Capsule Wardrobe

A few weeks ago I decided to finally take on the mother of all first world problems: I have so many clothes, but nothing to wear.  I know I’m not alone in this.  According to an article on Huffington Post, the average woman owns around $500 worth of clothing that’s never been worn.  Many people, seduced by the thrill of acquiring, find out just how easy it is to end up with a closet full of things that are rarely if ever worn.  A lot of people, seeking to get more out of fewer things are downsizing and cutting their wardrobe to only best pieces, that can be easily matched.  I ran across an article about Project 333 and began contemplating a capsule wardrobe.  The idea behind the project is to limit your wardrobe to 33 items that are worn over the course of 3 months and then donated or put away, making room for another series of 33 items to be worn in the next 3 months.  Thirty three sounds like a reasonable number to limit your wardrobe to, until you start taking inventory and realizing just how many T-shirts, undershirts and dresses you actually own.  Luckily, the plan is flexible as it only has to benefit you.  I decided not to include underwear, tights, socks, undershirts, coats or work-out clothes in my count.  Still, my total came to 105 when all was counted.  This initial count was 105, even after cutting my wardrobe by half over the summer.

Benefits of owning less clothing:

  • I can invest in few but better pieces
  • I have incentive to make more clothes for myself, knowing they’ll actually get worn
  • I have more room in my closet
  • I now have a surplus of clothes hangers
  • I no longer have to stuff drawers full of clean laundry only to find the drawers won’t close when full
  • I don’t have to worry about what to wear in the mornings
  • I do laundry more frequently and should never again need try and fit 2 or 3 loads on my clothesline
  • I’ll spend less money on clothing
  • Next time I have to pack for a long trip, I won’t have trouble deciding what to bring

I ended up making it down to 40 items by donating almost everything that didn’t fit in my new capsule wardrobe.   I put a box of about 10 things I couldn’t part with under the bed for now.  In the last two weeks I’ve had a great time getting up and not having to even think about what to wear. Even before downsizing my wardrobe was all the same monochromatic grey, more grey, heather grey and black (with occasional breaks of yellow).  After getting rid of a lot of my clothes, I haven’t missed a single thing.  I never needed 4 black dresses in similar cuts, when one would suffice.  I never needed 20 pairs of shoes when I wear the same boots every day.  Now I plan to make more clothes for myself that are better quality and more versatile.

My New Wardrobe:

  • 15 shirts
  • 8 dresses
  • 6 skirts
  • 3 pair of shorts
  • 1 pair of jeans
  • 7 sweaters and sweatshirts

My Plans for Downsizing

When I moved out of my parents’ house and into my own, it took a day’s worth of back-and-forth, bringing boxes over in the back of a pickup truck.  The house I rented is only 600 sq ft but with only a bedroom’s worth of stuff in it, it seemed so empty.  Of course I set out to collect all the furniture and household items I needed to fill it.  After two years of stalking estate auctions and yard sales, I’ve managed to fill it up pretty well. I have just as much furniture as I need, and more nick-knacks than I can honestly justify.  The basement of my house, which I use as a print studio, doubles as storage for my online businesses.  The wall not pictured has floor to ceiling shelving that holds all of my Ebay inventory.  Still, it ends up acting as overflow for all the things I don’t want in my house and haven’t quite managed to part with.  When I was looking through old photos the other day and found one of my basement when I first moved in, I realized just how much I need to get rid of.

For the last few months I’ve been trying to downsize.  The more Jason and I talk about the possibility of moving into a tiny house, the more I realize I have a lot of work to do to get ready for that.  I already live in a small house, but have still managed to fill it with things I don’t need.  So over the course of the next few months, I’ve set out a plan to curb the crap problem.  I’ll be posting updates as I get farther on this list.  A few of these goals I’ve already passed, and have crossed out.  Still, I”m offering up this list to any of you that are also trying to downsize, or just declutter.  Please share some of your own personal decluttering goals to add to the list.

  • Limit wardrobe to only what would actually be worn in 2 weeks time, and a few pairs of comfortable shoes
  • Get rid of the whole shelf of coffee cups
  • Donate enough books that my whole library fits in one (organized) bookshelf
  • Toss the 5 or so broken turntables and instead buy one small nice one that works
  • Stop storing boxes of things in the bedroom when running out of space elsewhere
  • Get rid of the random pallets, kayak, buckets etc. that have to be stored in the almost non-existent yard
  • Limit dishes to a 4 of each piece (no more having 15 glasses, 20 coffee cups, 10 plates etc.)
  • Get rid of the nick-nacks there’s no room for
  • Do something with the things that are still stored at my parents’ house
  • Find a home for the several broken computers I could never part with

If you too are looking to downsize, here are some places that could use your junk:

  • Goodwill – Goodwill is a large non-profit network that operates thrift stores across the US.  I’ve always loved shopping there and feel good about donating because I believe in the work they do.  My local Goodwill has a drive-up donation door, and no matter how much crap I bring them I’m always met by someone friendly who thanks me while carrying my donations off to new uses.  Much of what they don’t sell is shipped overseas in bulk or recycled
  • Local charity shops – A great way to get rid of things and help the community at the same time.
  • Local food pantry – If you’re cleaning out your pantry and have things that are still good but you know you’ll never eat, you can feel good about donating them.
  • Recycling center – You really don’t need to throw away a lot of things you might be tempted to.  Our recycling center takes electronics, cassette tapes, books, fabric scraps, broken window glass and so many other things you might want to get rid of but don’t want to send to the landfill.
  • Your curb or alley– This might not be the best idea if you have neighbors who care, but thankfully I don’t.  This has proven to be the easiest way to get rid of things for me.  Plus I like to pretend that the people who drive by and pick up my worn out chair, lamp, table etc. are going to enjoy them as much as some of the curb-side treasures I’ve found over the years.  I try to limit my curb-side donating to only things that I know neighbors might find useful.  Things that are broken, damaged or dirty, I make sure to recycle instead.
  • Freecycle – A great alternative to putting things on the curb.  If you want something gone, you can offer it up for free here.

How I Spent my Summer Vacation

Last year Jason and I had a chance to stay at Caravan, a tiny house hotel in Portland, OR.  For about the cost of a conventional hotel we were able to rent a 120 sq ft. house built on a trailer bed.  The little house had all the amenities you’d expect and all the charm you could ask for.  Shortly after our stay there we became obsessed with tiny houses.  As soon as we got back we told my parents about our stay and they too became tiny house fanatics.  My dad has always loved building with wood, having built the deck, the fence and many other things around my parents’ house.  My mom had always dreamed of having a cabin in the woods.  They both loved the idea of building something small and cost effective.  So they ordered plans and bought a trailer and in the dead of winter started planning.

Jason and I volunteered to help on the weekends and I must admit I was a bit overwhelmed by the prospect of building a house.  Throughout the process we’ve met many challenges and gotten a chance to use our problem solving skills.  Still, none of the challenges we met were too big to solve with a little time and research.  I dubbed myself the “project worrier” as I scrutinized everything and watched it fall into place despite my ability to worry and over analyze.  Now it’s October and we’d hoped to have it finished but have still made remarkable progress.  We hope to bring it to the place where we’ll park it in the spring. We still have floor to lay down, cabinets to build and appliances to install.  Until then I’ll be counting down the days and crossing my fingers for the arduous trek through mountains to rest this sweet little cabin its spot in the woods.