Saying NO to fast fashion with a capsule wardrobe

I’ve been doing The Project 333 for nearly four years now.

The Project 333 is a Capsule Wardrobe system. It asks us to dress with 33 items, or fewer. The rules are fairly simple:

  • 33 items or fewer in your wardrobe. This includes jewelry, shoes, outerwear and other accessories. Vision glasses, wedding rings and religious items are exempt.
  • Sleepwear, workout wear, underwear, in-home only wear is not included. In my case, I’ve created a “10 items or fewer” Workout Wardrobe, that I use for workouts only. I also have items like nighties, ugg boots and a robe that I only wear at home (of course!).
  • You can box up seasonal wear to keep safe for the next year. This doesn’t count in your 33 items. For me, as it’s winter in New Zealand at the moment, I’ve boxed up my light denim jacket and a couple of dresses, which I won’t wear until summer again.

Stepping off the fast fashion train with a capsule wardrobe

Having a capsule wardrobe enables me to step away from the crazy, unsustainable world of fast fashion.

For a long time I’d had issues with the way fashion was going. Clothing was becoming poorer and poorer quality, while the stories of child labour and sweatshops were hard to ignore. I’m not a full-blown activist, but I wanted what I wore to reflect who I am. And who I am is NOT someone who supports cruelty and abuse.

Fast fashion is designed for profit, not for those who wear it or those who make it. It is cheap to buy, per item, but expensive in the long term. It is not designed to last or look good. Much like a drug hit, it give a quick “buzz” then the thrill is gone, forcing the user to move on to the next hit, then the next.

My capsule wardrobe from a few years ago. Some items have changed, but I still dress with less.

What I wear, what I buy…

These days, about half of my wardrobe is made locally. I buy locally made merino tops that I layer, and I stick closely with a color code of blue and black, with some brights in accessories for interest.

I’m also a fan of secondhand, recycled jewelry. I often pop down to the local Hospice shop, where I pick up cheap jewelry for a couple of dollars apiece. I wear it, then when I’m bored of it I donate it back and buy a replacement from the Hospice shop again. In this way, I’m sharing what I have, and I have an endless supply of great, recycled jewelry I don’t have to store or maintain! It’s a winning strategy!

Inside my drawer. A color code of blue, green and black helps me keep organised.

How a Capsule Wardrobe will change your life

Take a step away from fast fashion. Fast fashion is trashing our planet and hurting people and economies. Taking a step away from the madness is a positive move for everyone.

Buy fewer clothes. Less money wasted, less time spent shopping. More cash left for the things that really count.

A co-ordinated, planned wardrobe. Fewer items are easier to co-ordinate. I also have a color code – blue and black form the basis of everything I wear, with pops of warm colors in accessories (yellow, coral, red).

More money for better quality clothes. Having fewer items means I now have the budget for better items. I can buy three t-shirts at $80 each in merino, instead of 10 t-shirts at $20 each, and I know my better quality items will fit better, look better, feel better and last longer than the cheap ones ever could.

5 great decluttering tips for moving house

We’re moving into our new house in May. And moving is such a great time to declutter!

Here are 5 great, simple tips for decluttering while moving house.

1. Give each of your kids a cardboard box for their stuff.

As long as you’re not moving long distances, you can usually move small personal items yourself, and save a lot of money doing so. So get your kids to put all their personal items they intend to keep in a big box, and everything else out by the front door for charity or sale.

I let my kids keep any money from sold personal items. It really encourages them to clear their items they no longer use! Kids love making money!

I’ve found that inspiring the kids with what their new rooms will look like, and even letting them choose the decor, is really getting them keep to clear out and move. My partner’s daughter is almost as keen on Pinterest now as I am! 🙂

2. Keep a charity box and a “sell” box by the front door.

Sort into one of two boxes as you go. So easy! We like to donate to our local Hospice shop 🙂

Now, create two challenges between the kids of a) who can donate the most items from their room and b) who can throw away the most items from their room. My kids are mercenaries and food or cash prizes are a sure-fire winner! Creating a little friendly competition between the kids can work wonders with motivation.

3. Garage sales and flea markets are great places to declutter.

Some people have enough items to run their own garage sale. I find I can’t be bothered and don’t have enough stuff for a garage sale anyway, so selling through a local flea market works better for me. Check your local council website for markets that might suit you.

One rule: Anything you take to the flea market that doesn’t sell goes to charity at the end of the day. Don’t bring it home with you!

And don’t buy anything!

Photo of New York flea market by IsaFire.

4. Clothing can be checked over while clearing out.

We’re getting our kids to check all their clothing for size and wear while we’re clearing out. It makes sense. Don’t bring items that don’t fit or are in poor shape with you when you move!

If you haven’t tried it yet, you might want to consider giving The Project 333 a go, and try living with a minimalist wardrobe in your new home. Check it out: The Project 333.

I’ve been living with a minimalist wardrobe for three years now, and could never go back to a wardrobe bursting at the seams!

5. Play the “Packing Party” when you move!

Only take out what you need, as you need it, when you arrive. You might be surprised how little of your personal items you actually use! So why not have a “packing party” now you actually have to pack? Here’s a link: The packing party.

Minimalism: the space between the lines

You’ve cleared the clutter, dumped the junk, ditched the rubbish in your home.

Now what?

Minimalism isn’t just about stuff. When we take our first steps on the minimalist path, it seems all about consumerism, saying no to all the stuff we thought we needed but really don’t, and finding the space between the lines.

Minimalism

Minimalism: The space between the lines.

It’s a good place to start, but once the junk is gone, and the habit of unnecessarily buying replacements is dead, it becomes glaringly clear that often our actual lives need simplifying too.

Sometimes we’re doing too many activities. We’re spreading our talents too thin, trying to be experts in a number of fields, struggling to be interested in everything.

Other times we find we’re stretched too thin by others.

Our partners need us, our kids need us, our ageing parents need us, and we’re meant to fit it all in on top of a full time job and a part time job on the weekend. Oh, and there’s that volunteering we do as well!

Minimalism asks us to breathe. To ask ourselves: what serves us best? What makes us happiest? What gives us the most value in return for our most precious asset, Time?

Once you start to see that space between the lines, what is important becomes obvious.

What is essential is invisible to the eye. Only with the heart can we see clearly. Clearing the clutter away opens our eyes, minds and hearts to the truth of who we truly are.

If we don’t have such a big house we won’t need that second job.
If we don’t take those extra classes in a hobby we really don’t enjoy all that much, we’ll have more time to spend with our partner and kids.
And our ageing parents? They won’t be around much longer. Perhaps we should consider spending quality time with them, over volunteering our time with strangers.

Everyone has choices.
So choose wisely. Choose well.
And be happy.

happy beach

When clutter knocks on your door, don’t let it in

Clutter is a disease. It’s a cancer of the heart and spirit that has a firm grip over too many of us, and we don’t seem to be able to loosen its hold.

Like cancer, you don’t even know how clutter took over or where it came from until – suddenly! – your schedule is full, your house is overwhelmed, and your life is an exhausted mess.

If we don’t take control of our lives, deciding what can enter our homes and take our time, and what cannot, everything will take advantage of us.

The result? A life where we are slaves to every item we have a whim for, every activity that comes our way, and every piece of waste that knocks on our door.

Clutter steals away our lives

If we don’t actively choose what we want our lives to be, someone else will choose for us.

I’m not suggesting for one moment that we should go hide under a rock, and pretend the world doesn’t exist.

However, I am stating that we need to actively decide what enters into our lives, starting with what comes in through the front door and the internet.

Learning to say no

Living in modern society means learning to say no to advertising, fashion, buy-me-now prompts, bargain deals, bulk buys, junk mail offers, time wasting specials, you-can-do-it-yourself crafting hobbies… the list goes on.

Navigating the madness means refusing to let other take control of your life, your space, your time – and your family.

It isn’t easy to learn, but minimalism – keeping the best, discarding the rest – is a skill that lies at the heart of controlling the inflow, and maintaining the outflow. It can help restore sanity, free time, energy, space and relaxation to your life.

Capsule wardrobes for changing body weights and shapes

Today I’m going to talk about the five keys to successful wardrobe management for changing body weights and shapes.

Your body might change due to age, lifestyle, or you might be going through repeated pregnancies. Some people yoyo up and down a fair bit, and others are athletes whose weight and muscle mass goes up and down as they compete.

Whatever the reason, there are five keys that can help to plan a capsule wardrobe that will keep you looking great at any shape or stage in life.

The five keys to managing a successful capsule wardrobe when your weight fluctuates are:

1. Know your current body shape – and make peace with it.
2. Keep your active wardrobe small and in one place.
3. Use boxing and storage to manage non-fitting clothes.
4. Stick to a colour palette that works for your skin tone.
5. Ignore garment sizes on labels – they can be very misleading!

1. Know your current body shape and make peace with it.

Making peace with your current body shape can be hard, especially if you’ve changed a lot from how you’d like to be, but it is the only way you can ever look your best.

People always look their best in clothing that fits. If it’s too tight or too loose, or simply feels the wrong shape, it needs to be moved out of your active wardrobe.

Clothing that doesn’t fit properly never looks great. It’s that simple.

You might find you need to go up or down a size or two since you last bought new items. That’s fine. Everyone changes over our lifetimes. That’s normal.

Make peace. Accept your body as it is. It’s the only body you’ll ever have, after all! 🙂

2. Keep your active wardrobe small.

The concept of an active wardrobe is central to those of us who change shape, or whose weight fluctuates.

An active wardrobe consists of everyday clothing items that are relevant to you, who you are, and the current time of year, here and now.

Nothing else, no matter how beloved or how beautiful, belongs in your active wardrobe.

Your active wardrobe is the clothing you reach for, day in day out, to look your best and feel comfortable. It’s your core wardrobe.

Your active wardrobe includes all the items you currently wear:

  • that are seasonally appropriate,
  • are relevant to your location i.e. if you live in Singapore, where it’s hot all year round, your beautiful down jacket does not belong in your active wardrobe, even if it looks great!
  • are a great fit,
  • make you feel great when you wear them, and
  • are in good condition.

If any item does not meet all of these requirements, it does not belong in your active wardrobe.

Managing an active wardrobe is simple: If an item doesn’t fit you right here, right now, today, box it, donate it, or throw it away. Then repeat the process every 2-3 months. I schedule my wardrobe checks in my calendar.

I prefer to hang up everything I currently wear – including t-shirts and jeans – keeping drawer space for underwear, sportswear and nightwear only.

That way, I can see at a glance all of my options at the start of the day.

By hanging everything, clothes stay aired and fresh, and un-creased. I like to use cedar wardrobe hangars to keep moths away, and I have a few bags of lavender hanging in my wardrobe to keep everything extra-fresh.

By keeping your active wardrobe small, you can maintain your clothing properly, and make sure everything is well-kept and in good condition.

If anything starts getting too tight or too loose, or looks shabby, put it into one of three piles:

  1. If it’s great and you want to keep wearing it when you change shape again, store it properly.
  2. If it’s in good condition, but you won’t wear it ever again, donate it.
  3. If it’s in poor condition, throw it away or cut it up for dust cloths.

If you’re capsuling – and I strongly recommend this! – your active wardrobe should be no larger than about 30-40 items, including accessories.

I use The Project 333 to guide my wardrobe capsuling, and it’s awesome, but whatever system works for you is fine.

I find that about 30 items of clothing is plenty for me day-to-day, plus a separate sportswear capsule of about 10 items.

2. Use boxing and storage.

If an item doesn’t fit you right here, right now, today, box it, donate it, or throw it away.

I box my clothes that don’t fit in a big plastic crate which I store in my wardrobe, together with my off-season clothing.

I also put lavender bags and some cedar balls in the crate to keep bugs away.

Because we live in a damp climate, I collect those little silica gel sachets from shoe stores, and put them in my storage box too, to keep away damp. They seem to really help keep my clothes in great condition!

Wherever you decide to store your clothing, check it won’t get damp – ruined clothing is no good to anyone!

Go through boxed clothing every three months, and discard anything that wont be worn again.

Sometimes I’ll bring an old item out of storage because it’s seasonable again, or because I’ve dropped a bit of weight and it looks great again. Other times I’ll decide I’m really never going to wear something again, and I donate or throw it away.

Do whatever works for you. But by keeping items that you aren’t currently wearing out of view, your active wardrobe will remain uncluttered and dressing well will be so much easier!

4. Stick to a colour palette that works with your skin tone.

Understanding the tones and hues that work well on you makes a huge difference in looking your best.

Here’s a quick and easy flowchart to help you figure out what “season” you are with the original, four season system by Color Me Beautiful. A quick search online (or on Pinterest) will give you a full palette of colours and tones that will suit you.

color me beautiful 4 season flowchart

An easy way to determine which season you are, with the 4 season flowchart

You can also choose a set palette of colours to work from. My palette is:

BASE COLORS: Black, Denim
ACCENT COLORS: Blue, Purple, Green
POP COLORS: Coral & Warm Red.

(I’m a “Spring” in the Color Me Beautiful system.)

Choose colours that will work well together and that you enjoy.

A snapshot from Color Me Beautiful. Learning what colors suit you can make a huge difference in looking your best.

A snapshot from Color Me Beautiful. Learning what colors suit you can make a huge difference in looking your best.

5. Ignore sizes on garments – they can be very misleading!

Clothing can vary a huge amount, regardless of the size on the label. This can make shopping online really tricky.

In most cases, when shopping online, you’ll find a “Contact Us” link – feel free to contact the sales staff and ask for more information about the garment, including length, waist size etc. Some brands are known to run large while other run very tight.

As a general rule, American sizes are much larger than European, which are much larger again than Asian sizes. Australian and New Zealand manufacturers are somewhere between the US and the UK in sizing and fit.

Summary

Anyone can capsule, and capsuling works particularly well for people who have a changing body shape to deal with, because so many of our clothes may not fit us at any given time.

The concept of an active wardrobe can make a huge difference. Give it a go, and see how it makes things easier for you!

Happy capsuling!

minimalist wardrobe

My current capsule wardrobe.

Death and clutter: clearing the home of a dead parent

    “When they die, our family members don’t want their belongings to be a burden to us.”

My friend’s father died a month ago. He was elderly, and lived a long, good life, but his death left behind a mountain of belongings for his children to sort through.

It was awful. My friend was still grieving, still mourning the loss of a good man who had meant everything to her, and yet she had to sort through a whole household of stuff, together with her sister.

Her father had kept everything. There was a full kitchen, three full bedrooms of furniture and belongings, and a twin garage that had been a general “catch all” for everything the house didn’t fit. The car had never been housed there – only more stuff.

At first my friend and her sisters tried to keep a few mementos. Then a few more. They shared out the photos, and the knick-knacks, and a few pieces of the better furniture. Then they started going through the old postcards, the old school certificates, the baby teeth. It soon got out of control.

“It got really emotionally draining,” she told me. “After a while, we decided to just sell everything that we thought we could sell, and bin the rest. We didn’t have the emotional strength to deal with it all, because we remembered so much of it, and were forced to deal with all this stuff on top of Dad’s death. Everything we threw out felt like a betrayal of him.”

Even after putting the better items up online for sale, and having several garage sales, there was very little money to be made from selling the belongings. My friend told me she might have made “a few hundred dollars, at most.”

This was a surprise to her. “Compared with the hundreds of thousands that the house sold for, it seemed it was hardly worth it,” she said. “The stuff itself was worth virtually nothing. In retrospect, I wish we’d just given everything to charity. And I think, maybe, that’s what Dad might have wanted anyway.”

The only thing of true value most people own is a house

The truth is, all of the belongings that we own, unless it’s genuine antiques or valuables, are worth very little once they leave the store. They cost a lot to replace, but on the secondhand market they won’t give you much.

The only thing of true value most people own is a house. This is the case, time after time after time.

This is something my Dad – a natural minimalist – knew when he cleared out my grandmother’s house over in England a few years ago.

Rather than go through it all, he simply selected a few items of remembrance and real value (a couple of old photo albums, two paintings she’d done, her jewellery), then gave the keys over to the Salvation Army charity guys.

The charity did the rest for him, clearing out the house and finding items of value to sell and gift to those in need. Grandma had been a Salvation Army member, so Dad knew she would have wanted that.

Then Dad sold the house. Everything was done, easily and quickly, with little stress and with real benefit to a valued charity that Grandma had worked with all her life.

Everything Dad kept for us fit in a small bag. And now, years on, the things we have that belonged to her are all the more meaningful because they are few, and were carefully selected.

Life is too short to spend on death

Life is short. And if I know one thing it is this: when they die, our family members don’t want their belongings to be a burden to us.

Eventually many of us do have to clear out the homes of elderly parents when they die. It’s a common thing a lot of people go through. Here are some suggestions on how to make the process easier:

  • Find trusted friends to help. Their perspective – and cups of tea! – can really help keep things level when it feels like your world is turning upside-down.
  • Deal with food first. Donate everything you will not use to a food bank as soon as possible.
  • Find the photo albums, jewellery and artworks. Almost everything else will likely be of little value. Keep these, if you want.
  • Contact a worthy local charity. Explain the situation, and ask that they help clear the house for you. Donate all furniture, whitegoods, kitchen items, toys, tools and clothing immediately. If necessary, ask a friend to accompany the charity staff while they clean the house out.
  • Ask a friend to deal with other paperwork. Ask a friend to deal with all paperwork other than photos. That includes old school books, certificates, birthday cards, and anything else the deceased may have kept. Don’t deal with these yourself, as it will be emotionally draining.
  • Estate auctions can be useful. If the deceased owned a lot of truly valuable items, estate auctions can help clear things out and earn some reasonable items. My parents own a lot of very valuable antique furniture and china, and I’ll probably go down this route when I have to deal with their passing.
  • Make a will. Make things easier for the next generation. If you haven’t made a will yet, do it as soon as possible. Keep it simple and clear, and don’t bequeath specialist items.
  • Never fight over stuff. People – and relationships – are worth more than that. If your brother, or sister, or cousin really wants something, let them have it. It’s just stuff, and probably worth a lot less than you think.

lovedies