My journey to a (slowly-evolving ethical) capsule wardrobe
As a precursor, I am not a fashionista, nor am I someone who pays attention to or adheres to trends. I am just a big fan of the “just-in-case” approach to life. What if I need these…. just in case? I have an outlook that says – I can imagine a future where I might want to wear this, or what if I lose a few pounds or gain a few or what if I start loving pencil skirts?
So that led (several times) to my closet bar literally collapsing because of the weight of all my clothes. It was ridiculous. Instead of getting rid of half of the clothes that I didn’t wear the majority of, I reinforced the bar and continued to inflict the white plastic shelving with that absurd level of weight.
Last August I went through one of those random cleaning phases we all go through and wanted to clear out some of my clothes. In late August, I texted my friend LeeAnn and said “cutting down my closet and need some executive decision help”. She came over the next day. I knew some things I wanted to get rid of at once, and others I put into a huge “maybe” pile – that was what I wanted help with.
What I really wanted was permission to keep most of that maybe pile. I wanted someone to help me justify keeping those clothes I hadn’t worn in a year or three but could see potential in. LeeAnn was the wrong choice for that, as I found out. Get rid of it, she said. So I hemmed and hawed and kept it in a big pile for 2 weeks. I didn’t even remember what was in the pile after that long, so I just packed it up and brought it to donate. That felt freeing. Oh, I didn’t even know what awaited me then!
And I look at all the money invested over the years by my mother (who loves buying me clothes) and myself, and I feel guilty for giving it away… but only for a minute, until I think rationally – I only wore this once, I don’t work in an office, so pencil skirts and blazers are not really my go-to anymore (or ever, who am I kidding), that dress is beautiful in theory until I feel like I have to buy a new strapless bra every time to make it work… and much more importantly, if I’m not using this, someone else can.
I did this again, looked over my closet with a discerning eye when I came back from Christmas break. I had been exploring and researching minimalism, as I explain more fully here. After reading Joshua Becker’s The More of Less and reading many posts from Courtney Carver’s blog delving into project 333, I decided this is what I wanted to do.
Project 333 is to select 33 items of clothing, including shoes and scarves and jackets and accessories, to wear for 3 months. Putting everything else away in bags and boxes out of sight for 3 months, you accept a challenge to see how your life changes. Excluded in the items are workout clothes, underwear and bras, lounge wear, and PJs.
I selected 33 items carefully. I think everyone has a weakness: for some, it would be in shoes, or accessories; my downfall was in my beloved, soft, go-to, staple of t-shirts. My favorites are from walk in love, and still more being from my church or various organizations I loved or causes I supported. I selected 16. I promise, that was as low as I felt I could go.
From January 2 – April 2, I wore nothing but those 33+16 items. I cheated in several ways:
1. I broke into my other clothes – stashed in my hall closet, only once – to get a lighter cardigan, burgundy in color to wear over my yellow striped dress for a wedding, which I found a hole in by the end of a night of hard dancing, and only got worn that one instance.
2. I broke my no-buy rule once, to my great disappointment. It was getting warmer, and my daily walks with my long workout leggings were getting sweaty. I was at Sam’s club and saw a pair of grey workout capri leggings for $9.99. I fell back so quickly into what I thought I was growing away from, the easy purchase that damaged so many along the supply chain. Serves me right, after 2 wears they had a hole, and after 8 wears almost every loose thread that could’ve come out had escaped, leaving the hems weird and uneven. I won’t make that mistake again. Even as I write this, I am tempted to grab a $5 pair of sunglasses from my nearest superstore, because I happen to have lost both my pairs of sunglasses on the same day, and driving into sunlight is getting a little risky, but I know if I continue looking, I’ll find them.
3. I often wore “lounge” or “gym” wear out in public, when it’s supposed to be reserved for those uses exclusively. I’m not too bothered about this one. It happens.
4. Several pieces got added by way of gift – a blue/grey cap and a pair of brown earrings from a Happy Hour Live gift bag from Jamie Ivey! Also a very awesome chambray from my mom who handed it down to me.
How it changed my life:
1. Well, first of all, no closets were collapsing. So that was a relief.
2. Decisions were much easier. Those were my options, so better be creative and really love what I had.
3. All. Types. Of. Weather. Snow on January 6th to close to 100 degrees to rain and crazy wind, and I was never like gosh I wish I had a different pair of shoes or pants. I was fine.
4. Packing was a breeze – I had 5 trips during those months: a wedding, visiting my parents twice, a girls trip to Austin, and a community group retreat.
5. Never once did it inhibit me from my life, which I prefer adventure-filled. I did a variety of activities, from a cat birthday party, country dancing, job interview, hosted several gatherings, a symphony orchestra concert, baby shower, bridal party, wedding, paddleboarding, goodbye party, tulip picking, and multiple dance parties. Guess what I wasn’t thinking about during any of those adventures? How I wished I had more variety or had worn something different. I was concentrated on living my life, and had more capacity to do so with less weight holding me back.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.
– Hebrews 12:1
You might be interested in more posts about my simplified capsule wardrobe: