Closet Challenge : Eight Month Review / Capsule Pantry + Other Tails of Minimalism, Mindfulness

Have you ever heard of such a thing as a Capsule Pantry? This is something I’ve been doing steadily over the past few years, working on pairing down the food I consume (and store) to just the things I really need. In the process I’ve discovered things like the joy of eating in season, local produce, alternative grains, and cooking from scratch. My formerly bursting pantry that didn’t always have what I needed, but always had a lot of stuff I rarely used, is now much less full. The best is that it now typically has anything I could need to make a recipe, and building a recipe from scratch doesn’t necessarily take longer or involve more work. Going into this was rather more simple than reworking my closet :

Do I particularly like it?

Is it easy to use and store?

Does it go with a lot of different things?
Can it be prepared multiple ways?

Are there quality options (no added chemicals, hormones, pink slime, GMO, ingredients I can’t pronounce)?

What this means for my pantry is a large stock of raw ingredients like pasta, grains, canned tomatoes, beans, sugars, and spices. With this “collection” I can mix and match almost endlessly, with the additional of in-season produce. Thanks to a thoughtfully stocked pantry I don’t often need a big grocery list (in fact, our monthly budget for two people including all household essentials rarely goes about $350), or specific items, in order to eat well daily, and I can make most anything I like because there aren’t any absolutely essential single ingredients. My pared down pantry means I can usually find substitutes for ingredients not on hand or throw something together on a whim. The other side to this is not having to purchase specific ingredients just to make one recipe, one time, only to have no use for the rest. We purchase less quantity because what’s on hand can mix and match. The best part is focusing on higher quality ingredients; buying less means having more room in the budget to buy better. Our favorite place for meat is a local farm that allows the animals to graze free range, with no added hormones or pink slime, and they butcher your cuts to order on site. Amazing!

Knowing that we have enough variety of quality base items on hand means we don’t eat out as much – it’s just as easy, and so much more delicious, to throw something together at home. Added bonus : less waste. Spending more thoughtfully leads to spending less over the long term, but also wasting less. We compost the majority of our food waste, plant sprouted garlic, onions, and potatoes in the garden, and reuse leftovers to make new meals. Done, done, and done!

Things I prefer to make from scratch that aren’t too difficult, don’t require crazy ingredients I wouldn’t normally have on hand, and are so much more delicious this way :

Chocolate Chip Cookies, ok, seriously, cookies of any kind




Mac + Cheese

Pasta Sauces (tomato, cream, pesto, etc.)


Ice Cream



(images and links to sample recipes? ask Robin for a contribution + link to her blog?)

Closet Challenge : Eleven Month Review / Another Closet Change + Caring for Clothing

When thinking about caring for my clothes a few things come to mind that I’d like to share with you. Over the years I’ve figured out a what it is about clothing like in a fit – the   way the material falls, wears, and more than anything keeps over time. We’ve discussed purchasing quality pieces that will last rather than fast fashion that deteriorates quickly and requires replacement shortly after purchase. Something I look for in clothing prior to making a purchase is the quality of the make. These are a few of the things I think about when considering an item :

Do the seams appear to be well stitched?

Are there loose threads hanging off the item?

Does the fabric stretch (and if so, does it go back to/retain it’s original shape)?

Is it prewashed/preshrunk?

Will the color(s) likely bleed or fade in the wash?

What is the fabric content? Does it make sense for this sort of item?

With that in mind, and following a purchase, I’m very careful about how I handle and care for my clothes. Keeping in their best possible condition allows me the opportunity to sell them when they’re weeded out of my closet, and I’m able to recoup some of the cost of purchasing. Here’s how I keep my clothing items in tip top shape :

Store things well

Ironing isn’t something I do. Ever. If there’s a particularly wrinkly item it’ll get steamed, but even that is few and far between. I’d much rather prevent wrinkles than spend the time working them out. This means storing things well in the fist place by hanging or folding according to the material of the item. Knowing how things will stretch out, where you’d not mind having a crease fall, and giving things breathing room wherever they’re stored will ensure most everything is ready to wear.

Only wash when necessary

Almost everything in my closet, with the exception of undergarments, is worn more than once before being washed. If an item could definitely benefit from a wash, it’ll go in the washer with cold water and then hang to dry. The majority of items are spot cleaned after wears to keep them both looking in good shape, and out of the washer. Lastly, I’ll steam items to give them a quick refresh, release any odors, and remove wrinkles. It’s so much less damaging than a wash/dry/iron and makes things look and feel wonderful.

Another thought worth considering is switching to gentle detergent. Statistics on this subject point out that we probably use too much detergent in the first place meaning that switching to something gentler and using less of it will do far less damage per wash, and extend the life of those items. Likewise, keeping as much as possible out of the dryer can prevent fading, shrinking, and stretching.

Invest in a sweater shaver

Yes, it’s so ’80’s, and yes it’s a miracle gadget. This thing is the most awesome item you’ll ever spend seven dollars on. It works on all sorts of materials beyond just sweaters, removes pilling, and smoothes out the material. Makes things look brand new, not even kidding.

Save the extra buttons

Literally. Tuck those babies away for a rainy day, or just for when you lose a button. In fact, before you lose a button, maybe even right after you purchase that buttoned item swipe a little clear nail polish over the threads on the front of the button to help things from unraveling in the first place. You’re welcome.

(include link/image to the steamer? sweater shaver? gentle detergent?)