This is my final post in the PERSONAL STYLE series. Today I am talking about how I have been using minimalism to clear a lot of clutter from my closet that was hindering me from the dream closet I wanted.
Should I Use Minimalism as a Tool to Curate My Wardrobe?
After collecting vintage clothing and accessories for over a decade, I came to the conclusion last year that my dream closet was always bigger than my actual closet. I probably came to that conclusion while hauling a suitcase full of out-of-season clothes from under my bed, or trying to reach a shoebox on the top shelf in my closet. No matter where I live, my closet is always just a bit too small and I am always having to cram in as many items as can fit (mostly hats), yet still having to store the excess in a dresser, and under my bed, and in the hall closet, and on the back of the door. . .
Along with this frustration over lack of storage space is the knowledge that I will probably always be a small space dweller and, as much as I love small spaces, they come with less storage space, which ultimately means you have to own less stuff. So, even though I love collecting vintage, I was tired of having too many pieces in too small of a closet; like many other people, 2020 became the year of the Great Closet Clear Out. It was actually my decision to start paring down the items in my wardrobe that sparked this entire series of posts.
I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a Minimalist, even though that is what I titled this post, because when it comes to my wardrobe, or anything else, I don’t actually desire to get things down to the minimum. I like to keep some things around that aren’t useful and that I might never wear, but I keep them just because I like them. However, while Minimalism might not be a lifestyle choice for everyone, many of us could probably do with some simplifying and paring back of our wardrobes and other possessions. Rather than following a strictly minimalist approach, I prefer to follow this advice by William Morris (a designer who was key in the Arts and Crafts movement). I think he perfectly sums up how many items you should keep, “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful”. I think that is a pretty good description of what minimalism should be.
When you’ve gone to all of the effort to figure out your personal style, it makes sense to then apply this advice to your closet and remove the extra; keeping only that which you love and value.You can look at it kind of like a stone carving- you’re getting rid of the excess to reveal the figure within. So for this last post in the series, I wanted to share my tips for how to pare down your wardrobe, in case you’ve ever found yourself in the same situation!
IDENTIFY YOUR PERSONAL STYLE, COLOURS & SILHOUETTES
Once you’ve figured these out, and come up with a clear picture of your own personal style, it will be a lot easier to evaluate your closet, because you’ll have a clear vision of what you want your dream closet to look like.
When you are looking at your clothes from this perspective, you are choosing which items to keep rather than which items to get rid of. Selecting the items that you love puts a positive slant on the process and you can more easily evaluate the items left behind. I tried this method, and it really helped me to be more objective about those items I wasn’t sure about. Because I had taken the time to figure out my style description and colour palette, it was so much easier to part with items that weren’t fitting into any of those categories.
MOVE PAST THE SUNK COST, OTHER ATTACHMENTS & GUILT
It can be really hard to get rid of items that cost you a lot, or that you are emotionally attached to (a gift for example), but it is freeing to simply accept that you no longer love something and move on.
I don’t regret trying out new things, or even making style mistakes, because from those fashion experiments I was able to figure out what my personal style and preferences are. Without trying new things, I wouldn’t have known, so that learning experience was valuable. However, keeping items that I no longer love just because I spent a lot on them or invested time into them (for example, pieces that I made myself) doesn’t help me in any way today. That money and time is already gone and it isn’t coming back by keeping the item, so sometimes it is better to be realistic about it, rather than feeling obligated to keep things that are just collecting dust.
I’ve also learned to move on from clothing pieces that bring me guilt or body insecurity. For example, keeping clothes that haven’t fit for years, and might never again, is not a great motivator to get in shape. Likewise, as I talked about in this post, there isn’t any point in keeping items that you don’t wear because they aren’t a great fit for your specific body type. For me, I decluttered two gorgeous vintage plaid skirts that I never wore. I really loved them, but every time I pulled them out of my closet I would inevitably decide that I didn’t like how the plaid looked on me, and I would end up putting them back in the closet. Instead of keeping them, and then feeling bad every time I didn’t wear them, I now plan on sewing some skirts with the plaid cut diagonally rather than horizontal, since I know I like that look a lot more!
It can also be easy to hold on to pieces “just in case” or because you’ve had them for so long without thinking about whether you still want to keep them. For example, I had some hats that I loved, but never wore. I kept thinking “one day, I will figure out an outfit to pair with that hat” but when I took a second look at them, I realized that I didn’t actually want to wear them anymore. Just because they were vintage and one of a kind didn’t mean that I had to keep them, if they didn’t really suit my style anymore. It’s OK to pass things on to new homes where they will be more appreciated when they don’t work for you anymore.
GET RID OF YOUR 80%
I have never been one who wanted to limit myself in the wardrobe department. While I am intrigued by the idea of a capsule wardrobe, I have never personally been interested in pursuing that. In fact a lot of my wardrobe advice from the past has been, “Why limit yourself?” I love to experiment and try new things and I never wanted to fit myself into one specific category, but over time that doesn’t always work well. For me, rather than having lots of options and coming up with new outfits all the time… I really just had too many clothes that didn’t go together, so I ended up mainly wearing the same few coordinating pieces over and over again. Instead of focusing on the versatility of each item I purchased, I was choosing variety, but when you have a lot of clothes that don’t coordinate, you end up having to get more accessories to go with each outfit, which then means you need to have more storage…it’s an endless cycle.
It is said that we wear only twenty percent of our clothes eighty percent of the time, and that was definitely true for me. I had a closet full of clothes, but wasn’t actually wearing many of them on a regular basis. I realized that a capsule wardrobe is basically removing that eighty percent of clothes that you aren’t wearing, and focusing on your twenty percent. So, instead of having a closet bursting at the seams with clothing, I got rid of that excess and focused on how to improve that twenty percent that was left. And of course, there isn’t any set number of pieces; the perfect number of items for you might not be the same number as someone else.
ALWAYS KEEP WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY
Don’t feel the need to get rid of everything you don’t wear; keep the pieces that make you happy. (Especially if they are unique, one-of-kind vintage pieces!)
I have several beautiful evening dresses that I will probably never get rid of. I’ll probably never wear them either, but I love them too much to pass them on. I used to have a lot of evening dresses and then realized that I didn’t really need so many when I don’t ever (or want to) go to parties. However, when I pared down my collection, I kept some of my absolute favourite and irreplaceable ones. I like to hang them out on display where I can enjoy them.
DECIDE WHAT TO DO WITH YOUR DECLUTTERED ITEMS
Having a plan for what you are going to do with the items you are removing from your closet can make it a lot easier for you to part with them. In the past I had kept a lot of pieces in my closet, even though I knew that they weren’t working for me, because they weren’t things that my local thrift shop would want, or I had spent a lot on them and felt bad about losing that “investment”.
While donations to thrift shops are great, sometimes there are better ways to pass on unwanted items. Selling clothing can also be a worthwhile thing to do, especially if you have rare or vintage pieces. Now that Poshmark is in Canada, I was able to sell a lot of my items there. It did take a lot of time, but it made it a lot easier for me to part with the pieces, since I was able to make back some of the money I had spent. I also know that each of the pieces (even the vintage “wounded birds”) were going to people who wanted them.
Some other options are to give them to friends or family or to have a clothing swap. I also like to donate some of the nicer items to our local women’s shelter- it’s a good place to pass on some of the prettier items.
PUT ASIDE ITEMS YOU’RE NOT SURE ABOUT
When going through my closet, I did see some things that I hadn’t worn for a very long time, but I wasn’t sure whether that meant it was time to part with them or whether I just hadn’t had an occasion to wear them lately. (Probably something many of us went through in 2020.) If you find items that you haven’t worn for months (years?), then take them out of your closet for a while to help you decide whether you still want them or not.
For me, I realized that I needed to move some pieces into my sewing pile to see whether there was something I could do to alter/mend the item to make it more wearable. Other pieces that I wasn’t sure of, got packed away in a suitcase for a while. This works because when you open the suitcase or box again in a few months time, you’ll either be excited to bring those pieces immediately back into rotation, or you’ll find that you completely forgot about them, don’t feel any attachment and can easily move them into the “donate” pile.
I also have some items that don’t fit at the moment, but I do still love them and am not ready to just move them out of the closet. (I think this happens to us all at some point or other!) Rather than leaving those pieces hanging forlornly in my closet, I moved them into my out-of-season storage, and I will reevaluate them next year.
WAIT A LITTLE WHILE BEFORE BUYING
Especially when you live in a small space, at some point you have to curate your belongings to the amount of storage you have: your space dictates how much you can realistically own. If you have a difficulty in not bringing in new items when you’re shopping, picture where you are going to put it or store it. Or, figure out which item is going to have to go out to make room for the new item. (“One in, one out”)
I now create a list on my phone of everything that I am thinking of buying, and I hardly buy anything right when I see it. Even when browsing on Poshmark or at the thrift store, I try to think of what I am going to pair it with in my existing closet. I often bookmark things and think about them for several days or weeks before going ahead with the purchase. I debate about whether I will be disappointed if it’s gone and oftentimes I realize that while I like something, I wouldn’t be sad if it sold out.
Of course, if you have a large closet with lots of space to spread out, then you don’t need to be as ruthless with what you clear out or bring in!
TAKE A BREAK FROM BUYING TOO
While keeping to the rule of “one in and one out” is great, that only works if you have a good number of items to start with. If you are trying to actively reduce the amount of items you have, eventually you’ll have to stop buying new things. I see so many decluttering videos that neglect to mention this key detail: you have to bring in less or you won’t end up with less.
While paring down my closet last year, I tried to also do a “low buy” year, to give myself time to actually go through and figure out the right size of closet for me. I’m not sure I was completely successful on that front but, nevertheless, by the end of the year, I estimate that for every four items of clothing that I decluttered, I only brought one into my closet. I was pretty happy with that ratio.
IDENTIFY YOUR WARDROBE GAPS
Over the last year of this process, I have gotten better at identifying the gaps in my wardrobe, and knowing when it is time to bring something new into my closet. When I was decluttering I came across items of clothing that I liked, that fit into my style and that made me happy, but I still never wore, and I realized that it was because I didn’t have anything to pair them with! I also have some outfits that always seemed like they needed a certain something to finish it off perfectly.
I was able to figure out some key items to put on my shopping list this year:
tops in colours other than black so I can mix and match with my black skirts.
brown leather everyday shoes
an everyday brown leather purse
a couple new everyday skirts to replace the ones that were threadbare
a vintage brown fur collar (OK, I didn’t need this one, I just fell in love with it when I saw it!)
Removing a bunch of the clothing I wasn’t wearing finally gave me the freedom to go and fill some of the gaps in my closet with pieces that fit my personal style, rather than being held back by my bursting closet, despite the fact that much of it wasn’t working for me. Also, because I took the time to evaluate what I was looking for, rather than just browsing at the thrift store like I usually would, I was able to wait and save up to get the few particular things I really needed (and wanted) rather than wasting my time getting a whole bunch of small new things I didn’t need. And because I made back some of the money from my old clothes, I was able to put it towards “investing” in pieces I actually needed.
So, while I wouldn’t consider myself to be a minimalist, I would still like to be purposeful with what I have in my closet. I’m sure this is going to be a process that I will have to revisit many more times in the future, but it’s a start! I want my wardrobe to be full of things that I love and wear regularly- not to be distracted by clothing that I don’t love wearing!
How about you- have you ever done a complete closet overhaul? Do you have any tips for how you decide when it’s time to part with something, or when to keep it? Are you attracted to using minimalism in your closet or not?
Now that Spring has officially arrived, it is time for the seasonal wardrobe transition! I always enjoy the changing of the seasons, and all of the things that go along with that… packing away my cold weather garments and then pulling out my warm weather ones always makes for a rather fun afternoon task- it’s kind of like opening presents! Switching your wardrobe around for a new season does take a bit of time, but it is also the perfect opportunity for a bit of garment care and maintenance as well. Here is how I go about switching around my closet, as well as some of the tasks that I like to do each season to keep my clothes and shoes in good condition.
Depending on where you live, transitioning your wardrobe might not be very drastic, and if you don’t live in a climate with four distinct seasons, it might not even be necessary. (Or if you live in the Southern hemisphere, you’ll be pulling out your fall and winter clothes) Here in Alberta we definitely do have four seasons but, while it is now officially spring, we certainly will have some cold days left, so I am not doing a complete wardrobe switch.
There are some etiquette “rules” that I like to follow for my closet, just because they make sense for me and the climate where I live. According to Miss Manners, here are some seasonal wardrobe rules:
–Straw should not be worn before Easter nor after Labour Day.
-Velvet should be worn between October 1 and March 1.
-Furs should not be worn between the months of March to September
-White should not be worn after Labour Day, nor before Memorial Day. (This one is rather archaic, and a better rule to abide by, rather than colour, is judging the weight of the fabric you are wearing. Gauzy white linen is not appropriate for fall and winter, depending on the climate of where you live, of course, but a white wool coat or stockings is a completely different matter!)
I moved my strictly winter garments, such as my fur collars, winter coats, berets and lined boots into storage and then rotated my lighter spring and summer items into my closet. While I might not wear some of them right away, because we do still have cool days ahead, I brought them out so I have something to look forward too! I most likely won’t wear my straw hats until Easter, but it’s still nice to take them out and hang them up too. I also don’t have that much space, so I have to trade the items in and out, to fit them all back into my closet. I keep my in-season clothes hanging in my bedroom closet, and put the out-of-season clothes in a suitcase.
I did leave some of the more “seasonally ambiguous” items in my closet, such as my brown Oxford pumps. Rather than moving them out with the winter wear, I decided to keep them in since I might be able to wear them while the days are still cool.
Before I put each item into storage, I made sure to look it over and see if it needed any cleaning or other repair. There’s nothing worse than pulling your shoes or clothes out in six months for the next season, and then having to wait to wear it until you can repair it, or even worse than that, it has become irreparably damaged from sitting. So, here are five of my garment care tips to do before packing your winter clothes away for the season.
Depending on the soil level, I don’t wash my clothes after every single wear. Some garments can be worn a few times before they need laundering, and if your clothes are delicates then they will actually benefit from less washing. Before you pack the clothes away, though, make sure to clean them so they don’t sit with dirt or odours for months. Dirty clothes in storage can attract moths or other pests, and any light stains on the fabric might set over the months and become a much bigger issue for you later on.
If you have “dry clean” items, you may be able to spot clean them yourself. I don’t like dry cleaning my clothes, because it’s not actually really cleaning and the chemicals are so pollutant and unhealthy. Thus, I prefer to do most of my own washing, though sometimes dry cleaning is a necessary evil. You can often spot clean your wool or hand wash delicate items. If you do decide to wash a woolen item, and it ends up wrinkled or out of shape, you can take it to the dry cleaners for a “press only”. I have done this before with pleated skirts and they come back looking so much better than I could ever get them to look with my iron at home. Once you’ve cleaned your items, make sure they are completely dry before storing. If you are storing your out of season clothes in bins or boxes, you can also add in cedar sachets to keep pests out.
Brushing & Shaving Your Woollens
Brushing wool is a new habit for me, and I learned this from the book How to Be a Victorian by Ruth Goodman. She talked about brushing wool clothes rather than washing them in order to clean them, and I had never heard of that! So, I have ordered myself a clothes brush with natural bristles (that is what she recommends in order to not damage the fabric over time) and once it arrives, I plan on brushing all of my winter coats before putting them away.
In the mean time, I will go over my coats with a velvet lint brush, as well as a pill remover/shaver. It’s amazing what a difference a brushing and shaving can do! A clothes brush works so much better than those sticky lint rollers, to take out the dust and dirt that collects. This is a good practice to get into a regular habit of doing, to keep your clothes in good condition, but it is especially important to do before you store your clothes.
Cleaning & Polishing Your Leather Shoes
This is such a simple thing to do to keep your leather in good repair, but it’s the one task that I always neglect. I am trying to get better at doing this more frequently, but I always seem to procrastinate and put it off for far longer than I should. (This is probably because shoe polish smells like death…and probably brings you closer to death as well…?) Every time I do get around to polishing my shoes, though, I am amazed at the transformation and vow to do it more often! I haven’t tried any of the more natural leather conditioners yet, but I’ve ordered one to try on my purse. I think it’s a natural wax that doesn’t smell as bad as regular shoe polish, so maybe I’ll use it more often!
Cleaning and polishing or conditioning your leather is a good thing to do regularly, but is also very important to do before your put your winter shoes away. Salt stains from ice-melt burn leather and if left untreated can ruin a good pair of shoes (I’ve had that happen before!) and other stains will only get worse over time.
First clean your shoes with a leather cleaner and a soft rag. (I clean mine with a suede cleaner solution since that is what I have on hand, and it works well.) Once your shoes are dry, you can polish them with either a cream or wax polish in a matching colour. I’ve heard different cobblers recommend bothoptions, so I’m not sure which is better!
I’ve also just started using a shoe brush that we got from my Grampa, and I have no idea why I was using just a rag before- the brush gives such a nice polish! I like to finish the shoes off with a little sponge for a nice shine, and then they are done.
In the image on the left, the shoe on the left is unpolished, and the shoe on the right shows the difference that polishing makes! The final result is in the photo on the right.
For any shoes that need more serious repairs, you can take them to a cobbler for fixing. I am so hard on my shoes, and have really done a number on some of my favourite pairs (such as ripping the finish off the toe of the aforementioned Oxford heels!) but it’s amazing how cobblers are able to restore them back to – almost- as good as new!
Storing Your Shoes
Once all of my shoes are polished and clean, I put them into shoe boxes with tissue paper in between to keep them from leaning on each other, and then put them back in my closet. I stack all of my shoeboxes on the top shelf in that inconvenient corner of the closet that you can’t quite reach, since it isn’t useful for storing things you actually need to access on a regular basis!
I don’t have quite enough boxes for all of my boots and shoes, since I only keep the shoeboxes with aesthetics. There were a couple of pairs of boots and shoes that I didn’t have boxes for, so I made some fabric bags to store them in, to keep the dust and dirt off, and they work just as nicely as boxes do.
Using Garment Bags
Coats can get so dusty while hanging in the closet over the summer, so I put a garment bag over the top of them- especially after having gone to the trouble to brush them clean! It is important to use cloth garment bags, not the plastic bags that come over dry-cleaning, because plastic can trap in moisture and cause your fabric to get musty. Instead of purchasing garment bags, I made some for myself out of vintage pillowcases. I’ve been using pillowcases as garment bags for a few years now, but had never gotten around to actually sewing them into the proper shape, so I decided it was finally time to do that.
To make your own, all you have to do is take a pillowcase and sew it into the shape you need. Pillowcases are easily found at thrift stores, or maybe you even have a few extra in your linen cupboard (or you can, of course, sew a rectangle of fabric to the width you need). Trace the hanger you will be using onto the wrong side of your pillowcase, and make sure to double check your tracing with a ruler, so you don’t end up with a lopsided angle. Curve the seam where it meets at the sides.
Sew along the line, then open a little hole in the seam at the top, for the hanger to go through. I hand stitched the top edge around that hole to keep it from unraveling, and then trimmed off the excess fabric with pinking shears. Flip it inside out and pop it over your coats, and that will keep them nice and clean until next fall!
Once I finished these garment care tasks, my seasonal wardrobe transition was done. Doing these tasks adds some time and is not as much fun, but it is worth it! Keeping your clothes and shoes in good repair will reduce your wardrobe costs over time, since you won’t have to replace your items due to damage. And, not only will it save you money in the long run, but your clothes will look better too; wearing a pair of freshly polished shoes is always going to elevate your outfit!
Do you switch out your wardrobe seasonally? What sorts of garment care or maintenance do you do for your clothes each season?
I read a while ago that this year has kind of been like Rip Van Winkle and, for me, I would agree. While my daily routine has definitely slowed down, time seems to be rushing by, and it all feels a bit surreal. While we’ve already passed the halfway point for December, it still feels like this year has gone by so slowly. In some ways it does seem like I’m sleeping while the world continues spinning by…
Well, in case time has gotten away from you too, and you need some last minute gifts, today I am sharing a zero-waste inspired Christmas gift you can easily make in a few hours. The great thing is that it mostly uses items you might already have around the house! This is a bit different than the topics I usually discuss here, but I kind of like branching out into new topics, and this definitely fits into the “lifestyle’ category.
I don’t know where I found this recipe- I think from a zero waste blogger or Instagrammer, but you can easily find these sorts of recipes with a quick google search of “diy natural body butter”. This is just the one I make because I bought a huge pail of shea butter several years ago, and I am trying to work my way through it (slowly!).
Easy Homemade Natural Body Butter
1 part coconut oil
1 part sweet almond oil (or light olive oil)
2 parts shea butter
Optional: essential oil of your choice
I usually make this recipe with sweet almond oil, but since I used up all of my almond oil while making soap, I couldn’t find any more! Usually I would get it at the health food store, but they didn’t have any. After a bit of research it appears that light olive oil works as a substitute, and it seems to be working just as well. I would definitely recommend light, not regular oil, so there isn’t a strong olive smell.
Also, I used lavender essential oil, but you can definitely make it unscented.
I also saw several other recipes used cocoa butter instead of shea, so you could probably try that too. Basically the most important part is that you need to have equal parts oil to butter.
Heat your oils and butter in a double boiler until it is completely melted, then place in the refrigerator to cool. I forgot to take any photos of this process, but it is pretty straightforward. Once it has solidified (several hours depending on how much you have made), then take it out and immediately whip with a blender until it is white and fluffy. It’s like magic how quickly it beats up! Then add some essential oils, 4-5 drops, if desired and mix in completely.
I am sure there is a shelf life on homemade body butters (probably a few months?) but to be honest I haven’t had any problems with it going rancid. I keep mine in my nightstand drawer, and I have had this last batch for probably 9 months, and I’ve never had any bacteria growth or funky smells or anything. This is a very moisturizing (albeit greasy) body butter, perfect for winter dryness; I use it on my feet, or as a lip balm.
Once you’ve whipped up the butter, then you are ready to decant it into jars.
I have been collecting these face lotion jars for the past few years, because I hate throwing things out, and I was sure I could find a use for them, even if for just organizing/storage. However a few months ago, I thought of an even better use- to repurpose as gifts (a zero waste win!). I used nail polish remover to take the labels off, and then sterilized the jars by running them through the dishwasher and heating the lids with boiling water.
They worked perfectly to hold about 3 tbsp of body butter- the perfect amount to try it out, without having to commit to using for the next few years! Any small jar would work great, maybe a small spice jar? Or a tiny canning jar?
I also decided to include the recipe in with the gift. I purchased this recipe card printable in the spring from local-ish artist Jenni Haikonen, as it’s so nice to give people recipes written on a pretty card, rather than any old paper, isn’t it?
I wrapped the gift up in some brown paper bags I have had for years, tied them with some recycled ribbons and twine (I always save ribbons and string whenever I get a package etc. in order to reuse them) and added some homemade Victorian Christmas tags. And there you have a lovely little gift for friends, coworkers or anyone else you want to give a gift to this season!
Well, I hope you enjoy making this recipe, if you decide to, and also hope that you have a very Merry Christmas season!
Aside from a short lived pink and purple bedroom with Barbie wallpaper when I was a child, I’ve never had much pink in my life.
I don’t decorate with pink (though it would be so much easier to find a vintage sofa, if I wanted a pink one- they are simply everywhere!)
And I can probably count on one hand the number of pink clothes and accessories that I have. A pair of shoes, two floral skirts, a hat with a pink flower, a pair of cameo earrings…
But, despite the fact that I’ve never been much drawn to pink…I love pink hair! Just before I started this blog, four years ago, I dyed my hair pink, but it wasn’t quite the colour I wanted. And ever since then, I’ve been dreaming of the day when my hair would be pink again.
And then I said to myself, “Why is my hair not pink yet?” so I scheduled an appointment. I walked in last Friday a natural blonde, and when I left three hours later I was a platinum and pink!
It was a bit brighter than I was planning originally to go, I was thinking more of a light ash and pink mix, but then I just decided to go all in, and go platinum blonde! I was platinum four years ago, and I’ve kind of missed it. It’s taken some getting used to, and I’m still not used to it, actually. I do a double take when I see myself in a mirror! It faded a bit when I washed it, which is kind of sad that it’s only a demi-permanent, but I will enjoy it while I have it…so, I guess I am a pink person, after all!
Have you ever dyed your hair an “unnatural” colour?