Inspired by the ERE blogpost that populated this morning, I think the wardrobe/laundry thing is one ERE area I've actually figured out from an efficiency and optimization standpoint (for me; my family is a different story).
My work wardrobe consists of the following:
- 3 pairs of wool slacks in varying shades of grey;
- 2 suits, one charcoal grey and one oxford grey;
- 1 pair of black cap toe dress shoes and matching belt;
- 1 pair of brown cap toe dress shoes and matching belt;
- 8 pair of "travel," quick-dry underwear (the Ex Officio ones);
- 2 wool pullover sweaters;
- 8 pairs of wool dress socks; and
- 3 white pocket squares for the blazer and suit jackets, because I'm fancy.
I leave the slacks, blazer, shoes, and belts at work, as I change into my work clothes from my bike commuting clothes in my office in the morning. I bring in and take home every day a pair of clean socks and a clean undershirt. As for dress shirts, I typically leave these at the office as well until they've been worn 2-3 times, and then I'll take them home to wash. Suits I only wear when I have to go to court or to a deposition, which is usually about 2-3 times a month, and so I leave these at home along with my ties.
The slacks, blazer, sweaters, and suits get dry cleaned once or twice a year, as needed. The underwear gets washed and then hang dried after each wear. The dress shirts get washed and then hang dried and ironed after 2-3 wears. The undershirts and socks get washed and dried (in the dryer) after each wear. The shoes I should polish more frequently, but I usually do it about every 2-3 months.
I "completed" this wardrobe last year, and apart from refreshing underwear and undershirts, and refreshing dress shirts when they are so worn they can no longer be mended (though my dress shirts generally last 4-5 years or so, with mending), I don't foresee needing to make any more work wardrobe purchases, ever. This uniform (grey slacks, blazer, dress shirt, black or brown shoes) means that unless I'm going to court or to a deposition, I never have to think about what I need to wear for the day, as I'm dressed for any situation and, given the casual work environment I work in, I'm just about always the best dressed person in the room. I much prefer this to what my colleagues do, which is to wear jeans or something similarly casual on days that they are just going to be at the office, and having to remember to wear something more formal when they are seeing a client or going to a lunch, etc. That's too much work for me to remember what I need to wear every day.
The blazer, suits, slacks, and dress shirts were all bought from the same relatively high-end men's store, which sells its own private label line of clothes, designed by the owner of the store and usually made in Italy (the dress shirts are made in South America, I think). The clothes were expensive, but after a decent amount of research and trying out other places, I am convinced that the store sells clothes that are very high quality, and that will last a very long time if taken care of. Also, the clothes fit me well, and you can go in any time to get any needed alterations done, for free, for the life of the clothes. As for the shoes, the black pair are Aldens, which were insanely expensive ($500) but made in America and likely to last me my entire working career (I've had them for 8 years so far and they only have gotten better with time). The brown shoes are also high quality, but they were bought at a high-end consignment shop for $80. All in all, of my big pre-ERE/FIRE enlightenment purchases, the work wardrobe purchases are the ones that give me the least amount of heartburn.
Outside of work, not counting exercise clothes, my wardrobe consists of:
- 3 pairs of Levi's shrink-to-fit jeans, in varying stages of wear (the two older pairs have had to have the crotch patched, adding years to their lifespan);
- 2 pairs of Musa shorts from Rivendell Bikes;
- a few collared short sleeve shorts;
- the previously mentioned dress shirts;
- a casual linen sport jacket for summer and a gun check one for winter;
- a pair of leather camp moccasins;
- a pair of leather Wallabees, for winter; and
Most weeks I'll only wear the MUSA shorts (which I use for commuting) and 3-5 t-shirts, and perhaps a pair of jeans. The MUSA shorts I wash and hang dry once a week. I probably wash (and hang dry) the jeans about twice a year; basically, whenever they get noticeably dirty or smelly, which is surprisingly infrequent if you brush off dirt, etc. and hang them up after wearing them (FWIW, the Levi's CEO says you are never supposed to wash the STF jeans). The t-shirts I wash and dry (in the dryer) usually after 2 wears.
So week in, week out, my own laundry is usually limited to 2 pairs of MUSA shorts (hang dried), 7 pair of underwear (hang dried), 2-3 dress shirts (hang dried), my exercise clothes (hang dried), 5 undershirts (tumble dried), 3-5 t-shirts (tumble dried), and 5 pairs of socks (tumble dried).
To Jacob's point from today's blogpost about handwashing clothes. I will say that I hand washed and hang dried all of my clothes when I was in the Peace Corps, and that is a surefire way to DRASTICALLY minimize the amount of clothes you wear in a week, because handwashing clothes (especially jeans) is a pain in the ass. If you've ever wondered why grandmas in developing countries have death grips for handshakes, it's from ringing out their grandkids' jeans.