Most of us don’t wear even half of what we have in our closets. If we’re being truly honest with ourselves, we can’t even name everything we have in there off the top of our heads. Don’t even get me started on shoes. Most American women own 30 unique outfits, but the reason that you can’t picture everything that’s inside your bedroom closet is because the majority of us only wear 20% of the items we house inside our closets 80% of the time. This means that most American women are storing 24 outfits they almost never wear while they continually revisit the same 6 over and over again. Wow!
That means, our bedroom closets are in essence just a storage facility for clothing we’ve bought that we shy away from wearing because they don’t fit our shape quite right, the style isn’t “you” (but you keep wishing it was so you hold onto it), the color isn’t flattering, it may come back in style or fit again one day… You know the pieces I’m talking about.
Today I want to share with you a method of rotating your clothes collection that will help you eliminate the pieces like the ones I just mentioned, keep your closet neatly organized with almost no effort, reduce stress and leave you feeling like you look your best every day. It’s called a capsule wardrobe.
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So far, you’re thinking, “Capsule wardrobe? Oh, yeah, I have one of those. It’s when you open your closet and it acts as a time capsule, right? Here’s my first homecoming dress from middle school. The bridesmaid’s dress I wore in Amy’s wedding. Those holey jeans from high school that looked so badass on me back then. Speaking of high school, there’s a T-shirt my high school boyfriend bought for me. Not really sure why I still have that. Here’s the shirt I wore on the first date with my college sweetheart, now husband. Moving along- here’s my collection of pre-kids clothes that I’d love to be able to fit into again one day (Who cares if they go out of style! I love them!). And, finally, we land on my current wardrobe that includes 10 different pairs of yoga pants. I don’t love them, but they’re comfortable and I feel like I look alright in them.”
It’s not just you, Mama.
This is a literal description of my closet only a few short years ago. Then I stumbled onto this concept called a capsule wardrobe.
What Is A Capsule Wardrobe?
A capsule wardrobe is the result of selecting only a few pieces from your main wardrobe, storing the rest for a while, and wearing only those selected pieces for a predetermined amount of time. A typical capsule wardrobe includes about 30-35 pieces and the pieces are worn for 3 months, or one season, depending on the climate where you live. Some individuals choose to include shoes and accessories into the number, others only count pieces of clothing. Dealers choice!
What Got Me Started?
If there were such thing as a certifiable expert at clothes decluttering, that would be me! Hi, my name is Leah and I know how to delete clothes! This ability did not come about overnight. The very idea of trying to make that many decisions froze me right in my tracks before I could even get up off the couch and get started.
Remember my post on Flexing Your Decision-Making Muscle? Yeah. I did lotsss of that!
When we made our first move as a couple into our first home, I did very little to downsize my wardrobe. I only eliminated things that I felt would never fit me again, or would be out of style by the time they would. About a year later, we moved yet again, but this time, I faced my closet head on with a new perspective.
You see, when we were living in Home #1, my Husband and I left 80% of our possessions still in their moving boxes. Our grand plan was to purchase a house for ourselves as soon as we found one and at the time of our move we were expecting that we’d be living in Home #1 only a month or two.
Well, you know what they say. When we make plans, God laughs.
We ended up living in Home #1 for 10 months to the day. The whole time, 80% of our possessions stayed in those boxes untouched. We also didn’t have television or internet services. This was eye-opening for me. Why was I holding onto all of these things that I hadn’t seen a need for in 10 months?! This was the beginning of my Minimalist journey. If you’d like to hear more details about what ignited my passion for Minimalism, sign up for my FREE Decluttering With Kids email course.
To add insult to injury, while unpacking in our new house the weight of my clothes literally broke our new closet before I even finished hanging them all up! Not to mention, my clothing was also stored inside our dresser AND our chest-of-drawers. So. much. stuff. It really rubs me the wrong way when I consider how much excess I used to have.
A few months after our move into Home #2, I set out to eliminate a large chunk of the clothes in our closet. I started off with items I never wore and moved on to clothes I frankly didn’t even like. I made a little money selling the clothes online and that helped encourage me to continue. I did it again the next season and again the next. It was slow moving, but it helped downsize the amount a little bit. But I was still shopping occasionally and as new things were coming into our home nothing old was going out. Big mistake.
Once I stumbled onto the culture of Minimalism last year, this skyrocketed my efforts to declutter. I decided to box up all my clothes which fell into that gray area of should I keep them or do I need to hold onto them? These were the clothes that I wasn’t in love with, but if the perfect occasion arose, I thought I would wish I still had them.
For me- this was an overflowing full container and that was just the closet!
I left these clothes boxed up. If I needed something out, I got it out.
Obviously, if it came to mind then I considered this an item I should hold onto. As I felt able to decide, I eliminated items from the box that I realized I no longer had a need or want for. If I began to get frustrated with deciding, also called decision fatigue more on that in a bit, I chunked the items back inside the storage tote and forgot about them once again unless I had a true need for a piece.
I continued in this way until eventually I bagged up the entire contents of the tote and hauled them off. What remains in my closet today (Only the closet now! Our chest-of-drawers is completely empty!!) are pieces I genuinely enjoy, or at the time of decluttering I had a reason to hold onto them as my figure changed while breastfeeding my son. These final pieces are the ones I pick and choose from to create my capsule wardrobes as the seasons change.
What’s So Great About Capsule Wardrobes?
I first read about creating capsule wardrobes about 6 years ago. At the time, there was very little information that I could find and I wanted to voraciously consume all knowledge on this idea which was so foreign to me. Fast forward to the present and I can’t even log into websites like Pinterest without seeing at least one post on capsule wardrobe ideas. This idea has really caught on. So what’s all the fuss about? Here are a few brilliant reasons to curate your own capsule wardrobe for yourself today:
- This may seem like a, “Nah, duh?” reason- LESS LAUNDRY. I hate laundry. If you do, too, know that creating a capsule wardrobe will reduce the mountain of laundry to the size of a mole hill. You’ll probably have to wash just as often, but it’ll be a breeze to put things away when you only have a basket or two of clean clothes now. You may even get all of your laundry washed, dried and put away in one day! *gasp!*
- Capsule wardrobes reduce stress in the mornings by lowering the number of decisions you’ll have to make. I hate waking up and immediately having to decide things. I don’t even like to think about breakfast choices!
- All those decisions you make through the day add up. You know how you feel at the end of a long day after you’ve been forced to make decision after decision after decision? That’s called decision fatigue. And it sucks. A capsule wardrobe can alleviate that by lightening your decision-making burden.
- You’re less likely to be late. When you are utilizing a capsule wardrobe, all of the pieces can be worn together. You could quite literally get dressed in the dark in 5 minutes and come out looking fabulous.
- Wearing a similar style every day “brands” you and makes you more memorable (think: that boss you wish could get your name right!). And if you find yourself becoming more memorable, you’ll feel more confident!
- Alice Gregory makes an excellent point in her article for J. Crew when she says, “A uniform insinuates the sort of sober priorities that ossify with age, as well as a deliberate past of editing and improving.” What she’s saying, in a nutshell, is you’ll look classy. When you wear the same style every day you exude the confidence of knowing what you want that usually only comes with age and experience.
- Geniuses, like Albert Einstein, have been known to wear the same thing every day. It must be a pretty smart idea.
- The most successful people have been doing it for ages. From Steve Jobs all the way up to our former president, Obama. Read here.
- Women spend more time shopping for clothes, shoes and window shopping than they spend shopping for food each year. That doesn’t sound like such a big deal until you consider that food is an actual daily need compared to clothing which can be washed and worn again. Plus- even with all that shopping you still don’t have anything to wear!
- It saves money. You have very little reason to be shopping for clothing if you already have a predetermined wardrobe set aside for yourself. When you consider that the average American family spends $1,700 per year on clothing (3.5% of their annual income) and only wear 20% of all the clothes they own, it sobers you up from that shopping high. What would you do with an extra $1,700 each year?
- And, frankly, it makes looking your best easy. Who doesn’t like the path of least resistance? This doesn’t mean your capsule wardrobe has to be boring. Fill yours with eclectic pieces that can be mixed and matched. The point is wearing what brings you joy!
Closet Decluttering Basics
First, ask yourself why you’re keeping it.
-Is the reason you’re holding onto the item more valuable to you than the stress keeping it may add on you?
-Is the reason you’re keeping the item more exciting than the opportunity to shop for a new item which could take the place of more than one you’re parting with?
-Will you use the item more than 3 times in the next 3 months?
-If you get rid of the item today, would you be able to easily replace it in less than 20 minutes or for less than $20?
- If you are new to decluttering and haven’t worn an item in 6 months or longer, it’s time to say good-bye. Revisit your items every 3-6 months and discard what isn’t adding value to your wardrobe.
- If you think it’s ugly, say adios. FYI- if you haven’t worn it lately, you think it’s ugly.
- Don’t hold onto gifts due to guilt. In Marie Kondo’s best seller, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” she gives advice about this that truly did change my life. She says that the purpose of the gift was to bring the receiver of it (a.k.a. you) joy. Sometimes this joy is short-lived and only lasts a few hours after opening the present. The person who gifted you the item did not give it to you to burden you with guilt, but to lift you up and make you happy! The gift has fulfilled its purpose of bringing you happiness as soon as you receive it. You can happily let it go.
- If you can’t wear it because it doesn’t fit, toss it. The one exception is if you’ve had a new baby less than one year ago.
What about one-of-a-kind sentimental items like my wedding dress?
Don’t use your closet as a scrapbook! It’s 100% okay to be sentimental, but that does not mean you have to hoard clothes to preserve the memories you have attached to them. The clothes may trigger specific memories for you, but the home of those memories is in your heart. The clothes by themselves do nothing except take up your precious space.
Here’s the bottom line, Mama.
Whatever the piece may be- wedding dress, sorority T-shirt, your lucky jeans that you can no longer wear- if it brings you genuine joy to own it, and you have the room to accommodate it then keep it. It’s as simple as that. Alternatively- you could take a picture of the sentimental items and store the photos digitally on The Cloud or a jump stick. You may discover that you aren’t as attached to the items as you thought.
But It Cost Me A Ton Of Money!
We all have those items in our bedroom closets that we’ve invested quite a bit of money in with the belief that we are purchasing a quality item that will last us for years to come. You already know this, but I’m going to get you to say it inside your own head, “Sorry, but the money has already been spent.” You can’t get it back. You just can’t. Occasionally, a really nice item can be resold in one manner or another and you may be able to recoup a portion of what you paid, but the longer you hold onto the item the chances of recouping any money goes out the window. It won’t be in style, or someone may create a knock-off version rendering your item less valuable.
Now, I’m going to say something you probably don’t already know.
When you leave an expensive item to sit in your closet unused by you, it is actually costing you money.
It is costing you money. Studies like this one have proven there is a true link between clutter and depression and the effects are worse on women living in the home.
Think of the many ways you pacify yourself when you’re feeling the effects of depression. There was a time when I would eat my feelings. I know many women who use shopping as retail therapy. Not to mention, if your depression or anxiety becomes overwhelming you might require medication and doctor visits for treatment to regain your health.
Food, shopping and medication all cost a lot of money, and these are just a few common examples. Rarely are these the things we actually want to be spending our hard earned money on.
Let the designer shirt go. And with it, allow your reservations to leave, too. You’re decluttering for your health and your happiness. Any unused item which is not bringing you Earth-shaking joy is standing between you and the ideal life you imagine for yourself. It doesn’t matter if it cost you $200 or 2 cents.
But If I Get Rid Of Things, I Won’t Have Anything To Wear!
First of all, stop putting yourself last, Mama. Secondly, you need a lot less clothing than what you may think you need. It is better to have 10 pieces in your closet that make you look and feel amazing every time you wear them instead of 50 pieces that drag down your mood every time you get dressed. Don’t you agree? If your body has been riding the Mama roller coaster gaining and losing weight like mine has been doing these last 4 years, it’s past time to invest in a few new pieces that’ll make you feel like the beautiful lady you are.
Here are my favorite sources:
If you’ve never heard of StitchFix, for $20 you are assigned a personal stylist who curates a box of 5 items for you based upon your answers to their style profile questions and an optional Pinterest board you can create to pin clothing items to as inspiration for your stylist. The best part is that the $20 fee goes toward any items you may decide to purchase from your Fix. Win win! I highly recommend creating the Pinterest board. It’s a lot of fun and I think it was very helpful to my stylist because it gave her a visual to pair with my responses to their style questions.
I decided to give StitchFix a try because it goes hand-in-hand with capsule wardrobes. Which you know I’m allll about! I felt like my stylist really paid attention to what I wanted in my Fix because everything in the box perfectly filled in the gaps where my current capsule wardrobe needs a little something fresh. If you’re feeling style impaired or stuck in a rut of the same ol’ things, Stitch Fix includes personalized outfit ideas with images that show different ways you can wear the clothing pieces that came in your StitchFix box.
As a Mama who never gets a minute alone and is forced into breastfeeding if I even dare to try something on in a store, I loved being able to try the clothes on in the comfort of my own home. First of all- instead of going to a store where I would be tempted by a myriad of impulse buys when I’m only looking for a new blouse- I had only 5 items in front of me. This made it easy to focus. Second, StitchFix gave me a unique opportunity to mix and match the new items with items I already own and love. No guessing if the shade of black in this new blouse perfectly matches my favorite pair of black skinny jeans because I could easily check and see that it did. No making time for returns to the store because StitchFix includes everything you need to return any items you don’t want to purchase then simply drop the return envelop into the mail.
If you get your StitchFix and love everything that your stylist chose for you (I definitely did!), you will receive 25% off of your order! How amazing is that?!
I wrote an honest review of what you can expect from Stitch Fix that you can read here- Stitch Fix Reviews: Why Stitch Fix Doesn’t Suck.
The backbone of any great capsule wardrobe is quality pieces that will last both in their construction and through changing style seasons. That’s why I love a good shop like Modcloth. I’ve enjoyed drooling over their carefully curated, gorgeous collections for around 8 years now. Their pieces are classic, with all the fun of this season’s hot trends. Think: a little black dress, but with personality. I’m currently crushing on this piece.
My Minimalist heart loves ThredUP. Did you know individual consumers in the U.S. create 82 pounds of textile waste each year? That number adds up to 11 million tons each year! This is why I think it’s important, not to stop buying clothes- clothing our bodies is a need, but instead to get to know ourselves so that we are sure of a purchase when we make one and also to carefully consider the longevity of each purchase we make by investing in quality.
ThredUP is an amazing company that gives clothes a second life. You can send them your unwanted items after a decluttering spree in the bag they give you and simply sit back and let them do all the hard work of selling them for you! Or- if you need to revamp your wardrobe after having babies (like I did) ThredUP gives you access to all the best pieces at up to 90% off retail prices. That kind of discount on top of the money you’ll earn by giving your old pieces a new home means you can get the pieces you really want and know you’ll use.
Beginning in my third trimester when I was pregnant with The Boy, I started collecting new pieces using ThredUP and I’ve been so happy I did! I’m especially loving a solid black GAP tank top that pairs perfectly with skinny jeans and my black Converse sneakers. I can throw it on and go and still feel like I look great whether I’m running alongside my kiddies at the playground or for a casual date night. The part I appreciated most when buying online is that ThredUP describes the quality and fit of the pieces for you. I hate buying online when I don’t know if I’m going to be able to wear the pieces once they arrive and ThredUP took all the worry out of that for me. If you’ve never tried ThredUP before, you can earn a $10 credit by using my link to sign up! Click here!
Are you having trouble parting with the items in your closet that aren’t useful to you any longer? Read my post here where I point out my current wardrobe favorites. If you’ve already conquered your closet, what advice would you give a beginner? Share with me in the comments below!