5 Questions to Grow a Capsule Mindset

How to Create a Capsule Mindset and Grow Your Life

How I dress has impacted my growth in a challenging season. Not in an unhealthy shop-to-fill-a-void kind of way. But in an I'm-worthy-of-this-life and I'll-dress-like-I-truly-believe-that sort of way. "Sometimes the being comes before the feeling," Chasing Slow (aff. link) by Erin Loechner. And dressing with a little more intention is the being that has contributed to feeling competent and confident.

Most of us already know about a capsule wardrobe and its benefits. (For those who don't: It's a wardrobe made up of essential items that don't go out of style and can mix and match outfits and seasons.) If we only wear 20% of our closet 80% of the time (I know I often do), then it saves time, money, energy, and space to simplify that closet and make the best use of our resources.

It also makes getting dressed a little easier, because we don't need to get decision fatigue right at the start of our day, ya know?

And that right there, the decision fatigue, is exactly why a capsule wardrobe matters to me. We all have a finite number of resources. Even if you're not limited by money or space, you might be limited by time or energy or decision-making power, and I am all about simplifying and automating whatever possible so that we can spend our best growing the most important parts of life.

Are you with me?

A simple closet is one small way to counteract the chaos in life. Easy to complete outfits can reduce one area of indecision in a new season of life. Feeling good about the space we begin and end each day in, and the way we look when we leave and return to that space, can create a small dose of renewal in life.

Ask me how I know. (See this >> post and this >> one for more on this "season of renewal" I've been trudging through.)

I've been meaning to create an actual capsule wardrobe for years. Then I re-realized, over time simplifying has given me a capsule wardrobe of sorts just through a simple mindset shift. Even if you may not find an exact capsule in my closet or dresser, there are a few principles that have become my autopilot when I shop and when I declutter my clothes that have helped streamline the process and find a little balance in it all.

I don't need extra things on my to-do list. I just need to know that my choices when shopping are helping my morning routine, not hindering it. I need to know that I'm making purchasing choices that are completing my outfits, not cluttering my closet. I need to know that I can feel good about getting dressed without getting caught in comparison traps that give me one more area to feel like I'm failing. I need to know that I'm showing up in this season of my life as my current best version of myself--inside and out.

Here's what I've learned over the years: The benefits of a capsule wardrobe don't have to be a "someday" dream. The capsule mindset can start growing today, making for a lifetime of enjoying capsule benefits without the work of creating a precise Pinterest-worthy capsule.

Benefits of a Capsule Wardrobe the Simple Way


How to Create a Capsule Mindset


A capsule mindset grows from a few simple questions. I ask these when I'm in a dressing room trying on clothes, and I ask them when I'm going through my closet or dresser to decide what I'm done with. Questions #1 and #5 are also what I use when I'm getting dressed. If the answer is yes to both, then I'm likely to feel more confident and competent as I set out growing my life.

1. Do I love it?

This includes both how it looks and feels. There have been far too many items I've owned that were just okay or were merely a good price, always leading them to hardly be worn, if at all. Want to know how I know if I love it? I try it on and automatically think, "wow, I love this!" I'm not kidding.

If my inner voice starts saying "if it was just a little longer" or "but it's a little too [fill in the blank]" then I know that it's going be worn once or twice and maybe never again. Because that quiet little "if" and "but" will be there every time I see the item and it will make me pass it over for something that doesn't make me say those things. So I've learned to not settle for anything less than love.

2. Can I wear it more than one way?

Dress it up, dress it down (in the context that I dress up or dress down, which isn't much of a difference); wear it in warm and cool weather, except for seasonal items, of course; mix and match with more than one pair of pants and more than one sweater or accessory option.

It's just not worth owning items that can only be worn one specific way. Plus, it can cause me to try and waste more money on finding items to match it with and go down a slippery slope of buying stuff I don't love. Every item I own can be worn more than one way. When I feel stuck, I search that particular item in Pinterest for ideas, and only Pin outfits with items I already own (i.e., "black vest outfit," "chelsea boots outfit," "chambray shirt outfit").

3. Has it been in style for a while?

And will the quality let me keep wearing it for years? Sure, styles vary through the years. But there are some basic things that have longevity and those are the things truly worth adding to the closet. These are the basics and staples that everybody keeps returning to. A nice pair of jeans or neutral pants, a neutral button up that can be tucked in or worn open over a basic tee. Is your style louder and bolder? Get these basics in colors and patterns that can still be mix and matched.

The more of the closet that makes up these items, the more versatile. This is sort of the foundation for and essence of a capsule wardrobe. Of course this doesn't make up everything I own. But I try to keep my trendier pieces to a minimum, because I know I may not be wearing them very long. I'm also prone to go cheap on the trendier items for that same reason.

4. Is it a color, pattern, or style I naturally reach for repeatedly?

When it comes to buying the more "eccentric" pieces of a wardrobe, they need to very closely match my style or I know I won't wear them often. I know this by the history of what colors I actually wear and which I've bought and neglected. I also know this by how much I love it. My style naturally strays away from too crazy of color or patterns, but they also make the perfect way to perk up an outfit.

I love wearing greens, warm yellows, florals or greenery in those colors, and black and white stripes. I reach for those repeatedly, so they're worth owning within reason. I don't keep adding options, because I know I don't wear patterns and colors often enough to justify that. So I usually need to be done with one color or pattern shirt before I buy a new one.

5. Is it the look I'm aiming for in this season?

Or another question that sometimes helps: Can I imagine my style "icon" wearing it? I usually have an idea in my head of what style I'm aiming for, and I have to keep that image in my mind when I go shopping to make sure I don't settle for more comfortable pieces I already own.

This image in my head helps guide my shopping list for the season (I usually only need a couple items to replace or build on what I already have), and it helps keep me looking put-together. Comfort is the top of my priority list, so even if I'm looking for nice or dressier items, I still make sure it's comfortable.

Create a capsule mindset to put your energy to growing your life...

Additional Outfit Tips


+ Find your "uniform."
The go-to example of a uniform is Steve Jobs' jeans and black turtle necks. The main perk is that it limits options when getting dressed which helps save energy for more important decisions. It also reduces unnecessary shopping and keeps closets and dresses neat and tidy. A uniform can be a little broader. Take whatever your go-to favorite outfit is, replicate it, and you've got a uniform.

+ Know yourself.
Learning more about who I am as a whole person has done the most in helping me figure out my style and find what makes me feel like my best self. It also helps me know whose advice to follow, and when to say "good for you, not for me" when something looks good, but isn't what I want in my wardrobe.

+ Know when enough is enough.
Many of us have been there--shopping when there isn't anything in particular that we need. As you get more into the capsule mindset, you'll get a better idea of what's missing in your wardrobe or what needs replaced, and what's just plain unnecessary. Telling ourselves no and resisting the urge to fill the cracks in our lives with shopping (or whatever your vice may be) is absolutely necessary for becoming healthy whole people. It can be a challenge, but your closet, budget, and heart thanks you for learning when enough is enough. (It's a lesson I'm learning and re-learning.)

+ Get two options in your go-to staples.
I tend to overwear my go-to uniform pieces, so I like having two options. This helps reduce how quickly I wear things out, and gives me better options for mixing and matching. For instance, I own a tan skinny belt and a leopard print one; a basic black glasses frame and the other a fun patterned green; tees in heather grey and black-and-white striped; a tan sweater and a black sweater; a chambray button up and a plaid button-up; a grey crew neck sweater and a striped crew neck sweater. I love these items and wear them regularly, so when I double upped on them, I did so with two different options that help me create lots of no-brainer outfits.

+ Learn easy ways to "complete" an outfit.
A front-tuck or fully tucked in shirt; a belt (patterned or not); a "third piece" like a cardigan, a vest, or a button up; and a simple accessory are all easy ways to complete an outfit. Any combination of these help me feel more put-together in my really simple outfits.


The point of a capsule wardrobe isn't to have one more list of expectations to measure up to and adding one more thing to your to-do list. The point is to wear what you love and love what you own, shop less, be sure of your purchases, keep your clothes a long time, and look put-together with minimal effort. Plus, that little thing about saving your time, money, and energy for growing life.

You don't have to have a specific 9-piece capsule or wear only 33 pieces of clothing to make that happen. (Although I love a good Project 333-type clothing challenge.) If you don't have the time or the desire for those things, then just start growing a simple capsule mindset with the questions above.

You can start enjoying the benefits and put your precious resources toward what really matters in your life.

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also see:
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glasses love at first try-on
create life balance
goal-setting brought me back to life
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