How I Accidentally Created a Capsule Wardrobe

For the past year or so, I’ve been gradually paring down my wardrobe. I had a closet practically bursting at the seams yet stood there most mornings and thought, “I have nothing to wear.” When I came back from Malawi last summer, I was no longer content with that situation. Every time I thought “I have nothing to wear” and threw another unwanted shirt on the floor, I thought, “This is a problem.” I spent years accumulating stuff simply because I could, and along the way, I became less and less grateful for all of it.

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The truth is, I’ve never had much style sense. Sometimes I look back at pictures and think, “Yikes! Why did I wear that?” (In particular, I’m remembering an unfortunate strapless, green, polka dot dress that I wore to an event in college. Terrible.) I didn’t know what I liked. I wanted to like certain styles because I thought I should, so I pretended I did. I also didn’t understand what clothes worked for my body type, so a lot of what I wore was unflattering. I knew that inherently but didn’t know how to fix it.

Ironically, Pinterest helped me with this. If you scroll through my style & clothing pinboard, it doesn’t take long to see what I’m clearly drawn to. I love layers (one of the reasons I’m honestly so happy to live in Michigan). I love neutrals with an occasional pop of color. I love flats. I love stripes and polka-dots. I love brown leather. I love loose-fitting tops. I love cute but casual dresses and skirts.

And there you have it. My entire wardrobe and sense of style, revealed by scrolling through Pinterest. (At the same time, I’ve learned what I don’t like. I don’t like tucking in shirts or jeans that flare. I have finally given away every pair of high heels I’ve ever owned, except for the pair I wrote at my wedding.)

I didn’t set out to create a capsule wardrobe, which I know are all the rage right now. (Are they really, though? Sometimes I wonder if I think these things only because I’m drawn to blogs and authors who are interested in the same topics as me.) I just wanted less clutter, less laundry, and less decision fatigue, and a capsule wardrobe is basically where I’ve ended up. While most capsule wardrobes are seasonal, mine is coming together at weird in-between time. I will also need to switch out my regular clothes for maternity items pretty soon, and I’m still trying to figure out Michigan weather. So, I’m not really labeling it a “spring” or “summer” wardrobe. It’s just my right now wardrobe. (I make the rules around here, and there are no rules.)

I am not going to bore you with a picture or list of each item in my closet because I’m not particularly creative with how I dress, but I know that I feel totally comfortable and mostly put together whenever I wear any of the items in my closet.

Even understanding this (and feeling GREAT about it), getting rid of my clothes was not always easy. The truth is, I sometimes carried quite a bit of guilt about the things hanging in my closet: guilty I spent too much money, guilty I spilled coffee on it, guilty I don’t fit into it, guilty that someone probably made it under horrible working conditions. Guilty, guilty, guilty. WHY, exactly, did that guilt make me feel like I should to hang onto this stuff? I have no idea. (Maybe it’s the same mechanism that makes me think, “Oops, I made poor eating choices today. Might as well have another donut.”)

I learned to ask myself two helpful questions.

1. Would I want to wear this RIGHT NOW? I wanted to be able to answer “yes” for every single item. Obviously, there are a few reasons why I might not want to wear something right now: I wore it yesterday, it’s not appropriate for the weather, it’s too casual/dressy for where I’m heading. But I stopped hanging onto anything for which I ever had another excuse. If I thought, “This only looks good with _____,” “I don’t have anything to wear it with,” “It’s uncomfortable,” “I don’t like the way my stomach/arms/chest/neck/legs/feet/whatever look in this,” that item immediately went away. This question pretty much covers all the others I might need to ask, like whether or not it was in style.

2. Does it bring me joy? Now, I haven’t read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, but hope to soon. If you have read almost any blog lately, I’m sure you’ve heard of it. This is the question the author says we should employ when deciding whether or not keep each item in our home: does it bring me joy? It’s a strange question in this context. Like, really, does this pair of socks bring me joy? (No, but it keeps my feet from stinking, so that’s helpful.) But as I considered the question, I realized how many items in my closet I didn’t even like that much. They were fine, but whatever. If that was the case, off they went.

I no longer spend 15 minutes in front of my closet every morning, changing my outfit 5 times. I don’t mind wearing the same 20 or 30 items in rotation; in fact, I like it. (I guess I gravitate toward familiarity rather than novelty.) But mostly, with fewer decisions about which I feel uncertain or hesitant, I feel more free. And THAT I am grateful for.

Here are some links to other people who’s thoughts on or approach to capsule wardrobes have been helpful or inspiring to me:

Caroline has stopped blogging about her capsule wardrobe, but you can basically read about her entire process from start to finish.

Modern Mrs. Darcy on the 10-item wardrobe (sometime to aspire to).

Haley Morgan on the No-Brainer Wardrobe.

Why I Got Rid of My Wardrobe from the Dallas Moms Blog

An All-Seasons Capsule Wardrobe

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