Welcome to the third post in my series about decluttering your clothes and dressing with fewer items. It’s all been leading up to this: creating a capsule wardrobe.
Related posts: The Best Trick to Purge Your Closet + 6 Questions to Help You Purge, 12 Reasons Why We Keep Clothes We Don’t Wear & How to Move Past Them
What is a capsule wardrobe?
A capsule wardrobe is the ultimate form of a simplified and clutter-free closet. But what exactly IS a capsule wardrobe? It’s really not as complicated as it sounds. A capsule wardrobe is a small collection of clothes you LOVE, that look and feel great on, and you can mix and match to make many outfit combinations. Most capsule wardrobes are seasonal, meaning you rotate some or all of the items seasonally.
Benefits of a capsule wardrobe
There are many benefits of a capsule wardrobe, including:
- It’s easier to decide what to wear, because you know everything looks and feels great on you
- Less stress, overwhelm and decision fatigue about what you’ll wear
- Boosted confidence knowing everything in your wardrobe flatters you and looks great
- Your closet is tidy and organized, and easy to keep that way
- You spend less time and money buying new clothes because you commit to owning fewer pieces
- It allows you to feel content and grateful for what you have, instead of always focusing on the next purchase
The overall benefit is you spend less time and energy getting dressed because everything in your wardrobe looks and feels great. Less time and energy focused on your clothes means more time and energy for what matters the most to you.
Creating my own capsule wardrobe
I recently created my own capsule wardrobe and I am LOVING it! It is the best thing I have ever done with my clothes. I’ve experienced every single one of the benefits above. I don’t think I’ll ever go back to a non-capsule wardrobe. It makes my life so much easier.
Even though I’ve been significantly decluttering and minimizing our house for the last few years, I was nervous to take the plunge and create a capsule wardrobe. I had read a lot about capsule wardrobes, and the planners and formulas I’d seen for choosing the number of items and color schemes seemed intimidating. I felt nervous about getting it right. Then I realized there is no one, perfect way to make a capsule wardrobe. I needed to focus on keeping it simple and making it work for me.
If you’re hesitant to try a capsule wardrobe because you don’t think the “rules” of capsule wardrobes will work for you, then make your own rules! The “rules” other people use are simply what worked for them. Maybe they’ll work for you, maybe they won’t. But don’t get hung up on anyone else’s rules to make a capsule wardrobe.
Using this philosophy, this is the exact process I took to create a simple and stress-free capsule wardrobe.
Why I’m sharing my “rules”
I’m using the term “rules” very loosely. By rules, I mean loose guidelines I kept in mind to help me reduce and structure my capsule. Why am I sharing my rules when I just said don’t worry about anyone else’s rules? When learning about capsule wardrobes, I found it helpful and interesting to know the rules other people used to arrive at their finished capsule. Then I could decide what would or wouldn’t work for me. That’s why I’m sharing my “rules”. Simply to give you the framework of how I made decisions to create my capsule. My rules are all about keeping it simple and being flexible.
My “rules” for my capsule wardrobe:
Number of items
Some people limit the number of pieces in their capsule, 33 or 37 items are common. Before I started my capsule, the idea of a limit stressed me out. Because I wanted to make the process of creating my capsule as stress-free as possible, I decided not to set a limit on the number of items in my capsule. Instead, I decided I’d start sorting my clothes and see where I ended up.
I also didn’t have a specific number of each type of item (i.e. pants, tops, jeans, sweaters, etc.) to include. Again, I simply started sorting. I knew I would fine tune the number of items after I sorted, but I didn’t set out with a plan for how many of each item I wanted to include.
What my capsule includes
I decided to only include my everyday clothes in my capsule. The things I wore on a daily basis. For me, this means only bottoms and tops will be included.
What my capsule does NOT include
- Outerwear (jackets, gloves, hats, etc.)
- Jewelry and accessories (necklaces, earrings, bracelets, scarves, etc.)
- Workout clothes
- Undergarments (underwear, bras, socks, and tanks/camisoles I only wear under other clothes, never on their own)
- Formal wear (fancy dresses, skirts, business clothes, etc.)
I did reduce the number of items in each of these categories but decided not to include them in my capsule. Since this was my first capsule wardrobe, I wanted to keep it simple and stress-free. Baby steps right? As I continue to make capsule wardrobes in the future, I may include some of these items. But for this round, it worked best for me to only include my everyday clothes.
Many people dress from their capsule for at least 3 months. Apparently, I have a fear of commitment, because 3 months seemed like a long time. I created my capsule on February 1st, and told myself I would try it for the month of February and see how it went. Again, I took the pressure off myself and decided to be flexible with the time frame.
Only my current capsule wardrobe would be in my closet. Everything I was keeping but wasn’t in this capsule would be stored in my dresser and spare bedroom closet. This would let me keep my closet clutter-free and simple. However, I was open to exchanging items out of storage if something I chose for my capsule wasn’t working or I wasn’t wearing it.
Other tips before you start
Roughly plan your capsule before you start sorting:
- Before I began sorting my clothes, I started thinking about the clothes I’d like to have in my capsule. I didn’t get specific, but this gave me some ideas once I started sorting.
Make your capsule wardrobe work for your lifestyle:
- Think about your lifestyle and what you like to wear. Identify all the different activities you do in your daily life (i.e. work, playing with the kids, running errands, going out with friends, etc.) and how you spend the majority of your time. Design your capsule around that. Making sure to include clothing options that will work for each of these activities.
Figure out your signature style:
- What types of clothes make you look and feel your best? These are the clothes that should make up your capsule. Everything in your capsule should be things you love to wear and feel great in.
- You may not be 100% clear on your signature style when you make your first capsule. And that’s ok! The great thing about a capsule wardrobe is that as you dress with fewer items, you will begin to figure out what works for you and what doesn’t. Your signature style will become more clear as you dress with fewer items.
Work with what you have for your first capsule:
- Instead of buying a bunch of new clothes, try working with what you have. The goal is to try living with fewer items to see how it impacts your life. Buying more clothes at this point could be counter-productive. Use this as a learning period to figure out what works in your capsule and what doesn’t. You may need to buy new pieces in the future. But try to work with what you have at first.
Out of sight but not permanently gone:
- To get the full benefits of a capsule wardrobe, you need to reduce the overall number of items and visual clutter in your closet. However, this doesn’t mean you have to get rid of all but 37 items of clothing. It’s simply an experiment to see how living with fewer pieces of clothing will impact your life. Store anything you love but not included in your current capsule out of sight to experience the full benefits of a capsule wardrobe.
How to create a capsule wardrobe:
You’ll need a couple of hours to work through this process. It’s best to try to do all the steps in one session. If possible, try to set aside a couple of hours where you can work on your closet with few distractions. I worked through this process in one morning, even with my little ones “helping” me 😉
Step 1: Gather all your clothes in one place
I often heard completely emptying out your closet is important, but honestly, I wasn’t convinced it would be worth the effort. I’ll admit it, I was completely wrong! Taking everything out of your closet changes everything. It makes each thing have to earn its place back in your closet. Nothing can be passed over or left hanging by default.
Seeing every single piece of clothing you own all piled up in one place can be a bit overwhelming. But from this point forward, you will start reducing and it will get more manageable.
Once you have everything out, sort your clothes by category and group all like items together. Jeans in one pile, long-sleeved shirts in another, cardigans in another, etc.
Step 2: Quick sort
Working through each category of clothes, sort as quickly as possible. In the next step, we will refine the piles more thoughtfully. This step is about working quickly and sorting based on your first instinct about each item. This helps you make the easy keep or toss decisions to get the items you absolutely love or are ready to let go of out of the way.
I chose 4 categories to sort my clothes in to:
- Yes, I love it and want it in my capsule – these were the clothes I love wearing, that look and feel good on. I had a rough idea of things I wanted to include in this capsule based on what I wear regularly for the season and what my current favourite items are.
- Yes, I love it, but don’t want it in this capsule – these were clothes that I love and look and feel good on, but they were either not seasonally appropriate or I wasn’t going to choose them for this capsule. Things I still loved would be stored until it was time to make the next capsule.
- No, I don’t like this item anymore – these items were bagged up for donation.
- Maybe – anything I was really unsure about or couldn’t make a quick decision about, I put in the maybe pile. This pile will be sorted more thoroughly in the next step.
After you’ve done this, grab some bags and pack up all the “no” items. Take these bags out of your space to give you more room to work. Already looking better right?
After this step, my “yes, I love it and want it in my capsule” pile was already down to 42 items. I was shocked to see how painless it was to get down to that number.
Step 3: Re-assess the remaining 3 piles
Go through each of the 3 remaining piles and make more careful decisions. As you work, look for duplicates. If you have several items that are similar to each other, see if you can pare down to your favourites.
The ‘Yes, I love it and want it in my capsule’ pile
I started with this pile. Because I was already down to 42 items, I decided to try to create a 40-piece capsule. It seemed easy enough and not so scary anymore, once I saw how many options 42 items gave me.
**I know I said I wasn’t going to limit myself to a certain number. This wasn’t about restricting myself, but more about setting a loose limit to help me make decisions about what to keep. If I ended up with 42 or 43 things, I wasn’t going to sweat it.
I also liked the idea of a number to aim for to keep myself from wanting to buy new clothes without thought. If I want to keep my capsule to 40 items or less, and I’m already at 40 items, if I want to buy something new, I would have to decide if I am willing to take something out of my capsule to make room for the new item. Having a loose limit has helped me be more intentional with my capsule wardrobe.**
To refine the “yes, I love it and want it in my capsule” pile, I asked myself these questions:
- How many items are in the pile? Is that a reasonable amount?
- Is there enough of each type of item (i.e. pants, tops, sweaters, jeans, etc.) to work with my laundry routine?
- Does each item coordinate with at least 2-4 other items to give me a variety of outfit options?
- Do the items fit with my lifestyle?
- Is each item something I LOVE and would be happy and comfortable to wear any day? With a smaller wardrobe, you don’t have room to keep anything you don’t love and won’t want to wear frequently.
The ‘Yes, I love it but don’t want it in this capsule’ pile
It is important that everything I save for other seasons or future capsules are things I truly love. I don’t want to store items unless they are things I love and will be excited to wear. I went through this pile and made sure each item was a definite “yes”. If I was unsure, I moved it to the “maybe” pile, to be tackled next.
The ‘Maybe’ pile
Last came the “maybe” pile. It was the toughest pile because it required the hardest decisions. To sort the “maybe” pile, I tried everything on, and answered these 6 questions:
- Does it fit?
- Is it in good condition (i.e. not damaged, stained or needing repair)?
- Do I feel good in it? Is it comfortable?
- Do I look good in it? Do the color and style flatter me?
- When was the last time I wore it?
- Would I be happy to wear it for the rest of the day?
You can read about these questions in more detail here. And be sure to get your FREE printable closet decluttering guide at the bottom of that post!
If there were any items I was really struggling to make a decision about, I put them in a box in the spare bedroom, sealed the box and marked a date 2 months from then on the box. I put a reminder in my phone for that date. If I haven’t wanted the items or even thought about them by the time the reminder goes, I will donate the box.
Step 4: Put everything away
Put your capsule wardrobe in your closet. Finish bagging up any “no” items. Put the items you are keeping but aren’t part of this capsule wardrobe away where you will store them. Now enjoy your simplified, clutter-free capsule wardrobe!
That’s it! That’s how I made my first capsule wardrobe. It wasn’t complicated or stressful. I didn’t follow a complex planning sheet or formula. The whole process was easy and painless. I don’t know why I waited so long to do it! I absolutely LOVE having a capsule wardrobe. Getting dressed is so easy, my closet is organized and peaceful, and I haven’t felt like I’m missing any of the clothes I donated or put in storage. I’ll share exactly what is in my capsule wardrobe in an upcoming post.
What do you think? First time hearing about a capsule wardrobe? Thinking about making a capsule of your own? What are you most excited about? Have you made a capsule wardrobe before? How did you make your capsule? Let me know in the comments below!
Monday 10th of June 2019
How do you organize your closet if you have casual attire that you identify with stylewise, but also have to factor in your work clothes? I find that the work clothes, which consists of court attire with suit jackets and slightly dressed down professional attire that I don't need a suit jacket for, get in the way of having clear thought on what I like as I only have these clothes for work and the occasional dinner outing.
Simple Lionheart Life
Monday 10th of June 2019
I would try making mini capsules within your closet. For example, you could have a mini capsule for work clothes, consisting of a small collection of work clothes that you love and can easily mix and match. Then, create another mini capsule wardrobe for your more casual clothes. This has really helped me keep my closet organized and simplified. I work from home, so I don't have work clothes anymore. But I do this with my small collection of formal clothes. And I do it with work out clothes as well. It helps me stay organized, while still keeping my wardrobe small. I hope that helps! Let me know if you have more questions!
Thursday 19th of July 2018
Wow!!! For a while now I want a Capsule Wardrobe for myself because I have always problems in getting dressed in the morning. I know it's because I have too much, too much stuff I don't like anymore, that doesn't fit me well and and and ... I tried this experiment afor the first time a few month ago but it doens't worked out for me. I kept buying new clothes. Today, I saw your post why we keep thing in our wardrobe and you're so right! I need to get rid of my guilty feelings for giving things away that I never wore. You inspire me to try a capsule wardrobe again. I like the idea of doing it for a month first... like you did - babysteps! Thank you very much for your inspiring post. You made my day!
Simple Lionheart Life
Friday 20th of July 2018
Thanks so much for your comment! I'm so happy to hear you felt inspired to try a capsule wardrobe again! I love that! I think the most important thing to remember is to make your wardrobe work for you. If committing to a capsule wardrobe forever sounds intimidating, try it for a month, just like you said. Try not to worry about someone else's rules and figure out what works for you and your lifestyle! Thanks for reading and for your lovely comment, it made my day to read it! And good luck creating a capsule wardrobe you love!
Thursday 12th of April 2018
Hi Melissa, I am enjoying the 14 day challenge. I had already some months earlier purged some of my best outfits when a call came out when the Grenfell Tragedy occurred .People emptied their wardrobes and gave what they could. But you have enhanced this idea of purging through your dialogue and explanation. As I read half way down I was wondering about coats and jackets and all the holiday items like swimwear etc. How does this fit in with a capsule wardrobe. As I read further. You explained this very well. I have dealt with most of my purged items and have little to do now. I am very happy with my wardrobe now and find that in time I will be able to purge more easily. If I bought any new items they would have to mix and match with something I already had. I would also have to purge the same quantity of items I bought in order to not fall back in to having too much. My aunt taught me this. If you buy more you must part with some things in order to keep your wardrobe manageable. So Yes I do feel I have a capsule wardrobe although I didn't realise it was this. My only problem is I don't have two separate hanging wardrobes where I can keep a Autumn/Winter. Spring/summer wardrobe selection. This would make life easier. But I am working on how I can re-jig this to work better. But I am much happier now having purged items I would never have done before I met you. Things are working better and the shopping has STOPPED. also much happier about this. Wish I had met you sooner I would have saved myself $14,000 dollars on changing my kitchen cabinet doors. My whole thinking is now RE-FORMED. Thank You Melissa!
Simple Lionheart Life
Thursday 12th of April 2018
Wow! Thank you so much, Doreen. It makes me so happy to hear that I have been able to help you on your simplifying journey! It sounds like you are doing wonderfully. I love how your wardrobe is versatile and able to mix and match. That definitely makes a smaller wardrobe give you plenty of options. And great advice from your Aunt about getting rid of things when new things are added. That's a great system to follow and I couldn't agree more! Thank you for your comment - and I'm happy to hear you're enjoying the challenge. And I'm so happy to hear about the wonderful progress you've made decluttering your home. And most importantly how much you are enjoying a decluttered and simplified home. Thank you so much for sharing your journey with us!
Sunday 18th of March 2018
I recently went on a 2 1/2 week to Spain with my husband and a friend. My husband packs too light, our friend, too heavy. I decided to try a capsule wardrobe to reduce my luggage. Eureka! Just right and now I know I can pare down a little more.
Your info about reducing your wardrobe is great and I plan to use it to help me on this adventure.
Simple Lionheart Life
Monday 19th of March 2018
That's awesome Luna! Travelling is a great time to try out a capsule wardrobe. And it definitely makes travelling easier. I'm so happy to hear you found the right balance for you, that's wonderful! I'm glad you're finding my site helpful. Thanks for reading!
Sunday 18th of March 2018
I can’t tell you how much I needed to read your various guides on decluttering closet space! My husband agrees it’s my weakness when it comes to organizing and purging. There have definitely been some “mental blocks” going on whenever I have tried to get rid of clothes, and I do appreciate your tips. They are very relevant! I plan to keep reading and reminding myself of all your suggestions as I attempt this task once more... The “boxing and removing” idea for clothes that don’t currently fit is a great one. I’m currently pregnant for our second daughter and realize I feel overwhelmed with my pre-pregnancy clothes(various seasons), maternity clothes(some of which were gifts/hand-me-downs that do not fit or I dislike). Thank you!
Simple Lionheart Life
Sunday 18th of March 2018
I'm so happy to hear you're finding my site helpful, Kelley! That's wonderful! I think removing your non-maternity clothes from your closet is a great way to immediately reduce your overwhelm with your clothes. It makes life so much easier when you only have the clothes that currently fit you hanging in your closet. Good luck with your decluttering, if you have any questions about decluttering clothes, let me know I'd be happy to help if I can! Thanks for reading and congratulations on your pregnancy!