How To Curate A Capsule Wardrobe – #1: Purge and Pile!

Let me just tell you something, y’all.
As silly as it may sound, capsule wardrobes have changed my life.

I know, I know, it’s a tad dramatic, but let me explain!  Picture this scenario:

It’s a school day, and you’re already rushing around a tad late, stopping to scoop up discarded sippy cups and socks, swirling around to change diapers and unclog the kids’ toilet for the seventy billionth time, hoping against hope that your first grader can independently find her missing left shoe, all the while wondering if you still have on the same underwear as the day before…or maybe the day before that.  🙈  You sneak away for a luxurious whole five minutes, run to your closet determined to look like a real live human woman this time, extend a cereal bar-encrusted hand to reach for a cute outfit…aaaaaaaand NOTHING.  Nothing comes to mind!  What to wear?  What still fits?  What do I even like myself in anymore?  Where was that one pair of jeans I used to love?  How is it possible to have a closet filled to the brim and STILL never be able to pull together an outfit I love in a short amount of time?!

Been there, man.

If this reminds you in any way of your daily routine, I’m telling you…a capsule wardrobe will completely change how you get ready for your day.  It’s a little bit of work up front to save you a TON of effort and energy in the long run, leaving you feeling cute, comfortable and put together in no time flat…so if you are interested in curating your own capsule for spring, stick around!  We’ll be walking through the process of starting from scratch step by step together over the next few weeks!  I’ll share with you my own process of curating a capsule wardrobe, some tips and tricks I’ve picked up along the way, and I’ll link sources to some of my favorite items and shops!

So….ready to start?!
Let’s get going with the first and, honestly, the most satisfying step of all:


Are we ready?!  So the first step is to get your hands dirty, dive into that bursting-at-the-seams closet and start THE PURGE!  It feels SO GOOD to clean out the closet.  Oh man. 🙌🏻   Now listen: it’ll take a little bit of time, so pour a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, turn on Pandora to the best station of all (French Cooking Music…ahhh soothing ), and start to sort!

What I did when I first began my capsule journey was sort things into three piles:
1. Love love love it
2. Kinda like it, I think
3. Donate/Sell/Trash

It’s for sure a balancing act; you don’t want to go nuts and donate all your clothes in one fell swoop, but you also need to resist the urge to do what I used to do…hold on to things because “maybe someday in five years it’ll possibly maybe be back in style and possibly fit me again…maybe.”  😉  A good rule of thumb as you purge and pile is to consider if you’ve actually reached for that item in the past year.  If not, it’s probably not one of your very favorites for some reason: fit, fabric, color, style, etc.  If you JUST CAN’T part with it right away, put it in the “kinda like it, I think” pile, and revisit later.

As your “Love love love it” pile starts to take shape, pay attention to which items you deem most lovable:
-What kind of fabric are they made from?
-Which type of lifestyle do they fit? Do you dress more professional for the office or more casual?
-How do these items make you feel?  You must feel good in them if you love them, so why?
-What colors or color groups seem to call to you the most?
-Are you keeping things you hope to love someday or things you love right now?

After you’ve finished purging and piling your items, bag up the donations, toss the worn out pieces, and hang up what’s left over by season…that will get you ready for the next step in curating your capsule wardrobe!

Stay tuned for step number two coming this week!  Be sure to follow along (links below!) on my crazy @cottonstem account on Instagram for a few more tips on capsule wardrobes, and check out my Pinterest feed for outfit inspo ideas!

STEP 1 – Purge + Pile
STEP 2 – Nerd Alert List Time
STEP 3 – Fashion Show
STEP 4 – How Pinteresting
STEP 5 – Pull It Together, Girl!

shop the post:

  1. Mary

    March 9th, 2017 at 1:52 am

    I’m excited to start this process! I keep trying to purge and I’ve gotten rid of a lot of stuff but I still have so much stuff, and so much stuff I don’t love. I went into my closet to get dressed yesterday and I think I’ve finally accepted that I need to grow a pair and really purge this time! Looking forward to step 2!

  2. Erin Kern

    March 9th, 2017 at 9:57 pm

    Hey Mary, I totally understand–somehow the clothes just take over all of a sudden! Glad you’re along for the capsule journey with me!

  3. Whitney Hafner

    March 9th, 2017 at 1:56 am

    This series is love at first sight for me😍 So excited to follow along!! Also, love that you’re doing it step by step.. helps keep it from getting overwhelming for us readers! I’ve been interested in doing a capsule wardrobe for about three years now and the lovely limitations of pregnancy and maternity clothes have almost forced me into it but now I’m hooked! Ready to go all in but so thankful to have guidance and tips along the way!

  4. Erin Kern

    March 9th, 2017 at 9:58 pm

    Right?! Maternity/nursing clothes are a capsule unto themselves in a way, and I always found it tricky to try and capsule right AFTER having a baby…nothing fits! 😩 But then, you don’t want to go out and buy all new clothes for such a (hopefully…) short season of baby chub. Le sigh. I hear ya man. Hopefully this series will help out at least a bit! 🙌🏻

  5. Kristen Rockwood

    March 9th, 2017 at 2:08 am

    This is so me everyday. So what do I do?!- I wear sweats. Cute as they might be… they are still… sweats. My husband may send you many thank you’s after I complete your steps! Great post, friend!

  6. Erin Kern

    March 9th, 2017 at 9:59 pm

    EXACTLY. Same here until capsules! (I mean…let’s get real. I still wear my softies QUITE often…😂 But it sure is nice to be able to pull together a cute outfit super quick now when I want to!

  7. Danielle Palmer

    March 9th, 2017 at 2:46 am

    Yay!! I’m excited to follow along! I have already slowly been working my way towards a capsule wardrobe, and your bit on your insta story earlier about not including workout clothes/ loungewear really help me through a mental block being able to do this!

  8. Erin Kern

    March 9th, 2017 at 10:00 pm

    I know, I used to get stuck on those categories, too! Some might want to include them in the capsule, and that’s totally fine–I just couldn’t make it work for my own life. Ha! Thanks for following along!

  9. Doreen Cammarata-Gilhuly

    March 9th, 2017 at 3:22 am

    Love this segment on purging. I like your step by step process. I put my cloths in color order by items and it helped to purge. I need to take on your suggestion, haven’t worn in the last year, bye bye. Friday projected snow day, good time to purge.
    Looking forward to your next segment.

  10. Erin Kern

    March 9th, 2017 at 10:00 pm

    Awesome, thanks so much for following along, Doreen!

  11. Fabwarriormom

    March 9th, 2017 at 4:23 am

    Ok! I’m purging my closet this coming week. It will be my third season to do a capsule. I do believe in them! I dress better when I have capsuled.

  12. Erin Kern

    March 9th, 2017 at 10:00 pm

    Yay, isn’t it so helpful!? Glad to have you along on the capsule journey!

  13. Caroline

    March 9th, 2017 at 4:47 am

    Thanks Erin,
    I thought I was doing great because all my hangers match and my clothes are arranged by color. I think you uncovered my real problem I have too many clothes that I never wear. I’m excited to start the purge when I get back from vacation.

  14. Erin Kern

    March 9th, 2017 at 10:01 pm

    But…I love the idea of matching hangers! 🙌🏻 You’re a step ahead of me there! I just bought some wooden hangers and some felt covered ones, so I need to weed out those yucky wire and plastic ones next.

  15. Sarai

    March 9th, 2017 at 9:22 am

    purged last week! Naked forever! HAHAHA! Seriously though – what the heck am I going to wear while I wait! 😉 Really looking forward to seeing your next post and secretly hoping you will share your hair and make up tips too x

  16. Erin Kern

    March 9th, 2017 at 10:02 pm

    Naked forever….😂 OMG. I better get step two up ASAP then! 😉

  17. Kim J

    March 9th, 2017 at 2:02 pm

    At first read, I thought "ok…. maybe I should read this article", now I think I need you to come to my closet and do a tutorial! You had me at glass of wine and pandora! Let’s do this…. I have worked for a leading retailer for 15 years and some would think her closet must be stacked…. well it is, with about 4 things I "think" I love. (Insert sigh) I will be participating in the "purge". TBC…..

  18. Erin Kern

    March 9th, 2017 at 10:02 pm

    Wine and Pandora—I’m in!! 🙌🏻😉 Excited to have you along for the capsule series!

  19. Angie Ostler

    March 9th, 2017 at 8:40 pm

    This is such a great idea! It’s so true that I think I just wear like the same five or six outfits over and over anyway so why do I have all the rest of the stuff?

  20. Erin Kern

    March 9th, 2017 at 10:03 pm

    That’s exactly it! I found myself going back to the same few outfits over and over…wondering why the heck I had all the rest! 😂

  21. Summer

    March 10th, 2017 at 2:13 am

    I feel like everything I have can be worn in all seasons minus two chunky sweaters… so maybe one capsule? Hoping you clear that up later side I’m stuck there.

  22. Summer

    March 10th, 2017 at 2:21 am

    Because*** I’m stuck there. 😐

  23. Lori

    March 10th, 2017 at 7:14 am

    Love the capsule thing, and I’ll be following along.
    Important question!
    Is your duvet set from "shop this post" the blue or the gray?!?!

    Thank you!

  24. Erin Kern

    March 11th, 2017 at 5:16 pm

    Hey Lori, thanks for following along! The duvet in my home is the grey version. 😉

  25. Greta M.

    March 10th, 2017 at 3:48 pm

    Love this, friend! I’ve been slowly cleaning out my closet but this really gives me a drive to dive in and get things out! I have way too many "maybe I’ll wear this when I’m pregnant cause everything else won’t fit and I’ll be forced to wear this" shirts 🙂 Can’t wait to follow along!

  26. Erin Kern

    March 11th, 2017 at 5:17 pm

    Hey there!! Yes, I totally am like that. I hold onto things for the "just maybe someday it’ll fit/be useable/be back in style"…that’s my downfall. Maybe it makes me feel less guilty for needlessly buying it in the first place–ha! 😩😂 Hope this comes in handy for ya!

  27. Ann McFarland

    June 22nd, 2017 at 7:42 am

    Ok doll, I’m going to slowly give this a try. I’m a little too overzealous about throwing out hubbies work clothes, and a lil OCD, well about everything else🤦🏼‍♀️😳 I’ll be getting back to you lol!!! Loves to you gurl

  28. Alisha

    June 28th, 2017 at 11:42 pm

    How do you store what’s not in season? I don’t have an extra closet but I don’t want fall/winter mixed in with spring/summer. Under bed?

  29. Jaime

    September 17th, 2017 at 12:16 pm

    Does the capsule include work and leisure clothing?? I’m a teacher and I tend to own only work clothes then I go out with friends looking like a teacher. Are they all one thing or two?

  30. Erin | Cotton Stem

    September 18th, 2017 at 6:55 pm

    It totally depends. For me, I have a “cute clothes” capsule and a “mommin'” capsule, so it is totally cool to have more than one!

  31. Jayne

    March 3rd, 2018 at 10:15 am

    YOU are delightful and fun and informative and a real riot alice …. soooooo very happy to have found Cotton Stem and sooooo looking forward to following along for this amazing journey … enjoy the SONshine !

  32. Bryarton Farm | Farm Girl Fashion {How to Simplify Your Wardrobe & an Elestory Review}

    June 13th, 2018 at 1:39 am

    […] friend, Erin, introduced me to the idea of A Capsule Wardrobe. You can {Click Here} to get all the details on her blog, but basically you only have a few high quality items for each […]

  33. Elizabeth Mazariegos

    January 9th, 2019 at 10:02 pm

    Wow! This is quite helpful and I learned tips both for short and long term planning. It’s a great blueprint to use to navigate the all of the inspiration out there without feeling like you have to buy all the time. Thank you for sharing this!!

  34. Lynn Higgin

    April 3rd, 2019 at 11:05 am

    I just read this for the first time I and I have to say it made me SUPER excited to begin my ‘purge’! I like the idea of the ‘kind of like it, maybe’ because the all or nothing idea scares me! GREAT blog, so well written, glad I found it!

  35. Cherie

    May 30th, 2019 at 3:09 pm

    I can’t seem to find the actual “wardrobe”. Lol. The wooden wardrobe. I think I saw it linked somewhere.
    I love the mustard wardrobe. It’s my favorite color of all!

  36. Kim Adkins

    August 23rd, 2019 at 10:41 am

    Thanks for advice on clothing capsule. I tend to shop for want not need. Needing to cut expenses with son in college, daughter in band and saving for retirement. Love your style and how you give great tips for orgainzing your home, clothes.

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