How to Start a Capsule Wardrobe

How to start a capsule wardrobe, complete with a free printable guide to get you started! This minimalist approach is perfect for busy parents and/or beginners who want to get rid of the excess and create an approachable, functional wardrobe.

how to start a capsule wardrobe simple pieces of clothing hanging on a rack

Creating a capsule wardrobe might be one of the most overcomplicated things I’ve ever encountered on Pinterest. That and bottle weaning.

If you’re considering starting a capsule wardrobe, do it. Definitely don’t fall into the hole of overly complicated “how to” articles out there. I did and kept putting it off because I never had the time, money, or mental capacity to wrap my head around creating the perfectly curated capsule like every minimalist fashion blogger had.

Enter my action plan — five easy steps to start a capsule wardrobe that requires minimal time, energy, and financial investment in new clothing. Yaaaaas!

Ready to get started? Let’s do it!

How to Start a Capsule Wardrobe

Step #1: Pull everything out.

This is a page I’m taking from Marie Kondo’s book. Go on and pull out all. the. things. I know it’s terrifying and makes you feel like a hoarder, but that’s the point! Seeing everything you have all in one space is essential to the process and actually makes it easier to part with things. I remember looking just at the pile of clothes that came out of my dresser and thinking, “There’s no way I need even half of this stuff!”

If you don’t have an entire day, or the physical and emotional energy to tackle your entire wardrobe at once (hi, that was me), by all means break it up. Just pull everything out from whatever area you’re working on. The three primary areas to hit are:

  1. Closet
  2. Dresser(s)
  3. Wherever you keep your outerwear, accessories & special occasion stuff (shoes, bags, winter coats, formal dresses etc…)

Ok, everything out? Great! Now what?

Step #2: Sort.

Put everything into “YES”, “NO” and “MAYBE” piles.

YES: Versatile pieces you wear often and love

NO: Items you haven’t worn in a long time (more than one season ago); pieces you no longer love, regardless of whether or not you currently wear them; clothes that are stained or damaged beyond repair; items that no longer fit, flatter or make you feel good

MAYBE: Items that fall somewhere in-between YES and NO. Again, don’t overthink it. Just sort and move on.

Ok, you now have three massive piles in front of you. Stuff you love. Stuff you maybe sorta kinda like and maybe sorta kinda fit, but not really. And stuff you’d rather pretend you never wore. Fantastic!

Step #3: Return the YES pile.

Do not worry about folding everything perfectly. Fold items in a way that you will be able to maintain. If Marie Kondo is your spirit animal, by all means, but I know that type of folding isn’t sustainable for our crazy little family, nor is it necessary, especially if you don’t have a lot of clothing.

Donate, consign or recycle the NOs.

Put the MAYBEs in an empty suitcase or a plastic trash bag and move them somewhere out of sight and inconvenient to access. That way you have to not only remember what it is you want to reclaim, but care enough to go get it.

Whatever you do not go back for within one month becomes a NO.

If you need a nap at this point, go for it. Steps 4 and 5 are best done when you’re feeling fresh.

Step #4: Refine and redefine.

Spend a little time getting reacquainted with your newer, simpler wardrobe. Create a few “new” outfits by pairing pieces you never thought to wear together before. Have a a couple of your stylish friends over for wine and a try-on session one night. Chances are they’ll mix and match pieces you never thought to, giving you a few more outfit options than had you done it solo.

Use this opportunity to further refine your capsule, too. If you end up with a few items that don’t fit the color palette or overall style of the rest of your capsule, stick them in your MAYBE pile and revisit it in a few weeks. The only way of making more out of less is  having pieces that work multiple ways.

Step #5: Fill the gaps.

The biggest gaps are usually staples you need to replace or add that will work with several outfits.

For example, I donated a pair of black ankle boots that were too small after two pregnancies (sigh), but I quickly realized I really can use a pair of black ankle boots for several different outfits! I’m still on the hunt for the perfect pair because none have quite “sparked joy” just yet.  

It may take a couple of weeks to figure out where the gaps are. When you do shop, only purchase pieces you love.

Try my 7 Second Rule: If it takes longer than 7 seconds to decide when you try something on, it’s an automatic “no.”

That’s it!

A capsule wardrobe in 5 simple steps. There’s obviously more than one way to create a capsule wardrobe but, for a busy mom with no time or energy to map it all out on paper first, it’s worked!

If you want to see what others recommend as far as how to start a capsule wardrobe, here are some other good ones to reference:

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Author: Elle Penner M.P.H., R.D.

I'm Elle, Registered Dietitian and minimalism-obsessed mama with a thing for simplifying, particularly when it comes to clutter, calendars, and family meals. Favorite things include carbs, cooking, kid-free workouts, and high-waisted yoga pants.

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