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How to Organize Your Closet with a Capsule Wardrobe

Hello Zen Organizer,

I don't know how's the weather like in your part of the world, but here in Italy, the weather is getting warmer. It's time to think about switching up my closet!

So I thought it'd be the perfect opportunity to talk about closet organization since you probably also have to do it!

But I want to talk to you about a concept I find really interesting in terms of closet organization: the capsule wardrobe.

What's a capsule wardrobe?

It's a "collection of clothing that is composed of interchangeable items only, to maximize the number of outfits that can be created. The aim is to have an outfit suitable for any occasion without owning excessive items of clothing. This is usually achieved by buying what are considered to be "key" or "staple" items in coordinating colours" (Capsule wardrobe, n.d.).

Download this workbook to help you build your capsule wardrobe!

What are the benefits of a capsule wardrobe?

  • It reduces decision fatigue, which "refers to the deteriorating quality of decisions made by an individual after a long session of decision making" (Decision fatigue, n.d.).

  • The more decisions you have to make in a day, the harder it becomes to make good choices.

  • Here are some examples of small decisions you have to make daily: what to wear, what to have for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (that's why planning your meals can help you 😉).

  • Did you know that influential people like Barack Obama, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg always dress the same way? They do that to avoid wasting their energy and decision power on this kind of "trivial" decision.

  • The fewer clothes you have to choose from, the easier it is to decide how to get dressed.

  • Bonus tip: pick your clothes in the evening to avoid using your "fresh" decision power in the morning.

  • By buying fewer clothes and only quality ones, you reduce the environmental impacts of your wardrobe.

  • The fashion industry is one of the worst industries in terms of environmental impact:

  • It accounts for 10% of greenhouse gas emissions (Ro, 2020);

  • It's responsible for almost 20% of wastewater (Ro, 2020);

  • It is estimated Americans waste an average of 37kg each of clothes every year (Beall, 2020);

  • Globally, 92 million tonnes of textile go to waste each year (Beall, 2020).

  • It diminishes your clothing budget because you'll buy fewer clothes and will keep them for more time. Plus, your clothes will take up less space in your closet!

A capsule wardrobe is for you if you:

  • have a closet full of clothes but always end up wearing the same things;

  • have a closet full of clothes but still manage to "never have anything to wear" because you're not satisfied with what you have;

  • tend to buy clothes on a whim, because they're on sale, because of the trend of the moment, but end up never wearing most of them;

  • want to reduce your clothing budget;

  • want to reduce the number of clothes you have;

  • want to reduce the amount of time you spend shopping;

  • want to have a closet that reflects your personality, your lifestyle, and which makes you feel good and confident!

How to build a capsule wardrobe

There are different approaches and varying numbers of items "allowed" in your capsule wardrobe based on who you ask. But don't focus too much on the maximum number. Try to stick to less than 50 items.

Don't count the following items in your capsule wardrobe:

  • loungewear;

  • sleep-wear;

  • work out clothes;

  • underwear;

  • jewelry you never take off, like your wedding ring (I don't count jewelry in my capsule wardrobe, but you can if you want to go full-on minimalist).

1. Start by taking stock of what you already have:

  • Donate clothes that don't fit you well or that you don't truly like.

  • Toss or turn into rags worn-out clothes.

  • Only keep clothes that fit you well, that are in good condition, and that you love. You'll build your capsule wardrobe around the items you already have.

  • If by doing this cleanup, you already have enough pieces to live your daily life, don't buy anything yet. Try it out for a few weeks, and take note of what you're missing.

  • If you're not sure about certain items, box them up and put them away for 3 months. If, after three months, you didn't feel the need or remembered these clothes, donate the box without opening it!

2. Determine your lifestyle and the items you really need in your day-to-day life.

  • Where do you live?

  • What's the weather like?

  • How many seasons are there? How many times do you switch up your wardrobe?

There's no need for a different wardrobe for every season just switch seasonal items.

  • What's your lifestyle?

  • Where do you work? What's the dress code?

  • What do you do on the weekends? And in your spare time?

  • Do you attend a lot of special events? What's the dress code?

3. Determine your body type

4. Choose a colour palette:

  • You should choose 2-3 neutral colours as the basis for your capsule wardrobe. Neutral colours are: black, white, grey, brown, khaki, navy blue.

  • These colours are timeless colours that go well with many other colours.

  • Your basic items should be in these colours (ex. pants, jackets, cardigans, coats, shoes, bags)

  • Choose 2-3 accent colours that go well together and with your neutral ones.

  • Your seasonal items and items you switch up more often should be in these colours (ex. jewelry, scarves, t-shirts)

  • If you'd like to choose your colours based on your skin tone, I suggest looking into colour analysis. Check out this site for more information: https://theconceptwardrobe.com/build-a-wardrobe/step-4-create-a-colour-palette

5. Determine the number of pieces you need in each category to live your day-to-day life for the season:

  • Tops:

  • Camisoles

  • Short-sleeved

  • Long-Sleeved

  • Blouses/Shirts

  • Knitted tops

  • Dresses/Tuniques

  • Bottoms:

  • Pants

  • Jeans

  • Skirts

  • Shorts

  • Outer layers:

  • Cardigans

  • Sweaters

  • Blazers

  • Jackets

  • Coats

  • Accessories:

  • Shoes

  • Bags

  • Jewelry

  • Scarves, hats, gloves

This list is not exhaustive. Add any other item you need!

6. List what you have and what you need. Buy what you need, but nothing more!

  • Use this workbook to go through each step and determine what you have and what you need to buy!

  • Make sure you stick to your list when you go shopping, and only buy what you determined you needed.

General tips for closet change:

  • Go over your clothes from the past season and donate clothes you didn't wear, that don't fit you, or which you don't like anymore. Toss worn-out clothes or turn them into rags!

  • Wash all the clothes you're putting away and make sure they're completely dry.

  • Fold them neatly and place them in plastic boxes with lids or clothes storage boxes:

  • don't store them in plastic bags or cardboard boxes;

  • only vacuum-seal them for short-term storage;

  • avoid mothballs, which are toxic and leave a strong odour on clothes; use cedar balls instead, which are a natural insect repellant (cheap and can be easily found online);

  • store the boxes in a cool, dry, and dark area;

  • Clean the inside of your closet before putting back your clothes in it!

Resources to build a capsule wardrobe

Project 333

The Concept Wardrobe

Free Notion training access


Beall, Abigail. (2020). Why clothes are so hard to recycle. Retrieved from BBC: https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200710-why-clothes-are-so-hard-to-recycle

Capsule wardrobe. (n.d.). Wikipedia. Retrieved on March 29th, 2021, from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capsule_wardrobe

Decision fatigue. (n.d.). Wikipedia. Retrieved on March 29th, 2021, from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Decision_fatigue

Ro, Christine. (n.d.). Can fashion ever be sustainable? Retrieved from BBC: https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200310-sustainable-fashion-how-to-buy-clothes-good-for-the-climate

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