Here at the end of February, it’s 61 degrees and sunny in Chattanooga today. Winter feels like a memory and I am happy to see the first yellow daffodils spreading my favorite color everywhere. Spring is traditionally a time for new beginnings and for many, spring cleaning gives us new energy to trim our nests and bring out warmer weather clothes. 

Living in a liminal space the last couple of years has given me a chance to regroup and figure out some ways to make my life simpler in my family and career. I was talking to a friend at work recently who found these ideas helpful, and we thought it might be nice to share them with you.

If you are a career professional, chances are good that you need to put some time and effort in to how you present yourself. Particularly if you are a woman and in a position of leadership, it matters what you wear. Capsule wardrobes have gotten some press over the last few years and while I like making less decisions in the morning, I enjoy fashion too much to want to have a tiny amount of clothing that constantly wear. At the same time, I want to resist the urge to buy new clothes when the seasons change because that’s not kind to the planet and too expansive for my teacher’s salary. So, here’s what I came up with.

I keep a small wardrobe that I rotate seasonally. What this means is I have two weeks worth of professional attire that I rotate through every three months of the year. This means I wear 10 sets of clothing to work Monday through Friday for two weeks in succession, then repeat. So I wear Spring clothes March to May, Summer clothes June to August, Fall clothes September to November, and Winter clothes December to February.

Most of these clothes I bought from my favorite thrift store in Chattanooga, The Samaritan Center, which is in Ooltewah, TN. On the left side of the store, they receive donations in very good condition (sometimes new with tags!) that support their social services ministry. I choose clothes that are comfortable, colorful and fit me well, so I’m happy to wear them over and over again. I also love that I secured them for a small fraction of their value, along with discounted designer shoes from Marti and Liz in Hixson, which are cute and durable and last a long time. I own 10 pairs of shoes (including snow boots, sandals, etc) and about the same number of earrings, again prioritizing versatility and comfort.

I call this system the Seasonal Wardrobe. By the time a season ends and I’m ready for a change, all I do is rotate out my next season’s worth of clothing. More casual clothes I rotate to an extent as well except for certain staples like jeans, light layers, and t-shirts. I also have a separate set of 5 or so outfits that I wear to church on Sundays for that season. This is better both for Mother Earth and my budget! If I need to replace something I’ve worn out, I typically go to thrift stores first. I do make some exceptions to thrifted finds such as leggings, which transition from work to church to play very smoothly and which require a very specific fit. And I always change clothes when I get home from work to signal to myself that I’m at rest and keep them from getting stains from cooking or playing outside.

Once you build your repertiore and rhythm, you can make it fun by alternating clothes within the two weeks and having a general color scheme for the seasonal changes. I like oranges and purples in Fall, blues and reds in Winter, and pinks and green in Spring. As a teacher, summer is a wild card because I’m on break! So just whatever is comfortable and strikes my fancy. 

If you’re tired of keeping up with clothes you don’t love or tire from, try out the Seasonal Wardrobe! And let me know what you think. (Also, stay tuned in March for Spring Cleaning Part 2.)