Capsule Wardrobe Challenge: Let's Go (micro) Shopping

Image //  via .

Image // via.

Can you believe that 2015 is just a sleep away?

I personally got sucked into vortex of preciousness known as my nieces and nephews back in Chicago and got a little behind on the Capsule Wardrobe.  Luckily with my list and budget in place, I know exactly the few items I need to procure before January officially begins.  

And, of course, though this is a Challenge but also meant to be Fun, if we happen to kick-off a day or two late it ain't no thang.  

That being said, and this might be the one time you'll hear it from me -- it's time to go shopping! 

Or micro-shopping as I'm calling it, because let's be honest, we don't want this to spiral into some Cher Horowitz-worthy Galleria binge.  

So before you run screaming to the mall with all your credit cards flying out of your pocket, let's get clear on the rules.

In a Capsule wardrobe, mediocre items have nowhere to hide.

Capsule Wardrobe shopping rules:

  1. Stick to your list.  This is the key difference between shopping as you previous knew it and shopping as a minimalist.  Gone are the days when you wander around the mall seeking inspiration and leaving with 3 sale sweaters that don't fit right but were such a good deal.  Know where the holes are in your closet and allow your current pieces to inspire you before leaving home.
  2. Stick to your budget.  Remember, you set your budget not only to be mindful or minimalist, but also to inspire creativity and for the thrill of a challenge -- don't cheat yourself out of that!  (Also, I've included a few friendly tips below if you find your stash dwindling.)

Capsule Wardrobe Tips (to make following the rules a bit easier):

  1. Shop vintage/used.  My November shopping spree is a great example of why vintage rules.  Theory silk tank = $7.  Zara blouse = $10.  Bad ass vegan leather jacket = $25.  Sure, shopping vintage can take more time and a bit more patience, but the payoff can be huge, especially when you're looking to make a budget stretch.
  2. Swap with friends/family.  Growing up with two sisters, I essentially had 3 wardrobes to chose (steal) from.  I never realized how massively this impacted my clothing choices.  Now as adults living in different states, we still get together and give each other items that we might be sick of ourselves but are still in great shape. 
  3. Don't shop sales.  Now sales aren't all evil, what I really mean is don't buy something just because it's on sale.  If there happens to be an item on your list which fits you perfectly that is also on sale -- then by all means buy it.  But don't let rosy-colored sale goggles make you end up with an item you don't love.  In a Capsule wardrobe, mediocre items have nowhere to hide.
  4. Repair what you already have.  When you invest in good pieces, they tend to stand the test of time.  But much like a car engine or amazing hair cut, they do require some maintenance.  Rather than getting a new pair of boots, get your old pair re-soled and polished.  Find a leather shop that can fix the strap on your favorite purse.  It costs a fraction of buying new and is kind to the earth.  Win - win.
  5. Alter what you already love.  I've found as my wardrobe gets smaller, I've become more and more particular about fit.  Through my 20s and into my 30s I've discovered certain shapes that work for me.  I've also discovered that few things feel more glamorous than a garment tailored specifically to your measurements.  For $10-$20 you can update an old favorite to make it truly fit you.  

Share with us in the comments below! 

What tips have you used in the past to stay on budget?  What are you most nervous or excited about as we get closer to January 1st?   

Capsule Wardrobe Challenge: where are your holes?

image  via

image via

Just joining the Capsule Wardrobe Challenge?  Check out Week 1 then swing back here to get up to date.

To recap: From January until April I'm going to be wearing only 37 items -- my Capsule Wardrobe.  

Oh, and I really want you to join me.

I ended sticking with 37 garments.  I like the number and the fact that it feels challenging but still leaves me with hundreds of potential outfit combinations.  

About 31 of these items are much loved pieces from my current closet.  Those items in my current closet that didn't make the cut for this Winter wardrobe were divided into 2 camps:

  1. Donation.  This option was for any item which, when faced with the possibility of having to wear it bi-weekly for a few months, left me cringing or at least feeling uninspired.  Since this is my first Capsule Wardrobe, I applied this philosophy to whether that garment is in season or not.
  2. Storage.  This category I used for out of season items that I love (jean shorts, bikinis and a few summer dresses) AND for a few very special winter items that I adore but don't fit into this finely tuned capsule (about 5 items).  All in, everything I'm storing fit into a bin about the size of 3 shoeboxes.

I also decided to take Lisa Gordon's tip and not include scarves in this final number (check out her amazing advice in the comments).  There is a chance that all my accessories will fit in the original group of 37, but this challenge is meant to be joyful, so I'm not going to force it.

This Week's Focus: Find the holes in your capsule and set a budget for acquiring them. 

If we're being totally honest, knowing that I get to purchase 6 new items is both super exciting and slightly daunting business.  

After spending so much time paring down and getting rid of things that don't spark joy, I'm thrilled to add some new pieces to my wardrobe.  But I also want to be sure I'm super thoughtful about getting the right things -- which is why this week prepare for intentional wardrobe additions (aka: shopping!).

1. What's missing?   

I used to shop by walking into a store and letting inspiration hit me.  If a certain color I loved was in style, I might walk out with a sweater, scarf and shirt all in that same shade of green.  Or if a salesperson told me those uncomfortable shoes were just meant for me -- well I'd purchase a pair or two  (likely to be donated many years later without a single wear).

Working within a Capsule Wardrobe necessitates viewing all your garments as a part of a greater eco-system.  You'll need to account for a range of temperatures, levels of formality and moods, but with only 37 items, you'll also want each garment to work with most of the others in terms of style, fit, and function.  

When I look at my wardrobe, I realize what I am missing most are items that can be worn alone or layered to achieve varied degrees of warmth.   Being cozy, loving and patient are some of my core desired feelings for this winter -- and I know I feel none of those ways when I'm dealing with tight shoulders or numb fingers.   

As I prepare to fill out my 37 item Capsule Wardrobe, I’m going to be focusing all of my extra items and creating a solid layering system and acquiring a few really warm pieces.   

2. Create a budget. 

For my winter Capsule Wardrobe Challenge, I’ve set my budget at $300.  Now of course you can set any budget you'd like, but keep in mind the intentions behind this are both minimalist and for this to be a challenge, so set accordingly.

I've ear-marked $300 on my Mint budget pages, so I will know exactly when I've spent that cash.  However, as I've shared before, I’m all for creating extra money through non traditional routes.  So, if I end up selling old clothing or finding a gift card, I am not counting that against my $300. 

I do this not to bend the rules but to encourage the resourcefulness and play that I’ve developed with my things.  I view 90% of my items as temporary and as such I'm always willing to sell, alter or trade them when it seems right.  The excitement of bringing in new things is made that much more intense when I know that I’ve cleared room for them.

Please share your budget and any tips you use for shopping below!

Next Week:  Fill out your wardrobe

Week 4: Finalize and document your wardrobe.

The $21/Month Cell Phone Plan (It's Real, I Promise)

A few questions for you:

  • Does paying 3-figures for monthly cell phone service piss you off?
  • Do you have something better to do with $75 dollars a month than pay for the advertising budget of a company that doesn’t care about you?
  • Are you interested in speaking with the people around you instead of staring at a tiny glowing screen all day?
  • Do you usually use your phone’s wireless capabilities when tethered to your at home or work wireless?
  • Do you use your computer for most of your downloading/uploading/video watching?

If you answered “Yes” to 2 or more of the above questions, keep reading below 'cause I've got something amazing for you!

Bigger isn't better. 

While Verizon might have a million different stores in which to provide you with mediocre service and passive-aggressive ad campaigns aimed to take down AT+T like a junior high frenemy, they no longer have my business.

Call me crazy, but paying over $100/month in cell phone bills plus $250 every second year for my "free upgrade" isn't my idea of a good time.  And ever since Cam and I got rid of cable in February, I've been on the lookout for more ways to save money and sanity within our "base expenses."

Bye bye Comcast, smell ya later Verizon.

It’s no secret that I hate Comcast.  I hate them for their miserable customer service almost as much as I despise their over-priced cable and internet.  When Cam and I dropped cable in February, we instantly began saving $120 a month and hours of our lives.

I was beginning to feel the same with Verizon.  Though they have mediocre customer service it’s incomparably better than Comcast.  I hated how expensive my bills were.  I hated how I hate to wait 2 years to get a free upgrade that actually cost $200 plus random fees like restocking and moron tax.  

But again, like with my internet, I thought I didn’t have much choice.  AT&T was just as expensive with shittier service.  T-Mobile still required that you buy a phone at full price.  What's a minimalist to do?

"Ting - mobile that makes sense."

Then I found Ting (via my mentor Mr. Money Moustache).  Ting runs off of Sprint’s towers/network but costs about an eighth of a Sprint bill.  Amazing, right?

Oh, and did I mention that you can bring your own phone to it?  Oh, and there is no long term contract — just month to month?  Oh, and you can change your plan mid-month if you’re using more or less data? 

So it’s pretty much perfect.  How the hell do they do it?  

Instead of spending all millions of dollars filming “Can you hear me now?” or “What does this map look like?” commercials, they run by referrals and free press.  They don’t have brick and mortar stores (even less overhead) because they are not trying to sell you a bunch of bullshit accessories or even fancier phone. 

Just good cell service, amazing costs, fabulous customer service.  The only trick is you have to know about them in order to use it.  Check out Ting here.


  • When I’m out and about in SF I have full 5 bars of 3G service everywhere.  
  • I can easily connect to my home internet for full (and free) internet usage.  
  • My monthly bill is $83 cheaper (see graph above with my $21 total).  
  • You can cancel anytime you want.  
  • You can buy a new phone at anytime you want.
  • You can add another line for $6 a month.  Seriously.  For the cost of one venti soy mocha Cam and I can be on our own “family plan.”
  • Now that I no longer have an "unlimited" contract, I'm much more aware of my cell phone and data usage.


  • Slightly worse service than Verizon (can’t get service in my apartment’s stairwell or in my bathroom for example — don’t ask why I know that second part).  
  • Sprint’s map doesn’t have as much national converage as Verizon.  I should be set in the places that really matter (Bay Area and back in Chicago).  And maybe service will be fine in wine country.  Or maybe when I’m in wine country I can focus on drinking wine and being with friends and savoring the rows of vines… You know, maybe.
  • Now that I no longer have an "unlimited" contract, I'm much more aware of my cell phone and data usage.

For those hungry for more info on the process:

In order to switch to Ting you need a Sprint network phone.  I was unaware that each network had their own version of iPhone, for example.  So I purchased a refurbished iPhone 4s from Amazon for just over $200.  I backed up my phone on my iCloud account and then turned on and created the setting for my new phone — so I could see all my apps and mail live on both phones even though I didn’t have cell service yet.  I sold my astonishingly shattered Verizon iPhone 4s to a local electronics store for $60 after wiping it clean and making sure all my info had ported over to my new number.  

I was able to do everything online and be activated on my new Ting plan in a few hours.  Since then it looks like I will use only the “Small” plan for texts and data, but the "Medium" for minutes (between our amazing new clients and my sisters, this was to be expected:)  

Also, since I’m moving from the unlimited plan I’ve had my entire cell-phone life, it’s making me much more conscious of my usage.  At first it was just to save money but as with any behavior, once you are aware and notice it, you can decide how it affects your life and change it.  I’ve realized that I am super guilty of just zoning out in line or on transportation, reading some news app or scrolling through Instagram.  Now I save all of that for specific times of day at home, when I'm focused on the articles or photos and not out enjoying the real world.

How about you?  Would you switch networks?  What are your concerns?  

Want to Buy Something You Can't Afford? Let Me Show You How.

image via

I've long had a rule in my home: one thing in, one thing out.  

This is pretty much the first commandment for all folks looking to keep space simplified and organized.  For example, in order to keep myself on track in my closet, I have a set number of hangers (the same number I had when I owned 105 Things).  So if I happen to come home from my favorite used-clothing store with a new sweater I'm forced to part with something else before I hang that sweater up.

This has worked wonders for both Cam and I: keeping our closet clean, making our combined "getting dressed" time about 2 minutes, and making it a breeze to pack for trips.  

I also have another rule: I will never go into consumer debt again.  Ever ever ever.

Anyone who has ever been in debt knows it is a shitty place to be.  You are treading water while weight (debt, anxiety, bills) keeps piling up, the threat of going under terrifyingly close by.  Once I finally became debt free in 2011 I swore up and down that no matter the circumstances, I would not let myself create a credit card bill I could not pay off.

So even though the first few years of a new business tend to be quite lean, I've had to find a way to keep my non-essentials well within my income.  And as I've spent more years inside of a minimalist home, I've found my consumer wants to be greatly tempered.

But I am human and there are still a few things I really, really want... Which is why I've become a master as selling the things I don't.

I've started calling this my Vitamix Principle (because I'm obsessed with getting one but man are those babies are pricey).  Basically it means this: if there is something that I want and cannot afford, I sell things I own and don't love until I've raised enough money to buy the new item.

This way I never dip into savings or go overboard on a credit card AND I have a built-in system for getting rid of things I don't need.

Let's use my Vitamix as an example of how this all works.  

  1. In general, when you resell an item you should plan on getting approximately 25% of what you paid for it.  Of course this varies greatly across items (an iPhone with the box and accessories will sell for 50% of retail while a sweater from a discount retailer like Old Navy will sell for 5-10% of original price) but serves as a good rule of thumb.
  2. This means that you need to sell 4 items of the same retail value as the item you want to purchase.  
  3. Once you've selected the items to sell, you need to choose the best method for resale: ebay, craigslist, consignment, or a mobile app.  Your sales method is largely determined by the item itself; heavy items don't ship well so craigslist might be best, name brand clothing sells like hotcakes on ebay, furniture is easily consigned.
  4. Keep record of the items you've sold and for how much.  Once you've reached your goal amount, you can:
  5. Go buy you new item!


The best part of this process?  It's a lot of work. 

And that's great because so much of our consumption is done so mindlessly, effortlessly.  Want to know how much thought I give to a book before I press the 1-Click Purchase button?  Almost none.

Want to know how much thought I give to buying a $400 blender?  A blog post and a 6 hours of re-selling items worth.  And having been in debt before, I think that's a good thing.

Try it out yourself!

Next time you see a sweater or bag or appliance you really want make a note of it's price.  Then go home and find 4 things of about the same sticker price that you don't need and sell them.