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Finding The Happy

Looking for joy in all the right places

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declutter

How to build a Capsule Wardrobe in tiny, tiny steps

I recently came across a minimalist fashion website about Capsule Wardrobes, and the very concept both fascinated and terrified me. 

Basically, the challenge is that you choose 30 items for your wardrobe (including footwear!) to mix and match for an entire season. 

Thirty. Considering I’ve now started an office job as well,  I can no longer pass off home togs as going-out duds simply by throwing on a smart jacket and sliding on some lippy in the car. 

Thing is,  I am already recycling the same old clothes week in week out. It gets especially bad in winter –  everything pretty gets swathed in the same winter coat or thick woollen tunics anyway.

HOWEVER. It’s now Spring,  I have a new office job, and my walk-in wardrobe is basically a dumping ground of ironing I have yet to conquer since 1993.

While I know I need a kick up the backside to refresh my wardrobe and think hard about how to deal with my clutter, the other slightly terrifying thing is the throwing out of things. I am HUGELY sentimental when it comes to crockery and clothes,  I’ve come to realise. This has only gotten worse since my mother died. She is inextricably linked to a third of the clothes I will never wear but will never want to give away because they are living memories to me. They speak of many shopping days gone by –  we loved shopping with each other. We didn’t have to buy anything –  it was all about the discovering. 

Most of these clothes were my mother’s way of showing she was missing me when I moved a continent away. Some of them have never fit me, but I never told her because I didn’t want her to feel she was losing touch. 

How does one declutter like that?! 

Simply by allocating them to a box in the corner of the walk-in robe. After reading a few blog posts about capsule wardrobes obviously written for sentimental schmoos like me, I am resolved to do the following. 

  1. Putting away the seasonal stuff first. 
    That’s an easy one, because winter has just ended. I used to rotate summer and winter outfits in my wardrobe Before Children, and I need to get back in that habit. 
  2. Tossing out the Absolutely Nots
    And being really brutal if I can. No, I’m not going to tell myself I’ll fit in them again. Because if I were to ever fit into those size 6s again, I’ll look like mutton dressed as lamb anyway. As for the things my mother gave me,  I’ll have to find a special box and limit myself to that space.
  3. Definitely Maybes
    Before she moved to Perth, Rosie C had told me about this Japanese decluttering principle where you mull over each item and whether it brings you joy. And if it doesn’t, to then think fondly of the times you’ve shared before letting go. Something rama-ding-dong like that. Very Dharma & Greg. We had a bit of a guilty giggle, mostly because as daft as it sounds, it feels like a process worth trying. In the privacy of my home. With no one looking, and moody jazz playing, and posh OJ swirling in wine glass because wine = itchy for me. 
  4. The final countdown
    The magic number in other articles is 30, but I’m just going to go with my age and try streamlining my mix-and-match wardrobe to 37 choice pieces. Per season. Which means really,  I’m trying to reduce my capsule wardrobe to 37 x 4= over 4 seasons. 
  5. The peace of resistance
    This is probably the other part of the exercise that is going to mess with my head big time: not shopping for togs. Or bling. Or shoes. If I am going to train myself to live within my means (and I have lots and lots of means!), it means not adding to an already bursting wardrobe every time I go out. I will,  however, reward myself at the end of each season with a small shopping spree – only because I suspect I’ll learn more during the process what I’m missing from a Capsule Wardrobe. Like a good, tailored all-purpose jacket. Or something. 

But these aren’t exactly “tiny-tiny” steps, I hear you say. Don’t worry. I’ve recently come across another interesting project management theory that I’d like to test out on this decluttering mission. More on that to come later this week. 

Meanwhile… 

Here’s a good article about Capsule Wardrobes. And a good introduction to the different approaches to capsules. And hey, Wikipedia – so it must really be a thing. And this guide is great too. And also, Pinterest

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Declutter Challenge Accepted

While flicking through Facebook the other day, I came across a blog that was inviting its readers to do a 30-day Declutter, by sending out a prompt a day.

It immediately appealed to me for various reasons — unlike FlyLady, this challenge is finite and focused, and there is a possible prize at the end. ($150 vouchers from Howard’s Storage World, anyone?) I’d tried doing FlyLady a few times, but ended up annoyed either by their emails or website — which are both ironically cluttered and disorganised. The more I wander through An Organised Life, however, the more I fall in love.

I feel like I’ve been continually decluttering, especially since 2013 when we were

  • packing to live in Singapore for half a year, and then
  • packing my mother’s house in Singapore, and then
  • unpacking when we got back from Singapore, and then
  • unpacking boxes that we had shipped from my mother’s house, and then
  • decluttering and packing boxes in anticipation of Atticus and an eventual house move.

Phew!

What I’ve been confronted with over and over in these last 2 years is my sentimentality. I had marvelled, while packing my mother’s house, at what she had opted to keep in her tiny flat. What most people would pass over as junk, I had immediately recognised as remnants and relics of my childhood and her life. And since her death, I have been finding it especially difficult to declutter because, like her, I simply can’t bear to let go of the silliest things.

Like 20-year-old eyeshadow and perfume. Like showercaps. Like bindis that no longer stick to anything.

Like shoes that hurt. Like blouses that have shrunk since I had Atticus (ahem!).

Like notebooks filled with everyday lists and scribbles. Like old contact lenses.

Like badly chipped jars. Like clothes that no longer fit either Arddun or Atticus. Like costume jewellery that’s broken beyond repair. Like lotion for stretch marks that don’t actually work because, hello? I’m a grown woman, not a bloomin’ rubberband.

And so I find I have to revisit my piles of clutter periodically, if only to summon the fortitude to let. it. go.

Since I came into this challenge late, I needed to catch up on 10 days’ worth of prompts. This, on top of my usual housework and that small matter of keeping Atticus alive and well. But thanks to the last 2 years of that constant cycle of gathering and dispensing, I managed to do the following today.

Box of shoes
Shoes! Mine and Arddun’s. A surprisingly small box, but then again my summer shoes are lost in storage somewhere.
Floor with old cosmetics strewn
Toiletries, a surprisingly difficult one for me to tackle. I had consolidated my travel-sized toiletries a few months ago, but the make-up drawers were hard work for me because they come with memories of choir days, and dates in my twenties, and shopping trips with girlfriends, and just that promise of a magical evening out dressed to the nines. Never mind that some of them are about 20 years old, and I don’t dare smear any on my face.
Cups and crockery on kitchen table
Coffee Cups & Crockery… very low yield, as I most of our crockery are hand-me-downs and therefore sentimental. In fact, I was rather reluctant to part with these except they’re quite badly chipped all over, and I never use these cups because they’re quite useless thermoses.
Candles and platter
Vases, candles and platters. I use all our vases because we only have three, so none to throw out. Heaps of candles but again, many are sentimental so these were all I was willing to give away.
Cookbooks on kitchen benchtop
Cookbooks! I’d already done a cull before, but then duly went out and fell in love with a few more volumes. These were the only ones that made the cut this time around.
Boxes of children's clothes
Children’s clothes. Two boxes worth, the bottom being Atticus’s and the top being Arddun’s. To be honest, I’d been accumulating Atticus’s for 4 months now, so it’s not like I threw everything together today although I did fill it up enough to close the box today. As for Arddun’s, I regularly go through her clothes because she grows so quickly, and now that we know we won’t be keeping most pieces for Atticus, it’s made decluttering a whole lot faster.

I haven’t tackled bags yet (Day 4), or knick-knacks and ornaments (Day 5), or toys (Day 6), mostly because there’s nothing to be done there. Most of my bags are in storage, as are the family’s knick-knacks and ornaments (mostly from my mother’s house). I had also just sorted through Arddun’s toys the week before, so I’m counting that as a done deal.

Sorry this is a boring one for you. It’s mostly a means for me to pat myself on the back. I’ve never enjoyed housework and Tony is amazingly consistent with the bits he does (all our laundry, some dishwashing, the garden, the garbage, the garage.) But when it comes to sorting and sifting, it seems to be my one constant project. And I, for one, am grateful Atticus napped for 4 hours today.

The Middle

I have two posts jostling to be written today. One is supposed to be a snapshot of Arddun, aged 3 years and xx days. It’s a burst of adoration, a love letter, a scrapbook of scrappy descriptions that can only hope to sketch the lovely creature she was and is and is becoming.

The other is this post. It’s all about the distractions, and the art of decluttering the mind and heart to prepare for goodlier things.

I haven’t been very organised.

Part of it started from the sheer exhaustion one feels in the first trimester of baby-growing, when all you want to do at day’s end is crawl under the doona and fall into a deep sleep. Except I couldn’t bear to indulge myself this way, because I needed to do lots of other things. So we started packing and sorting for the eventual, inevitable house sale. Even before the papers (the stacks of papers!) got signed, Tony and I went and rented ourselves some storage space, and put away about 20-odd boxes before the bitter winter chills set in.

And then it felt too much like I hadn’t had enough Me time, so I started watching The Good Wife from the pilot. And because no one I know in Canberra watches TGW religiously, I wasn’t prepared for how utterly well-written and addictive the series is. Oh my word, it’s addictive.

I’ve finally caught up with the series, so now that there’s nothing left to fill my very late nights, I’ve turned back to decluttering my life. Also, I’ve stumbled upon The Fabulous – a rather pretty Android app that can be summarised as a Life Coach wearing lace. Or something.

I’m realising that my life pendulums from 20,000 boxes of discrete tasks that reek of chlorinated discipline, to wild, unstructured periods of floating and exploring and meh. Except ironically, my unstructured walks in la la land seldom provide inspiration to write or read. There is a mid point, before either extremes take over, where I feel free and disciplined enough to blog regularly.

Welcome once more to my middle.

Now that my energy levels are back to normal, I’ve awakened to a few new truths.

  1. My time with Just Arddun now has a rough end point.
  2. I need to work out a new weekly routine that involves fewer errands and that maximises whatever little free time I’m going to have with a new bub.
  3. I’ve been mentally run down, which usually results in some form of disengagement from social things – bad juju for extroverts like me. I need to lock in time to recharge batteries, find the discipline to follow through, and keep irrational guilt at bay. This includes sleeping before midnight, for a change.

So with that, I bid you a good evening. Sorry this is such a boring post for you, but writing literally helps me think better. Also, I haven’t blogged in ages – so I’m out of practice. So thanks for listening.

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