IN THIS ARTICLE:
I, a pathological clothes collector, got rid of 90% of
my wardrobe and it was the best anti-anxiety decision ever;
the ah-mazing wardrobe organizer app that helped me;
I admit that it’s not for everyone
I love clothes. Let me repeat that for emphasis. I lu-hu-hu-HUUUUUV clothes.
Not sure how to say that in a way that sufficiently conveys my deep, emotional connection to those glorious pieces of fabric joined together to protect our bodies from the elements.
Still, the affection I had for my garments (many of them I constructed myself) did not stop me — approximately 8 months ago — from donating 14 large moving boxes full of them to the Goodwill. Percentage-wise, that was about 90% of my wardrobe, and I’m still not finished paring down. If you’d told me a year ago that I’d be doing such a thing, I’d have scoffed.
I really wish I’d taken photos of my previous wardrobe, in all its vintage, bohemian, hand-sewn, print-heavy glory, so you could have an actual “before” photo. I wasn’t blogging at the time, so I had no reason to snap photos of my closet. Instead, I’m going to use this photo I found on Pinterest because it comes pretty close to the type (and volume) of clothes my closet contained.
And why did I give away my meticulously curated and hand-sewn wardrobe? Because it finally dawned on me that having all of those clothes was contributing to my anxiety in multiple ways.
Here are the top two:
- Too much choice in general paralyzes me. (Seriously. Don’t take me to a restaurant with more than 10 items on the menu.) This stresses me out when searching my closet for an outfit as well as when shopping for outfits.
- The constant pressure I put myself under to put together “effortless,” (shyeah right) eclectic outfits to wear to work because I’d somehow developed a reputation for wearing effortless, eclectic outfits…and then my whole identity and (fragile) sense of self worth got mixed up in it. (Pathetic. I know.)
Everything, even the act of putting together outfits from a wardrobe of clothing that I genuinely loved became freakish and daunting through the distorted lens of anxiety. Daunting? Cute outfits? Kind of ashamed to admit it but, yep. Cute outfits.
THE PROBLEM, SUMMARIZED
At its worst, my social anxiety causes me to assume that people will not only judge me, but will inevitably judge me poorly. Therefore, I tend to obsess over making the best impression (superhumanly) possible. But as a socially awkward dork (j/k…sort of) who either clams up entirely or is a jibber-jabbering, walking faux pas, I rely heavily on clothing to make a better impression than my social skills can — especially because it seems (I think?) to have worked pretty well in the past. So putting together outfits to take on that hefty job stresses me the f**k out — and once I’m out of the house, 9 times out of ten I feel like I’ve made the wrong choice.
So, as difficult as it was, I chopped my wardrobe down to a few basic essentials. Not only did I severely limit the amount of clothes, accessories, and shoes I owned, I also limited my colors and patterns. I picked colors that I KNEW looked great on me, classic cuts that flattered me (and that I felt great wearing), and pieces that were all mixable and matchable. Thank goodness that KonMari and the whole capsule wardrobe thing has been spreading across blogs and Pinterest boards like wildfire in recent years, so there were plenty of resources at my fingertips to help me prepare for the big dump.
When I was commuting 3+ hours a day to the office (and was so busy there that I didn’t take lunch breaks for months at a time) and spent weekends doing un-fun household chores and cooking for the entire week because of my many diet restrictions, this new limited choice wardrobe made my life SO. MUCH. SIMPLER.
And now that I work from home (and hardly ever leave it), I’ve still happily kept it up. Who knows if I’ll do it forever, but as of yet, I’ve had no desire to go back to my pre-capsule days. At the moment, it saves me time, it saves me money, and it saves me from undue stress and anxiety. Why would I quit?
A Few Outfits From My Current Simplified Wardrobe
My Limited Colors
- Black, White, and Gray (all essentially the same color in varying shades, right?)
- Shades of brown (earth tones)
My Limited Patterns
Limited, but I’ve yet to exhaust my mixing and matching opportunities .
I Still (Very Much) Enjoy Colors & Prints
I just express that side of my personality in my decor, housewares, linens, and art. So I still get to see and enjoy them on a daily basis — I just don’t wear them. And I don’t really look at myself much anyway, so it totally works out.
A Capsule Wardrobe Ain’t For Everyone
I’m certainly not universally advocating a limited, minimalist, or capsule wardrobe for everyone. If my closet full of eclectic clothing brought me joy and nothing but joy, I’d still have it. The fact is, it didn’t — not by a long shot. But if you foresee that reducing your wardrobe will bring you more pain than anything else, then don’t do it. I understand that most people enjoy expressing their inner selves through clothing — which is definitely the way it should be. For me, it wasn’t so simple.
Even so, I still think you should look into getting Stylebook because I really believe it can benefit anyone.
Check Out the Stylebook App!
All of the outfit images in this post were made using a pretty amazing app called Stylebook. I found this app indispensable when figuring out exactly what I owned (much more than I thought) and how many pieces of clothing I truly needed for a workable wardrobe (much less than I thought).
What you do is add photos of all your wardrobe items (you can either take actual pictures of your clothes, or find the product images online). But cataloging your clothes and putting together outfits is just a small fraction of the things you can do with this app. Seriously, check it out.
Capsule Wardrobe Resources
And because there are so many terrific resources out there for who want to downsize their wardrobe but don’t know where to start, I won’t write anything about that as there’s really nothing more I can add. Here are good places to start:
I took your advice and purged about 8 large trash bags of my clothing (there is more to go, for sure). I, too, feel paralyzed by choices (thanks for pointing out menu anxiety!), even though what I wear is so predictable that when I put on something else everyone freaks out like it’s Christmas. That, in itself, gives me anxiety, thus I feel most comfortable in black, blending in. I’m not much of a fashionista, I used to love clothes and what I had in my closet reflected that. But the older I got, my anxiety worsened and I started to just try to disappear. Capsule wardrobe of limited black clothes makes me feel safe!
Thanks so much for your comment, Missy! Feeling more comfortable in public and less stressed all around are — for the socially anxious — the main goals here! I’m so happy that you’ve now got a wardrobe that makes you feel safe and comfortable, but I do hope that you also (or eventually get to a place where you) feel GOOD about how you look in all of the clothes you wear. I understand that that’s a separate issue from wardrobes entirely, and a far more complex one. A topic for another post, perhaps!