Laundry has never been one of my favourite tasks. And what leads to laundry piling up and getting out of hand?
My diagnosis: TOO MANY CLOTHES.
The hamper is full. You should really do a load of washing.
But your wardrobe is jam-packed.
Which is more tempting? Grabbing something already washed and folded? Or washing the things you need to?
I’ve debated the pros and cons of a ‘capsule wardrobe’ for some time before I finally decided to go for it.
It’s easy to cling to stuff, especially if you remember a time when you didn’t have so many things. And if you’re conscious of waste (as we all should be) it’s hard to throw away perfectly serviceable items.
Over the years, however, many of us end up with too many clothes. There are those we buy for special occasions. Those we buy for particular seasons. Those we are given. Those grown out of, or yet to grow into. Those that only go with a few other items.
In Cut the Clutter, Cynthia Townley Ever emphasises the need for routines. But when you have one (or two!) hampers full of clothes ready to go to the laundry, and still have a wardrobe packed with clean, folded clothes, it’s so much more tempting to wear those clean clothes rather than hunt around for coins (for the washer in our basement, we had to find 6 x $1 coins…!), traipse downstairs, lugging your detergents and laundry basket, and then spend the next 1 1/2 hours at home, ensuring you remove your laundry on time, lest someone become impatient for the washer or dryer and dump out your things themselves.
Even if you have a washer and dryer to yourself rather than a communal one, laundry takes much more time and energy than grabbing something you already have ready to go.
Whenever I think of laundry, I think of the scene in the dystopian movie Idiocracy where one of the main characters, Frito, takes a fresh logo-covered shirt from a tissue box-style dispenser on his wall.
But how can we avoid this disposable attitude towards clothing?
Everything in its place…
The other major issue with having a packed wardrobe is putting things away. After wearing a jacket for a couple of hours, it’s far more tempting to hang it on the back of my chair or throw it in the wash pile rather than hang it back up if my wardrobe hanging space is cramped.
Lazy? Sure. But I have come to realise that is a part of my behaviour. Whether a result of work+study+more pressing housework, or just pure laziness, I’ve accepted that it is something that I am unlikely to change. Instead, I need a system that works better around us – one that allows us to easily find what we need, and to easily put it away.
My solution: GET RID OF THE THINGS YOU DON’T NEED/WANT.
After a bit of searching, I found this guide to creating a ‘capsule wardrobe‘ which shows how, from just 15 items, you can create a whole 50 outfits!
Underwear and sleepwear too
Although underwear and pyjamas are not included in the capsule wardrobe plan, we decided to give this section of our wardrobe an overhaul too, getting rid of anything too old or the wrong size.
We kept only 1 pair of summer and winter pyjamas each, and in an uncharacteristic move, threw out all of our socks, many of which had been darned multiple times or were once ‘white’… in favour of buying all black socks. Since my husband and I have roughly the same size feet, confusion isn’t a concern, and buying all the one colour means that we will never have any more odd socks! This cuts down pairing time too.
Although neither of us were ready to cut right back to 15 items – we ended up with 30 and 20 respectively – having fewer clothes meant that doing laundry and putting clothes away was much easier and, ironically, we were able to take better care of them.
If 50 items between the two of us still sounds like a lot to you, consider the fact that Japanese organising guru Marie Kondo, author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, says the average person has 160 articles of above-the-belt clothing alone. We had about 90. You might be surprised at what your wardrobe contains!
Even though it took an entire day, it was actually a lot of fun – and much better than shopping, as we got to rediscover what we already had, for free!
Why do we have too many clothes?
It’s no surprise that the answer is ‘money’.
Fashion has always had its seasons – the ‘spring collection’, the ‘winter range’ – but now, what the documentary The True Cost terms ‘fast fashion’ has created a mind-boggling 52 ‘seasons‘ per year. Yep, one for every week. And the true cost of fashion? Look further than the price tag, and consider the enormous social, environmental, and economic impact.
“I call on the international brands to put that struggle into dollars, into pounds, into euros. It translates into human capital. It translates into social responsibility of these big corporations. It translates into economic justice.” – Sochua Mu, Human rights activist
Importantly, the documentary reveals that not only are poor workers exploited by the fashion industry, but the ‘middle class’ of America and other industrialised countries are being made poorer by the concept of ‘fast fashion’ too – with low costs making us feel wealthy so we spend even more than we would if prices actually reflected the true social, environmental and labour costs in an equitable world.
It’s a terrible cycle – overwhelmed by choice, we find ourselves unable to make a decision on what to wear, and waste not only money, but time. Our wardrobes become so cramped with stuff we convince ourselves we have ‘nothing’ to wear, only to go out, buy more, and exacerbate the problem.
The only people becoming wealthier are those who own the fashion labels.
How many slaves work for you? Find out your slavery footprint.
How many clothes do you own? Have you ever counted? Please share your experiences with capsule wardrobes in the comments below!
Stay tuned for a future post in which I share my current travel wardrobe – and explore how you can travel for much less by carrying hand luggage only!
Today’s featured image is the washer in our AirBnB in Tokyo – one of the ways we are able to travel with a very small capsule wardrobe!
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If you’re interested in traveling lighter, cheaper, and for longer, please check out my recent post on Beautiful Budget Life!