basic analysis methodology – the grid – and it looks like this:

Strengths

Weaknesses

Opportunities

Threats

My first item: the purple tweed boots

Strengths

Very sassy looking

Moderately comfortable

Jazzes up a pair of black pants

Could wear with Halloween witch costume

Weaknesses

Style is dated

Could wear with a witch costume

Heels are high and difficult to walk on

Can only wear with black

The zipper gets stuck

Haven’t worn them in three years

Have lost their initial Wow! Those are sassy appeal

Opportunities

Could come back in style

I might dress up as a witch for Halloween and need them

Might be a conversation starter

Could consign them to Linda’s and maybe someone, looking for shoes to wear with a witch costume will buy them. Could make a couple of bucks.

Threats

Could twist an ankle trying to walk in them

Break a nail trying to pull up the zipper

Become a forgotten item taking up space in my closet

Be seen wearing them with a witch’s costume

I tossed the purple tweed boots.

Next item: Green suede jacket.

Strengths

It’s a great “in between” seasons jacket

Stand out color

Suede is soft

Weaknesses

Boxy shape

Stiff

Slightly oversized

Color is odd

Wore it only one season

Haven’t worn it in two years

Opportunities

Could keep it in the back of my car just in case I needed a light weight green suede jacket

All it needs is the right scarf to complete the look

Threats

It’s expensive to clean

Could be mistaken for a Coldwater Creek model while wearing it.

Bye-bye green suede jacket.

So it went on like this for a few more items, but once I got into the groove it wasn’t necessary to actually fill out the grid. I did the rest in my head, which then became a mental exercise in getting a grip. Toss, toss, toss became my motto. I culled 33 items (in under two hours) – four pairs of pants, two cocktail dresses, five skirts, six shirts, six sweaters, a pair of boots, three jackets and six belts.  I didn’t do the analysis for every item, just the ones I had a hard time pitching. And as it turned out, there wasn’t one item that I was on the fence on that I kept – go figure.

Using the SWOT analysis to clean my closet was frankly, brilliant and I highly recommend it to anyone staring into their closets at this moment wondering what to wear tomorrow.  

Now, open my closet and it’s lined with only my favorites, my white T-shirts with bright white collars organized by sleeve length, long dresses and trousers hung just so they skim the closet floor, knee length skirts lounge in a wide palette of color and texture and every pair of shoes has a box. It makes me giddy.

My closet is no longer a dark and mysterious jungle. My closet is neat. My soul is restful. Let’s go shopping.

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Filed under Economy, Fashion, Humor

Cutting myself some slack

I have a confession. Some times I just sit here and stare into space instead of looking for a job. Some days, I can barely bring myself to do it. I AM SO SICK of tweaking cover letters and resumes and sending them out into the black hole known as APPLY ONLINE. I am so tired of telling my so-what-are-you-doing-now story. I wish I had the nerve to say, “you know, here’s what I do: I sit on my ass most of the day, eating cinnamon toast and oranges.” Honestly, if I let myself, I could slide right into dinner and bedtime without having moved more than 40 feet (the distance from the couch, to the bathroom, to the kitchen and back again.) Some days, I don’t brush my teeth.

Searching for work has never been easy

Searching for work has never been easy

The truth of the matter is, I don’t do idle very well. Not because I’m some superhero, it’s because I’m afraid of what will happen if I don’t. Trust me, I’d rather hide in my closet than face another day of job hunting.  I’m tired of being upbeat. I’m tired of saying to myself (and to others) that this is an opportunity for me to do something interesting and terrific (because I don’t always believe it.) Some days I search with vigor, other days, it’s a half-ass attempt. Some people consider my determination a sign of moxie, gumption, true grit. But I think it’s a sign that I’m just burning myself out. 

Today, I took a shower, brushed my teeth and put on clean jeans. I applied for two jobs. (This is more of an exercise than anything else because I’m starting to believe there’s no one on the other end of that APPLY tab. I don’t expect to hear anything anymore. Having your hopes dashed day after day can suck the optimism out of the best of us.) I contacted two former colleagues to see what they were doing and schedule lunch. Perhaps they’ll have some freelance work. I work a little on an online media curriculum that I’m developing and do more research for a contracted SEO project.

 If I knew all my efforts were leading to a job, I’d dig until my knuckles were raw. But, sometimes I wonder if I’ll EVER get another job. I wonder if there is something more I can be doing. I call people I know to see if they know someone who knows someone who can get me an interview. I’ve got a blog, a website, I do pro bono work, I make cold calls, I do follow ups, I make a few bucks doing freelance and consulting. I stalk people on Linkedin and Twitter. It’s exhausting.

It’s time for a new strategy. 

 After three months, I have come to terms that a full-time job may not be around the corner. So I’m making plans, something I couldn’t bring myself to do two months ago. I decided to put more balance into my week. I’m letting go of the fear that if I skip a day of looking for a job, I’ll have missed some great opportunity. I don’t think it works that way. So I’m giving myself permission, heck, forcing myself,  not to take it all so seriously all the time.  If I chose to sit on my ass all day I won’t feel guilty about it. I’m going to go out more and do the things I couldn’t do when I worked full-time; go to the museums on a week day, walk to the Dairy Queen with Lenore  when she gets home from school because the weather is sunny and warm,  let my friend Carolyn make me breakfasts that last until lunch without having to worry about the time, and read a book in the middle of the day and not get up until it’s finished. Plan a road trip with my sister that takes us everywhere and nowhere. This week, I’m helping a friend who owns a consignment store in town sort and tag clothes. Business is booming and she can use the help. I can use some place to go.  

The mother of a friend of my daughter said to me the other day when she learned I had been laid off, “Oh, that’s great, now you have all this time!” I thought she was nuts – and clueless. News flash: I LIKE working. But her comment stuck with me and while I still wouldn’t wish unemployment on anyone, I’m realizing now it’s  important to embrace the time off. Not waste it, but make the most of it.  I’m cutting myself some slack. So  if you find me Monday, sitting on my ass, still in my pajamas at noon watching The View, only chastise me a little – and then ask me to go for a brisk walk to the little bakery downtown for hot tea and a cupcake where we won’t talk about the economy. 

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Filed under Careers, Economy

Oprah’s economic fix for family needs reality check

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had it with all these talk shows and morning news segments that try to help me survive these “tough economic times.” A segment that aired yesterday on Oprah was downright appalling. (I’m still slapping myself for even watching. I’m done with Oprah.)we-need-groceries-she-needs-exercise-what

If you need some expert from the Oprah show to “teach” you how to cut what you spend weekly on “take out” from $400 to $59, you’re an idiot. You should be arrested just for being stupid. And so should Oprah for featuring these people. Are they kidding? These people need help making ends meet? Have you ever noticed that the people on these shows live in HUGE houses? Drive SUVs? Have big screen TVs? Airing it is an insult to those of us who know better.

 People like this don’t need financial help, they need mental help. People are STARVING in this country and this particular family was spending $20,000 a year on take out? I don’t care how much money you make, if you spend that kind of money  and then try to tell us that you know you need to cut back because these are “tough economic times” but  just don’t know how, you’re a dumb ass.  And, these experts that Oprah showcases? Wow. How hard is it to tell these morons to open up a box of pasta and jar of sauce and toss the take out menu from Applebees?  Just for fun, I would have loved to see Suzi Orman come in and wag her finger at them. Jerks.

 I challenge Oprah to send one of her experts over to my house. I dare them to look at my budget and tell me where to cut. Regardless of having a comfortable income, we never have or would ever spend that kind of money on take out or even on eating out no matter how many hours a week we worked and certainly not because our kids didn’t like what we cooked.  I live in a modest home, have never purchased a brand new car, and 50% of my wardrobe is purchased at consignment stores. Show me how to cut my $100 a week grocery bill in half. Go ahead. I dare you.

Oprah, if you want to really help us in these “tough economic times” then have some guts and make it hard for your experts. Have them tell us something we don’t already know. Excessive spending and selfish attitudes are to blame for the recession. People should never have been living like this in the first place. Stop showcasing them as faultless, helpless middle class Americans, stuck in the middle of an economic crisis. Instead, have a show that can help the millions of desperate people in this country who would be happy to eat the scraps of $400-a -week-in-take-out leftovers. 

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Filed under Economy, Education