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CAPSULE WARDROBE, THE MINIMALISTS... WHERE TO BEGIN?

Posted by Michelle Zillman on

I’ve finally entered the 21st century – my big move? From Foxtel to Netflix, boy has the world changed! Now that my TV knows what I like to watch, I need to be careful what I click on. Anyway, the first programme that caught my eye, and that I immediately watched, was called Minimalism. About two guys I’d heard about before, The Minimalists, poster boys for de-cluttering your home and therefore your life. Their philosophy really resonates with me at a level; I’ve always been a big believer that a ‘cluttered space leads to a cluttered mind’.

The Minimalists: Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus. Photo: theminimalists.com

I know how stressed I get when I can’t find something and when I feel overwhelmed with ‘stuff’. If it weren’t for my strong aversion to these feelings, I would never have designed the handbag hanger. But it was because of my frustration at not being able to find the bag I wanted to wear on a particular day, or just knowing that hidden somewhere (somewhere I can’t remember) lay a bag that’s slowly going mouldy and to waste. Anyway, I digress… back to The Minimalists. This is how they describe themselves on their website:

“At first glance, people might think the point of minimalism is only to get rid of material possessions: Eliminating. Jettisoning. Extracting. Detaching. Decluttering. Paring down. Letting go. But that’s a mistake.

True, removing the excess is an important part of the recipe—but it’s just one ingredient. If we’re concerned solely with the stuff, then we’re missing the larger point.

Minimalists don’t focus on having less, less, less; rather, we focus on making room for more: more time, more passion, more experiences, more growth, more contribution, more contentment. More freedom. Clearing the clutter from life’s path helps us make that room.

Minimalism is the thing that gets us past the things so we can make room for life’s important things—which actually aren’t things at all.”

I like this a lot, and agree. I definitely don’t describe myself as a Minimalist, but my preference is to surround myself with less, and knowing exactly where everything is so that I feel clearer and less overwhelmed, able to get on with whatever it is that I need to get on with. Maybe I should describe myself as a ‘Less-ist’ or ‘Have-a-place-for-everything-ist’. My husband gets terrified every time I feel the need to purge our home of excess (which happens quite regularly). He implores me to think twice before tossing; but I’m always confident as I’m sure to pass the item on to someone that needs it more than me, so I can always justify my decision.

Anyhow, once again, I’m a bit off track. Back to the documentary I watched on The Minimalists and their lifestyle. During the course of the show, they interviewed a number of individuals and families that had embraced this lifestyle; one women that I found interesting was a lady called Courtney and she started something called Project 333. Her challenge to herself, and to anyone else that dared; was to dress with 33 items or less for 3 months. Here are the rules:

  • When: Every three months (It’s never too late to start so join in anytime!)
  • What: 33 items including clothing, accessories, jewelry, outerwear and shoes.
  • What not: these items are not counted as part of the 33 items – wedding ring or another sentimental piece of jewelry that you never take off, underwear, sleep wear, in-home lounge wear, and workout clothing (you can only wear your workout clothing to workout).**
  • How: Choose your 33 items, box up the remainder of your fashion statement, seal it with tape and put it out of sight.
  • What else: consider that you are creating a wardrobe that you can live, work and play in for three months. Remember that this is not a project in suffering. If your clothes don’t fit or are in poor condition, replace them.

**(By the way, I'm so pleased to see Project 333 is an active-wear-free-zone outside the gym!)

 

Great idea and a less confronting approach than the classic idea of the Capsule Wardrobe which, in its purest form, relies on just 12 pieces or less. By purest form, I mean, being done the way it was intended. Susie Faux was the concept’s founder in the 1970s, although it really caught on in America in the 1980s thanks to designer Donna Karan and her “Seven Easy Pieces” collection. At the time, a capsule wardrobe was defined as a compact wardrobe made up of colour-coordinated staple pieces – usually 30 items or fewer, including shoes and sometimes even accessories. Faux suggested fewer than a dozen items for an ideal capsule wardrobe. One might update the wardrobe with a couple of new trendy or seasonal items two or three times a year, but that was it. The goal was to have a streamlined wardrobe of high-quality pieces that could be worn often and interchangeably, thereby saving money, wardrobe space, and time.

However, now the capsule wardrobe has, like most things, taken on a new meaning, twisted to suit the machine of consumerism. Now we’re told that we need maybe 10 -20 basics, with perhaps 5 - 10 new pieces added each season. Hardly a capsule wardrobe. But a great way to sell the latest fashion pieces to us whilst helping us avoid guilt.

As with all these theories, trends and advice I focus on what works for me and my very individual set of circumstances. Like you, I don’t fit into a mould. For me, what works is to have areas of simplicity and less in my life; however, there are some things I don’t want to limit. I have lots of handbags and am not prepared to get rid of them. For me, having lots of handbags works as a way of updating and zhushing up an outfit. Likewise, with shoes. Aside from that, I do tend to have limited items of clothing in a fairly neutral palette, it means I can dress quickly on the run and know that I can instantly add the pop or zing I need by just grabbing that funky pair of sneakers or super stylish bag; but the trick is knowing where everything is, and ensuring they’re all easily accessible.

What I do with my handbags is of course no secret; what I do with my shoes is... until now. I don’t have the luxury of a large walk in wardrobe, so I get around it by keeping all my shoes in the boxes they come in, taking a quick snap of them and sticking the image on the front of the box. Instant shoe identification; and of course I’m happy my shoes are all well looked after and resting happily until their next outing in their own box, meant just for them.

This is how I store my shoes.

For you, your ‘not negotiable’ area of more or even excess might be something completely different. I know people who can’t get enough art, watches, books or even crockery. More power to you. If that’s what brings joy to your life then embrace it; the only caveat to that is if it starts to take over your life in a negative way, then it may be a problem to address.

I think the point is, it’s ok to have some areas of your life where you feel ‘more is more’; but perhaps clear some physical space in your life elsewhere so that you don’t go into overwhelm. We all have so much to do, so many places to be, so many things to think about that I feel it’s important to create ‘spaces’ in between all the doing and being. And above all, don’t feel guilty.

A lot of advice is around sudden, big tasks, challenges and changes. My advice? Break it down into digestible, bite-sized chunks. Find the bits that work for you, do those things first, and then I’ve no doubt you’ll make a meal of it.

 

Handbag heaven, and room for so many more!

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