The Minimalist’s Capsule Wardrobe For A Tiny Home
One of our photographers, Hannah AKA NarrowboatMama, is something of an expert on minimalism, living in her tiny floating home. We invited her to share her tips on maintaining a sustainable capsule wardrobe.
George wears cotton Rebel t-shirt, Hannah wears grey marl t-shirt & striped neck gaiter
Lockdown got much of the nation decluttering in earnest, me included. Faced with the prospect of weeks, possibly months hanging out in the same four walls of my live aboard boat, I was faced with another opportunity to get brutal with stuff that was no longer serving my life. I put two big bags of unwanted clothes and kitchen utensils in my boot so I could ignore them until lockdown was lifted and I could pass them on. It got me thinking, after practicing minimalism and thoughtful purchasing for nearly three years, this lifestyle is still a work in progress.
If you’re here, you probably know what fast fashion is doing to our lovely planet. One bit of good news though. Fashion Revolution reported that 45% of respondents said that during lockdown, they learned they needed less stuff in order to be happy. Being conscious consumers and buying small amounts of long-lasting and low impact clothing go hand in hand with minimalism.
What is minimalism and how can we achieve it?
I didn’t twig that I qualified as a minimalist until I watched ‘Minimalism’, a documentary on Netflix about, yep, minimalists. Upon discovering this nice neat label for my lifestyle, I sat in my “tiny home” - a 45ft narrowboat - nodding along to the show. “By having less, you automatically stretch what you do have”, said one minimal living convert, enjoying life in his modest and uncluttered home. It resonated. I love my simplified life and all the joy it brings. Less stuff, less impact on the planet, less stress, more time and way more happiness.
Experts on the topic, The Minimalists, summarise that minimalism is “a tool to rid yourself of life’s excess in favor of focusing on what’s important—so you can find happiness, fulfillment, and freedom.” Decluttering guru Marie Kondo advises us to hang onto items that “spark joy” and discard others to achieve a peaceful environment. “It begins with clothes, then you move onto books, documents, “komono” (miscellaneous items) and sentimental items. But we always begin with clothes.”
The journey to a capsule wardrobe
I wasn’t ever a huge hoarder, I’d moved home enough times to become fairly ruthless about what stayed and what went, but when I bought my boat in 2017 I was downsizing significantly so had to step up the cull of possessions. Besides every day appliances and photography equipment, I had two memory boxes, a chest of photos, some sentimental ornaments, furniture, and a large wardrobe of clothes. I asked myself what would I need if I was going backpacking around the world for a year with my son? And what items would I save from a house fire? I convinced myself that anything more than that could go. The photos and ‘too sentimental to part with’ stuff went to storage or family and I gave most of the furniture away. I reduced my clothing to fit a wardrobe 50cm wide, and two cubed drawers.
Tips for surviving with a capsule wardrobe
Find a look that works for you and stick with it
Check which colours suit your skin tone on the Colour Me Beautiful website. Identify what clothes suit your body shape. Then keep your wardrobe choices narrow with these criteria as your guide.
Avoid fast fashion and short-lived trends
Choose classic styles that you’d still be happy to wear in five years time. And simple pieces that will easily mix and match to vary up your outfit options. If you really love bold prints and can’t live without them, keep a few and layer them with the simpler pieces in your wardrobe.
Invest in pieces that work for all seasons
I have kimonos that are great over bikinis on the beach in the summer, but also layer up over a roll neck top and skinny jeans in the winter.
Don’t be ashamed to wear the same outfit often.
You’re buying thoughtfully, and you’re buying beautifully made, slow fashion, so why not wear your investments again and again?
I'm not talking about personal hygiene, but making sure my clothes get a few wears between washes. The clothes last longer and I spend less of my life doing laundry. Winning. Common sense but I'm a mud magnet so I always wear wellies and dark clothes when on an outdoor adventure. I save the bright whites and delicates for special occasions. Read how to wash your clothes responsibly to prolong their life.
Make do and mend
I watched my frugal Scottish Granny sew and repair most garments, even holey socks. She was a big advocate for buying great quality and making it last. If something is too tricky for me to darn, the local dry cleaners can normally save it.
This is what survived the initial edit for my capsule wardrobe:
- 4 pairs of skinny jeans; indigo, light blue, black, dark grey
- 1 pair of vintage Levi boyfriend jeans
- 2 pairs of dungarees
- 5 white, grey and black t-shirts and bodysuits
- 1 black roll neck jersey top
- 2 shirts and a blouse
- 2 kimonos
- Two plain black summer dresses
- Two patterned summer dresses
- Two playsuits
- Three evening dresses for weddings, events, etc
- Two pairs of high waisted culotte trousers (easy to dress up or down)
- Three pairs of denim shorts
- One pair of high waisted smart shorts
- Three sets of pyjamas and two night dresses
- Two pairs of leggings
- Two pairs of lounge pants
- Pairs of: Converse trainers, Kurt Geiger boots, black chunky platforms for events, Birkenstock sliders, strappy sandals, Hunter wellies, ancient running shoes
That list might sound like a lot but all of this easily folded or hung into my newly reduced storage space on board. Since then, I haven’t bought a lot of clothes, relatively speaking, but when I do shop, I research first to make sure it’s ethically made, will enhance my life, and will be long-lasting. I avoid man-made fibres. As well as the sustainability factor, my son has a slight allergic reaction to polyester, so organic cotton and wool are the fabrics of choice.
My favourite Fferal Clothing pieces
I was introduced to Fferal’s designer Helen in 2018 and was really excited about her sustainable clothing mission. Classic pieces like the grey marl lounge pants and the black slub cotton t-shirt are ideal for a minimalist wardrobe. As well as being really REALLY soft, the loungewear is well-made enough to be outdoorsy people proof. My son and I have been hard-wearing some of our Fferal garments for two years and they still look great. Our favourite Fferal children's clothes are the Rebel tee and the Camo loungewear set. The grey beanie and neck gaiter get passed between the both of us!
Shop Fferal's sustainable loungewear, t-shirts and accessories.
What about pants my wife has a lot of pants. We also have a 13 year old who don’t take up a lot of room apart from tv and PlayStation. What about washing and drying do you do this on the boat or at a Laundrette if a marina has got one or close by in town