How I Used Capsule Wardrobes to Organize My Closet

A little over a year ago, I discovered the magic of the capsule wardrobe. You may be familiar with this concept, but in case you’re not, here’s a quick explanation. The idea of a capsule wardrobe is to create a small collection of clothes that mix and match so well together, that you only need a minimal amount of clothing to create a wardrobe with a wide variety of looks. My previous blog post, Gotta get going. A fashion post. (I love Fall!), gave a great example of how capsule wardrobes have helped me spiff it up a bit.

A popular capsule wardrobe concept is Project 333. The idea is to wear only 33 items for 3 months. I loved the idea, but it seemed a little too restrictive to me, so I came up with my own system. When I first organized my fall wardrobe this year, I set up four mini capsules and cycled through them each day. This system gave me a great deal of variety and allowed me to use different color schemes, yet it was still easy to choose an outfit. The smaller wardrobes limited my choices enough, while still giving me plenty of options.

After a couple of weeks, though, I realized I wasn’t really satisfied. I still had too many clothes in my closet. I also realized that I had some items in my capsules that I really didn’t want to wear on a daily basis, but I still access to them. My closet should have been neat and tidy, and my options should have been easy to see at a glance. Instead, my closed looked like this mess you see here.

Seriously, yikes. Then I read an article published by Fashion Magazine called, “You’re Doing the ‘Capsule Wardrobe’ Wrong.” Which began: “People of the Internet, listen up: enough with your bloated versions of the “capsule” wardrobe. You keep saying that word; I don’t think it means what you think it means.”

So yeah. I had to admit, I was doing the bloated version. And I wasn’t really getting what I wanted out of it! I figured out that I was trying to create capsules that would serve ALL my dressing needs. That works for some people. If your life is very casual, you may use leggings for a workout and then for a going-out-to-lunch outfit another day. Maybe you get up every morning and put on your work clothes, and then wear them all day, until bedtime.

In my life, I need different kinds of clothes, or maybe I should say different categories. I read this in Project 333: “These items are not counted as part of the 33 items – wedding ring or another sentimental piece of jewelry that you never take off, underwear, sleep wear, in-home lounge wear,  and workout clothing (you can only wear your workout clothing to workout).” Once I stopped trying to fit ALL my clothing needs into my capsules, I was able to organize my closet in a way that really made sense. I cut my four “mini” capsules in half, leaving me with just two, and I eliminated many of the pieces that “bloated” my capsules until I was down to just 18 in each, for a total of 36 items. And I organized and acknowledged my other clothing categories to meet my other dressing needs. Not a bad days work.

Here are my clothing categories:

  1. Pajamas. I have very specific pajama needs. Shorts and a tank top. I used to sleep in sexy nighties (THAT was a long time ago). Then it was flannel pjs as I got older and colder. Brrr. Then came menopause! Now I sleep hot. So summer, winter, spring, and fall, it’s short and a tank top for this gal! The lesson here: know your needs, and meet them.
  2. Schlubby wear. AKA scrubs, sweats, couch potato attire. For days when I’m shclubbin’, chillaxing, or otherwise lying like broccoli. This category includes a couple pairs of sweats, some old tees, and a few oversized, warm, cozy sweatshirts and sweaters. Remember, not every day is a capsule day.
  3. Yoga and running gear. Easy peasy. Yoga pants and a few workout tanks. A couple of Under Armour tops for warmth. A note about the yoga pants. I have been buying mine at Fred Meyer for quite a long time. They’re affordable (usually in the $30 – $40 range), comfortable, and flattering, and they last a LONG time. As someone who does yoga daily, that really means something.
  4. My daily wardrobe. This is where the capsules come in. I may wake up in pajamas, schlub my way through the morning, and then hit the park for a run, (or run my morning vinyasas – sun salutations make me happy!), but eventually, I shower, change and get going on my day (most days). So post shower, this is where I go.
  5. Construction-wear. This is for the days when I’m working on a project. This may include, but is not limited to: building a greenhouse, replacing a window, or cutting a hole in a wall. (That’s my next planned project. Hey, Vini. It’s happening.) Clearly, these clothes are old. And stained. And probably torn.
  6. Special occasion, “fancy” wear. This is the category that was messing with my capsules the most. I need them in my closet, but I don’t necessary want to wear these items on a daily basis. This includes clothes for church on Sunday, or date nights with Vini.  Now that the kids are grown, I’m happy to say, there’s a lot more romance these days. (Ooh la la.)

So, problem solved. I set aside space for clothes to meet all of the above needs, including my two capsules for every day use. I could have made one capsule – 36 pieces in all, but I was really interested in keeping each days’ choices to a minimum. I found it easier to create two separate capsules, 18 pieces each, as follows:

  •  three bottoms
  • eight tops
  • three toppers
  • four pairs of shoes

In addition to the section of “fancy” clothes, I also have a section of “fancy” shoes. I find that basic shoe styles in basic colors work best for capsule-wear. But gosh darn it, I LOVE shoes. And I’m just not willing to live without my leopard print pumps, burgundy suede heels, blue leather wooden wedges…you get the idea. I feel the same about my other accessories. I don’t limit them to specific capsules, but I have limited the TOTAL number of purses, scarves, and jewelry in my closet. I like the number four here. Again, it allows for variety without creating chaos or decision paralysis. Can you believe this? One blogger wrote, “Purses. You only need one.” Maybe SHE only needs one. I need four. Day in and day out, I lean on my capsule clothes, but when the mood strikes, my fancy clothes are ready and waiting.

Now my closet looks like this:


Ah, neat and tidy!

And my capsules?

My capsules are so easy to see! Getting dressed is a breeze. I wear something different every day. And love everything I wear. And the overflow? What I love went into storage. When I’m ready for a change, I have many other options to swap in. No shopping necessary. What I don’t love will go to someone who will. And the empty hangers? Anyone need hangers?

How do you keep your closet organized? Do you capsule wardrobe or do you have another system?

One last thing. One of the joys of blogging is the discovery of other peoples’ blogs. I’d love to refer you to Courtney Carver at BeMoreWithLess. Courtney writes about simplifying; not only our closets, but our lives. The more I grow in life, the more I want to let go. There’s a wealth of great information and ideas here, so check it out!


About LeilaPiazza

I am a wife and mother. I am an Orthodox Christian. I am a Syrian American with family living in Syria. I am a also a yoga teacher and freelance writer. I recently described myself in a job pitch as "a person who's lived in Portland, Oregon for over 20 years with a passion for writing and a passion for all things Portland. I'm a foodie, knitter, wine and beer lover, bee-keeper (yep, I said it), mead and fruit-liqueur maker, organic gardener, home-canner, hiker, biker, runner, and occasional skinny-dipper. I’ve camped all over the state, I sail a sailboat that’s moored on the Columbia (o.k., I'm the first mate), and I spend a large percentage of my time at our beach house in Seaside." That about sums it up.
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11 Responses to How I Used Capsule Wardrobes to Organize My Closet

  1. Marcia Danab says:

    Thank you for this inspiring blog. I am ready to try the capsule approach. I did it for my recent trip to Europe. I had one outfit for hiking and one outfit for sight seeing and eating out. Lots of layers that worked perfectly to keep me warm in windy, rainy weather. Time to clean out my closet!


  2. movingmrs says:

    Wow what a creative way to organize your closet. I love the before and after pictures! I am very into organizing-especially my closet. It is such an amazing feeling walking into an organized closet and seeing everything you own!


    • LeilaPiazza says:

      Thank you! I love to organize too, but don’t always have as much time as I’d like. It’s an ongoing process for sure. It’s January, and now I’ll do a little capsule refresh, so pretty excited. Having the closet already organized in capsules makes shopping and refreshing a breeze! Thanks for stopping by.

      Liked by 1 person

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  6. LeilaPiazza says:

    Hi Mush!

    Thanks for stopping by and for leaving such a detailed comment. I love you.

    I used to do what you do, except maybe I wasn’t being ruthless enough. But I have amassed a decent collection of clothes that fit, look good, are comfortable, and I love them. Yet I was barely wearing anything I own. I probably started this post in the middle, that is, I probably should have written about the capsules themselves before this article. My problem, as explained here, is that I tried to include things in my capsules that I wasn’t really going to wear every day. Like church clothes. For years, I wore yoga pants and tank tops EVERY DAY (except Sundays). When I wanted to look nice for something, I would suffer decision paralysis. I couldn’t pick out an entire outfit that matched. I had some clothes that I absolutely LOVED, but they didn’t go with anything else I owned. The result was, I would either try on eight different things before settling on something, or wear the same two items of clothing over and over.

    Once I set aside those “other” categories, I was free to rely on the capsules, day in and day out. Really, they’ve replaced my yoga clothes as daily wear. Nine times out of ten (or six out of seven), I use my capsules to get dressed. And I can literally pick a top, bottom, and jacket/sweater plus shoes with my eyes closed. Whatever I choose IS GOING TO MATCH. That’s the beauty of the capsules (for me). There is NOTHING in my closet that doesn’t go with anything anymore. And all outfits are equally good! They all fit, they’re all comfortable, and I LOVE them all.

    As for my storage, well, that’s the result of keeping things for years that still fit and look good, and of winnowing my active closet down to 36 items. But that’s a beautiful thing. Some capsule proponents tell people to go out and shop to fill in gaps, or add five or six items a season! I don’t want to acquire more, I want to make due with less. So I can shop my storage. When something wears out, I can replace it with something I already own. Lucky me! And when seasons change, I put my clothes away for next year. Because I moved away from trendy pieces to classics, the things I wear will never go out of style. So the burgundy cable sweater I’m wearing right now will still be fashionable in five years.

    Anyway, I so appreciate you responding! This is why I started blogging. You know how I love to discuss!

    Live music are better. Bumper stickers should be issued. 😉


  7. goblinbox says:

    So complicated! Interesting read, though.

    I go through my half of the closet and my four drawers every year, and ruthlessly get rid of everything I haven’t worn since the last time I went through my four drawers and half of the closet. (Exceptions are any formal and business wear that still fits, a couple of nostalgic items that don’t take up much space, and my heaviest coat, which I don’t always need every winter).

    I have one pair of low heels I almost never wear; the rest of my shoes are a pair of Birks, a pair of Crocs, a pair of flip flops, a pair of moccasins, a pair of leather slip-ons, and a pair of winter boots. Oh, and a pair of felted wool slippers I made.

    I have no clothes in storage. I figure if I don’t use it, I don’t need it.

    I have three purses. One’s a cotton-poly sling bag from an ashram; the other is a 6-year-old Timbuk2 messenger bag. The third is another knitted item I made, a fair isle purse. I do use it every so often, usually in the fall because of the colorway, but it’s not really the right size for my daily carry. I donated the rest of my bags and purses to Goodwill during the last purge because I hadn’t used them in a year, and them’s the rules.

    My weird thing is wraps and scarves: I must have nearly a dozen of each, but I do use them all the time so they get to stay!

    Things would be different if I were working outside the home and in a band, I suppose, because then I’d be maintaining office and gigging wardrobes. Well, except now that I think about it, much of what I wear regularly could easily be worn in an office or on stage. Right now, for example, I’m wearing a grey maxi dress under a grey turtleneck; with jewelry, a scarf, and shoes, I could go practically anywhere. 😉

    All that said, I’ve never been accused of being particularly stylish, so maybe the capsule concept is over my head!


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