10.5.16

KonMari, the capsule wardrobe, and the clothes rail that changed my life

'I've got nothing to wear'. This sentence, mostly uttered in conjunction with fists clenched and arms thrown down by my sides in toddler-esque protest was a long-standing ritual for me:

  • before work
  • whilst running late to meet friends for dinner
  • trying to get dressed for a Sunday saunter down the King's Road

And if the thought of a 33 year old woman having a tantrum over what to wear wasn't bad enough, the scene was made all the more absurd when we factored in the sheer volume of clothes before me as I bemoaned my lack of options. Totally ridiculous.

Image from http://elisabethheier.blogspot.co.uk/2014/09/jenteweekend.html 


Yet over the past few months, dressing has become straightforward, swift and most surprisingly, pretty darn joyous. I find myself enjoying what I wear in a way that I never have before, and for the first time ever, I feel I have a style that absolutely reflects me. Achieving this wardrobe nirvana has been an interesting process, notably because it's involved marching about 70% of what I owned to the charity shop (in total, nine bin bags full). So, how did I get there?

It all started after a trip to see my lovely friend Al, who told me about a book she'd been reading - the now-ubiquitous Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo - and then proceeded to show me her beautiful sock drawer, and tea-towels folded perfectly and stored vertically in the cupboard ('How can they stand up like that?!'). We talked more about the KonMari Method, and I was left in no doubt that I needed to read the book myself, if only so that my towels felt a similar sense of purpose to Al's! I won't recount the detail of the Method, but suffice to say that the take-home message is that we should only own items that spark joy, and anything that doesn't needs to be moved on. That simple idea really resonated with me, and I made a start from there.

Image from https://laurenconrad.com/blog/post/how-can-i-be-the-next-chic-of-the-week?crlt.pid=camp.wVB0tPaADcjv
It was clear that I needed to start with my clothes, and I started to think about what I really wanted to achieve from this process. I quickly realised that, not only did I want to make better use of what I had (and let go of the things I no longer loved), but that I've always longed for simple storage that allowed me to see my clothes and 'shop' my outfits. Instead, everything I owned was hidden away in wardrobes and drawers, and the number of items meant that there were many pieces that seldom saw the light of day. So before embarking on the mammoth task of sorting through my clothes to work out what brought me joy and what didn't, I decided that those special pieces that made the cut deserved to be displayed, so I popped out to buy a cute wooden clothes rail (I got this one from Argos). Little did I know that that small purchase would be instrumental in cementing my style. 

I arrived home with the rail and assembled it straight away. I collected all my wooden hangers together (so satisfying!) and set about emptying all my wardrobes and drawers to assess what I had. Clothes were sorted into categories (tops, dresses, skirts etc) and then I began the task of holding each piece. The question 'does this spark joy?' seemed trite initially but it's amazingly liberating. Items that I'd hung on to after wearing them once (and critically, felt guilty for never wearing again), were easy additions to the charity pile because it finally felt like I had a reason to let them go that was based on my happiness, rather than on my guilt at having wasted money or been frivolous. More than that, handling the things I really did love was affirming in a way I hadn't anticipated. Here were things that were special to me, that had a story and that were now going to be displayed in a way that meant I could enjoy them every day. And then as I started to add things to the rail, something funny began to happen. I slotted in something that I'd thought was too good to give away, but its presence on the rail was so jarring: it didn't go with the emerging palette of black, grey, blue and white, and it stuck out in a way that screamed 'I don't belong here!' I removed it from its hanger and the order of the rail - the wonderful, self-editing thing that it is - was restored. Once the process was complete, and from that point on, I knew that not only would new items have to spark joy, they would have to fit with their fellow rail-mates, meaning that the number of outfit options I have multiplies with every new piece I buy. With this stricter entrance policy and my satisfaction with what I have, shopping trips have reduced dramatically, and only happen when I find a gap or need to replace something. This truly is the stuff that capsule wardrobe dreams are made of.

Image from http://nordicdesign.ca/monochrome-perfection-in-finland/
Through this process, what's been most interesting for me is how my attitude to my clothes has changed. Now that I have a wardrobe consisting entirely of pieces that I love, not only do I treat them better (everything is hung up at the end of the day or put straight into the washing bag, which has meant my home feels more orderly), but my expectations of them has increased: having less means that things are worn more frequently, and as such, they need to perform well. Alongside this, shopping less often has resulted in me having a much easier time with the concept of investing more when I know that I'll get a lot of wear out of something, and critically, when the quality justifies the outlay. That said, I've not made a 'big' purchase since this method, but I've thought more about quality and longevity than I ever have before.

Image from http://www.myscandinavianhome.com/2016/04/the-transformation-of-swedish-space.html
On a more basic level, I've learned the following over the past few months:

1. You really can have too many basic pieces - I owned near-countless grey marl t-shirts, was forever tempted to buy more, yet I wore the same two over and over again. Same for black dresses. Bringing them all together was what I needed to ensure that I steered away from those items when I was shopping as I finally realised that I had plenty to fall back on

2. Having a style uniform is kind of a good thing - I've always known that I like wearing black, grey, blue and white, that I like playing with proportions, that black leather with gold hardware will always be my catnip, but now I know that having the clothes to do all of that is pretty nice: anything more is just unnecessary fluff

3. Similarly, I'm less bothered about wearing variations of the same thing day in, day out. I get genuine pleasure from what I wear, and if you're ever worried about people thinking you always wear the same, try to remember what three of your colleagues or friends were wearing three days ago. When you can't, ease up and wear what you want, safe in the knowledge that nobody is really thinking about it!

4. Fewer clothes = more options. This is the most surprising thing. Having everything carefully edited, easily accessible and knowing that it all matches means that outfit selection is as easy as *grab this* and *pair it with that*. I could do it with my eyes closed, which is an amazing thing when you're in a rush

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