Organization,  Style

The Beginner’s Guide to Starting a Capsule Wardrobe

In real life, (you know, outside the internet) when I say ‘capsule wardrobe’, the reaction I usually get is a furrowing of the brows, maybe a nose crinkle, and “A what?”. Except when I talk to Jessy. Because we just get each other.

So, I figured a post about how Kyle and I finally started our own capsule wardrobes this past weekend would need to start with a little explanation. A capsule wardrobe refers to a small wardrobe composed of versatile pieces. The idea comes from minimalism, where less is more. It’s a way to only own a few key pieces that you just adore and mix and match together all the time.

No extra clutter to distract you from seeing all the clothes you actually own. No sweaters you only wear like twice a year because you only kind of like them; no shoes that you wear once every couple of months because they hurt your feet. No clearance rack clothes which still have the tags on them that you bought because, hello, they were on sale.

It’s all about streamlining the decision making process when dressing yourself so that you can be happy with what you’re wearing, while also freeing up that thinking time and brain space to do other things.

This idea particularly started appealing to Kyle and I because, as we’ve been trying to gear up to move for the past several months, we’ve just been inundated with how much stuff we’ve accumulated.

Without even realizing it!  We aren’t even hoarders. We throw things out all the time!

There just comes a point, when you’re standing in a pile of things you need to sort through before moving, that you realize you don’t even like and/or use any of the stuff surrounding you.

We hit that point a few weeks ago. So, we purged the basement first.

And the closet was next.

I also came to realize that I’m totally that person saying, “I have nothing to wear!” while standing in an ENORMOUS walk-in closet full of clothes. Because ⅔ of the things in my closet… a) were in need of repairs b) no longer fit c) didn’t fit right.

Last Saturday, I finally did something about it! Here’s how I did it.

Disclosure statement: This post uses affiliate links. I receive a percentage if you buy something from my link.

Step 1: Purge, Purge Purge

As they say over at Life in Jeneral (one of my current obsessions), the first step is to pull everything out. EVERYTHING. Leave nothing to be overlooked. Not even the hangers and organizers. I didn’t realize I needed to pull out the organizers, too, until later (learn from my mistakes). This includes accessories, shoes, bras, underwear, socks, you name it! If you wear it, pull it out.

Then, form 3 piles.

Pile 1: Throw Away

This pile is for the stray receipts or dryer sheets you find as you clean it all out, or the socks that you really need to trash because (hello!) there are holes in them. These are the shoes that you have completely worn out beyond salvation. The things not good enough to even be donated.

Pile 2: Donate

These are the the things you’re getting rid of for sure. You forgot you even had it. Or you’ve had a lifestyle change (like me), where you don’t need workplace attire anymore. If you haven’t worn it in 6 months, TOSS IT. If you can’t remember the last time you wore it, GET RID OF IT. Be RUTHLESS! There’s no crying in closet purging!

Pile 3: Keep for now.

This pile is your starting point for your capsule wardrobe. You’ve worn these things in the past 6 months; they’re in decent condition; and you like and/or love them.

Step 2: Decide your (loose) categories

This step is where you sit down and decide what categories of clothes you actually need right now. Not the ones you needed a year ago or the ones you think you might need in 6 months. The ones you need at this moment in time.

And guess what? I made this easy for you with a FREE printable!

Sign up here for the downloadable PDF I used to make my capsule wardrobe.

I modified my categories from Pinch of Yum: a base (more on this in a minute), 8 pants, 6 shoes,10 tops, 2 skirts, and 4 dresses.

Your base category is 10 items each of…

  1. Workout (pants and tops)
  2. Lounge (pajamas, yoga pants, big comfy sweatshirts)
  3. Layering (tanks and tees)
  4. Outerwear (jackets, swimwear, hats and mittens)
  5. Formal / Accessories (necklaces, scarves, earrings)

Then the 8 pants, 4 shorts, 6 shoes, 10 tops, 2 skirts, and 4 dresses are in addition to the base category.

Here’s the key though, these are the numbers I decided. I don’t need very many skirts and dresses anymore because I hardly ever wear them now. Maybe you do though, and you never wear shorts. Then, for you, you might keep 6 dresses and 4 skirts. It’s totally customizable!

Set your goal a little lower than you think it needs to be, though. That way, if you add a piece or two more than you originally intended, that doesn’t throw off your goal.

Step 3: Sort & Categorize

Now that you’ve decided what categories you need and how much of each category, it’s time to start sorting! Take the ‘keep’ pile and start sorting it into smaller piles: workout clothes, loungewear, tees/tanks, outerwear, etc.

Once you’ve sorted all the clothes into smaller piles, start counting. How many tees do you have to begin with? You might not need to cull out anymore to fit your goal of 5 tees. I definitely did. I ended up with 15 tees & tanks because I decided I wanted 5 tanks, 5 printed tees, and 5 solid tees.

And that’s okay! It’s your system, just make sure you remember why you’re doing this. The goal isn’t to keep more, it’s to weed out more.

Do you have 2 similar gray sweaters that you actually wear? Pick your favorite of the 2 and donate the other. Have 10 pairs of jeans? Pick a dark wash, medium wash, and light wash that all fit well and don’t need any repairs. Toss the rest. And so forth and so on.

Only the pieces you LOVE get to stay!

Step 4: Create an organization system

Alright, the hard part is done. You’ve cut deep and cleaned the wound. Now, to bandage it up properly.

Since you’ve pulled everything out of your closet (and dresser, in my case), now is the time to implement an organizational system that makes sense. We decided to put all our formal clothes & outerwear on a rack that has room underneath it, so they can hang down better.

Then, Kyle took the racks up top because he’s 10 inches taller than me and can actually reach them. I took the section that had the most space for shoes because I had tall boots and a couple pairs more than Kyle. My base clothes mostly went in the chest of drawers.

Also, don’t forget to fold everything properly! Why waste the space by not folding well? You’ve done all the other work, might as well take it all the way. I watched the folding highlights from @lifeinjeneral, and the way they fold (file folding) makes SO MUCH sense. Kyle says this is the way JCPenney taught him to fold when he worked there. So the people who have enormous buildings FULL of clothes use this method, too. It’s gotta be good, right?

So, I took the time to do it right. I even sorted the hangers. I donated the wire hangers and the ones that came with the clothes when we bought them. The wooden and felt hangers are for my new wardrobe.

Step 5: Maintain your rules

Once everything is put away, it’s tempting to just sigh, appreciate the lovely organized space you now have, and keep living life they way you always did.

But you can’t. Not if you hope to keep up the capsule wardrobe. You have some new rules to live by (can you tell I love rules? I make them up for myself if none are provided. I’m not totally normal; it’s fine. I’m fine.)

And let’s not forget that Black Friday is coming up. This is one of mine and my mother’s High Holidays. So many awesome sales on adorable clothes! There will be plenty of opportunity for me to flood my closet with new, cute stuff.

But, then I’ll be back where I started. Acquiring and acquiring without adding real value. And I don’t like to give up that easy.

So here are the new rules to live by:

  • If you buy something new, it has to replace something you already own. Buy a new tank? Donate an old one. Buy some new boots? Then a pair has to go.
  • Buy with quality in mind, not quantity. Don’t automatically gravitate towards the sale racks or clearance section. It might feel a little more painful to come away with less, while having spent the same amount as normal. Just remember, that’s what you want! It’s all about adding value, not volume.
  • Not everything expensive is worth it, but sometimes it is. Do your research! Find out if buying that 150$ bag is really going to be worth the price tag because it will last forever and you’ll use it all the time. Sometimes, the high price is a result of a trend, not because it’s a classic.

I realize that not everybody is the organizational nut I am. For Christmas, I asked for container store gift cards.

It’s almost fun for me; I love popping on a great movie I’ve seen a million times (or some rockin’ music) and going to town sorting and categorizing.

For those of you who aren’t addicted to @lifeinjeneral’s Instagram feed, here’s some incentives for you:

It doesn’t take that long, if you come in with the right mindset. All this sorting and cleaning took one Saturday afternoon. That’s it! 10 years of accumulation, gone. I donated about 6-8 trash bags of clothes and accessories, plus a large box with hangers, closet organizers, and shoe racks (all of which we no longer needed!)

Donate your stuff to an organization you KNOW will appreciate them. I didn’t just give my clothes to Goodwill; our church works with Destiny Center in Wisconsin. I gave my clothes to them instead. It’s an organization that helps women who have been victims of sex trafficking.

It honestly helped me be much more enthusiastic about getting rid of clothes that I like, but don’t really need. The women they help will really need, and appreciate, these clothes so much more than I will. The idea really helped me remember that having more things isn’t bringing me closer to a Godly mindset; it’s bringing me closer to my own selfish desires. How’s that some perspective for you?

What about you? What area of your house do you like to pretend doesn’t exist because of all the stuff in it? Leave a comment; and let’s all help each other with a little organizational catharsis!

Did you miss the Capsule Wardrobe Checklist PDF? Get it here!

Written by Becca

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Jess & Becca