Let’s Talk About Capsule Wardrobes and Minimalism

MaLieb Linen Tunic

MaLieb Linen Tunic

Cleaning out my closet is boring, but it’s going better than expected. I purge regularly, so the task is only overwhelming when it comes to keeping items that fit (but I don’t love) and donating items that don’t fit (but I really love). This is the albatross of the emotional eater.

This time around, I’m trying to be conscientious about my wardrobe thanks to the documentary that can’t be unseen and that back injury from the end of the school term last year. My back is much better now, but working at the school taught me that a good bra is everything and heels and tight waistbands are not. Clothing that allows me to stretch and move is key in my line of volunteerism.

Environmentally responsible clothing is expensive, which is one of the reasons I’ve been researching capsule wardrobes and minimalism. I know, I know: “capsule wardrobe” sounds like such a twee and trendy blogger thing, but when you brush away the style boards and affiliate links the idea is a sound one. I love the idea of a uniform that I vary slightly. It makes getting dressed easy and simple, and I’m all about easy-going simplicity.

I still have a way to go on my closet, but in the meantime I’m researching what a minimalist wardrobe is and how one goes about building one. Maybe it’s for me, maybe it isn’t. I’m still contemplating.

Here are some sites I’ve found helpful. I’m not including blogs like UnFancy which, while inspirational and aspirational, are more about the outfit than the concept.

Confidence Tricks from Susie Faux

SF-portrait-e1311416121472Susie Faux invented the term “capsule wardrobe” in the 70s, and since then her focus has been on empowering women through fashion. I like her classic, effortless style. She doesn’t date herself with trends and encourages investment pieces. At first glance, her blog is geared more towards female executives, but I can easily adapt her advice to suit my lifestyle.

 

 

Project 333

CourtneyCarverCourtney Carver brought minimalist wardrobes to the forefront with her Project 333: 33 items of clothing, worn for 3 months. I’m not 100% sold on the idea of a rotating, seasonal wardrobe. I live in southern California, which means my wardrobe is year-round for the most part. She describes the process in great detail and unlike Susie Faux, her site is fairly easy to navigate and doesn’t require a magnifying glass to read. (Says the extremely farsighted one.)

 

Into Mind

IMG_2257800Anuschka Rees is a 20-something PhD candidate in psychology from Berlin who is passionate about minimalism. Her goal is to help readers define a personal style that fits their lifestyle and aesthetic ideals. She has a workbook to help facilitate this (which I don’t need) but I love how she clearly defines a minimalist wardrobe. My mind is also blown away by this 30-Day Minimalism Challenge.  It looks like something I may have to do sooner rather than later.

 

True Cost

True Cost. Who pays the price for our clothing?

A few years ago, our book club read the book Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion by Elizabeth L. Kline. You can read our discussion here. Spoiler: I never did take that class in sewing.

Nor did I do anything different after I read the book. I became concerned, researched my options, became overwhelmed, forgot about it.

That’s a lie. I didn’t forget about it because it remained in the back of my mind every time I bought a ridiculously cheap t-shirt, or every time my dad came over with a huge bag of clothing for the boys from Marshall’s. That hardly makes it okay. My inaction is as sinful as those who demand more and more from the backs of those who have nothing left to give. Maybe even more so, if those consumers who demand are clueless. If the “haul” youtube videos are a barometer for intelligence and social ethics then, yeah, pretty clueless.

True Cost, a documentary on the fashion industry, popped up on NetFlix as a recommendation. I watched it while folding clothing into origami. This documentary is a must-see.

I don’t recall Overdressed delving into the labor issues the way True Cost does. Overdressed painted a broad picture of the problems in the fashion industry while True Cost focuses almost solely on the labor and environmental injustices we commit with our dollars.

I’ve never been a fan of fashion, and I’m sure my weight has something to do with my disdain. It’s easy to settle myself comfortably into my armchair and say “how vain, how shallow, how dumb” when I worry someone will turn around and say “how fat.” Incidentally, worrying about someone thinking you’re fat is also vain, shallow, and dumb, but that’s an observation for another day. This goes beyond how one looks in soft pants and a mid-drift top. This is an issue of dignity and human rights and our failing stewardship of the planet.

All things I’m thinking about as I embark on my closet portion of the KonMari journey.

Happy, Happy

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Years ago I made a commitment to read only from my Unread Library. I think I took the above picture around the same time. 2010, people. Five years ago!

My progress was rather lousy and I ended up giving away many of those unread books. You have to know when to say when.

I still have an obscene number of unread books. Everyone calls ereaders the perfect way to store thousands of books. And they’re right! You can store thousands of books in a footprint the size of a piece of paper. But you know what? You can store thousands of books in a footprint the size of a piece of paper.

This is no good for someone like me. Handing me an ereader is like handing me the keys to an ice cream and tortilla chip factory (so awesome) and saying, “We’ll be back to check on you in a week. Feel free to take only what you need.”

Only what I need? You fool! You didn’t define “need.”

I’m handing over the keys to the ice cream and tortilla chip factory. I have sad-face, but it must be done. I have too much to read for school, for RCIA, and for my own edification. I knew something had to be done when not one, not two, not three, but four people recently recommended to me Brené Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection.

Each day we face a barrage of images and messages from society and the media telling us who, what, and how we should be. We are led to believe that if we could only look perfect and lead perfect lives, we’d no longer feel inadequate. So most of us perform, please, and perfect, all the while thinking, “What if I can’t keep all of these balls in the air? Why isn’t everyone else working harder and living up to my expectations? What will people think if I fail or give up? When can I stop proving myself?”

Brené Brown The Gifts of Imperfection

I’m asked about this book at least 6 times per year, but this year is looking like a record breaker. The last person to mention the book was the Mister. My own husband! He saw it on our dresser (I pulled it out the third time someone mentioned it to me) and he became all wild, like he does when he has information to share. He asks me how I came across this book? Did I know who Brené Brown is? Did I know he’s sent videos and excerpts of her work to his reps? And that she did a TedTalk? Am I going to read this book? Because he thought I might enjoy it.

Hellooooo? I’m a blogger. We practically invented Brené Brown, mmmkay?

Also, I have her latest book, which is why I took out her old book. I have to read the old book before I read the new book because DUH. (Ignoring the fact we read her middle book for bookclub two years ago.)

Finally, what is going on? Why is everyone telling me to read this book? I’m beginning to feel like Ducky in Pretty in Pink. Do I offend?

“So are you going to read the book?” the Mister asked.

Yes.

Edited to Add:

Haha! The first sentence of the preface (of all things):

Once you see a pattern, you can’t un-see it. Trust me, I’ve tried. But when the same truth keeps repeating itself, it’s hard to pretend that it’s just a coincidence.

KonMari Never Folded Boys’ Cargo Shorts

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First let me start by apologizing for the pictures in this post. My camera hasn’t worked well for over a year. I need to take it to get cleaned and repaired, but only after I figure out where to go. In the meantime, I’ve been used my iphone which, you know, is pretty awesome under ideal settings. It’s not so great with low light and saturated colors, which is what I have today. I normally don’t apologize for things like photography, but between the grainy crime scene photos and KonMari’s fussy folding technique, I’m primed for a first-world temper tantrum.

You read me right. KonMari and her little origami folding methodology can pound sand.

I love her folding method when it comes to t-shirts. I do. But this week I tackled the rest of the boys’ clothing which, if you have boys, you know means cargos in 438 different styles. If you aren’t familiar with cargos (KonMari), they are military trousers first seen in the 1930s. They are loose fitting and have several large pockets soldiers used to carry field dressings, maps, rations, and ammunition.

Americans took one look at them and said this is exactly what all boys need: more places to put stuff.

The other day Mikey went to his friend’s house to swim. I told him to pack his bag. He came out wearing his swim jammers and his cargo shorts. In the pockets of his shorts was a change of underwear, sunscreen, and goggles. “I don’t want to bring a bag,” he said.

“Too bad,” I said.

You can’t avoid cargo-style clothing for boys. Unless they’re uniform pants from K-Mart, there will be pockets. We have cargo casual shorts, cargo dress shorts, cargo trousers, cargo sweat shorts, and cargo sweatpants. We even have cargo pajamas because even if your goal is to carry around all your possessions, you still have to sleep.

Tuck in the crotch and fold them in half, she says. Then fold them again. Find the sweet spot!

I tried and tried and tried but the pockets kept getting in the way. I had the best luck with the “dress” cargos because those pockets laid flat. They’re essentially for looks. The cargo pockets on everything else was a different story.

I googled, to no avail. I found a plethora of videos by girls in college teaching me how to fold everything from bras, to underwear, to socks, to shirts, to shorts–but no boys’ cargo shorts. The moms (are there any out there?) were silent on the issue. I gained nothing from the experience except for eye strain from over-rolling. Don’t tell me how to fold soft pants! First, calling them soft pants won’t change the fact that those, my dear, are harem pants. Second, how dare you proudly wear “soft pants” after what they did to innocent people in the 90s. How dare you.

FAIL 2

FAIL 1

After much trial and error, I came up with a complicated 24-step process to fold cargo bottoms.

SUCCESS

I was feeling good. Sure, it took me a while to find the “sweet spot,” but now that I cracked the code, doing the rest of the pants would get easier as time went on. I was the dominator of cargos. I was ready.

SUPER FAIL

When I get angry, really angry, speechless angry, I become unrecognizable. I stand very still, schooling my features into submission. I am the outward appearance of calm. The giveaway is the red face or the eyelids blinking so fast I must subconsciously want to use them to lift me off the ground and whisk me away to somewhere less annoying.

I stared at those pants while my bangs fluttered in the breeze my blinking created.

Those pants were mocking me. Standing up tall and straight like an obedient soldier, pretending excitement at the prospect of being filed, but I knew. I knew what they were doing. Cargos aren’t KonMari’s humble socks, looking for a break, happy to stay wrapped around their mate until it’s time to go to work. Cargo pants are players. They tell you what you want to hear and then use your own words against you until suddenly you’re apologizing for the size of your drawers.

Not today, cargo pants. Not me. I’ve met far too many of your kind. I tucked in your crotch (small compared to the pockets, frankly) and rolled you into a loaf. You don’t deserve a sweet spot.

The pros-cons to the KonMari method with children-8

The rest of the clothing went as such. I tucked and rolled and put them away for me, for you, and for all the other mothers who have had to deal with cargo pants.

The pros-cons to the KonMari method with children-2

The pros-cons to the KonMari method with children-3

I moved on to the boys’ top drawers, which are meant to hold underwear, undershirts, and socks. They don’t hold underwear or undershirts, but they do hold socks. Their sock drawer would give Marie Kondo the vapors and, thanks to that book, makes me feel like I’m secretly running a puppy mill.

First I folded all the underwear, which before today were in a bin in the closet. I took a break for lunch and lost the pile. Nico, trying to help, put the underwear away in the bin in the closet. I told him and Mikey that while I appreciated the help, I decided to move the underwear to the dresser. Both thought that was a terrible idea. They didn’t want to change the underwear, though they love the t-shirts and have kept the system up perfectly, even when putting away their laundry.

They’re right, I thought. The underwear bin is easier for them–they just toss the underwear in. Sometimes they don’t even put away the bin. They let it sit on the piles of whatever it is they keep on their closet floor. I don’t want to be that mom who strips away every last shred of youth from her kids’ room. I should let them have their messy closet. Right?

The pros-cons to the KonMari method with children-4

Screw that, I thought. I spent who-knows-how-long folding 19 pairs of underwear into the size of a postage stamp. I’m filing them in an underwear drawer and by God, they’re going to love it.

The pros-cons to the KonMari method with children-5

The other drawer is now for belts and ties. I’m hoping this is the year Nico realizes lamp shades are not tie hangers.

“But dad said to keep my tie somewhere I will always find it!”

The pros-cons to the KonMari method with children-7

I have one final drawer to finish–uniform pants and shorts. I ordered them a while ago and they finally arrived while I was typing this post. After that and the closet, I’ll be done with the boys’ clothing.

My clothing should be easier to handle; I only have two pairs of cargo pants.

WMP: Scrape + Paint Exterior Windows

If you want a golden rule that will fit everybody, this is it: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.

–William Morris

See my “useful and beautiful” To-Do list here.

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The studio in our backyard.

The exterior color of our house was one of the few things we didn’t like and vowed to immediately change once we moved in. Immediately turned into 10 years.

Ten years probably worked out for the better since it spared us from painting the house some really atrocious colors. I cringe thinking back to my “match the brick” phase. Also narrowly avoided: greige. We decided on a cream body with bright white trim. It’s classic and works well with all the greenery. That greenery is one of the reasons we didn’t paint the house green,  a popular accent color with red brick homes.

I also painted the doors Tardis blue, so I’m not entirely boring.

Froont Door-1

Front Door-1

It’s been 3 months since the Wayfair GreenThumb Challenge and the plants are doing great! My two drought tolerant plants circled the drain following a blistering heat wave shortly after planting, but they’re on the mend. I’m glad I didn’t toss them out. They looked like tumble weeds, but their stems still showed signs of life when I scraped them gently. Now I just get rid of the dead leaves and be patient.

The succulents, on the other hand, have had not one problem. I was so worried putting them in direct, west-facing light, but they love, love, love the porch. They’ve at least quadrupled in size and soon it will be time for me to start propagating. Free plants!