Minimalist Wardrobe: The Ten Item Challenge

Whew. I have had this post saved on my phone for a month now. I’m ready to take my minimalist, zero waste lifestyle to new heights and add in a challenge component:

The ten item wardrobe. 

Of course, it’s all been done before! The capsule. Project 333. Tiny wardrobe challenges have circulated intermittently over the years, marketed by quite a diverse range of individuals. I love researching previous wardrobe projects because of the inherent intersection between minimalism, zero waste, and voluntary simplicity. If you are interested in some previous projects, check out the links below:

Why?

Let me first address the intention behind my project. A major philosophical undertone to this project is the ingrained but oft ignored difference between voluntary simplicity and involuntary simplicity. Naturally, the way we perceive our belongings, wants, and needs will vary and depend greatly upon our generational status, socioeconomic status, culture, level of privilege (and countless other variables). One of the main criticisms of minimalism that I read on other blogs and websites is that minimalism promotes luxury items and therefore, is unattainable for the average person. I think this is particularly true for aesthetic minimalism, which focuses predominantly on the physical and visual attributes of an object, which tend to be pricier. That being said, there are a variety of schools of thought within minimalism and no clearly defined right or wrong answer/approach.

Involuntary simplicity suggests that there are barriers (poverty, access, transportation, language, ability, and so forth) that affect one’s overall ability to acquire the necessities in life. Hence, the level of ‘simplicity’ in one’s life is not due to choice, but rather a lack thereof.

Voluntary simplicity employs deliberate choice in what belongings are brought into the home and living without excessive luxury is a main tenant. That is not to say that proponents of voluntary simplicity recommend deprivation, but more so, careful reflection regarding one’s true needs. Therein lies the beauty! Avoiding a fixation on an arbitrary number of items keeps the end goal from being the focus and brings to light the process. Paring down, simplifying, minimizing, or whichever term resonates with you, can be meditative. As you assess your needs, pay close attention to your arising desires, and reshape your habits, you’ll find (like I did) that simplifying is actually a helpful tool for refelction.

What?

Over the course of the next 6 months, I will adhere to a 10 item wardrobe. Now, to preface, I do not have an overt attachment to the number of items I have in my closet. It used to be stuffed to the gills. I filled both sides of a walk in closet on my own, when I worked in retail. However, I’m setting a number to challenge myself. Self-competition can be rewarding when you work through the process step by step…including the difficult steps! I’m using Jennifer Scott’s format: 10 core items, 5 ‘extras’. I have included 10 pieces that are appropriate for all seasons and a 5 ‘extras’ which include my fall and winter pieces (minus undergarments like thermal leggings, work out clothing, or camisoles). I am electing to have 10 pieces because I want items in my closets that represent my personal style and can translate between my office job and casual recreational activities.

The most vital aspect of my project is to reshape my clothing and overall consumption habits. Leo Babauta of Zen Habits (one of my favorite minimalism bloggers) recommends putting an accountability system in place. As a method of holding myself accountable to the challenge, I will be donating $20 a month to a charity. Usually, my discretionary money- which is sparse as a grad student, would be spent scouring eBay or Poshmark for a good deal. Instead, I’ll put that $20 to a cause. Following our election season, I especially believe that now, more than ever, we should consider donating any overflow funds to organizations that support the rights of our diverse communities. As a lesbian woman, my main focus will be organizations that:

  • support LGBTQ+ rights
  • reproductive rights.

Throughout the process, I’ll post updates with the items I’m using, discuss my experiences, analyze which items work best for my needs, and maybe, even post some short vidoes!

The Clothing Items

10 all season items:

  1. Black long sleeve technical tee (Landsend, new, 2 mo. ago)
  2. Striped long sleeve technical tee (Landsend, new, 2 mo. ago)
  3. Black cotton long sleeve tee (Everlane, new, 6 mo. ago)
  4. Black silk dress shirt (Everlane, new, 6 mo. ago)
  5. Black technical pencil skirt (Lululemon, secondhand, 2 mo. ago)
  6. Black wool slacks (Everlane, new, 7 mo. ago)
  7. Black cotton slacks (J Crew, secondhand, this month)
  8. Black technical slacks (Lululemon, secondhand, 3 mo. ago)
  9. Black skinny slacks (Banana Republic, secondhand, this month)
  10. Skinny jeans (Madewell, secondhand, 1 yr. ago)

Extras:

  1. Black wool coat (Everlane, secondhand, this month)
  2. Black puffer jacket  (REI Co-Op, new, 7 mo. ago)
  3. Black linen blazer (J Crew, new, 2 yrs. ago)
  4. Gray raincoat (The North Face, secondhand, 3 mo. ago)
  5. Black cashmere sweater (Everlane, gift, this month)

The Shoes & Accessories
Shoes:

  1. Black sandals (Chaco, new)
  2. Black mid calf boots (Justin Ropers, secondhand, 2 yrs. ago)
  3. Black ankle boots (Clarks, new, 1 yr. ago)
  4. White leather high tops (Gift, 1 1/2 yrs. ago)
  5. Black leather high tops (Vans, new)

Accessories:

  1. Wool fedora (Goorin Bros, new, 1 yr. ago)
  2. Cycling backback (Timbuk2, new, 2 mo. ago)
  3. Leather Bookbag (Harrods of London, vintage, this month)

Then I have a few ‘at home’ items, like my sweatshirt, joggers, crocs, a linen blouse, and dress. I say ‘at home’, because they are tres casual – so casual, that they make only rare appearances in the outside world. I noticed that there were a lot of new to me items I acquired in the last few months, mostly because I transitioned out of my undergraduate clothing habits into styles that are more appropriate for work and graduate school! Everything I owned previously, I sold or donated.

Have you ever or WOULD you ever try a micro capsule? What types of items would you include? What are your methods of tracking your consumption?

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3 thoughts on “Minimalist Wardrobe: The Ten Item Challenge

  1. I have few belongings compared to most Americans, but if I have a lot of ANYTHING, it is clothes. This has inspired me to do a little purging when I get home. Admittedly, I have quite a few items that I know I don’t need and have ALMOST donated in the past, but then I think, “Might as well keep it for now.”

    But less stuff = more joy. 🙂

    Like

    1. Agreed! For the longest time, of been paring down the rest of my house, but my closet still remained fairly full. I feel ya- My “problem area” is shoes! I only have a few pairs but I’m always on the hunt because that’s how I accessorize my smaller monochromatic wardrobe…is through funky shoes. I’ll have to see how I manage with the challenge 😉 I’m happy to hear it sparked some inspiration for you!

      Liked by 1 person

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