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Paring Your Wardrobe When You Can’t Commit to a Capsule

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I’ve been reading about capsule wardrobes for a couple of years, and we’ve written about them before. You can find that article here. They intrigue me for a couple of reasons. First, they propose that the few pieces you own are high quality, and I’ve always been a TJ Maxx wear-it-and-toss-it kind of girl. Second, my heart is increasingly burdened for the extreme poor and suffering people in the world, so unnecessary consumerism is becoming less appealing.

But…I love clothes! And jewelry. And trends. Gah! It’s an ongoing struggle, and up until now I’ve handled it by continually weeding my closet of a few pieces every couple of months and donating them. But while I was in Haiti recently, during a brief downtime on my daughter’s couch, I found a blog by a capsule wardrobe guru that spoke to my heart and convinced me I had to go further in downsizing everything I own that goes on my body.

But seriously, 37 PIECES per season (of which there is basically only one where I live in Southwest Florida)? And no shopping for clothes for THREE MONTHS at a time?

That’s her recipe, and it sounded really hard; too hard. But I was determined to reduce both my wardrobe and my spending, so here are the steps I made to work toward a capsule wardrobe. I may or may not ever get down to one filled with 37ish pieces of super high-quality clothing articles and shoes, but I have gotten mine lean enough that I feel lighter, mentally healthier, and am enjoying the clothes I kept … and the cleaner closet that I can actually find them in!

1. I immediately reached out to a friend for accountability. Kelly’s my favorite, and someone who loves shopping … but whose heart I know well enough to recognize that the continual buying of clothing was causing her the same kind of inner turmoil that it was causing me. We agreed we would each tackle our closets and drawers when I got home from Haiti and she from a long vacation, and connect with each other throughout the process.

2. I started with my closet, and I took every single thing out that I do not wear and put it in one of two piles, toss or donate. I removed at least half my clothes, if not more, from my home. When I talked to Kelly about it later, she asked if I kept “everything I love” and I was able to tell her a resounding “No!” That wouldn’t have worked, because there are lots of things I own that I “love” but do not wear. So do not keep what you love – keep what you wear. This is key to pairing down your wardrobe with a capsule mentality.

So do not keep what you love – keep what you wear.

3. I did the same exercise with my shoes, jewelry, drawers of shorts and T-shirts and lingerie, and even with my makeup and hair products (including a stash that contains all the extra personal products I think I might use one day but never do). I had a pile of yoga pants, but I only wear a couple of them, so that’s all I kept. I kept only one white T-shirt and one black. When these kinds of items are too worn for going out of the house, you can cycle them down into your “lounge around the house” collection and toss what’s gotten old in that category. Then you can replace those with quality items.

By the way, the stuff I donated went straight into bags and into my trunk, and to the donation center the next day. Don’t give yourself time to think about what’s in those bags!

4. I organized what was left. I kept my tops together according to color, my jeans together, and my other pants together. My dresses are organized long and short, and skirts are next to them. I keep a small cold-weather collection (which I need for a few 50-degree days in Florida and fall/winter visits to family up north) in a separate closet, and arranged them similarly.

5. Once I had the extreme weeding done and only the clothes I wear were kept and organized, I took an inventory to make sure I had necessary items for a couple of upcoming special events (like my nephew’s wedding) and also for how I live. I don’t work outside the home (if you do, the principles are the same – keep only what you wear). I only have to dress up occasionally, so I made sure to take my jean and casual tops collections seriously. If I have to wear the same things all the time, they must be comfortable, stylish and make me feel good! I made note of any staples I need to replace, like a black tank top that I wear several times a week but is starting to get threadbare.

To reduce my wardrobe and spending here are the steps I made toward a capsule wardrobe.

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6. Give yourself grace. If an event comes up that you couldn’t foresee and you don’t have the right attire, go get it. Whether it’s a suit for a job interview or a cocktail dress for a glitzy fundraiser, purchase something both timeless and that makes you feel amazing. That way you’ll love adding it to your collection for years to come.

That’s it. I haven’t shopped for anything since I cleaned my closet, and I promised to tell Kelly if I was struggling. She loves me so she’ll be able to assess if I truly need it, just want it to fill a void that day, or should wait until month four and spend my money on something of higher quality. If a capsule wardrobe isn’t for you, at least this exercise could be a start!

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Clare loves painting furniture, drinking too much coffee, and traveling to Haiti to see her lovely daughter.

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