How and Why I Created a Minimalist Capsule Wardrobe

Dresser with clothing for capsule wardrobe

Why I Created a Minimalist Capsule Wardrobe

Two and a half years ago we moved from a modest two bedroom apartment in San Francisco to a big, beautiful house here in Bend. It’s open and modern, and aside from giving us ample space to work and play, it actually feels pretty minimalist.

“You’ll fill it up,” people warned us. HAH, I thought. Not me! I’m “Less is more” to the core .

Fast forward two years, add a second kid to the mix and yup, they were 100 percent right. Double the space + double the kids = quadruple the stuff.

Our huge master walk-in closet began feeling claustrophobic, and the kids closets weren’t far behind.

If you don’t know the story behind this little blog, 2018 was a tough year for us health-wise. During a time when we were overwhelmed with sick kids, sleepless nights, overflowing inboxes, missed deadlines, decluttering helped me cope.

One morning I woke up and literally wanted to give away ALL THE THINGS.




Our tantrum-throwing toddler.

Kidding, Noah — I love you, sweet boy!   

Clothing in Room and Board walnut dresser

How I Created a Minimalist Capsule Wardrobe

With fall upon us, clothes were the obvious place to start purging. I’ve always been intrigued by capsule wardrobes — basically mini-wardrobes made up of really versatile pieces that you truly love to wear.

Before diving in, I read several “how to” articles and quickly became overwhelmed thinking about how I was going to pare my wardrobe down to a certain number pieces. So, one Saturday I decided to take a true minimalist approach and dove in with just a couple of trash bags.

The Key to Sorting

I tackled my closet first because that felt most overwhelming, and that’s also what I knew I could get through while both kids were napping that afternoon. I pulled everything off of the hangers and put back only what I was wearing and loving at the time. Because I did this at the end of summer, I had a better idea of what those more seasonal pieces were.

The rest of it went into simple NO or MAYBE piles. I  donated, consigned, sold (on Instagram!) the NOs and put the MAYBES in a suitcase in the garage. You know what they say — out of sight, out of mind! I made only one trip to reclaim something from the MAYBE suitcase over the next month. After one month, all the rest became NOs.

Allowing myself to put the “maybes” away for a bit was key in helping me get clear on what I actually needed. It alleviated the pressure of having to make a decision on something right then and there, which can be both tiring and emotional.

After I finished the closet, I moved onto my dresser,  and finished with outerwear and special occasion wear. I didn’t get to shoes but they weren’t overwhelming me — so I just left them.

My First Capsule Wardrobe Components

My very first capsule wardrobe consisted of:

  • 6 pairs of pants/jeans
  • 9 tops
  • 18 sweaters/sweater coats (clearly my weakness)
  • 2 silk blouses
  • 2 blazers for business trips (I’m a work-from-home mama)
  • 12 or so neutral tees and tanks for layering
  • 2 pairs of pajamas
  • 4 sweatshirts
  • 2 lounge-around-the-house pants
  • 4 workout leggings (from about 15!)
  • 5 workout tanks
  • 3 workout tees
  • 1 pair of workout shorts (I’m a crop/legging girl, shorts are purely for outdoor workouts when its  80+ degrees!)
  • 5 long sleeve workout tops/pullovers
  • 5 handbags (including clutches for formal occasions)

You guys. I downsized my wardrobe by at least two-thirds, and I haven’t missed (or even noticed!) a single thing I decided to part ways with.

What’s changed since creating my capsule?

Most noticeably, I now enjoy walking into my closet because it’s no longer overwhelming. I spend a lot less time getting dressed and rarely (because we all have those days) struggle to find the “right” thing to wear.

It also changed how I shop for clothing. Now, I evaluate each piece for its quality, versatility, and fit. I also think about whether it really, truly suits me, my work-from-home mom life, and the wardrobe I currently have. If I try something on that does not spark an immediate, “YES” in my mind, or won’t work with at least a few different outfits, I send it back.

Tips for Creating a Minimalist Capsule Wardrobe

Thinking about going the capsule wardrobe route, too? Here are a few tricks I learned in the process of creating my minimalist capsule wardrobe:

  1. Don’t worry about putting a cap on your capsule.

    The point isn’t to end up with an arbitrary number of articles of clothing. The point is to simplify your wardrobe, and not only loving but living in everything you see when you open your closet.

  2. Time it with big weather changes.

    Winter/Spring and Summer/Fall transitions are a great time to create a capsule it because you have a fresh take on what your coveted “warm weather” and “cold weather” pieces are since you’re likely using both!

  3. Deal with the NOs immediately.

    Put donations in a bag, post items for sale, drop off pieces to be consigned. Get them out of the house within 2-3 days, before you start telling yourself all the reasons you really can’t live without something.

  4. Put the MAYBES out of sight and somewhere inconvenient to reach.

    Not ready to make a decision on something? Put it in the MAYBE pile and stash it somewhere that’s a little out of the way or tough to reach so you’re  less likely to take something out on impulse. A little bit of time can give you a lot of clarity. Set a reminder to purge the unclaimed MAYBES within the next month.

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dresser with clothes pulled out and text tips for creating your first capsule wardrobe

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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