The Curated Closet

I’ve read (and written) a lot about minimal closets in the past, but I’ve never found a book quite as helpful and practical on the topic as The Curated Closet by Anushka Rees.

Yes, I stopped buying clothes for a year, but my closet was still overflowing with too many choices that just weren’t me. Clothes that were either swapped for free – maybe I took them because they fit or someone else said they looked good on me. Or clothes that were from a long time ago and no longer felt like who I am today.

Frugal, but not minimal. All this clutter was distracting me from my favorite pieces of clothing because I felt pressure to keep it all and wear everything.

Maybe what was missing for me was that most of the minimalist books I’d read up until now weren’t written by someone who cared about fashion. I was told a lot about what not to wear and what not to buy. I halted my spending, hosted clothing swaps, and even did a Project 333 capsule wardrobe. The problem was that no one was giving me helpful suggestions about what to wear.

My closet was an inconsistent mishmash – the result of trying to be frugal and reduce clothing waste. These are good things. This mishmash…not so much.

I also have a habit of pinning clothing on Pinterest. The problem is that it has a tendency to make me even more of a hoarder because if it looks good on Pinterest then it will look good on me too, right?

Marie Kondo is awesome, but it’s hard to tell the difference between the clothing that “sparks joy” and the clothing that I’ll actually wear. Some of the most “joy sparking” outfits are sadly no longer my style. They spark joy because they are sentimental, not because they actually fit in my life anymore.

The Curated Closet isn’t exactly about minimalism, but it ties in so well with the idea of having fewer quality pieces than a lot of cheap fast fashion. The book is about being mindful. Shopping with a specific vision in mind to fill holes. Mostly it’s about defining your actual style and fitting it in with your actual life. Ridding yourself of the excess that exists in many of our closets. Using what is left to build wearable, mixable outfits.

Being a conscious consumer in a world that’s obsessed with amassing more and more stuff can be a real challenge. Glossy billboards, highly produced celebrity-driven ads, and clever social media campaigns are everywhere, and stylish clothing is now more accessible and affordable than ever. This is a dangerous combination that has had quite the impact on our spending habits….

We buy more but invest less per piece. And I’m not just talking about money. We also invest less time and thought into each purchase. Why? Because we can….

The way you shop is nothing but a set of habits you have picked up over the years. And if you want to change the way you shop and become more selective and thoughtful about what you buy and what goes into your wardrobe, then you need to gradually replace those habits with some new ones.

Anuska Rees, The Curated Closet

Closet.jpeg

Rees helped me ask two big questions about my wardrobe:

1. What is My Actual Style?

2. What Activities Do I Regularly Dress For?

Define Your Style

It may sound crazy simple, but I had never actually asked myself these questions! I’ve held onto dresses I collected in my youth because they are sentimental, even though now they’re way too bohemian for my taste. Rees gave me permission to finally remove them from my closet. There’s no pressure to get rid of them for now, but everything in my current closet should ideally fit my current style.

Right now I define my style as “Minimal with a Sporty / Grunge Vibe.” I know, it’s laughable to actually type – but that’s okay! It encompasses a lot: my casual outfits, my love of sneakers, my patched jackets, and even some activewear. I love black, I love flannel shirts, I love a good band T-shirt. Now that I’m getting older, I dig only the most comfortable shoes. Defining my style and giving it name makes it easier to assess what pieces actually fit my style. Rees assures us that it’s not about following trends.

Trends come and go but your style is more consistent than that.

After I defined my actual style and favorite color scheme from things I already owned, I bagged up a lot of things that no longer fit that criteria. It was a fairly swift and easy purge since I told myself I don’t have to get rid of anything right now. (Here’s more tips for purging your closet!)

Assess Your Lifestyle

Next I did a brief lifestyle assessment:

1. What do I actually spend most of my time doing?

2. Does my current wardrobe reflect that accurately?

Turns out I had some inconsistencies! As a stay at home mother, I don’t need a closet brimming with professional wear or cocktail dresses. I spend most of my time on play-dates, volunteering, chilling at home, and working out. Add in some outfits for church and the occasional wedding or date night.

This honest evaluation helped me purge even more. I had way too many formal pieces for my lifestyle, so I kept only the best and passed on a lot. I looked at shoes too. I only need 1-2 pairs of dressy shoes since I live in comfortable shoes 99% of the time.

The fun thing was that after clearing out the 1) items that were no longer my style and 2) items that didn’t fit my lifestyle, I had a lot more space. Maybe now I’ll actually see and grab those pieces that I like more often! I actually did notice a couple holes in my remaining wardrobe. But Rees addresses that. She empowered me to slowly and thoughtfully fill those holes.

Shop Smart

The idea is not to rush or make impulse purchases we later regret. That would start the whole process over again. The idea is to be deliberate, and look for quality. Rees gives us a couple of great tips for when we do buy something new. This advice was timely since I’m no longer on a shopping ban, but also don’t want to go overboard.

  • Assess Your Current Wardrobe
  • Set Priorities
  • Write Detailed Shopping Lists
  • Take It Slow
  • Pay Attention to Details
  • Look for Style, Function, Quality, Budget, and pay attention to your Gut Feeling.

(Here’s my personal checklist before I buy something new.)

I love thrift store shopping, but it’s even more important to be choosy and patient in thrift stores. Be prepared to try on a lot of things and say no to a lot more than you say yes to. If you have a well-organized thrift store, try to stay in only one section rather than look at everything in the entire store. When I go thrifting for activewear, I stay in that area of the store and stick only to things I would be willing to pay full retail price for. Don’t get caught up in the vicious cycle of “cheap, but not quite right.” I’ve found that those “not quite right things” are rarely worn.

How does your current closet differ from your ideal? Does your clothing fit your real life or just your fantasy life? How can you mindfully fill any holes without overspending or regaining bad habits? Do you have any tips for me as I move forward post-shopping ban? 

 

4 Comments

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  1. Hello Emily thank you for your words and your gentle godly spirit. A few years ago I purged my closets, clothes, shoes and handbags. I put everything in several (ok six) huge bins in the attic. Three years later all of that stuff was still in the attic, I did not miss any of it and I did not replace it. Finally got rid of all that stuff by donating it to my church and Goodwill. My advice get rid of the ” stuff “, don’t waste time and energy storing it you will free up physical and mental space. Blessings

    • Thanks Roslyn! I agree – I would much rather someone else was using the stuff than just storing it and letting it get musty. However, I have had a tendency to over-purge in the past and miss things. That’s why I’m doing a trail run this time around. I’m having a clothing swap later this month and will pass on those items that I can’t decide on then. For my personality, this is a happy medium and it lets me be drastic without fear of overdoing it.

  2. My current clothing questions when shopping:

    Do I really love it, or, is it just something I like?
    Is this something I want, or, is it just something I think I should want?
    Is this for my fantasy self or my real self?
    Is this for my past, my present, or my future self?
    Will this add value to my future life?
    Will I still be using it in the six months?
    Does it love me and make me look good?
    Does it sparkle for me?

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