The Capsule Wardrobe | Clearing the Excess


Before we can begin the super-fun part of the capsule wardrobe (discovering your style and wearing the things you love), we must first clear out all the clutter. The purpose of a thoughtful wardrobe is to minimize the amount of clothing you possess, keep the things you need and love, and wear the things you like most.

Just about every method of organization begins with one step: get everything out. In my experience, this serves two purposes. The first, so you can see everything you own. And the second, to provide just enough anxiety to help you finish the project—I can’t sleep when my room is messy. The first time I began the 10-item wardrobe project, I had years worth of clothing to sift through. Now that I’ve been operating with a smaller wardrobe for a few years, my “but will I wear it one day?” items have decreased. I believe in the freedom that comes from living with less, and I think it’s time to fully commit to the capsule wardrobe process, letting go of those remaining items I’ve held onto for little reason. So, here we go. 

This weekend, I opened the storage boxes beneath my bed and pulled out my warm-weather clothing, along with a box I had previously dedicated to the items I was reluctant to give up. Strewn across my room were skirts that didn’t fit, tops from middle school I adored but didn’t wear any longer and this one set of exercise leggings I had never worn but felt bad about letting go. With each item, I asked myself a few questions.

Does this fit properly?

Is it my style and is it practical for my current life stage?

Is it in good condition?

And do I like it (will I wear it)?

Story time! The first criteria I mentioned is always the easiest for me to address. It is generally easier to let go of things that don’t fit… or so one would think. This weekend, as I looked through my beloved dresses from last summer, I tried on one that I thought might be too short for me now. And it was too short, but I wasn’t sure whether or not it should remain in my closet because I loved it so much. You see, it met all my other criteria, but I knew that I would never wear it because I would be uncomfortable with the length. Quel dommage, it needed to go. If it doesn’t fit—meaning length, width, degree to which it flatters your figure, whether or not you can move your arms while wearing it—there’s no need to keep it.

When considering the “does it fit my style?” question, often a very-dramatic internal battle ensues. Actually, this Friday evening, I collapsed onto my pile of clothes quite frustrated over a tulle skirt I couldn’t make up my mind about (I lead a life of exaggeration). I’ve worn it for years, but lately it has gone neglected because I feel it draws too much attention. It is, after all, a pink, fluffy tulle skirt with a river scene printed on it.

Hmmm. I have a pink, fluffy, tulle skirt with a river scene printed on it? Those are some of my favorite things to wear, why on earth would I shy away from it for fear of catching the attention of a passerby? We’re keeping the skirt, problem solved.

Those two stories are not the extent of the frustration I faced while clearing out my closet. In truth, I gave up for a good two hours because I was too frustrated. But it’s the close of the weekend and I’ve gone through all my clothes and shoes. I have two large bags of clothing to donate or give away, and a couple pairs of shoes that are headed out the door. I would like to sit here and say that I don’t have a single item of uncertainty, but I have a few. There’s a pair of shoes I’m eyeballing right now, a well-worn favorite, that I can’t seem to let go of. They’re perhaps not in their best shape, but I know they are a staple in my spring/summer wardrobe. I don’t know if it’s within my budget to find another pair of shoes to replace them, so I’m holding on to them for now. 

The lesson I’m taking away from this weekend is that perfection and strict adherence to the “rules” of a capsule wardrobe need not cloud the end goal of creating a thoughtful closet that encourages you to present yourself well and wear the things you love. Living with less rejects the consumerist ideal that, to have a perfect life, you must have everything. Instead, it says that life is not made perfect by things, and it places your possessions where they belong: as means to enrich your life, but not to define it.

All the best,

Mary Grace


P.S. In the next installment, I’m going to discuss the question of donating or selling your excess clothes and why it’s important to take that step before assessing the things you’ve kept.