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9 Things I’ve Learned Dressing with a 36 Item Capsule Wardrobe

9 Things I’ve Learned Dressing with a 36 Item Capsule Wardrobe

I’ve been dressing from a capsule wardrobe since February. It is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made with my clothes. If you are on the fence about making your own capsule wardrobe, I highly recommend trying it!

Although I was hesitant about trying it at first, I now know that it makes life easier in so many ways. Today I want to share some of the important lessons I’ve learned from dressing with a capsule wardrobe. And share the positive impact creating a capsule wardrobe has had on my life.

9 Things I've learned dressing with a 36 item capsule wardrobe
Photo by Frank Park on Unsplash

1. 40 items are more than enough

When I planned my first capsule wardrobe, I decided to aim for a flexible limit of 40 items, including only tops and bottoms. At the time, I thought 40 items seemed like so few things. I ended up with 36 pieces in my first capsule wardrobe. But after living with it, I realized even with a smaller wardrobe, I still rarely wore some of the pieces.

When I made my second capsule wardrobe, I knew I could easily include fewer items. I stuck with the flexible 40 item limit, but this time included tops, bottoms, shoes and outer wear in that limit. Even including these extra items, I ended up only choosing 36 pieces again.

Even with fewer items, I still have plenty of options to wear. Although 36 items may not seem like a lot of clothes, I am realizing it is easy to create a complete wardrobe with a small, carefully curated selection of clothes. We really don’t need as many clothes as we think we do, which brings me to my next point.

2. You probably are already dressing from a capsule wardrobe

Most people are already dressing from a capsule wardrobe of sorts, but just don’t realize it. I have heard, and definitely agree this applied to me, most people wear 20% of their clothes 80% of the time. This means you wear the same small selection of the clothes you own for the vast majority of the time.

We tend to have our favourites and our “go to” items that we wear often, and the rest of our clothes are worn less frequently, or sometimes rarely ever.

Essentially most people are already dressing from a capsule wardrobe, it’s simply hidden amongst clothes they really don’t love or wear.

This idea really hit me when I made my first capsule. When I sorted all my clothes initially, I put all my favourite items in a pile to make my capsule wardrobe. I wasn’t thinking about it too hard or planning carefully. I just quickly sorted and gathered the clothes I love and wear often. After I was done sorting, I counted the pile and was shocked to find I only had 42 items in the pile.

Knowing I was already dressing from a small number of items the majority of the time eased my fears about creating a capsule wardrobe. I didn’t actually need the extra clothes in my closet. They were just a mental security blanket that made me feel like I had options, but I wasn’t wearing them anyways. So why allow them to take up my space and my time?

3. Fewer clothes makes getting dressed easier

One of the first things I noticed about dressing from a capsule wardrobe is how much easier deciding what to wear is. Because I only keep things in my wardrobe that I love to wear, and look and feel good in, deciding what to wear each day is so much quicker and simpler.

You may have heard the term “decision fatigue”. Basically, it means that our decision-making ability deteriorates throughout the day as we become mentally exhausted from all the decisions, large and small, we make during the day.

When you can start your day without stressing, or even giving much thought at all, about what you’re going to wear, you start your day without wasting your decision-making ability on what you’ll wear. Less time and energy spent deciding what to wear leads to less decision fatigue. You can save your decision-making ability for the more important decisions you need to make throughout your day.

4. A capsule wardrobe saves time and money

When you are making an intentional choice to live with a small, carefully chosen selection of clothing, you shop for clothes less frequently. You are more selective about any clothes you buy, only buying items you absolutely love and actually need in your wardrobe.

Often once you create your capsule, you have little need to shop at all while you’re dressing from it, because you are committed to dressing with fewer items and content with doing so.

You save time and money by shopping less and being more intentional about what you buy.

A capsule wardrobe also saves time because deciding what to wear is so much easier. You don’t have to weed through clothes you don’t love or don’t fit to find something to wear. You don’t waste time in the mornings trying on multiple outfits trying to find something that looks and feels great.

5. My closet has breathing room

One of the more unexpected benefits of a capsule wardrobe is how great my closet looks and feels! It is so organized and peaceful, and super easy to keep that way. Nothing is crammed or stuffed in. I can see exactly what I have and nothing gets lost in the back or forgotten about.

Looking at my clothes now gives me such a positive feeling. Each item is something I love that I look and feel good in. There aren’t clothes that make me feel guilty for not wearing and wasting money on. Or clothes that don’t fit and make me feel bad. My closet makes me feel good because I love everything in it.

It’s like a breath of fresh air. Sometimes I go into my closet just to gaze lovingly at all the empty space! It’s hard to describe what a difference it makes in my life.

I didn’t realize that a full closet was making me feel overwhelmed or stressed until it wasn’t that way anymore. It feels so freeing and peaceful to have room to breath in my closet.

I even did a mini makeover on my closet to accentuate and enjoy all the empty space I have now. Who would’ve thought I’d ever have the space or inclination to decorate my closet! I’ll share my mini makeover soon!

6. I’ve learned more about my personal style and preferences

Keeping fewer items in your wardrobe forces you to clarify your personal style. When you have a small wardrobe, everything in it must be something you love to wear and feel great in. You don’t have room in your wardrobe to keep things you only wear occasionally or don’t really love.

Your style and clothing preferences become clear very quickly. It’s easy to see what items aren’t worn often and which items you always reach for. Ideally, your capsule wardrobe should only include items you absolutely love and would be happy to wear every day. However, it does take some time to get there. But having a smaller wardrobe makes it a lot easier to see these patterns.

Figuring out your personal style and preferences takes some time. And it can change and evolve during different stages of your life. Be realistic about your lifestyle right now and what types of clothes you like and/or need to wear the majority of the time. Then build your capsule around your current lifestyle.

Here are some examples of what I’ve learned dressing with fewer clothes:

  • In my first capsule wardrobe, I initially included mostly nicer, casual clothes (think knit cardigans and sweaters) and only one hoodie. It quickly became clear that I needed more than one hoodie because I like to wear cozy and warm sweaters a lot during the winter, especially while I’m at home hanging out with the kids. I made some tweaks to my wardrobe to include one or two more comfortable sweaters to fill the gap.
  • I’ve learned I’m a creature of habit. I own several of the same styles of tops in different colors. I realized finding something I like is more important to me than variety. This might not work for everyone, but it works for me. Figure out your own personal preferences and work with them, not against them.
  • I realized I don’t like mixing and matching my clothes in new combinations. It actually stresses me out. I like to figure out the combinations that work, then stick with those. Boring? Maybe. But it takes the stress out of deciding what to wear for me and that’s one of the big reasons to make a capsule wardrobe in the first place.

Having a small, carefully selected wardrobe allows me to clarify and develop my personal style that works for my lifestyle. I feel confident in my clothes because my wardrobe is made up of my favourite things that I look and feel good in.

7. Nobody else pays much attention to what you’re wearing

I’ve realized nobody really notices or cares what you wear or how many clothes you have. People really don’t pay that close of attention to what other people are wearing. Let this go. Most people couldn’t even recall what someone else wore yesterday, let alone keep tabs on what they wear regularly.

I like to remind myself of this quote:

“What other people think about me is none of my business.” – Wayne Dyer

This applies to life in general, but also if you’re worried about what people think of your wardrobe.

Besides, even if someone does notice what you’re wearing, does it matter? Do your clothes have anything to do with the kind of person you are? No! Your actions and words show the world what kind of person you are. Your clothes have nothing to do with it!

8. Letting go of clothes you don’t love becomes easier

I find it easier to identify and let go of clothes I don’t really love after I’ve put them away for a little while. I stored anything, not in my current capsule in our spare bedroom closet. When I revisited these clothes to put together my spring capsule wardrobe, I realized some time and space away from my clothes makes it easier to decide what I truly love and what is just ok.

A good test to see if I actually love something is when I decide if I want it in my capsule or not. I know anything I include in my capsule will need to be something I want to wear frequently. I ask myself if I would be excited to wear an item at least once a week. Even though I don’t actually end up wearing most things that frequently, that’s the test I use. If I wouldn’t want to wear it that frequently, it doesn’t belong in my capsule and probably doesn’t belong in my wardrobe at all.

Ultimately, I only want to own clothes I love and feel excited to wear often. Letting go of clothes that don’t meet this standard is easier with a capsule wardrobe. Either I notice I’m not loving or wearing something in my capsule because there are fewer clothes for it to get lost in. Or I have higher standards about what to include in my capsule in the first place.

9. A capsule wardrobe makes life better!

A capsule wardrobe isn’t about sacrifice, suffering or deprivation. It’s about making your life easier, less stressful and better overall! It lets you spend less time and energy thinking about and caring for your clothes. Giving you more time and energy for more important things in your life!

I don’t choose to live with fewer clothes to make life harder. I choose to live with less to make my life better!

9 Things I've learned dressing with a 36 item capsule wardrobe
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

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Estelle Stone

Tuesday 10th of July 2018

Thank you for this thoughtful, insightful information. I absolutely LOVE the information that you give us that we can start by putting most of our maybe clothes in our spare closet "just in case". It does make me a bit nervous but I so want to do this. I was just very scared before. Knowing I can fall back if I have to makes this not as scary. I can't wait to start! Thank you!

Simple Lionheart Life

Sunday 15th of July 2018

Yes! I agree that it can be scary when you're first getting started. I love putting things out of sight but not permanently gone to experiment living with less. Once I take away the fear of regretting a decluttering decision, I find I feel much braver and bolder with my decluttering decisions. I'm so happy this little shift has you excited to get decluttering, that's awesome! Thanks for reading and happy decluttering :)

Erin Gravelle MSM

Sunday 31st of December 2017

I would like to remark on #7 especially. I am a Stylist and I dress pretty dramatically and creatively. I have 2 module wardrobes, one for work and one for casual life, each with about 40 items. A first impression is important and people will notice an extreme one way or the other. Being in the middle ground for personal style is where most capsule wardrobes sit. Also, capsule wardrobes do narrow down and solidify a personal style, which people will see as a consistent in your life, meaning you have your life together and are a professional person. To say that people don't notice what you wear is also a part of lifestyle. As a stylist, people constantly notice my wardrobe in that circle. Friends on the other hand could not care less, but that does not mean that it goes unnoticed. I love your blog. It is a really great breakdown of what you have discovered for yourself! I love capsule wardrobes! I never have the feeling of having nothing to wear! And since I;' writing this on New Years Eve, Happy New Year!

Simple Lionheart Life

Monday 1st of January 2018

Thanks Erin, and thanks for sharing your experience and insights. It's very interesting to hear your thoughts as a stylist. I agree that people probably do tend to notice overall how someone dresses, as in their overall style or "look". But the key for me was realizing that people don't notice if I have fewer clothes that I'm dressing from. I worried that people would notice and care that I wore the same top more than once when seeing them. But I have realized that because my wardrobe is fairly neutral, and I can wear the same items in different outfits for different looks, no one really does seem to notice or care what I'm wearing. And another big take away for me after dressing from a capsule wardrobe was letting go of worrying if other people noticed what I'm wearing. Knowing everything in my wardrobe makes me look and feel good has been a great confidence boost so I let go of worrying about what other people think of my clothes. Thanks for reading, for your kind words and again for sharing your insights. I really enjoyed hearing your perspective!


Sunday 24th of December 2017

As I read this I too noticed that I already have capsulated my wardrobe by the regularly used clothes I love and wear. I have a small closet and when it gets cluttered I get cluttered. I, also, just found out I am HSP, something I knew my whole life but others put a name to it " you're so sensitive".

Simple Lionheart Life

Tuesday 26th of December 2017

I think a lot of us dress from a capsule wardrobe and don't even realize it, just like you said. I find having a neat and uncluttered closet makes me feel so much lighter. I can't believe the difference actually. Who knew the number of clothing items we own could have such an impact on how we feel! I think a lot of us HSP are drawn towards minimalism and clutter-free spaces. Thanks for reading and sharing your insights!

Tiffany Alessi

Thursday 5th of October 2017

Did you ever do a post about your closet makeover? If so, please share a link to it with me. I'd love to see how it turned out :)

Simple Lionheart Life

Monday 9th of October 2017

Yes, I did! You can find the post here: Minimalist Closet Makeover

Thanks for reading and let me know what you think of the makeover!


Tuesday 19th of September 2017

This is such a great list- it captures what I've felt and what I'd like to feel as I continue to create my capsule wardrobe.

I did a "25-before-25" challenge (25 things you want to accomplish before your 25th birthday, typically done in 1 year) and this was on my list!

I love these tips and will be pinning to reference again.

Simple Lionheart Life

Tuesday 19th of September 2017

Thanks, I'm glad you enjoyed the post! I love the idea of a "25-before-25" challenge. What an awesome idea. I'd love to try something like this (except it would be more like 35-by-35 for me now lol!) Thanks for reading and sharing your awesome challenge idea!

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