In Make 2018 Great: Shoes: Part 1 – Examining Our Obsession, we explored why some of us have such a serious shoe obsession.
In Part II, we’ll discuss the sometimes difficult process of downsizing our shoes, how to learn from our mistakes, and finally build a shoe wardrobe that works for our lives. Imagine how it will feel to look into your closet and see ONLY the shoes that look good, feel good, are relevant to your life, and that you can strut in!
Prepare yourself with a refreshing (non-alcoholic) beverage; save the hard stuff for later. (The more shoes you toss, the more you may need that gin and tonic after.) Have a pen and a small notebook handy for recording your observations. Set up a box for shoes you plan to donate and a bag for shoes you need to trash. And do this in the afternoon or evening, when your feet are a little bigger than they are in the morning.
To kick this off, let’s play a game! Pretend you are in a TV reality show. You have 90 seconds to dig through your closet and retrieve as many of your favorite shoes as you can! The trick is, whatever shoes you save are the ONLY shoes you’ll be allowed to wear for the entire year! So if you only grab your beloved Jimmy Choos, that’s what you’re going to have to wear all day long every day. To work. On the beach. When you go hiking. You’re not allowed to cheat and take off your shoes except for when you shower or go to bed – otherwise, you’ll be eliminated!
90 Seconds! Run in there and grab!
Done? Easy, right? If put to the test, without stopping to think, we all know what our absolute favorites are – the shoes we reach for most often. My 90-second closet haul included my high-heeled Cyprus Crocs; my Aerosoles high heeled business mules and shoe booties; my favorite flip flops; my Brooks running shoes; and my Skechers Go Walks.
Go ahead and line these shoes up. You’ll be referring to them later.
Now, take a look at your other shoes. Depending on how many shoes you have, you may want to divide them into groups (work shoes, sandals, boots, athletic shoes, etc.).
Ask yourself the following questions about your shoes:
What WAS I thinking?
Usually, this is a once-trendy shoe that has become seriously outdated and now just looks plain WRONG. Occasionally, it could be the result of one or two many margaritas at the girls’ lunch, or the result of a frantic BOGO (“I can’t pass up getting a FREE pair – I have to find SOMETHING!“) Whatever, if your reaction is more EWWWW instead of OOOOH, put that pair in the donation box straightaway.
Are These Shoes … Colorful?
We often buy a pair of shoes because it matches a certain outfit or dress. It’s not a coincidence. My first “professional” job was in the 90’s and I bought many gorgeous but slightly silly suits at The Limited and Express (cranberry, plum, tangerine, azure blue). By *magick* the neighboring shoe shop at the mall sold pumps in EXACTLY those colors.
Of course, I had to buy the matching shoes.
Of course, aside from those particular suits I didn’t have anything else to wear with those shoes.
Eventually I gained weight, or lost weight, or the suit ripped or tore or stained or went out of style, or I left the suit behind in a seedy hotel in Atlantic City, as one tends to do – so I lost the suit but still had the shoes. Which then paired with … absolutely nothing in my wardrobe.
I’m NOT saying you can’t have fun and funky shoes! But any shoe you currently have (and DEFINITELY any shoe you buy, from this point forward), you should be able to pair with at least three different outfits.
If you have a pair of shoes you can’t currently pair with anything, toss in the donation box! Don’t worry – if chartreuse suits suddenly come back into style, chartreuse sandals will, too. Just like “magick.”
Tip: If you like colorful shoes, save the colors for your athletic shoes or casual sandals. Even then, it’s still good to have a neutral pair.
Bonus Tip: Consider buying a pair of shoes in your favorite color – say, cherry red, royal blue, or forest green. Wear them with your neutral clothes – your blacks, browns, and grays – instead of “matching” shoes to your clothing. You’ll get more wear out of your shoes AND create a signature style statement.
Were The Shoes A Hand-Me-Down or a Gift?
Take a very close look at any shoes you did not pick out yourself. Yes, they could be perfect. Or, you were just excited to get something for “free.”
If The Shoe Fits, Wear It. If Not …
I know, I know. Feet don’t usually change size with minor weight fluctuations. But it’s a cruel fact of life our feet do get bigger as we get older, due to ligaments relaxing and arches becoming flatter after a lifetime of pounding. Some podiatrists say we gain a whole shoe size (or more!) between the ages of 20 and 50!
Women are hit especially hard because of pregnancy and hormonal changes such as perimenopause. Additionally, the older you get, the more likely both men and women are to experience swelling at the end of the day – again, hormones can make this worse for women. Finally, foot issues such as bunions, bursitis, and arthritis often begin showing up at midlife – sometimes as early as our 30’s.
So try on your shoes. Most of your shoes will still fit. Some may not. Maybe your feet have changed, or maybe the shoes never fit that well to begin with. Toss those into your donation box immediately.
Keep in mind there could be other fit issues than the shoe being too small. A too-big shoe can make you trip and stumble. If you have a narrow heel, regular pumps may give you blisters. Does the arch hit your foot correctly? If it’s a pair of flip flops, do you have to “clench” your toes to walk?
Are Your Shoes Comfy?
Are some of your shoes just “sorta” or “mostly” comfortable? Could you wear them to do your grocery shopping or walk your dog around the block? Try on your most similar “rescued closet shoe” and compare. If you are undecided about a shoe but go “aaahhh” when you put on your “rescued” shoe, you know the answer! If you’re still not sure – try actually wearing them to buy groceries. If the bag boy comes up to you and asks if you would like him to fetch the motorized shopping cart – toss the shoes.
It’s Not About The Shoe, It’s About The Strut
I am the last person to ever tell anyone to wear sensible shoes. Dang, the first 30 years of my life people told me that and I hated it!
But sometimes women’s shoes are pretty freaking crazy. And I KNOW a lot of young women are thinking, “Hey, yeah, these shoes actually hurt like hell after 15 minutes. But I just need to walk from the car to the restaurant. These shoes are the bomb. I paid hella bucks for these shoes. They just make me look so fine …”
But do they REALLY?
What if your date wants to go on a romantic, moonlit stroll after dinner? What if he wants to take you dancing? What if you both decide tonight is the night and you go back to his place and find you must climb four flights of stairs to make it to his apartment? How fine do you look then?
In my twenties I wore a pair of “killer” shoes on a date to an upscale restaurant. I only had to walk from door to car and then car to table – and I looked wonderful walking those distances. As soon as I sat down at the table, I kicked my shoes off. (Pretty smart, eh?) I was still so young I didn’t realize feet stuffed in too-small shoes tend to swell once you take the shoes off! After we ate, I couldn’t get my shoes back on again! Might I say, I did not look quite as classy exiting the restaurant in my bare feet?
You should NEVER just look passively pretty in shoes.
You should be able to be active and strut in them (or at least walk with dignity out of the restaurant, or dance at least one dance, or race your man up four flights of stairs).
Google Naomi Campbell falling at the Vivienne Westwood show in 1993 for proof some shoes are so insane, even highly paid professional glamazons can’t walk in them. (This was such an iconic moment in the history of shoes it was re-created for Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and The City.) And then google any Tina Turner clip, ever, to see how you’re supposed to move in heels.
Ask yourself honestly … Do I strut or stumble in those shoes? If you can’t strut in them, stuff them … in your donation box.
Do You Have Duplicates?
Look at your remaining shoes. We tend to buy variations of the same shoe over and over. Sometimes because we know what we like and just want a few different options for variety.
But sometimes, we keep buying a shoe because we know we need it but none of the shoes are “just right” – so we keep buying more.
And sometimes, it’s because we have so many shoes, we can’t find the shoes we really like and need – so we keeping buying backup pairs!
If you have duplicates – six pairs of black pumps, for example, or ten pairs of flip flops – pit them against each other! Which are your favorites? Which are the cutest and the most comfortable? Save the best and toss the rest!
Have Your Shoes Changed With Your Life?
We should have tossed quite a few shoes by now. Of the ones remaining – How many times have you worn them – RECENTLY? And how likely are you to wear them?
This can be a tricky question, as often we do have “special need” shoes that we don’t wear very often. Job interview shoes, salsa shoes, bowling shoes, hiking shoes, etc.
But as for the other shoes – If you haven’t worn them recently, it could be because you don’t like them, or they’re out of style, or they don’t fit. All of those shoes should already be in your donation box.
But, also, sometimes your LIFE changes – and your shoe needs.
In my early twenties, I had a conservative job where I wore skirts, pantyhose, and closed-toe pumps every single day.
In my early thirties, I worked in a more laid-back office with lots of other fashionable young women. I was also on the dating scene! I totally rocked miniskirts and tall boots.
Not too many years later, I started a home-based business where I wore jeans most of the time and was adopted by a VERY energetic Jack Russell terrier. When my father asked what I wanted for Christmas, my answer was immediate – a shoe-shopping trip for comfy, casual shoes! (And thus my love affair with Skechers began.)
Currently, I have a professional job where I wear mostly pants and sandals, mules, or ankle booties. I still like the look of short skirts and boots, but I’m not rocking it three times a week anymore. Outside of work, comfy shoes are more important than ever.
How has YOUR life changed over the years? Were you a dance club diva but now spend nights watching Netflix with your honey and your weekends hiking? Have you had kids and decided to be a stay-at-home mom for a few years? Maybe you’ve moved from a very conservative job to a more casual job – or vice versa. Have your shoes evolved with your life?
If your life has changed, keep one or at most two pairs of your old favorite shoes. (Only if they fit and you think they are cute!) Also remember that styles change! So, if in the future you do go back to work or start hanging out at the clubs – those shoes might look outdated. Donate them, and let someone else enjoy them while they’re still current.
Remember, life can change in an instant – for good or bad – but most of the time, it’s an evolution. That’s why it’s important to re-evaluate our shoes and clothing every now and then.
Would You Buy A Replacement?
If something happened to your shoes, would you instantly be in the stores and on Amazon and Zappos and Moo Shoes looking for a replacement? ‘Nuff said.
What Condition Are Your Shoes In?
If you have a pair of shoes that’s falling to pieces, that means either (1) you buy cheap shoes, or (2) they’re falling apart because you liked the shoes so much you wore them all the dang time. You’ll probably want to replace them with a similar pair. If your shoes are not too far gone, consider a shoe repair shop. Yes, even pleather shoes can be professionally polished, resoled, and reheeled. A good shoe repair shop should also be able to fix a broken boot zipper!
If you have shoes that have seen better days, please put them in the trash bag, not the donation box. It’s really not a kind thing to give those less fortunate crap.
The “L” Word
I deliberately left this till last because there are sooo many reasons you should get rid of extraneous shoes, regardless of what they are made of. Chances are you already eliminated many leather shoes during the previous exercises!
And, until you figure out what works and what doesn’t work for you, there’s no point in buying all-new non-leather and vegan shoes if you’re just going to make the same mistakes all over again.
Most of us wore leather shoes at one point. I’m not vegan for reasons of personal purity, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with continuing to wear a pair of leather shoes you bought before you were vegan. The damage has already been done, so to speak, and it may be a better use of your money to pay off your debt, or rescue a dog (or cat or rabbit or ferret), or make a donation to a shelter or animal rights organization. Just don’t buy any new leather shoes and feed more money into the leather shoe industry!
I will warn, the longer you are vegan … the more uncomfortable it’s going to be to own and wear leather shoes. So if you currently have non-leather shoes that can fill the same purpose … ditch the leather. If you are hesitating, consider this – by donating your gently used leather shoes, that will be one less new leather pair someone buys!
“Do the best you can until you know better. Then, when you know better, do better.” – Maya Angelou.
Time to take inventory – and perhaps finally that alcoholic drink, because parting with possessions can be stressful!
Get out your notebook and start jotting a few things down.
Ask yourself: What have I learned about my style and needs? Since we’ve been mindfully downsizing our shoes, we’ve probably learned a lot.
Those shoes we rescued in the beginning provided a strong clue as to what shoes we are actually wearing on a daily/weekly basis.
The shoes we are donating provide perhaps even more important information!
Things to ponder: Do you need more neutrals? Is there a color that keeps repeating itself? Have your feet changed over time? What were your personal fit/comfort issues? Is there a style that keeps repeating itself? Do you still own, or worse, buy shoes for a life that has evolved and moved on? Do you have the shoes you need for your current life?
Here are my personal notes: My size 7 1/2s to 8s now fit me better than the 6 1/2s to 7s. I like a 2-3 inch heel and neutral colors. I hate pointy toes. I hate flats. Shoes can be tight around my right big toe joint. A LOT of shoes give me blisters on my heel, so perhaps I have a narrow heel and need to watch for that in shoes, or wear backless styles like sandals, slingbacks, and mules; or booties that won’t slide around so much.
Take a moment to write down any epiphanies or observations you had while downsizing.
Then ask, What do I need on my Wish List?
Now that we have pared down to the shoes we actually like, need, and fit – what is missing?
Like me, once you clear out all the shoes that do not work for your feet or your life, you may be very happily surprised you do indeed have most or all the shoes you need! (Case of not being able to see the trees because the forest was just so dang huge before.)
Before I did my shoe purge, I had been assuming I’d need some summer sandals. After, I realized the only things I really needed were a new pair of Skechers GoWalk slip-ons (not immediately, but soon) and a new pair of shoe booties or ankle boots once Autumn rolls around.
What do YOU need? Write it down and be as specific as you can.
“I need a pair of black pumps because all the ones I have pinch my toes.”
“I need a pair of black or brown sandals because all my sandals are colors and I need a neutral.”
“I need another pair of running shoes because my current pair is wearing out.”
“I need business shoes that are more classic. Most of my shoes are very trendy/sexy and I am ready to be taken more seriously.”
“I need a sexy pair of pleather boots because I want to replace my leather pair.”
Having a Wish List allows you to focus exclusively on your wish list items! If you walk into the shoe store knowing the only thing you need is a pair of sandals in a neutral color, you’re not going to walk out with (yet another pair) of turquoise sandals. If you know you need black pumps because your current ones are uncomfortable, you’re not going to be seduced by a gorgeous but equally uncomfortable pair. If you are specifically looking to replace your leather boots, you’re not going to be distracted by vegan pumps and clogs, even if they are super-cute. If you really needed any of those, you would have put them on your list when you were standing in front of your closet!
Once you are focused on a specific item, you can take your time. By not spending money on shoes you don’t need, you will have more money to spend on the shoes you do need and want. You can still enjoy the thrill of the hunt for the perfect pair of shoes – but, now that you know what you are looking for, the pair might really be perfect! For once!
Put Everything Away
Now put your shoes away. You may find that you suddenly have a lot of excess shoe storage space and may even be able to fit all your shoes in one closet! (It’s ok to store off season shoes – like boots -in another closet.)
Are you having heart palpitations at the large amount of shoes in your donation box? It’s ok – I did, too! Donate those shoes as soon as possible! If you leave a donation box sitting around your space too long, those shoes will start walking themselves right back into your closet!
Hopefully, like me, you now feel a really unexpected sense of abundance when you look into your closet and see – a reasonable amount of shoes. Shoes you love and actually wear.
Next: Vegan Friendly Shoes and Where To Find Them