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Step by Step Organization Guide: Your Perfect Capsule Wardrobe

February 19, 2019

This article is the tactical guide to get an organized closet system so that you can be deliberate about what you wear and how you get ready every day. It follows on to the article Game Changer: Less Stress, More Style & Time with Capsule Wardrobes which if you missed, walks you through what Capsule Wardrobes are, why they are awesome, and gives additional tips.

Once you decide on the goal of a better functioning closet and a more coordinated wardrobe, you need to do a bit of emotional and logistical prep work.

Everyone is different so your emotional homework is likely not the same as mine. You homework might be to stop the habit of shopping to make yourself feel better or it might be to decide to get out of postpartum survival mode. My emotional to do’s included:

  1. A heart-to-heart with 5’1″ self—about where I’ve been and where I’m at now health-wise—and decided that neither the “me” that fit into my smaller clothing (size 2 +/-) or my larger things (size 10/12 +/-) is healthy. So both ends of my wardrobe needed to go and my old goal of being as thin as possible was eliminated.
  2. A goal was set to improve my health, get stronger, and more fit; this included dropping some weight gained after developing an ulcer (all I wanted to eat were carbs for months which turned into a bad habit), devoting much of my spending money to private Pilates lessons and doing physical therapy after 2 accidents.

Important reality check: If you’ve been at a weight higher than you wish for more than 1-2 years, and you do not have the desire or bandwidth to make a major life change, you need to purge all items that do not fit you. If like me, you decide you do want to drop some dress sizes, you need to set a firm time goal and date the bins with your deadline. If you don’t make the deadline, donate the clothes.

Once I’d committed, I needed to start the tactical organizing part. Here are the steps I took that led to my organized closet and Capsule Wardrobe formation:

  1. Assess and Plan. Think through how many clothes, shoes, and accessories that you own; this assessment will give you an idea of how big the scope of your re-org will be. Know those big moving wardrobe boxes? I had 7 of them plus around 8 medium boxes when we moved so this took me around 4 days total over the course of a week. Even the most minimal of us will need at least a day.
  2. Optional Limited Storage Plan. Order air tight bins for longer term, safe storage of off-season and too small yet reasonable health-goal-sized clothing. I got 4 and labeled them (1) Fall/Winter XS Items, (1) Spring/Summer XS Items, and (2) Off-Season.
  3. Schedule. Calendar the day(s) you need to organize without interruption (requires mother’s, nanny’s, husband’s &/or grandma’s assistance) and if possible have a good friend there to help with decisions.
  4. Prepare. Think of anything you’ll need and put it all in a basket or container that you can move around with you. You want to avoid having your work rhythm broken and distracted with things like big water bottle, Bluetooth speaker (music helps keep you energized), phone with charging cord, marker, masking tape/labels, scissors, etc.
  5. Unplug. Vow to not check email, text, or social media.
  6. Motivate. Put on your best upbeat playlist, finish your latte, and get going!
  7. Set Sorting Zones. Set up medium–large boxes and label them (1) Donate, (2) Sell/Gift, (3) Trash/Recycle, (4) Doesn’t Fit but LOVE, (5) Sleepwear, (6) Fitness, (7) Underwear, (8) Special Occasion and (9) Need to Try On. Then make signs marking areas to pile up each remaining type of clothing (dresses, t-shirts, tops, pants, etc.).
  8. Keep Tight Limits on the 3 ‘Special’ Circumstances Boxes. The “Doesn’t Fit but LOVE,” “Special Occasion” and “Need to Try On” boxes allow you to make tough calls at the end of your sorting. The idea is not to store boxes and boxes of things that don’t fit or you can’t remember how they look on you. The point of these is to only put things in these boxes if you really truly can’t let them go on first pass. I only store items that are extremely high quality and/or couture designer investment pieces and I date my too small bins and donate after 3 seasons. Also, only reserve items in the Sell/Gift box if you really think your BFF will want that 5 year old jean jacket or that you’ll actually get around to consigning that ball gown.
  9. Clean Slate It. Pull everything out of your closet and drawers—it’s going to get worse before it gets better. Note: I suggest organizing shoes and accessories after you do all clothing.
  10. Quick, Gut Reactions Rule. Move quickly and go with your instinct; Marie Kondo’s barometer is ‘does it bring you joy?’ For me, it’s a matter of do I feel pretty, happy &/or attractive in it? And have you worn it within the last 1-2 years?
  11. If ‘No’ then go! If you said “no” to any of the above litmus test questions then bye, bye. Also, purge anything:
    • pilled, worn out, or damaged
    • out of date, overly trendy
    • rarely worn &/or overly conservative office attire (CRUCIAL: if you’re a mom that’s taking more than 2 years off work, get rid of all office items! They’ll be out of style by the time you go back to work)
    • too big/too small
    • not suited to you for any reason (unflattering color, cut or simple not “you”)
    • only exceptions are that you may keep—if and only if—timelessly styled, well-fitting, and moderately flattering: 1 neutral ‘interview’ outfit and 1 black suit/conservative dress for funerals or other rare occasions
  12. Assess Everything. No exceptions. You know those expensive panties that ride up and you shove to the bottom of your drawer? Gone. That cashmere sweater that has a moth hole? Goodbye. That chartreuse dress with the tags still on it, and the peasant dress you bought in Costa Rica and haven’t worn since? Adios.
  13. Take a Special Look at the 3 Work Horse Categories: Sleepwear, Fitness, and Underwear. Moms often have some issues with them; we have way more per category than we need (those 9 pairs of black yoga pants for example!) and we keep things that are really old, stretched-out, and unattractive. It’s often the ‘no one sees me in them’ or ‘why spend money on them?’ mentality for most moms. I remember a make over show a few years ago that fitted women in these categories and it was literally physique altering in many cases.
  14. Separate Seasons. Unless you live somewhere where the weather is the same year round, make three groups: Fall/Winter, Spring/Summer, and Year Round.

With the above steps done, I had a much smaller base to focus on for my capsule. In spite of this, it was still daunting. I had a mix of black, brown and navy for the Fall/Winter group and a huge gamut of colors for the Spring/Summer. At this point, I decided that I’d have two different Capsule Wardrobes—one Fall/Winter and one Spring/Summer. So the next steps are:

  1. Sort by item type within each of the 3 Seasonal Groups above.
  2. Pack away the off-season items unless you’re opting for a Year-Round Capsule.
  3. Compare the off-the-shelf Capsule Wardrobe Guides I mentioned in the article Game Changer: Less Stress, More Style & Time with Capsule Wardrobes or find a different option with your own research.
  4. Consider your best color palate. Decide on the best capsule color palate for you using your skin tone as a main decision factor; if you’re not sure do a quick web search and check out the old school concept about which “color season” you are and get a friend’s advice.
  5. Choose the Guide that you like best.
  6. Pull any items out that don’t fit within your chosen color scheme and give them a long, hard look; only keep the ‘love’ items that are truly the cream of the crop. Note: a few items of these extra colored items were integrated with my capsule closet and others were put in a nearby closet that holds special occasion items.
  7. Repeat the purge and sort process for all of your shoes and accessories now that you’ve selected a Capsule plan.
  8. Use the Guide’s links to fill in any items that are missing from your Capsule model. I focused on bargain bottoms because I was working on being more fit and I chose sweaters and tops from all price ranges because they would fit fine post weight loss.

I won’t lie to you…this is going to take some time to do but I promise that this will pay you back in spades with time you’ll gain every day! It’s so worth it for a stress-free yet confident, stylish you!

Feature photo by Angela Carlyle