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The Capsule Wardrobe Savings Effect

Last week we talked about how to cut your consumer spending by utilizing the used market to your advantage. We’re going to continue the theme of decreasing spending by taking a hard look at an area in life where we can all cut back.

The wardrobe.

How many times have you stared at a closet full of clothes and still felt like you have nothing to wear?

That’s happened to me more times than I can count. And yet when I do some rough math on the money spent on that wardrobe in which I have nothing to wear, it makes me cringe.

At least it used too.

Over the past year or so I’ve slowly been revamping my wardrobe to embrace a concept known as the capsule wardrobe. The idea was introduced to me by my sister, but ironically, after we discussed it I realized that Mike had already been doing this for quite some time.

Immediately after retiring Mike adopted the approach of wearing a “uniform”. Shorts, t-shirts and zippered hoodies. Jeans only if it’s really, really cold out. Like snow on the ground kind of cold out.

He kept a couple dress shirts/dress pants for the occasional time he needs to dress up, but otherwise his uniform prevails about 98% of the time, and takes up the equaivalent space in his closet.

It mixes and matches perfectly, and he rarely has to shop for clothing. Genius.

Aside from Mike’s invention of his own retirement version of the capsule wardrobe, the term was actually coined way back in the 70’s by a fashion boutique owner in London, Susie Faux.

Susie used the term to refer to a collection of “essential” items, which paired well and didn’t quickly go out of fashion. While Susie introduced the concept nearly 50 years ago, in recent years there has been a huge resurgence of her idea.

As a more minimalist approach to clothing, a capsule wardrobe has the benefit of taking up less space and requiring a whole lot less cash in order to stay fashionably put together.

Because the concept is centered around keeping only the pieces that you love to wear AND that match well, you also spend a lot less time staring at your closest in exasperation trying to decide what works. And less mental energy spent on what to wear, means less decision fatigue.

The approach also results in less shopping, and the simple impact of less trips to the mall will save you a whole lot of time and money all on its own.

While the task of reducing your wardrobe may seem a little overwhelming, here’s an easy way to get started. Before you even walk into your closet, start by making a list of what you think you actually need when it comes to clothing. How many t-shirts, dresses, sweaters, jeans, cardigans, jackets, scarves, flip flops or running shoes. You get the idea.

Break down your list so you have a set amount for each category of item in your closet, including outerwear and accessories.

Once you have that list, now it’s time to visit your closet.

Most people when clearing out their closet ask the absolute wrong question when trying to decide whether or not to get rid of something.

“Would I wear this?”

Bad question. Of course you can see yourself wearing it, it probably wouldn’t be in your closet if you couldn’t see yourself wearing it! The real question is, compared to everything else I own, would this be one of my top choices to wear? (Or if you only need one of any category, would it be your first choice?)

If it’s not a go to piece, get rid of it. If it doesn’t fit you perfectly, get rid of it. If you don’t feel great wearing it, get rid of it. If your waiting for it to come back in style, get rid of it.

If you’ve decided you only need 5 t-shirts in your closet, and the one your holding would be the 6th t-shirt you would choose to wear out of all the t-shirts you own, than the answer is obvious. Get rid of it.

Keep the top 5 t-shirts. Those are the ones you love, the ones you will always wear, that you feel good in. Everything else, wearable or not, will end up collecting dust on your shelves. Get rid of it.

When you are picking the clothes you want to keep, try to stick with colours and styles that will mix and match well. This will make even a limited wardrobe very versatile.

Once your done paring down to the numbers on your list, don’t just throw out the clothes you don’t need. Sell them! List them on whatever online used site you prefer and at least make a few bucks back from what you originally spent.

If you can’t or don’t want to sell them, and they are in good condition, then consider donating them to a local charity. There are many great causes that will be more than happy to put your unneeded items to good use.

Once you’ve got your wardrobe to a place that works for you, the next step is to keep it there. Don’t go out and buy new pieces unless something you have has worn out. Or at the very least set a limit on the amount of pieces you are willing to purchase seasonly, and select new items based on what will work with your existing wardrobe.

And don’t forget “new” pieces can still be purchased used, cutting down even further on your wardrobe costs and limiting the need to go to the mall and expose yourself to unnecessary spending decisions.

I’m still working on my closet, but steadily I find myself with less and less clothing, and yet I feel like I have way better options. I’ve also found that when I know I’m only going to have a few staple items, I’m much more willing to spend a bit extra to get a quality item I love, but will also last.

Aside from the savings, the part I enjoy the most is walking into a sparsely populated closet that makes it seamless to pick out what I’m going to wear each morning, or even easier to pack for travel.

I’m certainly no fashionista, so my clothing purchases were pretty minimal to being with, but the capsule wardrobe approach has easily saved me $500 annually, and I think there’s still room for more improvement. How much do you think you could save?

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