Why (and How) I Chucked 2/3 of My Closet


You read that right.  I recently got rid of most of my clothes.  We're talking church dresses to workout shorts, blue jeans to camis, the whole nine yards.  In one vigilant afternoon sweep, I got down and dirty and did the damned thing and honest to goodness, I have not regretted it once.  I look better, feel better, and may spend the rest of this post not so subtly trying to convince you to do the same.

It's an incredibly freeing experience.  I kinda feel like some ancient minimalistic nomad, roaming around hunting and gathering and carrying Taavi in a papoose.  Who knows, I might show up at your house tomorrow night.  You just don't know with me.

Where was I? Oh right, explaining why on earth you would ever want to do this. Although I'm sure the allure of a nomadic lifestyle is tempting you, I'll try a different angle just in case.

Here's the rundown of my process.  Maybe you'll see a little of yourself in it too.

The Problem
I could blame it on lots of things.  I could say it's because of this awkward postpartum-body stage, I could say it's because ever since I became a mother 6 years ago I've had exponentially less time for myself, I could say it's because we're on a razor-thin budget.  I think the truth is though, that adulthood is long and hard and tiring and most of us just stop caring as much about how we look for awhile.  Until one day we wake up and go, "I used to be a unique person who expressed myself in interesting ways.  I used to mix and match like a boss.  I used to dress for my own pleasure.  Now this is the third day I've worn my husband's t-shirt, and not in a sexy way.  Not in a sexy way at alllllllllll."

I was in a rut, and I was in it deep.  This is what that rut looked like for me:

  • - always throwing on awful clothes because: stay at home mom
  • - saving the clothes I actually liked best for some magical day when a unicorn stops by and takes me on a glamorous adventure
  • - most of my stuff fit badly because of postpartum body changes or simply poorly made clothing
  • - too many clothes to sift through, thanks to my affinity for buying $1 shirts at thrift stores

I had heard about capsule wardrobes before and I liked the concept, but all the rigid structure felt painfully insurmountable to my severely Type B personality.  And yet desperate times call for desperate measures, so when I came across Cladwell - a site that walks you through the capsule process with an ethical, anti-consumption perspective - I dove in headfirst.  (not sponsored! just a fan)

The Ideals
There a few goals that I knew I was striving for with this undertaking:

  • - an ethically sourced closet
  • - buying less made better, not buying more made cheaply
  • - look good and feel good about myself
  • - not working too hard at getting dressed (a cohesive wardrobe)

A Word About an Ethical Closet
The most ethical practice you can apply in regards to your wardrobe is simply wearing garments you already have instead of buying more, regardless of how more could be obtained.  That goes without being said.  But around this blog, when I use the word "ethical" in reference to shopping I am referring to two aspects:

1) that the creation and distribution of the clothes do not undermine the dignity of my fellow human beings (i.e. - fair wages, fair working conditions, and if possible offering more to the employees: microloans, educational scholarships, entrepreneurial endeavors, etc)
2) does not significantly contribute to the culture of consumption (i.e. buying new things all the time) and disposability (i.e. throwing away or donating at an alarming rate)

Am I practicing what I preach? Yes and no.  This is what I shoot for, but honestly I fail sometimes.  But every so often I stop, realign myself, and get back on track.  And I'm doing better than I did 3 years ago.


The Method
Following Cladwell's directives was a great start, and very helpful as handrails in the beginning. They walk you through your best colors and how many of what items you will need for your particular lifestyle.  It's pretty fun, but its $15 and I'm not totally sure it's worth it if you aren't strictly adhering to their capsule mentality.  (Which, I didn't.) Their ethically-sourced shop recommendations are phenomenal though. So many places that were new to me!

I made sure almost everything I owned was clean and hanging up or in the right drawers. EVERYTHING.

I went piece by piece and put every single item into the following piles:

  •      - absolutely love it but doesn't fit (including maternity)
  •      - love it and it fits great and works for the coming season
  •      - love it and it fits great but doesn't work for the coming season
  •      - everything else

I made three categories of storage:
1) maternity clothes that I actually love,
2) a couple of regular items that I really love but don't currently fit
     (A COUPLE. Pick your very favorites to keep in case your body changes in the next year, but don't allow yourself more than that.)
3) things I love that don't work for the coming season.

I tackled the relatively small pile of things that I love, fit well, and are in season.  I did one last purge on the tank tops, pajama pants, t-shirts, and leggings, and then I said hello to my new closet.  (I even intentionally used only my white and silver coat hangers to cut down on the visual chaos.)

I sorted the remaining items into a few different giveaway piles.  I requested a bag from ThredUp (read about that option here), filled it with my best quality stuff, and the mailman picked it up at my doorstep! Easy peesey.  I took the maternity pile to a consignment store in town and the rest of everything I donated to the local thrift store.

that would be sidewalk chalk. errywhere.  c/o one Moses Emmanuel Evans

What I Kept for Fall

Pants: 4 (2 jeans, 1 black slacks, 1 funky print wide leg)
Shorts: 2 (denim and navy)
Skirts: 4 (1 knee length, 2 pencils, and 1 maxi)
Dresses:  3 (nursing-friendly)
Blouses: 2
Short sleeve shirts: 5
Long sleeve shirts: 4
Cardigans: 3
Sweaters: 2
Camisoles: 4
Leggings: 4
Workout clothes: 6 pieces (enough for 3x/week)
Pajamas: 3 pants, 1 shorts, 4 tops
Shoes: 8 (booties in black and brown, converse, 2 sandals, running shoes, 2 pairs flats from The Root Collective)

What I Bought for Fall
  • - relaxed fit tee from PACT Apparel in twilight grey
  • - slim fit hoodie from PACT Apparel (on sale for $20!)
  • - converse all stars (Only afterwards did I find out these aren't made in the U.S. anymore! Such a disappointment!- but still a hard staple to give up. I guess next time I'll look for a secondhand pair or find a comparable sneaker.)
  • - still itching to pull the trigger on one great sweater (maybe the one below from Krochet Kids?) and tapered jogging pants. and Sseko's oxford shoes are amazing, should budget work in my favor some day.

What I Learned

  • - I learned I need much, much less than I realized.
  • - I learned that too many options actually limit my creativity and result in me getting overwhelmed and not trying at all.
  • - I learned that I really don't have to wear stuff I don't like.
  • - I learned that I actually prefer wearing basic clothing and using head scarves and jewelry to jazz it up.
  • - And surprisingly, I learned that when I removed all of the excess, I really like my clothes after all.

From here forward, the most important thing I'm taking with me is to look at my closet before the next season starts and ask myself thoughtfully if I need anything new.  No buying on a whim, no buyers remorse, just an intentional purchase of something I need, something well made that will last a long, long time. That's it.

What about you?  Would you ever do this?  Have you done it?  Give me all the feedback!

(some links are affiliates. thanks for sending a little change my way at no cost to you!)

Someday, the light will shine like a sun through my skin & they will say, 'what have you done with your life?' & though there are many moments I think I'll remember, in the end, I will be proud to say, I was one of us.

(Brian Andreas, Storypeople)