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How to Declutter and Create a Capsule Wardrobe

Need a gentle nudge to clear the decks? Be inspired to join the “Less is More” tribe and start with a clothing clear-out

Houzz UK and Ireland Editorial Staff. My background is in creative lifestyle publishing… More

Excessive jackets, shoes and clothes in general are prime culprits for messy bedrooms, hallways and cloakrooms. A collapsing, heaving wall-mounted coat rack was the sign I needed to aim for a more minimal wardrobe, but your reasons may be different – perhaps you’re moving house and want to reduce your belongings? Maybe you’re curious about the Marie Kondo method after having chats with converted friends? Or perhaps you’re just sick of taking forever to find your clothes and get dressed in the morning. Reducing your wardrobe is a cleansing and liberating experience. Plus it creates more space. Give the following steps a go this weekend to kick-start a simpler outlook on life.

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Start with your shoes
Your shoes often live in a different part of the house to the rest of your wardrobe. Get them all out and have a good think about what you wear often, the pairs you genuinely love and what’s seen better days. Do you really need three pairs of black high heels? Probably not.

Think about your lifestyle and weigh your choices towards that – for example, if you’re a PE teacher, you’re definitely going to need a fair few trainers.

Pick out one or two pairs of flats, a couple of trainers (unless you’re a PE teacher), a few heels, boots and some summer shoes. Ideally, you should have no more than nine pairs in total. Then donate or chuck the rest. This can be tough, but it’ll start you on the right track from the ground up.

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Empty your wardrobe entirely
Get absolutely everything out of your wardrobe and off your coat rack, and place it all on the bed. This will let you see the true extent of what you have (it’s often an eye-opener and will shame you into action). It also means you can review everything in good light, try things on and make decent judgments.

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Choose three words to describe your style
As you’re surveying your wardrobe, think about which three words best describe your style. Your interior tastes will inform this too. Maybe you’re “arty, monochrome and modern” or “retro, Scandi-influenced and bright”. Perhaps “smart, sophisticated and bespoke” sums you up better?As you sift through your clothes, pick up each piece and ask yourself whether it fits with those three words.

Make those words your style mantra from now on, to stop you buying unsuitable items for both your wardrobe and your home.

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Keep only what you love
Not sure about something? Hoped you’d find something to go with it or that it might fit you better one day? Get rid of it.

Keep only what you love – that way, getting dressed each day will no longer be an exasperated cry of “I’ve got nothing to wear!”. You’ll be surprised at how your “uniform” starts to come together a lot easier, once you’ve got a capsule of outfits that automatically define your look.

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Have a system for seasonal wear
Set aside everything seasonal – if it’s warm right now, gather up your favourite knits and jumpers and store them out of the way. Do the same for coats, scarves and gloves. Conversely, if you’re heading into the colder months, think about how to make sure those items are close at hand, and store away your denim shorts and flip-flops instead.

You could employ a drawer system, as shown here, or use an ottoman or under-bed container to store seasonal wear. Vacuum-pack storage bags are an innovative way to squeeze clothes into teeny spaces when they aren’t in use, keeping them clean and safe from moths.

As you sort out your seasonal clothes, decide whether you’ll still be as enamoured by each piece when the season comes around again. If you have any doubts, bin it.

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Pick out occasion wear
There’ll be items of clothing that you wear once in a blue moon, or hold sentimental value, such as evening gowns, tuxes or wedding dresses. Store occasional wear near the back of your wardrobe, or in a separate area, as seen here.

If the item is very beautiful, it’s a shame not to have it out on display. Vintage dresses look gorgeous hung on simple wooden hangers from bedroom picture rails.

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Choose three of each
Or maybe five at a maximum. Now that you’ve cleared out what no longer fits, doesn’t match your style or only gets worn at certain times of the year, you can get down to business.

Aim to select three of each item: three pairs of trousers, three tops, three jumpers and three dresses… choosing pieces that truly reflect your personal style. If you know you live in jeans, up your allowance a little. The idea is to get more wear out of the things you feel great in and love wearing.

This means that next season you can identify gaps in your wardrobe and buy little and sparingly, rather than constantly topping up with items you’re not that bothered about or bought on a whim.

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Ban excessive loungewear
Many of us keep old clothes as loungewear for the weekend, or for when we’re painting, gardening or dyeing our hair. While it’s useful to have a couple of pairs of old trackie bottoms, jumpers and T-shirts, you don’t need a whole drawer full. Be ruthless and get rid.

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Consider your accessories
Look at your belts, ties, scarves and jewellery. Do they still fit in with your remaining wardrobe? Select and keep only those accessories that enhance your core style.

Invest in a drawer organiser like the one shown. Having everything easily accessible like this will help you make even quicker decisions when you’re dressing in the mornings.

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Donate what you don’t want
Now that you’ve selected your keepers, pack away all the items you’re parting with. If you’re unsure, keep hold of them for a while in case you miss something. But if you’re feeling confident, sell the quality items to make a bit of pocket money (and try not to buy anything new), do a clothes swap with pals or donate your old things to charity.

Try to live with your capsule wardrobe for a while before investing in anything new. You’ll soon notice you need nowhere near as many clothes for a happier, more confident outlook. And just look at all that extra space you’ve gained!

How do you approach a wardrobe clear-out? Share your tips and pictures in the Comments below.
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