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Ready for one of the biggest secrets to simple living? Simplify your clothing. Not only will you actually love and wear all the clothes in your closet, but you’ll feel incredibly less stressed when putting together outfits. Regardless of the climate you live in (I’m in California–you have no excuse!), an intentional seasonal selection of clothing will absolutely simplify your life. Here’s how to create a seasonal minimalist capsule wardrobe without all the rules to follow!
As a Professional Organizer, I’ve never met a closet that wasn’t packed with clothes. In most cases, 80% of those clothes: don’t fit, still have tags, are outdated, need repair, aren’t flattering, or just flat out aren’t worn. As human creatures of habit, we tend to stick with what we love and feel comfortable wearing, and that’s right around 20% of the closet.
Why Seasons Matter
Regardless of where you live, there are seasonal changes in climate that affect clothing choices. Most people keep stuffing the closet with all the seasons so you’ll see twenty t-shirts alongside ten variations of winter coats and sweaters.
This increases visual clutter.
Visual clutter puts stress on the brain.
A stressed-out brain produces that panicky feeling you experience each morning when you stare at your closet and think I have nothing to wear.
The first benefit you’ll find when your closet has only clothes that apply to the current season is the freedom to pick from anything you see. Your brain doesn’t have to make selections or exclude a bunch of items anymore. You can immediately find something you love, that looks awesome on you, and is completely appropriate for the weather.
Even if you have a selection of clothing that can be layered for mild or varying weather, you will still find your stress levels decreased by keeping a minimalist capsule wardrobe with mix and match options.
1. Ditch the Rules
The first step to creating a minimalist capsule wardrobe is to ditch the rules.
If you’re a rule-follower, there are lots of methods to choose from. You can Kon-Mari your clothes, or follow Project 333, or search Pinterest for a boundless number of graphics and lists showing examples of how many of each clothing type to keep. I think those places are great to start and gain inspiration.
However, if you want to build a minimalist capsule wardrobe that you’ll adore for years to come, the lasting power will come from your unique style. There are no rules for that! The entire point is to have fewer items of clothes, love them all, and feel awesome wearing them.
The number of clothes you have will vary. It may be 10, 25, 33, 45, 50, or 100, depending on how many seasons you have. I would highly recommend that each seasonal capsule you create hold no more than around 50 items of clothing, but that is not a hard and fast rule!
I’ve heard people reject the idea of a capsule wardrobe simply because they didn’t like the word “capsule”. It felt too constrained to them. Today I’m giving you permission to let the term free you.
We aren’t enforcing rules here. We’re finding freedom!
2. Make a Pile
Next up, you’re going to dig out all your clothing and make a big pile. Even for rule-breakers, this is one piece of the KonMari method that I wholeheartedly recommend to everyone. You have to see everything at once to understand the big picture of how many clothes you actually own and where you want to go from here.
Making a pile will probably bring up a lot of emotions. If you’re a neat person, it might cause some anxiety to build up. Let yourself feel the emotions. Stand there and look at the clothing mound for a few minutes. Don’t forget to breathe!
Think about how many years these clothes have been accumulating. How many shopping trips you took to get them all.
Maybe you love fashion. Perhaps shopping is a habit. Or maybe this has been your go-to collection that could be quickly tucked away behind closed doors. There might be clothes from college, maternity clothes, or various other seasons of life both joyful and painful.
Feel all the emotions. Sit down if you have to. Cry if you need to.
This is your turning point.
3. Pick up One Clothing Item You Love
After the initial rush of emotions has settled, encourage yourself to move forward. The next step is to grab the first piece of clothing you see that you wear often and feel fondly about.
Hold it in your hands. Feel the fabric, look at the color or pattern, and ask yourself: what is it about this item that I love so much? Is it the color? Style? Size? Texture?
The reasons why it makes you feel good to wear it are important because those are the defining factors that lead you to wear that item again and again. The clothing in your wardrobe that you don’t wear, very likely don’t have those factors!
It may be helpful to jot down on a piece of paper what you love about that item. As you create your list based on your favorite pieces of clothing, you may start to see your personal style preference emerge. That ultimately should guide you to your own iconic fashion sense.
4. Sort & Declutter
Decluttering your clothing pile can be done in several ways.
• KonMari Method
Marie Kondo’s method includes holding each item and asking yourself if it sparks joy for you. If it does, you keep it. If it doesn’t, you thank the item for serving you and let it go.
• Quick Sort into 4 piles:
If you want to be time-efficient and sort your clothing, you can take each item and place it into one of the following piles:
– Wear Often
– Wear Sometimes
– Not Sure About
– Discard: Damaged/doesn’t fit/strongly dislike
The clothes you wear often will typically be clothes that you love, fit you well, look good on you, and are in good condition. Try items on to remind yourself how you feel when you wear it. Keep clothing that meets these criteria, unless you feel it’s an item that you don’t want to take into your future.
The clothes you wear sometimes are often in good condition, but you may not totally love an element of the item, or it might not fit you perfectly. Special occasion clothing may go into this category, as long as it is actually being worn.
Go through this pile carefully, fully thinking about each item and whether you are actually going to wear this item in the near future. Try them on to make sure they look amazing on you, and that you feel awesome when wearing them. Keep only what you are positive you will love and wear.
As you go through this pile, move each item you make a decision for into the keep, not sure, or discard piles.
Not Sure About
Clothes you aren’t sure about are those “maybe” clothes. The things that might fit, but you don’t really like. An item you think you might or should wear in the future. Something that doesn’t quite fit you right now, but might in the future. (Those are the “what-if” clothes).
Clothes with tags on them that you bought with the intention of wearing. Special occasion clothing that hasn’t been worn in years. Often, this is the guilt-laden pile. (Learn more about letting go of guilt-items here)
You can do two things with maybe clothes.
1) You can go through the pile and make the difficult decision to keep or donate each item. Try each item on and ask yourself: Do I like it? When was the last time I wore it? Does it look good on me? When am I going to wear it again?
2) You can box up the clothing to be evaluated later, usually in 3-6 months. Be very honest with yourself about whether boxing them up for later is going to be helpful or harmful for you.
Typically, I suggest making the decisions all at once, but sometimes there are a few items of sentimental or monetary value that do warrant spending more time on the decision. Store them away and stay focused on the bigger picture.
As you make decisions for each item in the “maybe” pile, move the item to the keep or discard pile, or put select items in storage to decide on later.
The last pile are any clothes that are damaged, clearly do not fit, or that you strongly dislike. These are the immediate “no” items. Donate anything in good condition, and recycle or trash items damaged items.
5. Sort the Keep Pile by Season
Here’s the fun part where the seasonal minimalist capsule wardrobe begins to emerge. Sort your “keep” pile by season, starting with the season you are currently in. Because many seasons have overlap, you will create your base wardrobe, and make adjustments as the weather changes.
You may choose to do the four seasons: winter, spring, summer, fall. Project 333 follows an adjusted seasonal timeline with January – March, April – June, July – September, and October – December. Depending on what climate you live in, you may need to adjust. I personally found that the clothes I wore in October were not the ones I needed for November and December!
My own adjusted seasons will look like this for California weather:
– Winter: November, December, January, February
– Spring: March, April
– Summer: May, June, July, August
– Fall: September, October
Again, there are no rules here! Adjust as needed.
I found that while I have clearly summer clothes and clearly winter clothes, my spring and fall pieces are very much the same. I also have pants and dress clothes that I wear year-round. For example, this was my first fall capsule wardrobe following Project 333, and the adjustments I made for winter (as well as my stance on not following all the rules!).
Take your current season pile and work with that. Use plastic totes or under the bed storage to pack away your out of season clothes. Label the boxes and leave them until you are ready to prepare that season’s capsule!
6. Lay Out the Clothes & Create Outfits
The idea of a minimalist capsule wardrobe is to create more mix and match outfits so you can own fewer pieces of clothing. Start by laying out your basic bottom pieces–pants and skirts. Evaluate how many you have and the color and style options.
Next, take each top–shirt, blouse, etc., and see how many bottom pieces it can be worn with. Ideally, each top will go well with several bottoms. If you run across a top or bottom that doesn’t match any other piece, or only goes with one set, consider how often that item is worn and whether it is a necessary part of your wardrobe.
Lay out any dresses, sweaters, jackets, suits, and accessory pieces and likewise, see how they mix and match with other elements. Make sure that you are confident these are all pieces you want in your minimalist wardrobe.
You should have a pretty good idea of your outfit options now. While there are no rules, it can be helpful to keep the range of 30-50 clothing items in mind, partly depending on your closet and dresser space, as well as your lifestyle wardrobe needs.
If you find yourself in need of basic pieces that can go with multiple items, write down your ideas and create a shopping list. Do not run out to the store right away though! Start wearing the clothes you have and see how they work. As you work with what you have, you’ll get a better idea of what pieces could be beneficial additions over time.
7. Evaluate Accessories & Jewelry
When I made my Project 333 capsule wardrobe, my biggest issue was including my jewelry, scarves, purses, belts, and shoes in the total 33 item number. I found myself cheating on this several times because sometimes I wanted a different pair of earrings, or I just wanted to wear flip-flops to the store.
It was that breaking point that helped me realize it’s not about the rules. My capsule wardrobe isn’t a failure because I broke the rules. So I threw out the rules.
I didn’t really change the number of clothes in my capsule (though I may in the future), but I decided that a few more pieces of jewelry bring me joy, and having 5 pairs of shoes and 3 purses isn’t that big of deal. I’m not going to stress over a few things because I’m still keeping it minimal, and it works for me.
Evaluate your accessories and jewelry. Keep out minimal pieces that you love and work with various outfits. Rotate if you desire. Change with the seasons if that suits you. Find what works by trying new things.
Let go of pieces you don’t use and love. Declutter your shoes. Open yourself to the idea that life shifts with each season and we can make fluid adjustments right along with it.
8. Rock Your Minimalist Capsule Wardrobe
You’ve done it! You’ve decluttered your clothing, let go of pieces that no longer work for you, and built seasonal capsules centered on the items that you truly love.
What’s Next? Related Articles on Simplifying Life
Your Capsule Wardrobe rocks–ready to take on your kids’ too? Check out How to Create a Capsule Wardrobe for Kids
You’ve minimized your clothes–ready to tackle the house? Check out Stumbling Blocks to an Organized Bedroom (& how to fix them!)
Want to create more breathing room in your life? Check out 5 Secrets to Simplify Your Life