A minimalist capsule wardrobe: hints and tips

I’ve been doing The Project 333 for three years now*.

The Project 333 is all about having a wardrobe that contains 33 items of clothing – or less – and working within those limits to find clothing that fits your lifestyle and meets your needs.

When I first began capsuling, I was not convinced that having less would give me more options, but it has. These days, not only do I own less, but what I own must

  • Fit my colour code of blue and green. I then use black and grey as base colours (for bottoms and shoes etc.), and yellow and coral as “contrast colours” for accessories to give a bit of pizazz,
  • Fit my body, as it is, here and now (no clothing for “when I lose weight”). If I can’t fit into it, it doesn’t belong in my wardrobe,
  • Be of good quality. No cheap, crappy design-to-fall-apart items, and
  • Fit my lifestyle – be items I wear on a regular basis, for the way I live and am active.

Sticking to a colour code has helped me be more selective when choosing items for my wardrobe, and helps all my items work well together. Many wardrobe capsulers do the same thing. Commonly selected colours include black, grey and cream, but you can choose whatever colours you like.

Sticking with clothing that fits is a no-brainer. Before I started capsuling a literal majority of items in my wardrobe were stuff that didn’t fit, or that I didn’t wear for various reasons. Life is too short to have a wardrobe full of too-small clothing that makes you feel bad!

Sticking to good quality helps me look my best. I’m not a fashionista and never will be, but at least when I wear good quality clothes I look presentable, neat and tidy. Nobody ever looks great in cheap, tatty clothing. If you can’t afford good quality items new, but good quality items secondhand instead. You’ll look better than new cheap rubbish.

Stick to items that fit your lifestyle. For me, that’s jeans and merino tops (which are a little bit tidier than t-shirts). Have a wardrobe that works.

It’s fine to break the rules too – if you’re a businessperson half the time and a jeans and t-shirt person the other half of the time, have a separate capsule for each part of your life. In my case, I have a separate mini-capsule (10 items or less) of gym clothing that I only wear for working out.

Myths about capsule wardrobes

  • Capsule wardrobes do not have to be black, white and grey. Yes, it looks pretty on YouTube, but if these shades do not suit you, or you don’t like to dress this way, don’t have a wardrobe full of them! My wardrobe is based on shades of blue and green – my favourite colours – and black is limited. I own nothing white.
  • You don’t have to own “classic” anything! You’ll see so many lists telling you about “must-have classics” and “necessary basics”. None of it is true. Own what works, and what you like. For me that’s jeans and leggings, plus 50s style dresses for summer. For you, that might be something completely different. Base your decisions on your lifestyle, your body and your tastes.
  • Making mistakes is fine. Everyone buys clothing they expect to wear then never do. We all make mistakes. Just don’t keep them! Learn from your mistakes, and pass them on to someone who will wear them. Better yet, return them for a refund if you can. But don’t feel guilty. Everyone makes mistakes. I know – I’ve made plenty!
  • If you’re unsure, box it up! Not sure about letting an item go? Box it up! Then, after three months, if you didn’t need it, it’s probably ready to go someplace else. The exception to this is seasonal clothing such as heavy coats, bikinis etc.

Capsuling is a skill that takes time to learn. Be kind to yourself, and you’ll be so glad you gave it a go! I sure am! 🙂

*You can read what I’m wearing by clicking the Capsule Wardrobe tabs on the top of this blog.

Kids’ clothing: cheap items, or fewer?

Here in New Zealand, you can pick up a brand new t-shirt in kiddie sizes for $4, or a pair of leggings for $6.

You can buy shoes for as little as $10, or $1 a pair in the charity shops.

This is a good thing – from the point of view that no child in New Zealand should ever lack clothing, or leave their home shivering through a lack of clothes to wear.

But cheap clothing can also mean our homes are awash in too many items, and we can’t keep track of what our kids actually own.

More clothing also means – more washing, more storage, and more replacement when cheap items fail and fall apart.

Finding a balance

I believe there are some items worth paying more for, and buying better quality versions of, if you can. If money is an issue, secondhand options of better quality are a great alternative.

I buy good quality: Winter jackets and coats, sunglasses (check they’re safety standard compliant!), sunhats and sun protection clothing (this includes rash vests and swimsuits).

Oddly enough, buying good quality socks is also worthwhile. I’ve found cheap ones just fall apart. Good quality school shoes are a must – buying leather lasts so much long, and is a money saver in the long run.

If you have a child that does a dangerous sport, don’t skimp on safety equipment on body protection equipment either (shin guards, mouth guards, that sort of thing).

It’s also a great idea, while not clothing exactly, to spend a little more on good quality school bags, lunch boxes and drink bottles (non-plastic).

Anything else, buy using common-sense. But I have found that kids need less clothing than you might think, especially if they wear a school uniform throughout the week.

The “F” word…

Fashion! Arrrrggggghhhh!

My kids (12, 11 and 10) are at an age where they’re starting to appreciate the way they look, so I do tend to buy a few upmarket fashion items these days (not too many!) so they feel part of the “in” crowd.

Buying a T-shirt with a trendy image on it, or even a cool bracelet can make a huge difference to how your kid feels about fitting in.

Ditto on the sunglasses here.

Regarding eyeglasses: Don’t skimp on cheap frames, if at all possible. These are an item that your child needs to wear every single day, so choose a pair that they feel good about wearing, and that they feel makes them look good. Be gentle, and a little tolerant here 🙂

A few extra dollars on an item your child will wear 2-3 years is very little on the scheme of things.

Wise decisions

Overall, the key to your child looking great and feeling trendy, as well as being comfortable and warm isn’t owning masses of clothes.

It’s about owning enough good quality clothes that meet their needs.

Thirty cheap, ill-fitting t-shirts will never look as good as five great, well-made ones. And no child needs more than five t-shirts!

Audit your child’s wardrobe regularly with them, eliminating any items in poor condition or that don’t fit. Keep the wardrobe size manageable, with good choices, and your child will be happy – and well clothed – throughout the year.

friendshill_dawniesroom

My minimalist wardrobe: Capsuling through three years

I’ve been doing The Project 333 – a capsule wardrobe programme – for three years now.

It has been a huge learning experience, and you can follow my capsuling trials – and errors! – in the “Capsule wardrobe” tabs in the menu of this blog.

When I first started The Project, I did as suggested and dragged all the clothes I owned out on to the bedroom floor and counted them. I was stunned to find I owned over 200 items of clothing! Most of it I hadn’t worn in ages, a lot of it didn’t fit me, and some of it even had labels still attached.

It was a mess. It reflected my haphazard approach to shopping, my need to self-medicate by buying stuff, and my general dissatisfaction with my body, plus a whole stack of other issues I’ve been dealing with across the years.

They say a cluttered home is a reflection of a cluttered mind. A cluttered wardrobe is no exception.

These days, now I’m entering my third year doing The Project, my wardrobe is sleek and small, and I wear everything I own. When I make a buying mistake – because I still make buying mistakes – I send them back to the shop or sell them as soon as I can, so they don’t become clutter.

But I make far fewer mistakes than I did three years ago. I shop less. I save money. I dress better. Capsuling works.

So here’s my wardrobe these days:

minimalist wardrobe

I got rid of about 30 hangers, but I still have too many spare hangers in my wardrobe – you can see them hanging in the wardrobe here. So more decluttering still needs to be done. It’s an ongoing process for most people. It certainly has been for me.

And my shoes:

I own four pairs of shoes in my capsule. Probably too many. There's also a pair of uggs (slippers don't count) and crocs for gardening (loungewear / gardening wear doesn't count).

I own four pairs of shoes in my capsule. Probably too many. There’s also a pair of uggs (slippers don’t count) and crocs for gardening (loungewear / gardening wear doesn’t count).

Apart from what you see I have one drawer of t-shirts and jeans I own two pair of jeans and four t-shirts), another drawer for my sportswear capsule (I’ll do a second post on sub-capsules), and a drawer for my underwear. Plus some crocs for gardening and a pair of ugg boots for homewear (neither counts in the capsule, according to The Rules of Project 333).

Lessons I’ve learned from three years of capsuling

There’s still room for improvement. That’s just life! I’m still paring down and still learning. But here are some of the things I’ve learned over the last three years I’d like to share:

Quality counts. Good quality costs more, but it wears better, feels better and last longer. I spend more money on items like jeans, jackets, shoes and belts, and it is worth every cent. Especially with shoes!

Fit counts. These days I don’t worry about the size on the label so much. If the size on the label feels too big, I snip it out! 🙂 Instead, I pay attention to how an item fits when I put it on, and especially check leg and sleeve length. If it doesn’t fit properly it is never worth keeping.

Life is too short for broken clothes. If you can afford to not wear broken clothes, don’t wear them! Or get them mended. Don’t ever put up with missing buttons, gaping shirts that are too small, stains on shirts, pilled jumpers, shoes that pinch and frayed collars. Don’t look shabby. If money is an issue, you’d be surprised what is available in secondhand shops and charity stores – especially for men. My partner has bought excellent business shirts in as-new condition for very little (NZD$4 each) by buying secondhand. This world is awash in great secondhand clothing in excellent condition – all you have to do is look.

Accept the body you have. Here and now. Face reality, and be your best self today. This is a tough one. I’ve spent most of my life being unhappy with my body in one way or another. It’s something a lot of people are familiar with. But I know this: wearing a size that is too small, or hiding in shapeless clothes while waiting for that magical day when you’re suddenly “the right size” is a waste of who you are, here and now. Make peace with your body, and wear clothes that make the best of your real, current physical self.

Just because you bought it doesn’t mean you have to keep it. I’ve bought lots of “mistakes” in my life – clothes I liked in the store but when I got them home I didn’t like them or didn’t wear them for some reason. If you can, return them. If not, sell or give them away. Everyone makes mistakes but that doesn’t mean you have to house them in your wardrobe forever!

Nobody notices when you wear the same item more than once. They really, really don’t. Think about it: can you honestly describe what your friends were wearing last time you saw them? Or your co-workers? Most people can’t even recall what they had for dinner last night! (I can’t.) While most people will remember a particuarly beautiful dress or a striking top it’s true, they won’t realise how small your wardrobe is when you capsule. They’ll only remember how good you look (or how bad). So take advantage of that fact and…

Own a small number of beautiful, good-quality, comfortable items you love to wear. Don’t waste your time with a huge wardrobe of meaningless clothing. Choose wisely and well. These days I spend my money on a mix of beautiful dresses and ultra-comfy clothing for casual wear. Everything fits. I wear – and like – everything I own.

Happy capsuling!

Stuff won’t ever love you back

Have you ever noticed that so many of the things we buy are to impress other people?

Did we really need that new car, that huge addition to our home, that fancy wedding we’re still paying off? Is it possible that we really bought them to tell the world we’re a person worth knowing and respecting?

The truth can be tough. I know for me it was.

When we stop and think about why we buy, it can seem as though our whole lives are lived for others, not for ourselves.

Buying stuff to impress other people makes us happy for such a short while. The joy is short-lived, shallow, and ultimately meaningless. It leads to buyer’s remorse, and an empty ache inside that – if we’re not astute – we strive to fill that emptiness with yet more buying.

Surely if the last load of stuff we bought didn’t make us happy, then maybe we just bought the wrong stuff? Maybe more stuff will help? Maybe stuff from a different shop? Maybe stuff of a different colour or style? Maybe we got the fashion wrong? Heck, maybe the problem was us all along!

Spending money on our image works…at first. But have you noticed how quickly we feel dissatisfied with our new clothes, jewellery, makeup? We worked so hard to look exactly like that model in the magazine (with our own personal twist, of course!)…but inside we know it’s a sham.

We’re still the same naked emperor within, no matter what we do.
We know we’re a fake.
We never feel like we ever truly become the perfect human we’ve set out to be.

You can chase the dream your whole life, wasting years and years of energy. Or you can recognise that impressing others, trying to be something we’re not, spending our lives creating an image…it’s all false, all empty. It won’t make us happy. It won’t give us fulfilment.

It’s a dream, a fantasy. Reach out to touch it, and the vision blurs, moves, changes…

Real happiness comes from within, and from the genuine connections we make with other people throughout our lives. It comes from having a strong moral compass and sense of self, built on challenge and drive and struggle. It comes from real work and dedication, and from giving more than we take.

Happiness – deep, soul-satisfying happiness – won’t ever come from stuff. No matter how much stuff you are given, or buy, or own.

So live for yourself.
Live for the people you love.
Don’t live for stuff.

Because stuff won’t ever love you back.

stuffloveback

What to do when your kids want everything…

My kids think: to be popular, they need the latest hair, clothing, bags, accessories, smartphones, laptops, tablets…the list goes on.

I think: If they want anything beyond the basics, they can buy it themselves! With money they earn working. Just like everyone else.

The pressure to conform is really harsh for kids. I get that. Kids go to school then immediately compare their phones, their tablets, their laptops. They compare hair, shoes, bags, jewellery, makeup. It seems endless, and it’s all expensive. And the list of wants never ends. It just keeps on getting bigger.

Their whole world – even more so when they become teenagers – is one giant pecking order of looks and selfies and Facebook Likes and who-has-what and hers-is-better and his-is-newer.

It’s rough.

But that doesn’t mean it’s a parent’s job to pay for it all.

I’m a good parent. I love my kids. They have a great, safe home, and they’re loved to bits. They get all the support and care in the world from us, and they have everything they need. But I do not believe that giving them everything they want makes them better people.

I don’t want to support a society where he who has the most stuff wins. I don’t believe The Kardashians are better people than the rest of us just because they have more, expensive, designer stuff.

I believe a person’s value comes from within, from their heart and soul and mind. Not from their clothes.

I’m old-fashioned that way.

I also believe it is my responsibility to teach my kids the difference between necessities and luxuries.
A basic pair of school shoes? Necessity.
A smartphone? Luxury.

Need versus want. Kids need to learn the difference.

So what I say is, give your kids love, all the love they need.
Give your kids healthy food, a safe home, basic clothes, a great education.

But high fashion? No. If they want it, they can earn it themselves.

valuewithinnotclothes

Capsule wardrobes – for kids!

A capsule wardrobe works particularly well for kids.

Teaching kids to buy fewer items not only enables them to keep their rooms tidier, but it also encourages them to care for their clothing properly and to choose well when buying.

Here’s a basic list, based on the Project 333 capsule wardrobe plan, that will suit most kids aged 2 – 20. I don’t believe that kids need accessories and high fashion items either, not at least until they’re buying their own clothes, so these are purely practical items.

The Project 333 – Kid Style!

Uniform

If your child has a school uniform, here’s a basic list (11 items). This may differ from school to school

  • 2 x shirt / blouse
  • 2 x shorts / skirt
  • 1 x school jersey / jumper
  • 5 x school socks
  • 1 x school tie
  • 1 x school raincoat
  • 1 x school shoes
  • 1 x sports school top
  • 1 x sports school shorts / skirt
  • 1 x sports school shoes

Home – outerwear

Clothing that is all-year-round works best and is better value (19 items)
Raincoat

  • 2 x winter jackets / hoodies
  • 2 x long sleeve t-shirt
  • 2 x jeans
  • 2 x t-shirt
  • 2 x shorts / skirt
  • 2 x summer dress (girls)
  • 1 x winter dress (girls)
  • 1 x swimsuit
  • 1 x sandals
  • 1 x sneakers
  • 1 x jandals or crocs
  • 1 x ugg boots (slippers)
  • 1 x gumboots

Home – underwear and shoes

The Project 333 doesn’t count loungewear, pyjamas or underwear in the 33 item restriction)

  • 5 x socks
  • 7 x undies
  • 3 x pyjamas
  • 2 x onesie

Teaching our daughters to dress well: eight tips

Nobody taught me how to dress myself.

I was a typical teen. I followed along, buying everything my friends said was cool or trendy, never asking myself whether it looked great or was good value.

Occasionally I’d read an article about “backbone wardrobes” or “classic fashion”. But classic fashion didn’t suit me. I look uncomfortable in a suit, awkward in most jewelry, and downright ridiculous in anything too girly!

So I ignored fashion, thinking it wasn’t for me, and all the while dressing poorly, with clothes that didn’t fit well, didn’t wash well, didn’t look good.

Does any of this sound familiar?

These days I dress well, with fewer clothes. Far fewer clothes. I’m experimenting with the ten item wardrobe. Although I’m not down to ten items, I’m on my way.

I’ve figured out what suits me, I buy quality clothing, I’m not afraid to spend money on a single good item, and my wardrobe is small.

If I could go back in time, I’d wish I’d been taught to dress well. I think my mother was as awkward with fashion as I was – as lost in it all, although she always seemed incredibly beautiful to me.

I think she didn’t help me learn, because she’d never learned herself. Had she known, we could both have saved ourselves thousands – and much pain.

So here’s how to dress our daughters well:

1. Learn what colours suit youColour Me Beautiful is a great tool – but don’t be afraid to break the rules. For example, I’m a “Spring”, but I can wear black, as long as I keep it away from my face.

2. Find at least one style of dress that looks great on you, and is cross-seasonal. For me, that’s “swing dresses”: 50s-style dresses that are fitted in the bodice and flare from the hip. I buy dresses in fabrics that can be worn all year round, and dresses warmly with tights and leggings, or cool in summer with just a pair of sandals.

50s style swing dresses can be very flattering, especially for larger women, and those with larger bone structures.

50s style swing dresses can be very flattering, especially for larger women, and those with larger bone structures.

3. Don’t be afraid to buy quality. I’ve bought dresses I’ve worn hundreds of times that are great quality – and t-shirts that were cheap and looked awful or shrunk after just one wash. Cheap often isn’t a bargain – not if you have to replace it over and over, and it doesn’t look great in the first place.

4. Buy quality shoes that are cross-seasonal. My leather ankle boots are worn all-year-round. I look after them, and they look awesome every time I wear them.

5. We commonly dress teenagers in trendy, cheap, ugly clothing. I think teens deserve great clothing that is good quality, even if that means they get less of it. We can either teach our teens to dress well and understand quality and style, or we can encourage them to buy cheap rubbish. I’d prefer to teach my teens style. I think they deserve it.

6. Fit is everything. If it doesn’t fit properly, it won’t ever look good. Check out this Basic Guide to Proper Fit and see what a difference correct fit makes!

7. Make fashion work for you. Fashion comes and goes, but most of it won’t work for your daughter, unless she’s one of those rare people who looks great in practically everything. Teach her to be discriminating. For example, when the “pastels and lace” trend was in a few years ago, it looked terrific on my best friend. On me? Ugh. Sometimes taking a photo in the change room when trying items on can really help clarify things.

8. Buy investment pieces – even as a teenager. An investment piece is any item that lasts more than a season, and is replaced because it wears out, rather than loses quality (shape or stretch, pilling etc.) or fashion. Good investment pieces for teens to begin with might include:

  • Hiking boots
  • Great quality leather ballet flats
  • A medium width leather belt
  • A thick winter jacket or puffer jacket
  • A denim jacket
  • Great quality jeans that fit well
  • A cross-seasonal dress for day wear that fits well. Styles to try might include fit-and-flare, rockabilly, A-line and sheath
  • A cross-seasonal, fully lined evening dress in a dark colour and simple style that fits well.