Step 2: The Winnowing Phase -- Minimalist Fashion for the Rest of Us! How to Build a Capsule Wardrobe

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Update August 2016 -- I have HUGE news for a fashion-savvy, Capsule Wardrobe lovin' girl like you!  My shiny, awesome new book Secrets of the Capsule Wardrobe:  How to Find Your Personal Style & Create a Happy, Confident Closet! is now available!!  Feel free to continue to read this post if you like, but just be aware you're basically reading an incomplete rough draft... my book is the Perfected Guide to finding your personal style and building a effortless, confidence-inspiring, non-boring capsule wardrobe, step-by-step! It also contains never-before-published information on how to avoid the three most common mistakes that will SABOTAGE your Capsule Wardrobe, how to continue to curate your collection of clothing by purposeful shopping in the future, a whole chapter on the role of accessories in your minimalist closet, and more.  Go check it out right now... a happy closet awaits you! 



Super girly post alert!  Writing today about fa-SHUN... ready to be glamorous and sophisticated with me??  Second in a weekly series of six.  Missed the first installment?  Click here to catch up on Part 1, Finding Your Style! 

Minimalist Style for the Rest of Us --
aka, How to Transition to a Capsule Wardrobe Without Losing Your Mind -- Part 2, The Winnowing* Phase

Hello friends!  I'm excited to be back once more for Part 2 in our Minimalist Style / Capsule Wardrobe series... today we tackle The Winnowing Phase, eliminating the "chaff" from our wardrobe and getting one step closer to a Happy Closet.  Did you hear a faint, *dun dun DUH* in the background when you read those words "winnowing phase"?  Yeah, I did too... tackling our messy closets and disheveled sense of style can be overwhelming.  It can also be hard to have enough perspective on the items in your closet to know when it is time to part ways with something, but I'm going to try to help with that! 
To review from last week...  First, take a deep breath, and remember that you want your own style, not someone else's!  Then, think about this past week of wearing "favorites" -- how did it make you feel?  Do you have a clearer idea now of the kind of things that should go in your "Happy Closet"?  Keep those things in mind as we move forward!

Your Assignment:
The basic "winnowing" technique is probably one you've heard before -- three piles!  One "keep," one "donate," and one "clean/mend."  But oh my friend, that is way too limited!  My special touch (*bats eyelashes*) is to add in a fourth and fifth category... the "probation" category and the "well, duh, I'm going to need this" category.  Yep, now it's getting good!  

We're also going to be extra efficient here at Devastate Boredom: 
  • your "keep" pile is going to be a designated area towards the back of your closet -- these should be your "favorites" only.  Everything else is going to be duking it out for the right to stay in your collection!
  • your "probation" pile is going to be a second designated area in your closet, preferably right up front!
  • your "donate" pile is going to be a paper bag, ready to load up.
  • your "clean/mend" pile is going to be your laundry basket.
  • Your "well, duh, I'm going to need this" will probably be the VERY back of your closet, but you can decide for yourself as I explain below.
Keep:  These are the favorites from last week, and if they aren't already in the hamper from being worn all week it should be pretty simple to quick transfer them to the back of your closet.  You aren't allowed to wear any of your "favorites" next week -- only items on Probation... which is going to be, basically, anything else from the rest of your wardrobe.

Probation vs Donation:  Now go through the rest of your closet with these questions / meditations in mind:

  • Does this belong to an "old" me?  For me, my artsy/boho clothes would fall in this category.  I know myself better now, and these items belong to an earlier version of myself.  If there is a sentimental tug that is keeping you from getting rid of these items, maybe take a quick mirror-shot of you wearing the outfit, and journal or blog about why the memories are meaningful to you.  Then let those items go!  It is the memories that are valuable.. the rest is really just fabric.  :)
  • Would I buy this again if I saw it in the store today?  Pretend that the item costs a "normal" amount for you.  Would you pay that right now, or would you pass that item by and keep browsing?  If you would not buy it again, into the donation bag it goes.  If you aren't sure, stick it in probation.  If your answer is a resounding yes, you may have just happened upon a forgotten favorite! 
  • Remember that you are curating a collection.  Think galleries and museums here people!  Are you wearing this piece out of habit, or does it deserve to be in your collection?  However!  Keep in mind that neutrals and basics are a great backdrop for really awesome, stage-stealing accessories... so as a general rule, these things are good items to keep in probation, at least for now.

Well, duh, I'm going to need that!  As you sort through your wardrobe, the "uh duh, I'm going to need that," items will include: 
  1. Interview clothing (up to 3 outfits, mix-and-match -- you really shouldn't need more than that)
  2. A black dress or outfit for funerals 
  3. A number of very-dressy "wedding" and "cocktail" type clothes -- the number depends on your stage in life and what circles you run in, haha. 
  4. Specific "work clothing," particularly if your environment is business casual or you otherwise have a uniform.  Those will (obviously) need to stay accessible, so keep them sectioned together towards the front of your closet.
  5. IF you are actively working on loosing weight, definitely keep a few basics in the next size down, but do NOT keep clothes that are too big or way too small for you!  I find that the former can turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy of gaining weight back, and the latter usually just depress me, haha!  When you get down to those smaller sizes (and I have full faith that you will if that's your goal!), you're going to deserve new clothes to reward your self-discipline anyway.  :)
Do not leave the "well, duh, I'm going to need this" items scattered in with the "probation" and "favorites"!  They are visually cluttering your space, and you're trying to make it easier to find and keep track of the stuff that brings you joy.

Clean/Mend:  This one should be obvious -- stained items, missing buttons, tears or holes.  Give yourself a one-week window to deal with these things, and get rid of them if you haven't cared enough to deal with them by the deadline.  Quick tip from experience: don't wash something BEFORE mending it, or it could really make small holes morph into big ones.  *shakes head sadly*  Also, the only way I EVER actually manage to mend is if I bribe myself with a favorite movie, and work while I watch.  I recommend that method.

To summarize....  Winnow away!  Then, next week, only wear outfits put together from your "probation" items -- do three  probationary items layer so beautifully that all the sudden the outfit is a favorite?  Fantastic!  Does wearing it again remind you that that shirt itches unbearably, or that the cut is just not good on you?  You know what to do. 

A quick note in case you're freaking out -- I am not made of money, and I'm not assuming you are either!  It is fine to leave items in "probation" simply because you can't afford to go out and replace everything at the moment.  But as we continue to hone our minimalist, capsule wardrobe, you will be able to start phasing these things out more and more as time goes by and opportunities (read: sales  ;P) arise.

Okay, true confessions... how many items of clothing did you count in your closet and dresser last week?  How many are left in "favorites" and "probation" now?  Keep chipping away at that last number... you're already much closer to achieving the organized, minimalist closet of your dreams!

Next week, join us for Step 3: The Drastic and Undeniable Importance of Color Choice  "Now Multiply Outfits!" -- where we really start to work on the "Capsule Wardrobe" aspect of this series!  If you haven't already, may I suggest you might want to subscribe via email, bloglovin', or twitter?  ;)



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13 comments

  1. You are a genius, omg, the "Well Duh I need that!" category. I've made the mistake before of eliminating too much from a needed category, and had to go fish it out of the donation pile that I'd (for once happily) been procrastinating about dropping off. I love this idea to be more aware of necessity! Thank you!

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    1. I have lived the very scenario you just described... we clearly should be friends. BEST friends! ;) Did I miss any categories of clothes that should go in the "Well Duh I Need That" section? Tell me if so and I'll add them in!

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    2. No your list of categories seem to have things covered! I always rather felt like the article of clothing would be laughing at me, as I bring it back in... "You thought you were rid of me! You thought you didn't need me! Look at you now!"....Bahahahaha ;)

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  2. Not all the advice is girly - I'm making my husband read this. Thanks!

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  3. If I didn't wear any favorites for a week, I'd pretty much be starkers! Yup, I already have a pretty minimalist wardrobe, after the yay! I'm no longer THAT fat, sort thru!

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  4. Told a friend last week I was cleaning out my closet and getting rid of stuff. She said "But you don't have a lot of clothes." (I hate to shop!) And that's true, but still I had items hanging around for sentimental reasons. I actually gave away a beautiful long dress I bought when I was 20 -- and that was a loooonnngg time ago! :D

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    1. It can be so hard to make those decisions! But so freeing too. :) *applause*

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  5. Well, THANK YOU for finally being the ONE intelligent person out there who comes up with the "Duh" category!! This is one of those big differences I had with the KM book - I had a whole closet's worth of "work" clothes that would be stupid to just toss because I probably wouldn't be wearing them, but IF I had to go back to work, then I would certainly need these types of things again. So I ended up taking all those clothes as a unit and saying, what did I most enjoy wearing, when I was working? Then I kept those and even though I haven't worn any of them in years, I'd reach for them in a second, if I needed to. I got rid of all sorts of other clothes that were fine and I didn't mind wearing, but that was when I had to come up with something new 5 days a week and wanted to have enough choices to not spend my weekends entirely on laundry. I told myself that I was getting rid of a lot, but that if I have to go back, I'll just have to do more laundry, and that's a happy medium! You're doing a great job with this series! On to the next...

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    1. Hahahaha I know right?? The "duh" category was a total lightbulb moment for me too. ;P I'm so glad you enjoyed this series!

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  6. I have read your book and left a review on amazon. Please keep writing more because you truly have a gift!

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    1. You just made my day! *HUGS* Thank you for reading my book, and for leaving a review, and for your lovely compliment. I would love to hear about your capsule wardrobe journey if you feel like dropping me an email! :)

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