A Non-Minimalist's Attempt to Simplify: How Many Sweaters Do I Need?

February 05, 2016 5 min read

1 Comment

Being interested in the things that I am interested in – ethical shopping, simplification in life, thoughtfulness in spending, and, of course, fair trade kantha quilts!  – naturally I have seen lots of internet murmuring on capsule wardrobes and minimalist fashion.

If those phrases haven’t appeared on your radar: a capsule wardrobe is a pared down collection of clothes, usually classic, timeless items or pieces that are very interchangeable to create many looks using few items. Sometimes the idea would be to augment the capsule with seasonal pieces, but many just stick to these key pieces to avoid owning excessive clothing.


I am no clothes horse, but I have the same kind of wardrobe as most of us have: a handful of items that I really like to wear (t-shirts that fit well, button-ups that look great when they are pressed, chambray shirts, fave jeans) and a LOT of other things that I… occasionally wear (when the tees are dirty and the button-ups aren’t pressed and the fave jeans have coffee spilled on them).

I think that most of these minimalist clothing projects started up in the same way: someone wading through a drawer (or closet) full of I-like-it-and-wear-it-sometimes-ish clothes and thinking, ENOUGH!

Last week, I, too, had enough.


See, Wayne and I are both youngest children who are not particularly inclined to tidiness, so a solution over the years has been to keep our “stuff” count lower, so that this personal failing is not overly obvious or troublesome.

If tidiness is my weakness, laundry is my utter failure. And I had always thought that by having more clothes, laundry would be less of a problem: you have to deal with laundry less frequently.



Well, last week we had a race with our daughters over who could clean their room the fastest and I spent about 10 minutes sorting through a pile of clean (I think ;) clothes on our bedroom floor had been sitting there for way too long. When you pick up a t-shirt and think, “oh yeah, I totally forgot about this!” it is a sign.

That pile of forgotten (and, clearly, totally unnecessary) clothes was the reality check I needed. More clothes = more laundry (or, at least, more laundry management). If we didn’t have all of those extra clothes, there would be no pile! With a small wardrobe, you simply can’t afford for your clothes to stay unfolded in the dryer or waiting in the hamper – they are too necessary.

So, on Saturday, I pulled out a massive box leftover from a kantha blanket delivery and we sifted through our wardrobe. This was not just a regular, “what don’t I wear” assessment, this was an attempt to simplify our physical space and headspace when decision-making.



For example, here are some of the things that went to “the box*”:

[*I put everything in a box, with no immediate intention to discard or give away any of the items. I figured it would be way easier to be bold as a kind of an experiment, without fear that our decisions were irreversible]


  • Scarves. Why do I try to be an indoor scarf person? I am not an indoor scarf person.
  • Intentionally ripped jeans whose rips got out of control.
  • Abundance. Too many sweaters, too many t-shirts, too many jeans.
  • Anything ill-fitting. Tricky after post-baby years of fluctuation, but I needed to be a big girl and take them out of the equation. Same went for Wayne’s khakis and work pants from the baggy-leg era.
  • Clothes that I love, but are damaged. Sorry, Lululemon hoodie with the frayed cuffs – you cost an absurd $100 many years ago, but if I can’t wear you out of the house, it’s time to get out of the drawer.
  • Something is off. The hem needs adjusting, the pants are a hair too short, or, my corduroys that are the same colour as my lighter-weather coat (and leather boots). I always felt awkward going outside head-to-toe in tan, like I was trying to camouflage! No more.
  • Great deals that turned out to be terrible deals. After 8 years of the Nordstrom Rack suit hanging with its tags on, it’s time to accept the reality: we’re never taking it to the tailor.
  • Dresses (especially bridesmaids dresses). If I’m honest, I rarely have occasion to wear a dress, and if I did, I wouldn’t want to wear any of these ones.
  • So. Many. Sweaters. I live in a climate that requires sweaters at this time of year, but there really are only a few that I love to wear. I chose to keep the ones that are the most versatile with the rest of my clothes and that are presentable out-of-doors.
  • “The warm coat you don’t wear. Someone needs it more than you.” –wise words from Courtney Carver of Project 333.

Joshua Becker wrote that it is easier to adios the clothes that you don’t wear; it’s harder when you go the additional step of paring down things you do wear to cut out the excess. Wayne literally has 4 navy blue cardigan-type sweaters/sweatshirts. I had so many jeans. It was difficult to put away something that I “might want to wear sometimes”, but having a transitional box made it easier to at least try.



Another interesting thing that came out was the fine tune of our clothing’s seasonality. Here, we basically have 2 seasons – winter for 8.5 months & summer for 3.5 months – so in our house, we just had one bin of summer clothes up in the closet. When we went through Wayne’s clothes, however, there were a number of great sweaters & long-sleeved shirts that he just hadn’t been wearing. When we talked about them, he said that they weren’t warm enough for this weather (when his uniform is a T with a warm sweater or cardigan), but were better for in-between seasons (people in other climates call those “autumn” and “spring”). Breakthrough! Why should they clutter up the hangers when there is zero chance of being worn for months? Up into an out-of-the-way shelf in the closet.

It’s only been a week, but I LOVE this new system. There is so much less busyness for the eye, more white space, less piling up in the laundry. It is like a breath of air and so far, I am so happy with this experiment.

One advantage of this, too, is that it reveals the gaps and really challenges me on how to fill the gaps with the least number of acquisitions. So, I’m saving up for my first pair of Blundstones…


Have you ever tried anything like this? What are your favourite items that you wouldn’t dare part with?

UPDATE: 3 MONTHS LATER... WHAT DO I THINK OF MY CAPSULE WARDROBE ATTEMPT?

 


1 Response

Joan Voss
Joan Voss

November 29, 2021

I did Project 33 and wound up with even less! It is like taking a Rolaids and spelling out RELIEF. I am the owner of one winter coat, three pairs of jeans, three pairs of leggings, one sweater, three sweatsuits, one flannel shirt, and one dressy black outfit. Everything else is intimate apparel and lounge wear (4). As far as shoes, I have six pairs. I never wear any jewelry but have a couple pairs of earrings and rings in a little jewelry bag just in case! I only own one winter scarf and same goes for winter hat and gloves.

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