Faith

5 Steps to a Capsule Wardrobe: February’s Living with Less Challenge

Closet

For those of you who follow me on Instagram, this week you witnessed my closet go through a major overhaul. In an effort to live with less for the month of February (see previous post explaining why), both Jeff and I decided to get rid of over half of our clothes. (We both managed to reduce our clothing to 40 items each) Originally, I did not think that I would be able to embrace the idea of a capsule wardrobe. However, the more ruthlessly I started tearing apart my closet, the more attainable the idea became.

One of the practical ways we decided to practice contentment was to minimize the discontent that surrounded our closets. (In case you’ve missed it, one of our family’s core values is contentment. To avoid being redundant, check out my blog post here about what our core values as a family are.) Personally, I wanted to also enjoy my wardrobe again.

When we first moved into our house over a year ago, we couldn’t believe how tiny the closets were. Originally when we started looking at homes, we refused to look at anything that didn’t have a walk-in closet. Our priorities began to shift when we realized that any house with a walk-in closet that we could afford tended to be situated on a postage stamp-sized lot. (Our main reason for moving was to have a back yard for our girls.) So the walk-in closet got axed off the list. We knew that the closets were small prior to moving in, but it became apparent just how small they were when we attempted to stuff our stuff in them. (Houses built back in the 50’s have smaller closets. Usually. Probably because the people back then lived a much more simplified life than we do now.) In desperation for more space, the bedroom closet that Jeff and I shared quickly started morphing down into the spare room closet. And the coat closet in the entryway. And into totes in the basement. Someday! We kept telling ourselves. Someday we’re going to build the most awesome master suite, complete with a walk-in closet you can play football in.

The reality was, each morning I’d stand in front of one of the three closets that housed my clothes, baffled by indecision. Or completely frustrated that I had absolutely nothing to wear. (Ever get that? Where you have so many clothes to wear that it seems like you have nothing to wear?) Finally, with a huff, I’d usually pick up the clothes discarded on the floor from yesterday and put those back on. (Clearly if they were good enough for me to wear yesterday, then they’d be good enough for me today too.) The only time anyone saw my “nice” clothes was for church on Sunday or Coffee Break on Wednesdays. Otherwise, the idea of putting together an outfit was plagued with too much indecision.

As well, because my clothes were residing in three different locations, I often forgot what I owned. This resulted in me purchasing not one, not two, but three burgundy maroon tops that looked almost exactly identical. What a waste of money! And space!

With all these clothes also came a mountainous pile of laundry each week. It’s inevitable that the more clothes you own, the more clothes you make dirty, which simply boils down to more laundry. Or, if not more laundry, then definitely more folding. (Maybe some of you enjoy folding clothes. I, for one, loathe it.) I had drawers that refused to shut properly because there were too many clothes in them. They’d quickly get jumbled, so then I’d be back to square one, folding and organizing clothes that I simply didn’t wear. What a waste of time!

Something needed to be done.  I was spending time, money and space on something that was bringing me only discontent. And discontent was the pure opposite of what we were trying to mirror as a family. Time to pull up my socks (I had over fifty pairs to chose from) and get to work.

Step one – open the closet door. Just go ahead and do it. (In an attempt to make our small closet appear bigger, the previous owners installed a fluorescent lighting system inside the closet. Truth is, the closet does not look bigger. It just flickers now like a horror movie. Our closet kind of freaks me out a bit.) It’s kind of like that saying where the hardest part of going to the gym is putting your shoes on. For me, the hardest part was just opening up the closet door and facing that mad conglomeration of clothes cascading down on me.

Step two – start taking clothes off of hangers and sort them into three piles. I called my piles 1) Keep, 2) Repeat, and 3) Eek! (I hope by now you have it firmly established in your mind how cheesy I am.) Obviously pile one was clothes I was planning on keeping. Pile two was clothes I was on the fence about. After I’d gone through my entire wardrobe, I ended up going through that pile again (repeat) to see if these clothes were truly bringing value to my life. And pile 3 was terrifying. (For me, that pile consisted of a lot of leopard print. I’m not ashamed to admit that I went through a phase. For Jeff, that pile consisted of clothes from grade nine. Grade nine!)

In order to determine what articles of clothing were deemed “safe,” I kept asking myself how each particular piece of clothing made me feel. If I didn’t feel beautiful or confident in whichever piece I was examining, it got chucked. That was obviously easier said than done. Surprisingly, asking myself whether I felt beautiful in each one of my garments opened up areas of vulnerability about how motherhood and age has changed my body over the years. (The “Mom Bod” struggle is real. Trust me when I say that your body doesn’t necessarily bounce back to it’s 23 year-old counterpart after giving birth to ten pound babies.)  I had to remind myself, as I tore into each item in my closet, that I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Striving towards an attitude of contentment in my wardrobe actually unearthed harboured discontent about the way I view my body. Undoubtedly, I need to prayerfully seek contentment in the way I view the fearfully and wonderfully made body God gifted to me. (Apparently this contentment thing has many layers!)

Step three – squish everything you’ve eliminated from your closet into totes and take it to your nearest thrift store. Thankfully, I have the opportunity to volunteer at our school’s thrift store (The Perfect Find) so it’s easy for me to load up the van and take it there on my next shift. Originally I had stated that I would keep the eliminated clothes down in our basement until the end of the month. Once the month was up, I’d go through the clothes again to see if there was anything that I had absolutely missed. But you know what? Once I saw how much space was in my wardrobe, once I saw how much I actually really loved the clothes that remained, there was nothing that I wanted to do more than to get those overflowing totes out of my sight.

I know that I’m only two days into a living with a capsule wardrobe, but already I feel lighter. So far, getting dressed every morning has been fun. I feel like the clothes that remain have been given a face lift. And I definitely don’t feel guilt about owning clothes now that I never wear!

As I move forward, I know that maintaining a capsule wardrobe will have it’s challenges. Personally, I know my biggest struggle will be resisting the “good deal.” I’m a born thrifter. I volunteer at a thrift store for fun, for crying out loud. Every time I work a shift, I come home with something. (If I’m being brutally honest, I worked a shift there last night and I came home with a pair of jeans. Maybe two pairs of jeans. For myself. Thankfully, I have a husband who is frustratingly a rule follower. As soon as I came home last night (trying to hide my bag full of jeans), he asked me “What’d you get?” When I sheepishly answered, he just looked at me and said, “So what are you going to get rid of in order to keep those jeans?” To be fair, I realized after clearing out my closet that I don’t own a pair of jeans. I need a pair of jeans. However, I don’t need five pairs of yoga pants. So I’ve done a swap.)

Maybe that should be step four – get a capsule wardrobe accountability partner. I guess in one way it’s a blessing that Jeff and I don’t have his and hers closets. He sees exactly what goes in and what goes out. He’s also good at calling out my bluff. It’s much harder for me to “sneak” something in when we share the same real estate.

Most importantly, though, I need to cling to step five – keeping focused on what truly matters. Luke 12: 27-28 says,  “Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith!” What a reminder to practice contentment, to live a life with less! God has already given us so much and yet we think that attaining more and more and more will somehow make us happier, more attractive, more desirable. More. More. More. I don’t know about you, but the word “more” just makes me tired. If gaining contentment in the way I view my wardrobe is one small way that I can eliminate the need for more, then I’m ready to live with just a little less. 

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