Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Let's Talk About Clothes: Applying the Capsule-Wardrobe Mentality

As graduation approaches, other seniors have been talking about "learning to let go." Moving on with life and leaving those people we have been with daily during four years. As I've been thinking about graduation and moving onto the Next Big Adventure, I have thought about simplicity. I love St. Francis; I love his passion, his reverence for the liturgy, and his simplicity.

I've always considered myself a simple person, but lately, I've been examining myself more critically. It's true that I don't really need or cling to possessions, but do I really detach myself from my belongings? Do I know when to let go of physical or emotional things? It's good to have "prized possessions," or items with "sentimental value"--but lately I've been thinking about how it's important to evaluate myself, and to make sure that I'm not holding onto an overload of stuff.

Simultaneous to all of this thinking, I was introduced to capsule wardrobes. I think that this concept is really cool, and a great way to declutter life, know what's in your wardrobe, and practice simplicity & detachment. Creating a capsule wardrobe appears to be as simple or complicated/expensive as you want to make it.

When thinking realistically about doing a "capsule wardrobe" for myself, I had some excuses to be lazy and NOT do this:

1. Why do I need to simplify? Nearly every clothing item I own has been handed down to me OR I bought it from a store 9 years ago and have been wearing it regularly ever since. 
--Don't I live simply enough already? It's true: some of my favorite outfits have been "favorite outfits" of mine for the past several years. If it's not broken, don't fix it-right? And I never spend any money on clothes, so why worry about simplifying my wardrobe?

2. I'm a "waste-not, want-not" kinda girl. So it's not like I can give away the secondhand clothes that I've been wearing.
--When the majority of my wardrobe came to me secondhand, all of my clothes were in good condition, but had definitely been worn. And when I wear my clothes, I live in them. Which means: running around and climbing in skirts and dresses, cooking, cleaning, and being energetic overall. So, many of my clothes have gotten MORE wear and tear (which is to be expected). Not to mention that I'm very messy, so random clothing items have gotten stained. I don't believe in throwing away clothes, so how can I be expected to downsize my wardrobe without casting away stained, ripped clothing items on others?

BUT, there were also some tantalizing benefits which I thought of:

--What a great way to "practice what you preach!"

2. I LOVE not having many outfits. 
--When I taught Totus Tuus after my freshman year of college, I spent an entire summer with 6-7 outfits that were made of a few different skirts, dresses, and tops. I never had any deliberation about "what to wear," because, well, there weren't that many options. And I loved the outfits I had, PLUS, they were all very versatile and comfortable. And not having many clothes on hand was very, very freeing.

3. Good preparation for The Big Move.
--In a little over a month, I'll be moving several states away. Moving (and packing) can be crazy and stressful. Why not alleviate some of the stress and difficulty now by downsizing?

4. I really don't need all of these clothes.
--It's true: there are plenty of other poor Franciscan students or Steubenville locals who need--or would love--to have some of my clothes. So why not give selflessly to these people when I have been blessed with so much?

After considering my excuses and motivations, I decided that I would keep the "Capsule-Wardrobe Mentality" in mind and downsize my wardrobe. I wouldn't do an all-out purge of all non-summer clothing, but I WOULD critically go through my wardrobe and give away some items. Also, while I am a believer of wearing any clothes I want to no matter what the weather or season is, I liked the idea of making "capsules" to pull out at different times of the year. It just feels like this adds a layer of specialness, organization, and simplicity.

So What Did I Do?

After my daytime classes on Monday, I took a break from academics prior to dinner and night class, and I put on some music (L'Angelus band, which is very upbeat and energetic).

I emptied my closet and drawers, and put everything onto my bed that did not fall into the following categories: workout clothes, underwear, pajamas.

Then, I sorted each item into the following categories: 
Formal Wear/Dirndls (because I don't have much formal wear, and there's no way that I'm giving away my Austrian dirndls at the moment), T-Shirts With Sentimental Value, Summer/Spring, Fall, Winter, and "Give Away."

As I sorted my clothes into these groupings, I tried to have an attitude of detachment when looking at what clothes to put in the "Give Away" pile. I wouldn't spend too much time on a piece, thinking about how much I like wearing it, or asking myself if I wanted to keep it. Instead, I would look at it, ask myself if I could give it away, and, if the answer was affirmative, toss it in the pile and move on. Some of the clothes that I've worn for several years (and that are still in good condition) I threw into this pile, because I need to move on and change things up. As I went through this process, I found myself tossing some really cute clothes into the "Give Away" pile with carefree abandon. Even though I don't think of myself as being too attached to physical possessions, I felt so much lighter and freer.

When I finished going through my clothes, I had a small group of T-Shirts with Sentimental Value, about twenty-two items in each "season" (Summer/Spring, Winter, and Fall), and sixteen items to give away. I know this isn't an astronomical difference, but hey--it made a difference. I carefully folded and packed away the "out of season" clothes, so now my closet is much cleaner, and choosing an outfit this morning was MUCH simpler.

I didn't go as hardcore as I probably could have, but I think it's important to find a good balance of keeping things and letting things go. So far, I really like my "new" wardrobe, and over the next several months, I'll continue to keep a critical eye on it!


  1. I came across this "capsule wardrobe" phenomenon a few months ago, and after giving away 22 things over Christmas, I learned how good detachment is! I'm also not one to buy things for the sake of having them, but too many things that I never wear had collected in my closet. I can't wait to do another clean out when I pack for home!

    1. Allison, that's so great! Thanks for sharing! Last year, one of my Lenten projects was to give away some clothes, but I really like the idea of doing it during Christmas, like you did! I think I'll give that a whirl come December :)