It was just about a year ago when my closet first started overwhelming me. I’ve always been good at regularly going through my wardrobe and giving away things I haven’t worn in awhile, but I’m still guilty of the I-haven’t-worn-that-in-a-year-but-I’ll-probably-most-likely-maybe-wear-it-next-season syndrome. That, times lots of years, adds up to a lot of excess clothes and shoes and accessories that I just.don’t.need. I’ve mentioned once or twice that I love traveling, and I wanted to really start investing in those life experiences instead of lots of material things that only last a few months and then get replaced by the newest and greatest.
It was also right around this time that I started following Unfancy, a blog about minimalism, and specifically capsule wardrobes. What’s a capsule wardrobe, you ask? Basically it’s a wardrobe that’s been pared down to include essential pieces of clothing that fit your lifestyle. Caroline of Unfancy chooses to keep her’s at 37 pieces and switches it out every season.
I was hooked on this idea. I knew I had to try it myself. And so I got rid of 60 percent of my wardrobe. Whew. It felt so good.
While Caroline is the real capsule wardrobe expert here (definitely go follow her), I wanted to share a couple of my thoughts and answer the questions I regularly get from people interested in how it’s worked for me.
The first thing I should point out is that no, those aren’t ALL the pieces in my current wardrobe. These are just a few pieces that were, ahem, clean. But I should also point out that I’ve decided to do two capsule wardrobes a year. I’m currently transitioning out of fall/winter to spring/summer, and I decided on those combinations because 1) Cleveland is super unpredictable in terms of weather (hello, 55-degree days in the summer and 80-degree fall afternoons) and 2) it’s easier for me to plan two bigger wardrobes instead of having to switch everything out every few months. While I love browsing in Anthropologie, I don’t have a lot of extra time to do so. I’ve found that by separating my wardrobes this way, I can look forward to shopping every six months instead of being overwhelmed by the thought of having to set aside time to plan my closet.
But I’m getting a little bit ahead of myself. Cue the questions.
So, how many pieces do you actually include in your capsule wardrobe? What constitutes a piece?
I don’t have an exact number (yet, anyways) but I try to keep no more than 70 pieces in my closet at one time. My fall/winter wardrobe included about 60 pieces. That might sound like a lot, but that number includes shirts, pants, dresses, skirts, shoes, outerwear … basically anything I wear on a regular basis. And I kept this first wardrobe for six months. No shopping in that time, no adding things to my closet unless it was a gift, and no spending unnecessary time and mental energy obsessing over what clothes I had or didn’t have. It was all there, and it was less overwhelming because there were fewer choices.
What did you do with all the clothes you decided you didn’t need anymore?
I donated a lot of things (specifically to Our Family Home Center, a non-profit that directly helps the homeless in East Cleveland), sold some of the newer things that I hadn’t worn much (Clevelanders, I sold things here and here) and put a few things in storage if I really thought I might wear it in the future.
Do you get tired of wearing the same thing over and over?
Honestly? I did get tired of a few pieces BUT that’s because I didn’t totally plan this first wardrobe according to my true fall/winter lifestyle. Whoops. You live and you learn, right? I’ve never had as big of a break from photographing weddings as I did this last fall and winter. I had 5.5 months OFF from any major work, and while that’s awesome, I planned my wardrobe as if I’d be out doing things more than I actually was. In reality, my days mostly consisted of home office work and lounging. I had a couple pairs of leggings and some jogging pants in my closet and those were worn over and over again. I planned a wardrobe that I wanted and not what I needed. Lesson learned.
Does keeping fewer things in your closet mean you never buy anything new anymore?
No! After I was done sifting through my old clothes that fit all kinds of different lifestyles (I still had clothes from college and from my past job as a communication coordinator at an office. Let me tell you, most of those business casual clothes just sat gathering dust for the last few years), I was left with a foundation that made up my new wardrobe. I went shopping to fill in the gaps and find things that were classic + current, made sense for where I was at now, and were quality enough to last me awhile. I just recently did the same thing with my spring/summer wardrobe. Hopefully next fall I won’t have much to buy, but I anticipate always having to replace a few things each six months.
And let me point out that you can do as much or as little shopping as you want. I, personally, want to learn to be content with what I have (definitely not always easy!), but if you love staying up with the current trends, you might replace more every switch. If you fit the second description more than the first, you might also spend some time finding an awesome, local organization that can really use your donated clothing.
What would you do differently after this first attempt at a capsule wardrobe?
I would spend more time being honest with myself about my current needs. Caroline has an awesome wardrobe planner that I am truly using this second time around. I’m especially spending more time on the activity pie chart and making sure I’m not buying for a lifestyle I wish I had (glamorous dresses and tops). The reality is that I work from home and need comfortable loungewear and cotton dresses to see me through this warm season. Making sure I have what I truly need means spending less money in the long run.
You’re planning on sticking with this whole capsule wardrobe thing? Why?
Yes! While I have fewer things in my closet, I find freedom in the fact that I will like everything I see each morning and can be creative with mixing and matching unexpected pieces. When I had more clothes, I found that I was overwhelmed each time I tried to get dressed. I stuck with a few favorites and didn’t really touch the other things. Why were they even there to begin with?? Now I feel content with what I have and love the idea that the extra money can go towards something Nathan and I can do together.
What do you think? Have you been caught by the bug? If you have more questions about capsule wardrobes, I’d love to chat with you about my experience! Leave me a comment below or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.