Minimal closet, maximal flaws

I'm started a musing-type post half a dozen times in the past week, and always rambled and rambled and eventually got distracted before finishing.  I'm not sure tonight will be different.  But I thought I'd tackle one small part of the musing I've been doing, rather than ramble endlessly.  

I've nearly completed my third week with a minimal closet, and reality is
starting to set in:  a minimal closet doesn't make my flaws disappear.  Nor
does it remove every irritation of life. 
Hard to believe, I know.  Here’s a
few things that I think I expected to magically change, and didn’t.

First, I lose things. 
My cropped boyfriend blue jeans are missing.  I have no idea where they are – the easy
thing to do would be to blame it on my laundry helpers.  But it doesn’t change the fact that I don’t
know where they are.  This wouldn’t be a
big deal if I had 200 other things in my closet.  But it was one of two pair of pants (the
other being my white boyfriend jeans) in my current closet.

Second, I’m not careful (make that: I'm pretty sloppy).   I have to wash my white jeans and white
shorts with every wearing because I get stuff
on them.  My white sweater yesterday morning
lasted less than two hours before I decided to sand down a cabinet wearing it,
and didn’t think to put on an apron.  At
least I noticed that I was filthy and changed before taking my kids to swimming

Third, I’m lazy.  I’m
not going to specially launder something even if it says to.  Honestly, I’m not going to launder it at all
– my kids are, and I’m not going to keep on top of them well enough to remind
them not to put certain tee shirts in the dryer, etc.  My wool sweaters pretty much just never get
washed – this works in the winter, because I wear an undershirt with them.  It doesn’t work in the summer.  Consequently, my jersey knit items are just going to be quick to pill.  I am working toward developing the habit of handwashing my bras at night rather than putting them in the laundry.  They're too expensive to buy and too time-consuming to make to treat them lightly.

Now, there is a host of things that having a small closet has made easier - but that's another post :)

How does your closet reflecting your personal "idiosyncrasies" ?

This post is also published in the youlookfab forum. You can read and reply to it in either place. All replies will appear in both places.


  • carter replied 9 years ago

    I think these are really useful observations. Reality is reality. Sometimes there's just no reason to fight it. I assume what this tells you is that you haven't hit your "right-sized" closet yet. You'll get there, but don't try to force something that's not working yet.

  • rabbit replied 9 years ago

    Wasn't the Oracle at Delphi supposed to have the inscription 'know thyself?'  You aren't 'flawed' you are are wise and growing wiser! :)

    You have a busy active life and your time is valuable, why complicate it with special care of clothing?

    Do you think the next time you put together a capsule you will think back on the musings sparked by one and evolve your choices to better serve your needs?  (You aren't there for the clothes, the clothes are there for you. :D )

  • Mo replied 9 years ago

    Good insights!  At least the project is illuminating things.
    I know that I need a certain amount before I will wash a light load and a dark load, so a 10 item wardrobe wouldn't work for me.  Laundry waits a week to pile up enough for 2 separate loads. 
    I like to have an at home capsule that I'm not afraid to ruin, but still looks presentable for the day to day activities that might wear out my nicer clothes.
    I do tend to have a place for everything and everything in it's place, so I don't lose stuff.  Well, not often.  When I do it drives me crazy.  Case in point, my white flip flop sandals eventually were discovered in a small side pocket of luggage, smushed flat.  Half a year went by with me truly wondering where the heck they could have gone.  

  • E replied 9 years ago

    It's so good to know yourself! That's what will make your closet more functional. :)

    Do you turn your clothes inside out before throwing them in the hamper? That'll protect them a bit in the laundry, though I suppose it adds a few seconds per item to putting them away later on.

    Slightly more of a hassle, but not by much, do you know about Eucalan/Soak? They're no-rinse detergents for delicate clothes: could be a very easy solution for your bras & & jersey knits & summer woolens (I know about them because of knitting). They're not too pricey ($13/16 oz bottle but you don't need much for each wash): you just add some to a bucket or the sink or a big bowl or whatever, pop your items in, let them soak for 15 minutes, squeeze them gently, and take them out, leaving them to air dry. I use Eucalan & it's ecofriendly too. It's kind of like laundry magic. ;)

    As for my idiosyncrasies closet has a lot of woven tops that are loose around my chest so I don't have to wear a bra. Because at the best of times, I don't like having something wrapped around my rib cage, and in the heat, bras seem like a specially designed instrument of torture. I know this about myself, so when I'm thrifting tops, I test them for their bra-free compatibility. Haha. This is more of a tendency in a warm weather closet, but in cooler weather, that's what blazers or big scarves are for. ;) (I do always wear bras under knits, unless they're being covered by something else, because it would be super obvious if I went bra-free. And my mother, who would totally call me out if she could tell I was going braless, doesn't complain, so the blouses must be doing a good job.)

    I also discovered after knitting a pair of teal socks that I really enjoy matching my socks to a colour I'm wearing (before that all of my socks were neutrals). So now I'm gradually planning to knit socks in all of my favourite colours (and the neutrals that aren't represented yet), so I can bookend more.

    Those are the only quirky things that I can think of right now. I've realised lately that I should really have more undies: I wash those every time I wear them, so when I run out, I have to do laundry. If I could wait a month to do laundry, I'd still probably end up with 2 medium-ish loads (one lighter/one darker), since I try to wash everything else as infrequently as possible. So clearly I need at least 30 pairs, but since I buy undies retail & am currently attempting to source organic cotton ones that are less than $20 each, that feels like a bit of a pipe dream. I think I need to learn how to sew them, because organic cotton fabric isn't that expensive.

  • deb replied 9 years ago

    I am with you on the laundry thing. Everything has to go in the washer and dryer. As far as who does the laundry, I stopped having the kids wash my clothes after several loads were ruined by crayons in pockets. They did their own and mine were left for me. Much more cost effective. Eventually my daughter would not let her brother wash hers either.

  • Alana in Canada replied 9 years ago

    Great insights, amiable. That's what the excersie is for, right--to learn? Throw another pair of jeans in the closet "in case" a pair goes missing. Samewith an extra sweater or top. Call them you "carry on" clothes--you know the ones you keep with you in case they lose your luggage.

  • Deborah replied 9 years ago

    Amy this is great, you have made some wonderful insights to yourself and your lifestyle. You can use these to your benefit.

    I think my closet management reflects my personal idiosyncrasies quite well lol. But I'm not sure I should share them in case anyone thinks I need therapy;). Let's just say I am a very orderly person (ok those who know me might say "control freak"). BUT, Amy I have one child and a very domesticated husband...I am not sure I would be quite as organised wrangling 5 young children. Oh... And no one touches my laundry ha ha.

  • rabbit replied 9 years ago

    My idiosyncrasies?   Hmm....  with my going out and about clothing I wash minimally (camisoles help keep tops from getting stinky) and often by hand and tend to take it off when I get home and hang it to air.  

    For my at home clothes, well they need to not show cat claw damage, need to layer easily (my basement art studio gets cold),  need to wash at any temperature and with any colors, and need to be comfortable for doing crunches and crappy yoga in the backyard grass while I take the indoor cats out for their 'walk'.  (This consists of their attempts to eat grass, and lots of pouncing on and chasing each other and trying to catch bees, which is why I have to monitor the situation).  

    Also with these at home clothes there needs to be an ipod pocket high up on the body (I've sewn some onto old cardigans -- the top of a wool sock cut off is just the right size to make a pocket).   They also need to be presentable enough as there is a constant audience of guys working on rebuilding my neighbor's house.  

  • AJ replied 9 years ago

    If you shower at night, you could hand wash your bra while you're in there.

    I'm just now training my kids how to do laundry. I only have them doing linens and towels for starters. :)

  • Lyn D. replied 9 years ago

    Interesting points here!
    I keep a medium-sized closet, and can do the laundry twice a week or less.
    Like Mo I have 'at home' wear that is easily washed and dried if required.
    The apron is a good idea!

  • Gigi replied 9 years ago

    E, you're not the only one who tests how obvious it will be that you're not wearing a bra! Ha ha. I do that too.

    I have found that since I started wearing more colors, my dark laundry load has become overly large, while my white one is tiny. So I have started trying to find more cream and white shirts so as to even out the loads. :) Silly, maybe! But I also know that I enjoy high-contrast dressing, so if the laundry loads are unbalanced, that means that I don't have enough light-colored clothes to balance out the dark-colored ones.

    I don't mind hand-washing items, but I refuse to buy dry clean items unless they're for dressy occasions. I have a few dry-clean-only skirts that I wear to church once a week, but as soon as I get home they come off. So those won't probably need dry cleaning for a very long time!

  • bella replied 9 years ago

    I'm running into not laundry bottlenecks but ironing bottlenecks. I don't do my ironing in a timely fashion, and most of my summer tops (cotton) need ironing after laundry, so I've made sure to buy a few more tops than I thought I needed.

  • trendin1234 replied 9 years ago

    it is always good to know by oneself..... They will be the best solution for any particular !!

  • Sveta replied 9 years ago

    Oh yes, knowing yourself comes in handy indeed!
    This was a very useful exercise for you Amy. Honestly I cannot imagine how I could stay on top of anything with 5 kids in tow and a job as well! I think you are amazing!
    Our clothes have to fit the life we lead - as simple as that. You different home activities demand a very practical and sturdy clothing. You may have a separate capsule for working out of the house and those can be more delicate.
    And on a truly minimal closet- I know I can never do it. I do laundry once in 2 weeks (well, I do it more often but there would be household stuff as well) so I need a supply of clothing for 3 weeks to keep me going as I air dry most of them. Moderate closet is more for me.

  • Mona replied 9 years ago

    I don't let kids do my laundry. They do their own and I do mine and hubs. I take good care of my clothes but i am very lazy when it comes to putting back a button or undone hem.
    Isn't it wonderful to develop these insights about yourself through wardrobe experimentation? Are you going to increase the number of items now?

  • kerry replied 9 years ago

    Amy, first off - love the title of your post! I can relate to so much of what you and others have shared. I think identifying these personal wardrobe idiosyncrasies is essential for building a workable wardrobe - great insights!

    I lose things sometimes too. Smaller things maybe (like a favourite pair of panties) but I also don't have 5 kids that I homeschool (one child that is school schooled). I'm sloppy too. My husband does not understand why I continue to buy and wear white items - he thinks I'm crazy (he might be right - I do mess up the white stuff with some frequency!). I'm lazy about laundry too. I have finally trained myself, like you, to hand wash my bras (they are so expensive!). I want everything to be wash and dry but I've started to use the delicate and hand wash cycles on my machine more and I usually have something air drying on a railing somewhere in the house.

    E, thanks for the tip on Eucalan.

    I agree with Mo that I won't do a load until there's enough. This is often a problem with whites - so I sometimes cheat and throw the white cami in with the light colours and then regret it.

    I'm finally realizing that my wardrobe has to be ultra casual. It's my personality and my job. I'm a teacher who is changing roles from middle school to kindergarten - so my clothes need to be more spill-proof!

    I'm very picky about my at-home wear. When I'm working I always change into my loungers as soon as I get home - it's like shedding the day. It also helps with laundry (at-home stuff is extremely easy-care). Pants must be woven (stay cool) tops must be loose. No bra (but I need one so I'm on a quest to find alternatives). I have a "lounge bra" that doesn't do much and I wear cotton camis with some stretch to contain things somewhat. Still not ideal but comfy.

  • Lisa replied 9 years ago

    These are great observations.  I've learned that I adore to steam clothes, but not to iron them.  So now I try to stay away from too many iron only shirts.  Same goes for dry clean only items.  I will not purchase them for warm weather because I feel they need to be dry cleaned after every wear and I'm just not going to do it.  So then it sits unworn until I 'get around to it.'  But for winter months, since I layer long sleeve t's under sweaters/jumpers, I don't mind dry clean only as much.

  • amiable replied 9 years ago

    Oh my - Thanks for all the comments - I didn't mean to disappear last night - I just went to bed :)

    E - thanks for the tip on Eucalan.  I think my Mom uses it with her knitting, and I'll pick some up for my bras.

    carter, rabbit, Sveta - yes, this exercise has been immensely useful in understanding myself and my wardrobe needs.  I'll keep it up just for that (but there's lots of other benefits).  I do suspect I'll end up with a mid-sized closet - not a minimal one.
    Mo, AJ, Mona and kerry - right now my laundry just goes with the family laundry.  With seven people, it's a bit over a load a day.  I'm considering just doing my own - more work, but probably only a load a week, and I'd probably get my own clothes back, haha.   (My 11yo boy is not far from my size, and I'm regularly looking through his drawers for my clothes.  He doesn't have my bf jeans though).

    I probably need to learn to differentiate between at-home wear and going out wear, hmm.

    Lisa - great idea to steam them.  I need to get a garment steamer.  With my current empty closet, it would fit nicely!

    I'm definitely growing wiser and learning lots. I'll keep posting my learnings, as long as you don't mind.  It helps me to put them into words :)

  • texstyle replied 9 years ago

    It sounds like it's been a helpful exercise to try out the minimal closet. I tend to do what a few others do and wash about 2 loads of laundry, darks and lights (only my clothes which I keep in my own hamper) each week. In summer I sometimes have 3 loads due to the need to change more often. The other laundry gets done on different days as I like to make sure mine are washed on delicate, cool and little heat in the dryer. They last much longer this way. Many things I hang to dry after just 10 mins. in the dryer to warm them up and reduce wrinkles. On my laundry day the dining room chairs become drying racks for a few hours each week.

    I do tend to have "everyday" clothes and "going out" clothes. The everyday clothes are mainly cotton tees and shorts or jeans that I don't mind getting a little dirty. The going out clothes are my silk/cotton blend tops, linen tops, and other slightly dressier casual tops and pants. I do try to wear an apron if I'm wearing something I don't want to ruin. I have a big hook in the kitchen with multiple aprons at the ready just to make sure I don't forget.

    I don't have a minimal closet - in fact, it's really more maximal than my lifestyle requires, but I do like variety and clothing is one of my favorite hobbies so I allow myself the budget to "play" even though I don't have a high CPW on all of my things. 

  • Alassë replied 9 years ago

    Of course we don't mind! Post away.

  • Nicole D replied 9 years ago

    I just have to say I admire that you let your kids do the laundry even though it inconveniences your wardrobe and may even jeopardize your clothes - that;s BACKBONE parenting!  Love it!  So you need to duplicate, I think that will not invalidate your minimal card.  
    I hate it when items go missing from the laundry - where are all my camisoles?!  Makes me want to run out and buy disposable ones.

  • SandyG replied 9 years ago

    Your closet musings made my day. I'm smiling about my own 'magical changes' way of thinking :)

  • Angie replied 9 years ago

    GREAT insights, Amy. Working with them can only strengthen your personal style. That's why personal style begins and ends with a good sense of yourself.  It's all good. 

  • Emily replied 9 years ago

    Sounds like you're learning a lot from your closet experiment.  I thought one of the reasons to do the closet experiment was to determine how many items is comfortable for your lifestyle, in which case, you've learned that super minimal just doesn't hack it for you.  Totes okay!  I relate to a lot of these points...

    Laundry bottlenecks: While I am willing to take special care with laundry, I am unwilling to do so more than once a week.  

    Re-wearing items in the same week:  I'm a sweaty chick, so while I do wear things more than once in a week sometimes, I don't count on it.  

    Losing items:  Yup.  I didn't wear a pair of kitten heels I bought in spring for a month because I couldn't find them.  (They were still packed in their dust bag from when I went on vacation in May.  I found them last week.)

    Can you invest in some laundry bags to help keep your knits from pilling in the wash?  You could toss the items in the bags before you put them in the hamper, no extra work or sorting for the kiddos.

  • Mo replied 9 years ago

    An aside on laundry - turning shirts (especially knits) inside out is great to keep from pilling.  Also, not doing towels or jeans or other heavy materials that might abrade the gentler things in the same load is a great way to keep things in shape longer.  

  • Thistle replied 9 years ago

    I have not read the replies, so this may be redundant.

    First - No flaws to be seen. This is the real you, the authentic you, and it is not flawed!

    Second - How awesome that you have laundry helpers!!

    Hopefully, this knowledge will help you prioritize what to put in your closet and give you "permission" (which you so totally don't need) to let yourself have a larger closet without guilt.

    Your clothes are wardrobe are here to serve you, not vice versa. Understand the real you is  a big step to making your closet truly serve.

  • rachylou replied 9 years ago

    Ye-es. Quirks. Laundry.

    I basically do laundry every two months, whence I rally and forcibly clear a day in the calendar. I'm also a neurotic sorter and have to save up enough to get a justifiable load of each. I do a load of jeans, socks, towels, sheets, whites, darks, greens, reds, wash but no-dry... you get the picture. It's reflected in my closet, for example, in my 60+ pairs of socks.

    However, after 3+ years in the mini home, I don't think I can live with my 10 hampers anymore. I'm trying to cure myself. To be honest, it's not going that well. I put my hampers to rest... only to have them, ahem, sorta sneak back as *finds* from the Target $1 section in the last two weeks.

  • ironkurtin replied 9 years ago

    I could never do what you're doing. It would upset me too much.  My closet is the one place I have control and things can be orderly, beautiful, and functional.  If it works for you, mazel tov!  But even just reading it made me cringe.

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