January 2017 I was getting a little frustrated with myself and my surroundings. A shift was happening. I was changing. As I learned more about yoga philosophy, I was discovering areas where my life was not aligning with my new yoga values. At this time I began teaching less fitness classes and more yoga. This meant I wearing more yoga pants and comfort clothing. More opportunity to align with yoga philosophy. My tendency was to wear the same 5-10 outfits, wash and wear. Yet I had a closet FULL of clothes. Wardrobe squatters. So Mid January 2017 I did a huge purge. After watching some YouTube videos on decluttering, Kon Mari, and purging. I found something called a capsule wardrobe. It also seemed to align more with yoga philosophy. But would a capsule wardrobe theme work for me? And will it work for you? Disclaimer: links in this post may be affiliate links.
What is a capsule wardrobe?
A capsule wardrobe is a seasonal wardrobe of just the minimal items you need for a 3 month seasonal period. Those clothes are the ONLY ones you have in your wardrobe, any out of season clothes get stored away. Under the bed, or in the spare room. So you can see your wardrobe at a glance and decisions on what to wear can be made instantly. This idea appealed to me as I absolutely detest putting away laundry. The number of items allowed does seem to vary depending on the website you visit. The loose rules are as follows:-
- Items included: clothing, accessories, jewelry, outerwear and shoes.
- Items not included: wedding ring or another sentimental piece of jewelry that you never take off, underwear, sleep wear, in-home lounge wear, and workout clothing (you can only wear your workout clothing to workout)
Doing my research back in 2017, I also discovered project 333 which is along the same vein. 33 items of clothing for 3 months. Whichever you pick the idea is the same. Less clothing, less decisions to make, less stress and more time. If 33 seems too few items, you can set your own number. The idea is to be more with less.
How does this align with yoga philosophy?
In yoga there is an outlined 8 limb path. In a previous post I discussed how the physical practice of yoga, asana, is just ONE of those 8. The first, and most important are the Yamas. Five moral, ethical and societal guidelines for living your yoga. The Yamas include:
- Ahima – non violence;
- Satya – truthfulness;
- Asteya – non stealing;
- bramacharya – impulse control;
- Aparygraha – non greed.
Note that these are listed from most to least importance. Meaning if we adhere to Ahimsa, all the others shall follow.
I have come to believe that having less things, clothes, applies in some way to all five of the yamas. Let me explain. By owning/purchasing less I am doing less damage to the environment (ahimsa). Having fewer clothes allows me to walk in my truth (Satya). With less in my closet, a quicker decision on what to wear is made and therefore I am able to free up time for other things (asteya). When I discovered I have over 50 tank tops I realized I had somewhat of an addiction when it comes to workout clothes (bramacharya). Finally, and the most relevant, having things in excess is simply greedy (aparygraha).
Begin with a purge
Before you can begin a project, you need to know what you’re starting with. Whether you’re going with a capsule wardrobe, Kon Mari, project 333 or simply purging. Gather up ALL your clothing and see how much you really have. If you’re anything like me, this will be a HUGE shock. I knew people were managing to live comfortably with 35 items of clothing and here I had 55 tank tops. Houston we have a problem! Yogic philosophy tells us that when we become greedy we lose our ability to see our true selves. After three years living with less I can definitely concur.
Benefits I’ve experienced
Incase you’re already running for the hills at the thought of purging your closet I thought I’d list some of the benefits I’ve experienced since embracing a capsule wardrobe. Even just the purging can make a HUGE difference, if the capsule wardrobe isn’t for you.
- More space in my closet – means I’m less grumpy putting laundry away!
- coordinated items – no more items that have no partners! Everything coordinates.
- More time – less clothing and more coordination, means a quicker decision on what to wear.
- Save money – when you do purchase items you have a plan, and in my experience you stop and think more before purchasing. “How many seasons will this last?”.
- Travel is a breeze now, I can literally fit all my clothes in a carry on. I’ve traveled to Hawaii and the UK with just a carry on bag.
Try Everything On
I cannot emphasize this point enough. Try EVERYTHING on. Even if you know something fits, try it on. How many times have you gone to get ready for the day and pulled out an item of clothing, and not liked the way it looked, felt, or had something be not quite right? Do you throw it out? Nooooo. You put it right back in the wardrobe for another 30 second outing a week later. Tell me I’m not alone in this?
My own personal nemesis was a t-shirt. It was grey so the color went with everything, and it fit well. But, it had something scratchy in the seam on the left shoulder, that despite my sleuthing I could not remove. That t-shirt has had countless outings, only for 2 minutes later to get taken off. It has been washed repeatedly in an effort to remove the scratchy seam. To no avail. Finally I said goodbye, to this t-shirt and multiple other items that no longer fit, or I simply no longer liked. There were also items that I liked, on other people. Just not on me. Off they went to charity so someone else could use them.
Figure out your “seasons”
I live in Southern California, with mild winters. So I have zero need for snow clothes. Unless we go snowboarding. So those clothes get stored for 98% of the year. Here in So Cal though we have a LONG Summer. So in those Summer months I add more swimwear, shorts and cover ups. As an aside this capsule is pretty great for easy vacation packing! In all, this is one area where your items may need to increase/decrease depending on the climate. I’m pretty sure if I lived somewhere with a long snow season I’d be wearing ALL my 40 pieces in one day trying to stay warm. I am not a lover of cold weather.
The “Rules” of a capsule wardrobe
Personally I have a dislike of the word rules, and prefer to think them more as suggestions or guidelines. Some people choose 30 items of clothing, others 33, and others 40. I simply decided to start with LESS. Limiting also doesn’t take into account personal style. For example having jewelry included in the capsule wardrobe is easy for me as I only tend to wear 2 items year round. My wedding ring, and my OM necklace. For those people that feel naked without multiple necklaces, rings, earrings and bracelets, including these in your 30 items might be a challenge.
- Items I include: clothing, accessories, jewelry, outerwear and shoes.
- What I don’t include as part of the items – wedding ring or another sentimental piece of jewelry that you never take off, underwear, sleep wear, and workout clothing (for me this is running/workout outfits and I limit it to three). I do tend to think more about how much of these items I have since embracing this style of living. Dressy occasional clothes (these don’t happen often so it’s my “fancy” clothes lol).
Multiple capsule wardrobes?
The idea of less clothes sounds daunting if you work in an office, or other full time employment. What about those clothes? In this case I suggest having two capsule wardrobes. One for work, and one for non-work. This is exactly what I did for my first year and still do. I created two wardrobes. One for work: a yoga teacher capsule wardrobe; and another for non-work: a casual capsule wardrobe. The two often tend to blend too, which is nice. The idea remains the same though, 30-40 pieces of clothing per capsule. My work is teaching yoga so 7 pairs of yoga pants/Capri’s is warranted. If you do yoga twice a week you don’t really need 7 pairs! Two is probably plenty.
Creating YOUR capsule wardrobe
We’re all different so make sure your wardrobe works for you. As with all things in life really. What you’ll discover as you build capsule wardrobes is that you have staples that don’t change season to season. A favorite pair of jeans or a classic black tank. Those are perhaps wardrobe staples. A fun slogan t-shirt or beach playsuit might be things you wear for the Summer season. Same with winter sweater, not much use for that in 90 degree heat.
There are many ways to create your seasonal capsule wardrobe. Let’s explore a couple. As we’re heading into Spring let’s assume we’re doing a Spring capsule! I often go for layers rather than one heavy item so here’s a sample list of things you might want.
- 2 skirts
- 4 pair Jeans/pants
- 2 pair Capri’s
- 2 dres
- 3 sweaters
- 5 tops/shirts
- 5 t-shirts
- 1 pair sandals
- 1 pair tennis shoes
- 2 pairs boots
- 1 bag
- 1 Jacket
- 2 zip up hoodie/lightweight jacket
See when you write it all down that seems a lot right? Yet, it’s just 31 items for a SEASON. Think you need more? How many times have you packed for vacation and not used a half of what you took? Like I said I survived easily with a carry on in the UK for 2 weeks in fall. Personally for MY personal wardrobe I’d skip the dresses and go for more pants/jeans. That’s more my style. Go with your style and needs.
If you have the space, another way to see what your actually wear is to put everything into a second closet/room. Then as you wear your clothes put them through the laundry and hang in your regular closet. Essentially it’s like going shopping in your own closet. By the end of a couple of months you’ll find you tend to wear the same thing over and over.
My version of a capsule wardrobe and purging further
As I was decluttering and Spring finally arrived, I didn’t have the extra room for other seasonal clothes in my closet. So I placed all non-Spring clothes in totes under the bed and hung everything back in my closet with the hangers backwards. When I wear and wash, I replace the items back with he hangers the “right” way. I now hang things this way every new capsule/season as at the end of the season I can see immediately what didn’t get worn.
For those that haven’t done this it’s a real eye opener, even if you don’t do a capsule wardrobe! Even if just once a year you do this one hanger trick you’ll see immediately, what you are NOT wearing. If you haven’t worn it in a year does it really need to be in your closet? Even if you still want it, maybe it needs to get stored instead. The idea is that only the clothes you need and use are in your closet
I even applied some of the guidelines to our under bed storage. I have three totes under the bed and each one could represent a season not currently in use. What I chose to do instead is lump winter/fall and spring/summer together and the third is for dressy clothes. At this point a few years into this system it’s working well. I’ve also noticed I’m more inclined to purge clothes after each season.
Three Years later
After three years living a more minimalist wardrobe I absolutely love it. I used to hate putting laundry away, now it’s a breeze. The most shocking for me was my workout items. I didn’t include workout clothes in my capsule as it was my job, now they have a capsule all of their own. Thanks to the hanger trick, I discovered that I had a lot of items I never wore. I mean NEVER. Namely gym t-shirts. I tended to wear the same few over and over. A final thought about this has been the difference to our trips. I used to be a constant over packer with a “just in case” mentality. Now I’m able to go carry on only, and say to hell with it. We’ll manage. This year we did a 10 day Hawaii trip and 2 week UK trip, with carry on luggage only! Travel light through life!
My advice is to try it! It’s such a less stressful way to live. I have more time and energy to do other things. I’ve also caught myself on a couple of occasions in Target, with clothes in my hand. Almost buying things for no reason. Realizing, and putting them back!!! This alone is a huge benefit for me. I only buy things I need for each season now rather than just because they look fun. How many times have you been to the store and ended up buying things you never went in for? And then never worn? Imagine the money you could save! I can count on one hand the amount of clothing I’ve bought in the last year. Honestly, I believe it’s a way of living your yoga practice. I love it, and suggest everyone try it! Even if just for a season or two.
- Have you purged your clothes recently?
- Do you have a capsule wardrobe?
- How do you think life would change with less clothes?