What’s in my Capsule Wardrobe?

I recently published a post detailing my journey to create a capsule wardrobe and mentioned that I would share what items are part of my wardrobe.  That being said, here it is!

Tops:

  1. Black long-sleeved shirt
  2. Black turtleneck
  3. Black chiffon button-up blouse
  4. Black and white striped shirt
  5. Black short-sleeved shirt
  6. Light blue chambray button-up
  7. Plum long-sleeved shirt

Bottoms:

  1. Dark skinny jeans
  2. Dark skinny jeans
  3. Dark skinny jeans
  4. Light-wash skinny jeans
  5. Black dress pants

Dresses:

  1. Black shirt dress
  2. Green tank shirt dress
  3. Navy blue cover-up
  4. Black keyhole dress

Layers

  1. Black 3/4 blazer
  2. Dark brown leather jacket
  3. Sweater
  4. Fleece Pullover

Shoes:

  1. Back tall boots
  2. Black ankle boots
  3. Black dress heels
  4. Dark brown clogs
  5. Brown western boots

Accessories:

  1. Blanket scarf
  2. Black and white striped scarf
  3. Purple scarf
  4. Black purse
  5. Jewelry (count as one)
  6. Belt

Miscellaneous:

  1.  Pajamas
  2. Undergarments (including socks, count as one)

There you have it!  While I live in a winter weather state, I did not count my winter jacket, boots, or snow pants as they are season-specific and a basic requirement.  I also did not count workout clothing, as that is a non-negotiable part of my lifestyle.  I keep a single box of summer clothing in storage, in which I will swap out most of the jeans for shorts/capris pants, and trade the long-sleeved shirts for short-sleeved blouses.

Seasonal wear used to be a problem for me because I like the challenge of limiting my clothing to a number.  My number one advice if you are considering a capsule wardrobe is that you should focus more on the versatility of items than focusing on a number.  There is no prescribed “perfect number!”  I doubt my capsule will stick to solely 33 items as I continue to use it because we should not ignore our needs, but it is a good starting point to develop the mindset of dressing with less!  Pass it on!

 

Let’s Discuss: Essentialism

In the world of minimalism, I discovered that there are varying degrees of the term.  One that drew my eye was the concept of essentialism.

Essentialism can be described as having the bare minimum – the essentials – to function while meeting basic needs.  When I think of essentials, categories like food, shelter, clothing, and safety come to mind.  While some minimalists – let’s call them essentialists – aspire and succeed at living in such a way, I don’t think I could ever get to that point.  But… just like minimalism, essentialism should not be strictly defined either.  It is likely we have our own ideas of what items/priorities are essential to our lives.

After reading a few blogs and plugging “minimalism” into my search engine to determine a few different categories, I concluded that I probably am an essentialist, in my own way.  (Some others included: “enoughist,” “eco-minimalist,” “traveling minimalist,” and “soul-minimalist”.)  I brainstormed a list of what is important and essential in my life to get a better picture of what the term means to me.  In other words, what are my essentials?

Essentials:

  1. Food:  I try to maintain a balanced, healthy diet that corresponds with my activity level (distance runner).
  2. Clothing:  I work in an office environment, so a semi-professional style of clothing makes up my capsule wardrobe.  (see: Capturing Time: Capsule Wardrobe) However, one activity that gives me joy is camping/backpacking, so I have a collection of clothing that doubles as day-off clothes/camping wear.  Outdoor clothing is essential to my activities, so as long as I keep simplicity in mind, I can properly organize and maintain the items.
  3. Shelter:  I currently share a home with family members, so my personal space (a room, garage space for my car, and a bathroom) is taken care of.  The kitchen and living room are what I consider “shared space,” with is not essential, but comes with the situation.
  4. Safety: My phone and emergency kit equipment are two things that fall under essentials too.  These items provide me 2 different lifelines – whether I am traveling, at work, or at home.
  5.  Transportation: Different places around the world come with unique modes of transportation.  For me, a car is the best I can do, as there is no transit system and work is a bit too far to bike (not to mention a busy commuter route).  I learned to balance this essential with carpooling on the weekends and finding alternative items to save me trips to the store.
  6. Health:  Maintaining good health is an essential for me, so hygiene purchases and my exercise clothes are essentials.  So are items like my foam roller, yoga mat, and free weights.
  7. Happiness:  Items that make me happy are often found in gifts or simple entertainment like a book, a deck of cards, or a supply of bedtime tea.  I carefully assess what makes me happy to find ways to multi-purpose my belongings.  For example, soap is part of my health essential, so a gift of fancy shower gel fills the need and makes me happy.  A scarf that a family member bought me for the holidays becomes a part of my winter wardrobe and I will remember their thoughtfulness for gifting me the item. (Also check out my post on: Consumables )

Moving Forward:

Defining a list of essentials not only helped me to assess my belongings, it helped me simplify the way I think through my goals.  By putting limits on my physical “stuff,” I make space to budget for traveling, exploring a new trail, and helping others.  I am able to set aside money that used to go toward the “extras” and reach a goal of financial stability. I am not as eager to keep up with the race to consume so much, because I am not entangled in the lie that more stuff equals happiness.  I am content because my needs are met.

Essentialism is just one way you can define your direction as a minimalist.  I have learned to define my needs and wants, knowing I can always switch or combine directions, based on evaluating my life.  I found that it helped shape my goals when I started purging my clutter.  It has also been a good regulator as I discover new ideas to test while remaining true to myself. Try it out as a place to start. Pass it on!

Consumables

Before I became a minimalist, I had collections of lotions, nail polish, tea, stationery, and candles.  As a minimalist, I still do.  Let me explain.

While cleaning and purging my belongings that no longer served a purpose in my life, I saw that my stuff falls into two categories: consumables and permanents.  The easy part of downsizing and simplifying my life was to deal with the items that fell in the “permanents” category because they were items that were created for a unique purpose that would stick around as long as I kept them, such as books, seasonal clothing, office supplies (pencil holder, file cabinet, stapler, etc.), and staples of my capsule wardrobe.  Consumables, on the other hand, were items that contained some sort of interaction and would not last long.  Some things that fell into this category were thoughtful gifts that enhance my living space (candles) and beauty products (nail polish, leave-in conditioner, body spray).

I consider myself pretty practical, so I wasn’t going to let this dilemma become a hold up in my minimalism process.  Why get rid of something that you can enjoy (and know it will eventually run out)?  It would be like throwing away a pack of unused batteries because you don’t want them to take up space in a drawer.  Sure, your alarm clock is battery operated, but you can always just buy more.  That’s a little crazy, isn’t it?

My solution to handle consumable items was not to throw them away but to make a small “consumable” box to house these items that I or a loved one purchased.  All the extra items I have accumulated and haven’t used up yet have a place in a box under my bed.  Before making another purchase of an item, I check the box to see if I already have the item “in stock” or an alternative option.  For example, I have a few extra perfume sprays, so if I run out of the current spray, I will open my box to circulate a new one into use.  If I run out of sprays altogether, perhaps there is a lotion that can do the trick.

My battle with consumables was an easy battle to win because I constructed a system to enjoy my supply of items and appease my practical personality.  I cut down on wasting money on purchasing even more products and I enjoy the gifts of these products.

If you have a collection of consumable items taking up too much space, consider making a small box to house them in.  I still have my body sprays (until they run out), but they no longer crowd my bathroom cabinet and they are still easily accessible.  The less you have out in the open or frequently used space, the tidier the space will become. When the collection runs out, be disciplined to consider each consumable purchase, buying only what you need and avoiding creating a collection again.  Pass it on!

Taking Time to Refocus

Sometimes it is beneficial to do nothing rather than keeping to a tight schedule.  I have found that the more time I take to relax each week has contributed to the quality of work I complete.  In a society that demands of us to stay busy and productive, taking some time to refocus becomes a refreshing change to the rat race we often find ourselves scurrying around in.

While exiting the hamster wheel of “busy”, I found that it is important to create space  for “down-time.”  It has taken me a while to get used to spending odd hours of free time, but I learned that if I can manage the time well, I step back into my busy life feeling more confident and in control.

My strategy?  Scheduling in small spaces of time to allow for activities or opportunities that pop up.  My college self was practically an expert at this.  How many times have you or an acquaintance bounced from studying to pick-up ultimate frisbee to class or work?

Making time to refocus is a commitment – if you want to build the habit, you have to put in the work.  It often feels awkward to take some well-deserved free time, especially when everyone else around you is busy keeping up with their own schedules.  However, if you focus on quality time, it gets easier and easier because you will see the benefits.

After graduating college and (finally) settling into somewhat of a routine, it took a while for me to loosen up and allow myself free time in which I had no obligations.  It was surprisingly difficult to keep myself from scheduling my whole day, but what I did to solve the problem was to schedule fun things that I enjoyed.  Perhaps among cleaning, laundry, and work, I would get in an hour to go slacklining or running.  Maybe I would spend my evening reading.  After evaluating my lifestyle and goals, I found that  I could incorporate minimalism was by simplifying my busy schedule in favor of doing things I enjoy.  Isn’t that a cornerstone of minimalism anyway?

As busy as we get (and as much as we like it), taking some time to do something recreational or fun without the pressure of deadlines and goals is refreshing.  By limiting the “must do” activities every day, I allow myself some time to refocus.  Take an afternoon to pause and do something spontaneous – for your enjoyment, not because it was on your to-do list.  Pass it on!

90% and Up

I joined the smartphone community after my old phone I hardly used kicked the bucket and I joined the workforce after my college graduation. I’m sure the salesman was more excited than I was.  I never thought I’d admit it, but my smartphone is actually pretty handy.  From keeping up with friends, managing my calendar, and practicing Spanish (thanks, Duolingo!), my phone seems to do it all.

Three little words. Do. It. All.

Don’t get me wrong: having access to information, organized in the form of a little glowing box, is pretty convenient.  But at what cost?

Even though I reluctantly entered the smartphone world only a year and a half ago, I began to see the effects of efficiency take a toll on my time… and my battery power.  Why does my phone seem to drain quickly?  Seriously, wasn’t it 100% an hour ago?!

A quick assessment of my day provided the simple answer: I’m using my phone too much.

More use = less power.

That being said, I decided it was time to make a change.  I listened to a podcast from The Minimalists on stress and Joshua mentioned that we have a tendency to use our phones as a pacifier.  Hmm.  Am I doing that?  It turns out, when I get real about my phone use, I do not use the device simply for its functions to help me keep track of my life.  I use it as an excuse to cover up weaknesses.  It becomes a pacifier for a number of situations:

  1. I am bored = my smartphone can entertain me for 1-5 minutes
  2. I am in an awkward situation = my smartphone can distract me from feeling uncomfortable/ escape the reality
  3. I am alone = my smartphone makes me look “wanted,” or that I purposefully chose solitude/ I am obviously waiting for something important

Since when did I become so reliant on my smartphone to solve problems for me? Perhaps I followed the example of others to fit in.  When did I assume being uncomfortable was a bad thing?  Perhaps I saw that my phone was a quick fix.  When did I decide that being alone (out shopping/eating a meal/running errands/etc.) is a vulnerability?  Where did my creativity go?

I believe that smartphones are a great technology and not inherently negative things.  But I noticed that purchasing the device opened a pandora’s box of dependency that leads to deeper issues that are problematic.

In order to counteract my problem of battery power usage, I decided to limit my phone use.  On a normal day, I keep my battery percentage 90% and higher.  If I notice it dropping closer to 90%, it’s my cue to get off the phone.

Making 90% and up a rule has helped me balance my smartphone usage.  I feel less attached to false realities that my weaknesses draw me to. I am more aware of what I do; I focus on the present.  And I don’t worry about battery power.  I can check “phone battery” off my metal to-do list.

Conserving my phone’s battery power contributes to my pursuit of minimalism because I focus on what makes me genuinely happy.  The device has its purpose, but does not contribute to waste of time or character development.  I expand my creativity to put my free time to use.  I learn to cope with awkwardness and develop interpersonal skills.  I choose to partake in occasional solitude by focusing on its benefits.

I once saw a quote, “a place for everything and everything in its place.”  A staple of the minimalist lifestyle, this quote encapsulates the ideal of balance, which we can apply to anything – even a smartphone.  Just like an overabundance of clutter can take over our life, an unhealthy phone habit can do the same.  Make the change and put your phone in its place.  I urge you to make a goal percentage for your phone battery and fill your new-found time with creativity instead of following the flow that society set up for us.  Pass it on!

Capturing Time: Capsule Wardrobe

A problem I noticed in the last year while developing my life as a minimalist has been wasting precious time in my morning routine. In an effort to resolve this issue, I stumbled across the idea of the capsule wardrobe. The best resource I found came with a challenge: Courtney Carver’s Be More with Less blog and her unique idea, Project 333. (More on that shortly.)

I found as I removed miscellaneous clutter from my life, I still found the recurring problem of running out of time in the morning while getting ready for work.  What is wrong? Why can’t I seem to have even five minutes to pause?  Why is  this such a challenge?  If I had even two more minutes, I will feel prepared.

As it turns out, I focused so much on chucking random clutter from my home that I forgot about working with habits I maintained everyday, illustrated in my morning routine.

The first step coincided with the ultimate activity I was immersed in (and still work on everyday!): simplifying.  So without waiting longer, I gutted my closet of all my clothes and shoes, only returning items that filled the following requirements:

  1. Clothes I wore all the time.
  2. Clothes that point to the future.

By the time I hung everything back up, I found an odd assortment of mix-matched items that I loved, but did not fulfill my goal to streamline my morning routine. So then I moved into step two, with the help of Project 333: building my capsule wardrobe.

I took note of the items hanging in my closet, searching for a theme or hint of direction.  Following some advice I found while browsing several blogs, I scanned my Pinterest board for inspiration.

I quickly discovered that the majority of my clothing fell under the categories of “neutral,” “no-fuss,” and “classic.”  When I identified these themes, I felt confident to pull out everything that did not fit within those categories.  My themes all support requirement number two: pointing to the future.  I did not want to hang on to items that would influence me to return to the “old me.”  I wanted a change that would continue to motivate me to pursue my goals as long as I remained disciplined.

Next, I spent time making a detailed list of those clothes, following Carver’s 33 items strategy, in order to prove to myself that I could indeed construct several outfits out of 33 “capsule”-tailored pieces.  Wow! There really are so many things to choose from! (Coming soon: a post on what is in my closet!)

I am currently a few weeks into my revised, minimalist capsule wardrobe, and I already see a difference!  Here are my takeaways thus far:

  1. I have those 5 extra minutes in the morning because I don’t spend time deciding on my outfits.  Everything works, no matter what combination I choose!
  2. Making a capsule wardrobe mean that I wear what I love, thus, I feel confident in my appearance.
  3. I don’t spend hard-earned money on fast fashion.  By sticking with my common core themes, I dress true to myself.  I am not tempted to make impulse purchases because I do not fall for the lie wrapped in advertising that convinces consumers that they are not “enough” without a certain shirt or brand of jeans, etc.  Fast fashion relies on the emotional draw we experience when we take advertising too far.  Not only is it often harmful to the environment and laborers, it is fickle, changing so fast, most items are obsolete within a month, if not, days.  Don’t let shiny fliers, flashing lights, and “deal-breaking” prices fool you!
  4. I do less laundry and save water, money, and energy.  With simple clothing that doesn’t have flashy bells and whistles to take into consideration, I have less loads of laundry.  Nearly all of my clothing is black or grey, so I can manage to wash everything in a single load, saving the lighter colors for special occasions.  Doing so, I save on water by limiting my load, I have less to wash, so I opt for the “quick wash” setting, which works perfectly and conserves energy to utilize appliances, and I save money on the utility bill.  I don’t need to spend more on three+ loads (lights, darks, delicates, bold colors, etc.).
  5. I learned to value white space.  My dresser, which houses jeans, pajamas, socks, and underwear, is my pride and joy!  The dresser itself is white, giving my small room an airy and open feeling.  The surface is smooth and uncluttered.  Inside, you can see the wood at the bottom of each drawer. While it may seem bare and a waste of space, it represents to me the elimination of stress.  The stress of figuring out how to cram the last tank top in a drawer, the stress of trying to find that shirt tucked in the back corner, the stress of too many choices.  Contrary to consumerist belief, having empty white space in your drawers does not mean you are not fashionable or that you failed in achieving some product-based ideal .  Having space means that what you do have is a result of thoughtfulness; that you have cleared distractions from the space in order to focus on what brings meaning to your life.  It seems that this is a lesson to apply to many categories of life, not just my dresser drawers. But it is a start!

Project 333 and capsule wardrobes are clever ways to reach goals and pursue minimalism.  We are all familiar with time capsules?  Those shoe boxes we filled and decorated as kids, trying to preserve a period of time in order to control something that is continually progressing. I look back to my elementary-school self fondly, recalling all of the cute little projects I constructed and hid who-knows-where!  Capsule wardrobes seem to work in a similar way, though we look forward rather than on the past.  My capsule wardrobe captures time – the time I would spend frustrated I couldn’t put an outfit together for whatever reason.  This time adds up and becomes quite a waste – even 5 minutes a day becomes over half an hour of your time each week.  In a four week period, that’s 2 hours!  We formed a cliche due to our business and waste of time: If only I had a few more minutes/ one more hour/ another day!

By simplifying my wardrobe, I capture the waste of time and re-purpose it for something I value or enjoy.  I eliminate a cause of stress in my life, leading to the development of a peaceful morning. I have surplus time to slow down, to enjoy the first cup of coffee, to stretch, to read a few pages of a new book, or to have a conversation with a family member before we scoot out the door.

Consider making your own capsule wardrobe! Or be creative and use the framework to pair down something else taking up your time.  Indulge in white space and seek out little changes that will transform your life.  Reclaim the time you lost.  Pass it on!