How Many Items in a Minimalist Closet? The Capsule Wardrobe Question We've Been Avoiding! PLUS Cohosting Top of the World Fashion Linky!

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Update August 2016 -- I have HUGE news for a fashion-savvy, Capsule Wardrobe lovin' girl like you!  My shiny, awesome new book Secrets of the Capsule Wardrobe:  How to Find Your Personal Style & Create a Happy, Confident Closet! is now available!!  Feel free to continue to read this post if you like, but just be aware you're basically reading an incomplete rough draft... my book is the Perfected Guide to finding your personal style and building a effortless, confidence-inspiring, non-boring capsule wardrobe, step-by-step! It also contains never-before-published information on how to avoid the three most common mistakes that will SABOTAGE your Capsule Wardrobe, how to continue to curate your collection of clothing by purposeful shopping in the future, a whole chapter on the role of accessories in your minimalist closet, and more.  Go check it out right now... a happy closet awaits you!   

Super girly post alert!  Writing today about fa-SHUN... ready to be glamorous and sophisticated with me??  Sixth in a weekly series of ?.  Missed the first five installments?  Click below to catch up:

How Many Items of Clothing Belong in Your Minimalist Capsule Wardrobe?  How to Figure Out a Number That Works for Your Lifestyle, via Devastate Boredom

Putting the Finishing Touches on Your Capsule Wardrobe - How Many Items Should Be in a Minimalist Closet?

Tackling the "Number Thing"...

There's a pretty big issue that I have been skirting this whole time while writing this style series... have you noticed?  Has anybody noticed?  I haven't mentioned numbers once.  I haven't said, "Only have 35 items in your capsule wardrobe," or "A minimalist closet should contain no more than twenty hangers," or ANYTHING related to numbers.  That's because I think that the number of items in your closet has to be a personal choice based on your lifestyle... not something handed down prescriptively by someone who doesn't even know you.

However, there does need to be a CHOICE.  For you to benefit from the wonders of a minimalist closet or a capsule wardrobe, you need to set limits for yourself.  A "happy closet" is one that reflects who you are, and that you enjoy wearing every day.  I find it very unlikely that if (click through to keep reading!)
your wardrobe holds 100 items, they're all "favorites."  (though if they are, more power to you!)  My goal is to only wear clothing I love, and not to waste time or space on junky just-okays.  

To get all serious and profound on you for a minute, our days on this planet are limited, friends!  I no longer "save" stuff for special occasions or pass over it because I'm afraid it will get stained or torn.  I want to enjoy the things I have, just like I want to make the most of each moment I have.  Why wait for a date night out?  I wear my favorite dresses at home in the evening for dinner with my husband.  I wore my favorite necklace almost constantly for three years -- I recently lost it.  I was very upset about that, but I would rather lose something I enjoy because I was making the most of it, than have it sit safely on my dresser and never use it at all.

A Curated Collection, Not a Museum!

How My Minimalist Closet and Capsule Wardrobe Keeps Me Future Focused and Growing As a Person!  via Devastate Boredom
To give you an idea of the size of the project I tackled when I began to convert to a minimalist closet, I had clothes that were close to fifteen years old, clothes I had bought in high school.  Heck, I STILL have a sweater my mom bought me in middle school... its a favorite!  Are any of you in that boat too?  (Maybe not the sweater from middle school part, that part is a little odd I think... ;P)  If so, I bet this next paragraph will also ring true...

My wardrobe back a year or so ago was huge, but it mostly consisted of non-favorites, and showcased about five different versions of me.  There was "don't notice me" high school Sarah, quirky college Sarah, artsy just-out-of-college Sarah, professional Sarah, still-professional-but-more-personality Sarah, and then on top of all that, there was the now-me.  

I have no interest in keeping a museum in my closet, reminding me daily of the past.  Don't misunderstand, I value my memories and believe that the past has helped build me into who I am today, but I want to focus on making the most of the time I have going forward and working towards a positive future.  I want to look in my closet, see favorites that make me feel confident and happy in who I am now, and go on with my day energized.

Wear 'em Out!

If you have chosen to have a limited number of clothing, a "minimalist closet," then it is highly likely that things will wear out.  That is a good thing!  If you have one hundred different items of clothing in your closet, a lot of them will probably only get worn once or twice a year, and you will have them for-e-ver.  They will become that museum I was talking about, reflecting past yous, rather than a functional wardrobe for now-you.  

Hurray for wearing holes in your clothing!  For loving them into faded-raggediness!  (shades of the Velveteen Rabbit here?  :P)  Because when it comes time to phase out worn-out clothing and purchase new clothing to replace it, it can be with your NOW-me in mind... you can constantly evolve your closet to match your current goals, environment, and growing sense of self.  

So, its up to you to pick the number that will make your closet happy.  :)  Maybe you go the drastic route -- "I will only have 20 items of clothing" you shout, brandishing a hanger to the sky!  Or maybe you decide to keep whittling down your collection slowly, working on getting down to 40 eventually.  Some people online make stunning pronouncements about having a "10 item wardrobe" etc, but usually you will find in the fine print that the number doesn't include "t-shirts, jeans, shorts, skirts, workout clothing, clothes I wear for painting things, sweaters, jackets, or pajamas" (what DOES it include, you're wondering by the end...  ;P).  I figure it is fair not to count pajamas, workout clothes, or those "Well duh, I'm going to need this" items (which you have stowed separately from the rest of your clothes now, right?) but pretty much everything else should count!  

If you're having trouble choosing a number, decide how often you think you should be wearing each item of clothing.  Are you okay with storing clothes indefinitely without wearing them?  If you have 25 tops you're going to be wearing each about once a month, IF you're deliberate about it.  Does that seem good to you, or do you probably have too many shirts?  This all is totally up to you, but keep in mind that if you pick a good charity, the clothing that is now vying for its chance on your back once every couple of months could really do somebody else some good!  Dress for Success is an awesome example.

So what about you?

My goal is to be under 35 items in my seasonal ("warm weather") capsule wardrobe... all clothing included except workout clothes, pajamas, and "Well duh I'm going to need that" items that are stored elsewhere.  I chose that number because it matched how many hangers were in the box, haha!  It also happened to be a good number because it was slightly less than what I already had, but not so drastic as to feel overwhelming.  I'm going to work on getting there by doing a one-in, two-out exchange for a while... every time I add a new favorite to my closet, I have to get rid of two existing items.  It's not as painful as it sounds, especially when I am excited about the new item, and it is very effective in continuing to hone your collection down over time.

What about you?  Are you ready to pick a number??  What do you think is a reasonable number for your lifestyle?  I would LOVE to hear about other people's minimalist wardrobes and what works for you!

I had planned to also share organizational ideas for your Happy Closet in this post (including why I think The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up might have it wrong on this point), but that is definitely enough typing for today!  Come back for it next week though!  

Here are some of the places you might see this post partying! 

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  1. I had a historical closet. It still had the dress I word when I graduated from college as well as various other things I was always hoping would fit again someday. Then my house burned down. It's a pretty radical way of minimizing, but it did the trick. These days my closet is sparse, and I try to immediately get rid of anything I don't like or don't wear.

    1. Oh wow! I'm SO sorry to hear about your house Leslie. :( I've been trying to live with that awareness though, that "stuff" is transitory... it does help with priorities. But yikes, again, so sorry!!

  2. I thinned out my closet last year and I'm ever so glad I did. It's much more manageable.

    Have a fabulous day. ☺

  3. THis year, I lost 55 ounds, so that drastically reduced my wardrobe! Haha I could only afford a few new things, I have 3 black pants, 1 blue shorts, and 1 pink shorts. I don;t know how many tops I have, but not over 12, I know. And I just got rid of 2 tanks last week, cuz they show my uh hem, unders. So, overall, I think I'm really good.
    Sarah Eliza, gotta ask, who is your now me??

    1. WAY TO GO!!! You're amazing. :) And it sounds like you could write your own post about rockin' a minimalist wardrobe!

      I wouldn't dare try to label my "now me"... that's something I only try with the perspective of time. ;P

  4. Great post and the museum point is right on the problem! Many closets are like that especially the walk-in closets! As a kid I thought they are a dream. When I got one, I realized that they can become a nightmare. LOL. Thanks for co-hosting

  5. Thank you for entering the Pin to this post in the Pinterest Game. We have re-pinned it and if you win, you will get a lot more if you win :)

  6. I definitely have a historical closet. Although I must say it's getting better. And I know what you mean about Middle School memorabilia, I still have a pair of pants and a skirt from eighth grade I adore... Silly me.
    Typically when I get frustrated with my closet I overwhelm myself by throwing everything I own on my bed, and going through everything at once - toss, save, toss, save. It's exhausting and takes WAY too much time. Plus, it's so overwhelming that I sometimes give up and stop short of what I know I could. So, your way, of doing one item in, two out is a brilliant idea. I will certainly be enforcing that!!
    On top of all this, I never thought about wearing a dress to a dinner at home with myself and my other half, but I'm now convinced that it's absolutely the way to go!
    Thanks for sharing :D

  7. I'm all for minimalism but I must admit to holding onto a few more outfits than I really need. I just can't justify throwing something out that still fits and I still wear occasionally. Luckily I'm not a big shopper so my wardrobe isn't a nightmare (and ironing is against my religion too - along with sweating!)

  8. At the moment my wardrobe consists of 'what I wore before' and 'what I can fit into now', lol. I've put off doing much sorting yet as I hope to actually shift the baby weight before she stops being a baby, but next year I'm really going to have to get ruthless! :)

  9. I'm not even close to getting my wardrobe down to any number of items I can even count, but that book has helped me get rid of giant trash bags full of stuff that I didn't ever think I could part with, so that makes me happy!

  10. I'm winnowing down my wardrobe as well. I used the KonMari method and it helped me really look at each piece. My husband and I did it together and we're down to one dresser and one small closet for all of our clothes. It's surprising though how the 80/20 rule still seems to apply no matter how many clothes you own! First time linking up with Friday Frivolity. Thanks for hosting and inviting me!

  11. I definitely still have some clothes that are my favorites that are from ancient high-school days, but that's okay! I do like your point about going with your "now" style. My "mom" style is definitely different from my "work" style and sometimes I lament that, but it's okay, because look who I get to spend my days with now! And if I go back to work someday, then who knows what my style might be, then?


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