152. How to declutter the closet to make a capsule wardrobe (that works with your life)

In order to do my capsule wardrobe challenge (#moms30for30) I decided to do a big closet declutter. I’m sharing my takeaways and tips to help you do that big clothes declutter, make refined decisions about what stays, and have a strategy to build up a capsule wardrobe that WORKS FOR YOU! Cause, you need a wardrobe that works for your lifestyle,  your taste and your body!

The steps of my recent big closet declutter:

  1. Precontemplation: motivation, conviction, paying attention to what is there, considering the style vision you have for yourself
  2.  The total closet clear-out: considering do I NEED more clothes?
  3. Approach to choosing what would stay in my closet: what stays vs what goes,  refining my closet, choosing items I love
  4. Questions to ask to decide what stays: versatility, fit, personal style
  5. How to consider your lifestyle when choosing what clothes to keep: hobbies, activities, weather, job, your seasonal lifestyle, how you want to feel in your current life, etc. 

Approaches to building a capsule wardrobe:

  1. Focus less on numbers and meet yourself where you are at
  2. Seasonal rotations 
  3. Creating uniforms (owning it and making ones that work for your lifestyle) 
  4. How to handle the clothes you are decluttering (the safe option vs the one that is hard for us)
  5. Consider how you like to interact with fashion (room to play vs sticking to simple and timeless)


The steps to build a capsule wardrobe that works for your life

  1. Keep what you LOVE
  2. Keep what you feel good in (fit, style, shape, colour)
  3. Keep clothes that work for your lifestyle
  4. Spend the time getting to know your closet and learning how to put outfits together
  5. Make some uniforms you can have as go-to outfits
  6. Consider the ‘gaps’ items that you want to bring in. 
  7. Shop with a list, shop mindfully 
  8. Don’t buy into the urgency to have a perfect capsule wardrobe tomorrow 


How to join in the #moms30for capsule wardrobe challenge (Feb 1st!)


Episodes mentioned:

Episode 151. Capsule wardrobe challenge #moms3for30

Saturday morning chores

Waves of decluttering, How I Started Decluttering (+ tips and insights)

Episode 90. Declutter ‘what if I need it one day?’ items from your home with THIS shift

Episode 104. Dress like you are 30

read all about the past #moms30for30 here


Full transcript

my aim is to help you simplify. And that really means removing those distractions, those thoughts, those stories that distract you those habits that distract you those things that distract you. And to start to fill your space and your life and your mind with the things you want to keep.

And we’re talking about clothes, shopping, I mean, we can get deep. And you know, it is kind of a deep experience to really start analyzing your relationship to your closet, how you’re dressing yourself each day. But I want to continue on the theme of the capsule wardrobe challenge.

So last week, I recorded an episode that I would be doing the capsule wardrobe challenge the mom’s 30for30. This is the challenge that I’ve been doing since 2014. This will be I think, time number seven that I’m going to do it. And we call it the mom’s 30 for 30. Because it is for kind of just that regular old mom life that we’re living. And we’re gonna wear 30 items of clothes for 30 days. So go back and check out last episode, if you’re interested in more info on that more encouragement around that.

But I did let you know that as part of this process for me, I was going to be doing a big declutter of my closet. And I shared it on Instagram. I shared it in the Facebook group. I did it this past weekend. So I’m going to follow up with an episode on how I did my Declutter. And you guys had some questions around how I made my decisions. So I want to tell you all about that. And then end it all with some real practical tips that I’ve learned over the years, on how to approach making a capsule wardrobe for yourself.

So I’m going to go through the steps that I went through while I did this big declutter my closet. And I think it’s been quite a number of years since I did the declutter of this magnitude in my closet, probably a good six years maybe.

So as with most decluttering, as with most things we’re working on, it always begins with pre contemplation, that’s just thinking about it, planning it, like getting ready to do it thinking, yep, this is what I want to do, I’m going to be doing this thing. And this is also a stage where you can really start to ramp up motivation for yourself. So I talked about this, in the last episode that I was becoming really motivated by looking at my closet and being really unhappy with the state of it, it was a mess, there was many non closet items in there. And there was also I noticed just this mishmash of clothing options, that had become overwhelming to me, and it was starting to take me a long time to get dressed. And when I give myself the solution that I should just go buy new clothes, I know that I’ve become overwhelmed by what’s there. And that I need to address that.

So I had a bit of conviction, right? Because I was feeling this urge to just go buy new options. Instead of dealing with the options that I have right in front of me watering my own lawn, so to speak, the grass was looking greener.

So also part of pre contemplation is starting to pay attention. And I was paying attention to my clothes throughout the week. So I would look at things I haven’t worn in a while. And I would put them on and wear them for a few hours around the house and start to think Is this something I like? Is this my style? Is this something that’s comfortable? So I was thinking a lot about that. And I was also noticing as I asked myself, Is this my style? That this was something that was a new answer for me than it had been in the years past. Because learning your personal style, learning the style that you want to use to express yourself and your personality, and that makes you feel good, and that you kind of are drawn to.

In the past, I had done this exercise. And I think we had it in our Facebook group some years back, we were sharing screenshots of our Pinterest boards. And we were naming one another style and what I had considered my style maybe some years back, it is maybe evolved into something a little bit different now. So I wanted to have a refreshment as well, which meant looking at my clothes and saying Does this fit my new definition? If I’m looking at my new Pinterest board and my favorite looks and I can see a little bit of a theme there with like the styles and the silhouettes and the colors, does what I have right now today kind of reflect this direction that I want to be going. So that was all the pre contemplation stage.

And then Saturday came Saturday morning chores if you’ve heard about that, in an old episode, I’ll link that in the show notes. Saturday morning chores is when things are just gonna get done. I put on my sneakers, I have the coffee, the music is going and whatever chores are kind of on my list. That’s what I want to pay attention to. If we don’t have hockey and thankfully, there was no hockey this weekend. So I was all in and I didn’t really give myself a timeframe for this but I will let you know ahead of time that I spent two hours doing all of this going through all my clothes, trying them on everything. And then about half an hour just put everything away like all the different piles I had made, giving them a home. So that’s just a heads up.

So my first step, and this is something that many minimalist and decluttering blogs will recommend is to take everything out. I took everything out of my closet, and my drawers that had all like my T shirts and workout stuff and my collection of sweatpants. And I put that all on my bed. And doing that I shared this on Instagram as well, that was a wake up call. Because I look at that pile that mountain on my bed. And I will ask myself, okay, let’s say theoretically, I have 15 sweaters, eight cardigans, nine long sleeves, like you get it. How long could I clothe myself before I have to do laundry. I mean, I’d run out of underwear, but I would not run out of options. And to me that feels excessive. That feels like okay, logically speaking, I do not need more clothes. And I always like thinking about how it was for our grandparents, how it was when fast fashion and cheap fashion wasn’t just this thing that we were always going out to buy more of and online shopping, and you have to get the latest. And I like to think about what their closet must have been like, probably pretty simple. And I I just really love that image.

So I was asked about my approach to choosing what I kept. So when looking at the clothes that I had, I noticed that i Yes, I’ve decluttered my closet a number of times, but there are still clothes that I was keeping that they were making the cut, and I still wasn’t wearing them. And I really wanted to be quite firm. Now I really wanted to go from like, I usually say that decluttering is going from like the no ways. And you’re like getting rid of all those in your life like no way doesn’t belong, and then you’re getting rid of like the meth, I don’t really want it and then you’re getting rid of, okay, that’s pretty good, but it’s a double or I never use it. And as you go through waves of decluttering, you’re refining and refining, until you’re choosing between like, good and the best. And so I really wanted to push myself to kind of go up a level.

And I think it really helps to have a goal in mind when you’re decluttering. And this time, my goal was keep what I love. I also shifted my mentality from what am I getting rid of what doesn’t belong here anymore to what am I keeping? And I like to think of it like, you know, I talked about packing for a trip, you pack exactly what you want and what you’re going to need for that trip. Can you see how that would be such a different approach between putting everything in your suitcase, and then just pulling out a bunch of knows that you know, like, I definitely don’t want this. You’re getting rid of less this way, right? So choosing what stays what is really the best what I really want to be making use out of.

Okay, and that criteria is pretty good. Do I love it? What stays, but I still needed some more because I could love something and it’s probably not gonna work in different ways. So one way it couldn’t work that I have to consider is does it fit like do I like how it looks on me? I tried on most all of my clothes and took some dorky pictures, send them to my mom besties Thank you ladies. They voted on a few items that I kind of wasn’t sure on. And can you tell when you have a really good friend who can tell you an honest no like don’t keep it. I really value that kind of loving honesty in my life.

And then I also wanted to think can I make more than one outfit with this? I might have a shirt I really love and it looks good with a certain pair of pants. But can I wear with other pants like is this gonna work in more than one way and I can see oh I just love this shirt so much I’m going to keep it even though it only works with one but I really kind of want more versatility and more more traction out of what I’m keeping.

A big component about considering a capsule wardrobe is lifestyle. And when I first started a capsule wardrobe some like years ago, I was a stay at home mum and my I was home with my kids. And now I’m a work at home mom my kids are in school and I compare my lifestyle then and now. It’s interesting that as a stay at home mom with like three kids under three and a half I was going out way more often almost daily. As a stay at home mom, I was taking them on stroller walks to the park to like Kid activities, whatever. But now, like no, four years later, five years later, my lifestyle is quite different. So your lifestyle includes the climate, you live in your job, your hobbies, the outings you do on the regular my regular outings this winter, I drop my kids off at hockey, and I’m bundled up in a coat and boots. I go to church. That’s about it. That’s my exciting life guys, and I’m working from home. So I don’t need a wardrobe full of date night options right?

I want to consider the lifestyle I have for this season and I really like going season by season so like this winter this spring, what’s my lifestyle going to be like? I don’t I don’t really want the pressure of making permanent decisions. I just want to consider this next three to four months of my life. What do I want? And what do I need? When we look around on Pinterest at capsule wardrobes, it some of them are really beautiful and really inspiring. And really pretty outfits. And I just think, maybe that’s their lifestyle, but it’s probably not my lifestyle.

So yeah, I still want outfits for like a weekend away with my husband or, and they don’t want the girls are a special activity. But I don’t want to build up an entire wardrobe of those things. The other thing to think about with your lifestyle is choosing clothes, that make you feel how you want to feel in your lifestyle. So even though I’m at home, and I’m sitting at computers and doing schoolwork, I want to feel comfortable. But I also want to feel sometimes, like professional or put together. So I still want to choose items that can do both of those for me. So this is my this was my filtering process of what I kept what was gonna stay, do I love it. Do I like how I look in it? Does it represent me, my personality, my style? Can I wear it in a few ways? Does it fit my lifestyle?

And at the end of all of this, these are the piles I ended up with. So the first thing I did actually didn’t mention this is I pulled out all the summer stuff, all the tank tops, all the summer dresses, and I just put them to the very back of my closet, even though it’s just one straight, like six foot rack, I put them all the way on one. And I’m going to deal with those in the spring, I had a big giveaway pile, I filled up an entire giant garbage bag, there was one shirt I held on to that I want to try and work it’s kind of like my maybe. And then there were a few quality pieces, unique pieces that I knew I wasn’t gonna wear anymore, but I thought they were kind of cool or special. And you know what, I actually have this bin under my bed of these clothes that I pull out and give them to linearly by as they grow into them. Like Levi wears an old mud bogging shirt that I went to when I was a teenager Linnea wears my old Christmas sweater. So I kind of like that idea. I remember having some clothes that my mom had passed down to us that were just kind of fun to wear.

Now when all this talk about capsule wardrobes, there’s a few things I want to keep in mind with how you can approach it. And the first thing I want you to feel is just a relief that you don’t have to worry about numbers, it’s not about having 20 items having 30 items, it’s just about having what you like. So if you have 200 items, or 20, it doesn’t really matter whatever you want to feel, even if you feel like this is just a starting point for you to reduce it a little bit. Just start where you’re at meet yourself where you’re at

one approach that I’m really starting to embrace. And I don’t know why I hadn’t done this before, is a seasonal rotation. I mean, I live in Canada, I have four distinct seasons, even my Pinterest boards are seasonal styles, right. So usually I just have everything in my closet all the time, all of the options. But this time, moving that summer stuff to the far end of my closet, it felt like a relief to just get it out of the way. And I know from just doing this kind of thing with my clothes that anytime I pack away clothes, it’s exciting when I bring them out again.

Another approach that some people can take and it can work with the seasonal approach as well is to make uniforms, like uniforms that you wear, for what you’re doing for like the Monday uniform that I don’t know if you’ve noticed this about yourself, you probably are putting uniforms together anyways, you’re probably kind of wearing similar things to similar events. And maybe we might feel like we’re in a rut, or maybe we could feel like I’m just gonna own it. I’m just gonna own that. This is the outfit I like to wear and I feel good in it. One worry that we have is that people will notice and they’ll be like, Oh, she’s pretty much like Smurfette with her closet of repeats. But the reality is nobody really notices. I shared this in the past that a while back, I wore the same three outfits to church that I repeated. Nobody noticed. Right? You can. No one’s gonna be like, Hey, I remember that outfit from four weeks ago. No one really notices as much as we think.

So consider your lifestyle. Consider how many events you go to in a year, how many vacations, how many outings you do, and start to put together some uniforms that you like for those situations. Another question is what to do with the clothes you are decluttering there’s some different approaches one that feels safe, is to box it up and put it out of the way like I’ve done that, put it in the storage room. And then when we’re cleaning out the storage room every season or like going in there for something, I’ll pull that out. Usually I’ll go into that box for that big and and pull something out to give it another try. But I do want to encourage you know that when I’ve totally let things go, I’ve never really missed anything, which I think a lot of us worry about. We worry that we’ll give something away and we wish we didn’t. There have been times where I was like oh Oh, that shirt I used to have or it’s you picture something? Yeah, I could totally still be wearing that. But I don’t want to live like that I don’t want to live with this kind of like scarcity mindset that I’m going to need it one day, I have an episode on that. I’ll link to that in the show notes. If you’re interested in the what if I need it one day decluttering dilemma.

Another consideration I want you to make is how much you like to play with fashion and clothes. For me, I felt a lot of pressure at first when I was decluttering to have very few things, very few things and stick with them. But I really do like to bring new items in I like the excitement of it, I like to play with it. Usually it’s Hami downs and thrift store items. But I realized that I had to let go of that pressure to commit to these clothes for the next five years. And maybe you feel that way about your clothes, maybe you like to give yourself permission to bring things in from time to time to bring things in seasonally to bring in new items.

Or maybe you’re the kind of person who just wants a timeless wardrobe. You just want what you love what you feel good in, you just want to keep it simple. So spend some time considering how you want to approach that. Do you want to keep things simple and timeless and just focus on that and, and kind of focus on building up that quality wardrobe of items that you love? Or do you want some room to play either way, just take yourself off the hook to not put yourself in the box.

So using all of these steps, all of these steps, we’re building a capsule wardrobe, and I’m going to just recap them for you. Add in a few more points about building your capsule wardrobe.

The first is declutter what you don’t love. And this is kind of a shopping rule for me. I only buy it if I love it. I’ve filtered out a lot of maybes in that process.

Know your style. Know your shape. Know your colors. Like I said if you’ve made a Pinterest board, what themes do you see? How do you want to come across when you dress what makes you feel like you and then consider shaped like what looks good on you. I know we could love something but then we put it on and we’re like, I’m not selling this. So I’m five, four. And if I wear like a peasant shirt, which I think is a really pretty type of shirt. I look like a seven year old from the olden days. But I have like a five nine friend and she’s just like this tall drink of boho water. She looks so sophisticated and like whimsical, I love it on her.

Consider colors. Some people will tell you to choose a couple of colors and build your closet around that. Whatever just wear colors you like look for ones that pop on you. And also pay attention to colors that you’re wearing in pictures, because some of them can be really bland and wash you out.

Like we said earlier, consider your lifestyle, like don’t have an outfit full of work clothes and date night options. If that’s not your lifestyle right now. Spend time putting outfits together. This is why we’re doing that 30 for 30. Again, it helps you get to know your closet, it helps you shop your closet.

And consider what outfits you want in your life. If you like the uniform approach have like three, go to date night off options then, like if you have all these options for date night clothes, pick your favorites and then let go of the ones who keep on the backburner as options because you’ll probably never end up reaching for them anyway. As you’re going through your closet as you’re going through your clothes as you’re considering your style. Okay, it doesn’t have to be overwhelming guys, I just want to make sure you know that there’s no timeline, there’s no right way there’s no wrong way.

But I continuing on with this, there are going to be some items that you’ll start to think, oh, this, this is gap, I could use this certain type of shirt or I could use this style of pant. So start to pin some ideas for that item, add them to a shopping list. Because when you do want to shop now you want to be really mindful about what you’re bringing back into your closet. Make a list shop with a list.

And my biggest tip when you are building your capsule wardrobe, don’t buy into the urgency. Every season that comes fast fashion floods us with the newest Jean styles, the colors of the season. And we feel that unspoken pressure to check all of those boxes so that we can stay relevant. And I think a lot of us spend a lot of our 20s, early 30s chasing these trends as a way to feel like we’re put together and a value in society. And now coming into my late 30s gonna be 40 This year, I really want to focus on wearing clothes that I love to wear. I talked about this more in dress like your 30 I’ll link that one in the show notes. Wearing less about dressing for the trends but dressing for how you want to feel how you want to look.

I think this is why we hold up the aesthetic of French women on a pedestal. Because for them what they wear is all about quality and fit and it’s less about you know the Pantone color of the year or the Instagrammable outfit. So don’t buy into the urgency that if you’re going to do a closet declutter and get rid of things that you need to suddenly replace your closet options with all of these other things. Take your time

I’m paying attention to what you love and bringing that into your closet. Over years, I’ve been doing decluttering my closet and considering it a capsule wardrobe for a good seven years, and I feel like I’m just constantly refining it and refining it. And the big part of that, for me was letting go of the urgency. Taking my time when I’m shopping, trying things on, do I really love. You don’t have to rush out and fill all these perceived gaps in your closet with the best sweater or the best jeans. Because if you step back, you already have clothes that you are wearing that you do like an even if it means that you’ve dwindled your closet down to like the same four outfits that you love, just wear those if you are wearing clothes you love that you feel good in, take your time adding more and be mindful with it.

Alright friends, the show notes are going to have links to all the episodes I’ve mentioned here. If you’re interested in doing that #moms30for30 with us it starts February 1 And if you’re going to participate, I hope that you will drop a line in the Facebook group on Instagram or in the simple Saturday’s email. And like I said, if you aren’t participating, I hope that you will also encourage the women who are participating it in the Facebook group.


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