We’re going to do a little “good cop / bad cop” here. My last post, “F your Capsule Wardrobe” was bad cop. It was meant to shake things up, and spur you to think about how you are approaching minimalism and decluttering.
Today is good cop. I will share the Eric West recommended and approved approach to decluttering your clothes and creating a capsule wardrobe.
Step 1: Declutter your closet without regard to creating a capsule wardrobe.
- Pull all your clothes out of your closets and dressers, and lay them in piles on your bed.
- Make stacks of like items. i.e./ a stack of jeans, a stack of work pants, a stack of t-shirts, a pile of stack shirts, etc.
- Choose a stack to start with, and think about how many items you need in one week. i.e./ 5 work shirts (one for each day of the work week), 8 pairs of underwear (one for each day of the week plus a spare).
- Remove items that fall into these three categories: 1) Don’t like 2) Doesn’t fit 3) Never wear.
- By doing this, you should end up with a pile of your favorites. (Or at least, the pile will contain all your favorites)
- On your first pass through the stack try to reach your magic number. (It’s ok if you don’t hit that magic number, but try to come close.)
- Repeat for each stack of clothing.
- Return the “keepers” to your closet/dresser, and bag up the remaining for donation.
Step 2: Move on to another part of your home and continue decluttering.
This step is key. You need to break the shopping habit, so don’t go out and buy new clothes to create a capsule wardrobe. Don’t buy new things because you don’t have enough favorites. Continue decluttering another area of your home. When you declutter that area, don’t buy any new stuff for that area either. You should put yourself on a buying freeze during your decluttering. After everything is decluttered you can better evaluate your true needs.
Step 3: After your home is decluttered, and some time has passed, re-evaluate the items in your closet and dressers.
- You can repeat the process in step one to pair down even further.
- Pay attention to the items you thought you liked, yet never wear.
- You may realize that you wear some things that you don’t like, or that are beginning to wear out.
- When you replace items, do them one or two at a time, and replace them with higher quality items.
- By minimizing your wardrobe and shopping less, you will save money by spending more for higher quality items that look better and last longer when compared to your old shopping habits of buying many, many cheap items.
- Step 3 is where you can begin to create your capsule wardrobe. Do it slowly and mindfully with one or two items at a time.
- When you shop, go with the intention to replace items. Know what you are planning to replace and how many items you plan to purchase. Then stick to that plan.
- After you return home from shopping, immediately remove the items you are replacing. You don’t want them sticking around creating more clutter.
Rebecca Mezzino, Professional Organiser and owner of Clear Space Organising Services in Adelaide, South Australia shared this in our Facebook group:
I accidentally followed the capsule wardrobe approach, but I did it the reverse way, without realising it. Instead of buying things all at once to build it, I slowly replaced two items I never wore with one item I could wear in multiple ways (over a couple of years). Deliberately, I only purchase clothes in a limited range of colours so they all match. That has worked really well for me as I love fashion and variety but also want to be a minimalist at the same time! I’m not a minimalist when it comes to clothes in the true sense, but I do have strict boundaries on volume. After three years I’ve built my wardrobe up whilst pairing it down and I really think this year I won’t be needing to buy any clothes at all as I’m all set up. My point is, the capsule wardrobe is not a bad idea, but like you said, buying your way to a solution is.
Rebecca’s technique is an excellent example of Step 3. Over a couple of years she slowly replaced items. If you didn’t hit your ideal numbers in Step 1, Rebecca’s “remove 2 and replace with 1” decluttering technique, will help get you there.
Why remove everything from the closet/dresser? Why not just pull out the things I don’t want?
- By removing everything from your closet dresser, you have better perspective on how many items you have. You’ll likely have a “Wow” moment when you see the quantity of clothing piled on your bed.
- You are forced to touch each item, so you are less likely to skip over items.
- You are forced to complete your decluttering, or risk not having room to sleep in your bed.
- When you return items to the shelf/drawer/hanger, you can organize as you go.
If I know I need to replace some items, why wait until I declutter the rest of my home?
- You likely have all you need in your current overstuffed wardrobe.
- The “need” to replace items is a “want” rather than a “need”. (If it was really a need, you would have replaced it before you started decluttering.)
- Shopping is a distraction from your goal of living a more minimal lifestyle.
- Shopping will take away from your declutter time, and will cause you to lose momentum.
- Breaking the shopping habit is a key part of decluttering and minimalism.
Why do you recommend using one week as a basis for the number of clothes to keep?
- Most people do laundry once a week. When the laundry is done, your weekly cycle starts over, so you don’t need more than a weeks worth of clothes.
- If you don’t do laundry once a week, you should consider making the switch. Instead of doing 6 loads and spending all day washing clothes, you will be able to do one or two loads of laundry and get it done in-between other tasks. One or two small loads is much easier to process than many large loads.
- If you tend to procrastinate on laundry day, one week of clothing will force you to get off your butt and get it done, else you risk running out of underwear. (I speak from personal experience on this one!)
- One week of clothing easily fits in a closet or dresser.
- The order and beauty of a small wardrobe will encourage you to keep it small, and help prevent you from buying more.
- Less decision making – early mornings, just after waking are the worst times for decision making. With a small number of items, where everything is a favorite, choosing what to wear becomes easy, practically a no-brainer.