By Caitlin Helgeson
Last fall I stumbled upon the Unfancy Minimalist Blog and was first introduced to the concept of capsule wardrobes; which is defined as a compact wardrobe consisting of staple pieces, usually thirty items and fewer. I was intrigued but apprehensive.
What about all the money I’d spent on the clothes in my closet? There’s no way I would have enough outfits for work, play, and special events if I’d paired my closet to just thirty items. How boring and uninspiring.
Around the same time, I was browsing Facebook when I saw a giveaway from the, Less is More Movement group; a year long movement to help break the cycle of over-consumption and its resulting clutter making space for what matters most to you – a joint venture between Charlotte-based companies Simplicity Organizers and Spunky Avocado. The giveaway was for two free hours of closet consultation, closet purge, personal styling services, outfit coordination and/or personal shopping services from Whitley Adkins Hamlin at the Queen City Style. I immediately entered and was thrilled when a few days later I received notification that I was the winner!
From there I had an initial phone call with Whitley, who is truly the epitome of a sweet Carolina Girl. I instantly felt comfortable with her, like an old friend, and knew I was in good hands with a true tastemaker. I shared with her that my closets were jam packed, but with few things that I actually loved. I expressed interest in having fewer, more quality pieces and that at almost thirty years old, was ready to have a more refined and sophisticated wardrobe.
A few weeks later, Whitley showed up at my house. She was spunky, energetic, inspiring and engaging. I think there can be a sense of intimidation about having a professional stylist come assess your things, but Whitley is so down to earth and feels more like a friend you’ve known forever. She asked a lot of questions about my home decor to get a sense of my style. Then we made the trek upstairs as I unveiled what I had been hiding behind closed doors…
“A streamlined wardrobe represents more time + more money + more energy for the things in life that really matter.” –Unfancy Blog
In full transparency of the actual process, I am showing you the true ‘before’ images. I had so much stuff that I had not only maxed out our master bedroom closet, but was also using the guest room closet which included a dresser also full of stuff. I am embarrassed to share these pictures, but confession is good for the soul, right? And it serves as a visual reminder of the clutter and chaos I was dealing with prior to my closet purge.
Whitley and I systematically went through every garment in my closet. Some items were easy and immediately went into the “no” pile. These were the clothes that I had been lugging from house to house with every move, the ones that I always bypass in my closet with no intention to wear again. Then there were others that I was on the fence about; those I tried on for Whitley who gave me her best Joan Rivers-on–Fashion Police on what worked and what I should toss. By the end of the evening my bed was covered in clothes that no longer suited me and what remained in my closet was sparse.
You can see below that I paired my closet down by almost 67%! Wow, I’m a nerd… Was it shocking at first? Absolutely. In fact, Whitley made an effort to ask me a few times how I was feeling. There is certainly an initial feeling of panic when you stand before your closet and see more empty hangers than clothes.
ITEM BEFORE WHITLEY AFTER WHITLEY
Tops 81 38
Dresses 74 14
Pants 25 7
Skirts 12 1
Hats 12 8
Total 204 68
After the purge we discussed what I felt my personal style was, whose style I admired and what were the most important pieces to replace first. Since I spend most of my time at an office, I let her know that getting some staple work pieces was my priority and then adding in some fun pieces for weekends, parties, and going out would follow.
About three weeks later Whitley returned to my house with a rack full of new clothes to try on. It was like being a real-life Barbie. There is a certainly a comfort about being in your own home and being able to try things on at your own pace. It was actually an enjoyable process which is very different than what I typically find with dressing room experiences. The in-home process helped Whitley to refine my style, tastes and sizes which was important.
I had completely underestimated the stress, disharmony and agitation that my chaotic closet was causing me every morning. I can now open my closet doors with a sense of peace; seeing things that I truly love, that fit me well, and make me feel confident. A sophisticated closet calls for grown up hangers so I invested in Huggable Hangers – crazy the amount of joy a hanger can bring.
I was hit with an aha moment during this process – over-consumption is a disease that can creep into all aspects of life – not just your wardrobe. Food. Social Media. Distractions. Attachment. Natural Resources. Minimalism is not a lack of something, it’s having the perfect amount of something. I feel a huge sense of gratitude towards Simplicity Organizers and Whitley from the Queen City Style for giving me this opportunity! And now the after pictures…
What I learned:
My closet was lying to me! When I started to think about what I wore day to day, it was the same usual few pairs of jeans with a few different tops, and that’s about it. It boiled down to my choices being limited to the same few things that I felt comfortable in. The rest of my closet was full of things that I didn’t love anymore for one reason or another (itchy, missing a button, stained, outdated, no longer fit, etc.)
Prepare for a large upfront investment: Be prepared to spend some money upfront. It is certainly an investment to replace the majority of your closet, but that’s exactly what it is — an investment in yourself to look and feel better. I funded my new wardrobe by selling my old wardrobe. Places like Clothes Mentor will give you cash on the spot for your things. I took my nicer items to consign at J.T. Posh in Dilworth. I also joined a few local selling Facebook groups and had great success with PPU (read here for the premise and lingo). I let friends and family have their pick and then donated the rest to Goodwill (read about their new GW specialty store).
Don’t keep ‘fantasy clothes’: “I’m keeping that for a special occasion.”, “I will wear that again when I lose ten pounds.”, “I have no idea what to wear this with, but I’m keeping it because it’s cute”. There was no reason to keep clothes for made-up scenarios.
Staples First, Fun Later: For me and my lifestyle, I needed staples – jeans (black, white, and denim), quality work pants, quality and comfortable work shoes, a versatile navy blazer, etc. These items helped to build the foundation of my wardrobe and then I was able to fill in with some additional “fun” pieces.
Critique your multiples: I had probably fifteen pairs of jeans folded beautifully in my closet, but I only wear one or two. The other twelve no longer fit, weren’t comfortable, etc.
Say no to miscellaneous t-shits: This was hard for me. I saved every single sorority or fraternity function shirt throughout college. They all represented memories and I had tricked myself into thinking that if I no longer had the shirts, I no longer had the memories. My mom and I made a t-shirt blanket using the shirts I loved the most and I threw the rest away. Now I actively throw away or politely decline every t-shirt I’m offered. If you must accept a free tee for courtesy reasons, give it away or ‘lose it’ before you get it into your house. Once the free tee finds its way into your house – game over. It will stay there forever and become your new pajamas. Trust me, your husband will thank you for saying no.
Quality over quantity: I admit that I used to buy a new $20 Forever 21, Old Navy or Target item without thinking twice. These were the quick hits that I would wear to one specific event and then not like a month later. What I DO need is quality pieces in my wardrobe that I can easily style and re-wear frequently. Whenever you go shop really question your purchase. Are you just buying that because it’s on sale? Is this an impulse buy you’ll regret later? Do those jeans even fit correctly? Will this fall apart the second time I wear it?
Find out the other items on my “30 before 30” list here!