My main focus for this year has been to simplify my life and my home in order to create more time and space for the things that matter most. My closet was the first thing that I tackled in my quest for simplicity. In the world of minimalism, which is calling to me like nobody’s business, the idea of creating a capsule wardrobe is extremely popular. Being the aspiring minimalist that I am, I jumped right on board and have been wearing only 33-37 items of clothing per season for the past nine months.
I gave it my all. I tried to make it work. I wanted to love it. But now I’m hopping right off the capsule wardrobe bandwagon.
While I love the idea of a minimalist wardrobe that fits into a small space and makes the decision of what to wear almost non-existent, there are some things about this way of dressing that I just can’t force myself to embrace.
First of all, it is governed by rules – rules about how many items you can wear (usually 33-37), how long you should wear those items before switching them out (for three months, defined by the seasons), and how often you can shop for clothing (only when you are getting ready for a new season).
But is it really necessary to assign an arbitrary number of items to your wardrobe in order to simplify? I no longer think so.
The truth is that the whole process of choosing a set number of items that didn’t allow for much flexibility was stressful for me. I got bored, burned out, and wanted to mix it up a little bit, but that would mean breaking the rules. I’m a rule follower, after all. I felt guilty about breaking my own rules by buying a new skirt with my birthday money or pulling an item out of storage just because I wanted to wear it.
I don’t want to feel guilty – especially over silly things like breaking the capsule wardrobe rules.
Secondly, I was thinking WAY too much about my clothes. Rather than having a closet that flowed from season to season, I felt like I had to pick the perfect 34 things or my wardrobe would fall apart. Everything needed to coordinate so that I could mix and match…but what if I picked the wrong color sweater to wear while the others sat lonely in storage? If I picked the color that I loved, it would only match a couple of things. But white, black, and grey are so boring…
And I had to do this every three months.
I am not a fashionista. I am not great about picking out interchangeable outfits with accessories and shoes to match, but I felt like I had to be that way in order to pull this whole thing off. I often found myself feeling discontent with my clothes because they didn’t quite pull off the cohesive, adaptable look that I wanted.
Not only that, but I spent much more money on clothes than ever before. I have never shopped for every season before attempting the capsule wardrobe. There was something about feeling like I needed the perfect combination of items for the season at hand – items that I would love to wear almost weekly for three solid months – that drove me to shop much more often than I normally would have.
But here’s the thing – I live in the Phoenix area where we do not have four defined seasons. They all kind of run together in varying degrees of warm or hot. There are a few months of “cool down,” which is classified as winter, where you might pull out a jacket every now and again. I do not need a new wardrobe for every season because short sleeves are good all year around here, but I felt like I did. I worried about how many items should carry over from winter into spring…or from summer into fall…because I could not possibly wear the same t-shirts all year long, even if the weather permitted. That would be just plain boring.
This process was not making my life easier. It was making it much more complicated.
So I made an executive decision this week to walk away from this experiment as a capsule wardrobe groupie into a place that is more grounded for me.
My new approach to my wardrobe and my home in general was inspired by “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo. For those of you who have not read it, you should!
Her entire philosophy of tidying and de-cluttering revolves around this one idea:
The best way to choose what to keep and what to throw away is to take each item in one’s hand and ask:
‘Does this spark joy?’
If it does, keep it. If not, dispose of it.
Simple, yet profound.
I have gone through every item in my closet several times over the past year, whittling it down to only the things that spark joy. (I’m working on the rest of my house, too.) I have gotten rid of countless items that were hardly worn, but that did not make me happy. Those that I kept do not necessarily all coordinate, and many were in storage simply because they did not fit in with whatever capsule I was currently wearing. When I was longing for variety, that seemed like a huge waste.
Marie Kondo also believes that:
The custom of storing seasonal clothes is behind the times…it is not uncommon now to see people wearing T-shirts indoors even in winter. So it’s time to abandon this custom and keep all our clothes ready to be used year-round, regardless of the season.
And that is what I am going to do.
No more clear plastic bins of clothing in the top of the closet. No more compartmentalizing clothing based on the season.
Everything I own, minus a few things that I only pull out for dirty work, is now neatly hung in the closet or folded in drawers, ready to be worn when I feel so inclined. (You can check out this youtube video for more information about how to fold clothes in Marie Kondo’s unique way in order to maximize space.) And guess what…my closet is still not even 2/3 full.
Just for fun, I counted how many items (minus underwear, workout clothes, and PJs) I have, and there are about 60, which is still pretty minimal when you are talking about my entire wardrobe.
I am not planning on going on a shopping binge to fill that closet back to the brim. I love having some empty space. But according to Marie Kondo, if you keep only the items that spark joy, it will be just enough.
After nine months of trying to force my closet to fit into a box defined by simplicity, I have concluded that a wardrobe does not need to contain a certain number of items that are worn for a certain amount of time in order to be classified as simple. In trying so hard to embrace this aspect of simplicity, I think I missed the whole point.
Simplicity is not a one-size fits all prescription. It is beautiful, content, joyful. It is freeing and energizing. It is embracing a lifestyle that allows you to feel, to breathe, to let go of stress and enjoy the moment.
A capsule wardrobe did exactly the opposite for me – creating stress, worry, and dissatisfaction. I applaud those who can make it work and love it in the process, but it is past time for me to move on. I am excited to welcome a new joyful philosophy into my wardrobe and my life.
What about you? Have any of you had experience with capsule wardrobes? Do you love them, hate them, or fall somewhere in between?