Behind the scenes: Inside the capsule wardrobe of a professional de-clutterer

My Capsule Wardrobe

My Capsule Wardrobe

Like every client that I see, I used to have heaps of clothing and stack of accessories that I never wore.  Too tight, too small, wrong colour, sleeves wrong, just not ‘me’, doesn’t cover my tummy, makes my butt look big... whatever the problem was with these unused items, I kept them anyway in my over-stuffed robe.  When motivation occasionally hit and I was inspired to make it better, I went out and bought storage solutions to organise these things I never used; instead of removing them, I spent more money to organise and store them.

I know that this is the story for many of you too. But why do we do this? Well, because we are taught that more is better, we feel guilty for having bought things that we don’t use, we fear not having enough and we think that we may still want them 'one day'. But mostly because we don't realise that we can choose to have less, and be genuinely happy and satisfied with that decision.

Some years ago I discovered Capsule Wardrobes; the idea that we can curate our clothing and accessories down to essential classic pieces that when mixed and matched can create a large range of outfit options. Search Pinterest and you will find some amazing examples which feature different clothing and accessory items in various quantities, but all with this same notion. I was inspired, but it felt impossible to get from where I was to that beautiful ideal.

Since then I have de-cluttered my wardrobe down to the capsule wardrobe I have today, although I wasn't aiming for a capsule wardrobe when I first started.  I had simply realised that I could get rid of stuff that I didn't wear and feel better for it.  In fact, it wasn’t until my 4th de-clutter pass that I decided that it was in fact what I wanted and what I needed. Stripping away around 80% of my clothing and accessories has revealed the curated collection of my favourites which I enjoy today.  

Far from feeling limited for choice or that I am missing out, getting ready in the morning has never been easier.  I don't waste time paralysed with indecision. I dress more like me than ever before.  Every piece of clothing and every accessory is a friend which nails my personal style. And absolutely everything I own is comfortable whilst being stylish.  I have found that less is indeed more.

In his TED Talk "The Paradox of Choice" Barry Schwartz said 'There is a cost to having an overload of choice.' I have found this to be true.  How many times have you stood in front of your heaving wardrobe and lamented “I have nothing to wear!”  And whilst this meme worthy statement likely elicits a chuckle of identification, it should prompt deeper personal investigation. Instead of thinking “Ah yes, that’s so me. The struggle is real” and moving on with things, take it one step further; ask yourself why.  

When dissatisfaction with your clothing leads you to shop, you dig yourself into a deeper hole of indecision.  “As the number of choices grows further, the negatives escalate until we become overloaded. At this point, choice no longer liberates, but debilitates” - thanks for that quote too Barry.

The most liberating choice you can make for yourself now is to let go of the notions that more is better, that shopping makes you happy and that new things will solve all your problems.  Instead, realise that you can find happiness when you curate what you have and raise your standards for what you buy. Buy less but buy quality. It takes many small but conscious decisions to make this overall change. You will bump up against what society tells you is right and normal. Friends and family might not get it. But it is entirely worth it. Experiment and see for yourself.

My Capsule Wardrobe
Many have asked for a breakdown of my capsule wardrobe. This should serve as an example only, and it is certainly not prescriptive.  There is no magic number and no formula, but this is what works for me. You can find you own version that works for you too.  It's not the numbers that matter really, but achieving the ideal fully.

Every Day Clothing - 35
5 dresses
4 long and light jackets/cardigans
2 tunics
3 skirts
3 tank tops
2 long sleeve t-shirts
3 jumper tops
5 other tops
1 hoodie
1 trench coat
1 winter coat
1 pair of jeans
2 pairs leggings
2 pair black pants

Additional items
3 pairs of bathers
3 pairs of pj’s
4 bras
10 briefs
1 set of workout gear
6 pairs of shoes
6 scarves
5 necklaces
2 bracelets
1 watch
1 pair earrings

EDIT for Winter:
Boy it got cold!  With careful consideration I have selected the following items to add to my capsule wardrobe to ensure I stay warm this winter!
1 puffer vest
1 long sleeve top
1 winter dress
2 jumpers

My advice for creating your own capsule wardrobe:
Mix and match is key
Choose classic pieces
Avoid trends, go for style
Be true to your personality
Buy quality and avoid fast fashion
Know what looks best on your body
Dress for a balance of comfort and style
Restricted colour palette; know your colours
Pay attention to the clothes you pass over every day
Identify your needs gap before making any new purchases
Let yourself off the hook for previous purchases decisions which didn’t pan out
Give yourself time to curate; don't expect to go from 500 pieces to less than 50 all at once.

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