3 Really Good Reasons To Clean Out Your Closets
Let me just say that I am 100% guilty of buying clothes from all the places that have practices that destroy the planet. I knew that going into the stores or online and I did it anyway.
I don't have a lot of money to spend on eco friendly fashion, mainly because it costs more and to find it I usually need to spend some time reading other people's sustainable fashion round ups. One time I took list of a round up and checked out eBay to see what brands I could get used. Not many.
To be really honest, I also sometimes need a fix. A quick feel good purchase to give my self something to look forward to in an otherwise dull or difficult week. Other times my clothes look shabby, I feel out of touch with the latest looks and I want an update.
Not very proud of my reasons, but there they are, I can face myself from time to time. What I'm about to share below changed my awareness level in a major way.
It started when I watched a documentary called The True Cost.
Incidentally, is it any surprise that the storage industry is booming?
So, if you have the same reasons I do for buying fast fashion but want to make a change after checking out The True Cost, then please read below for quick ways to get smart about your contribution to climate change and what exactly is at stake when you buy cheap clothes.
Being knee deep in other people's closets is part of what I do for a living. I've seen walk in closet size loads of clothes go into plastic trash bags to be donated or given to the housecleaner. Decluttering a closet feels really good for most clients once they get past the buyer's remorse, waste and facing the weight fluctuation decision gridlock.
What's the weight fluctuation gridlock?
I was thin (size 4), I gained weight (size 10), I lost it (currently a size 8) but I'm not at the earlier weight so I'm going to hold on to all sizes just in case. This is a primary reason why most closets stay bloated. Second reason? Sentimental clothing - wedding dress, favorite dress that doesn't quite fit but I will have it tailored, special occasion clothes (think funeral, interview, costume ball, you name it, I've seen it)
I digress. I can't help it sometimes, I'm making so many observations in people's closets and witnessing the same patterns of keep in situation after situation.
Reason #1: Do Good, Feel Good
Cutting emissions is good for the environment. I know you're thinking yeah, yeah, I keep hearing this. If you are just kind of aware of the way humans are affecting the environment, this is a worn out phrase with little personal or immediate meaning. What does it even mean? The Environmental Protection Agency will give you a primer. Then check out the World Resources Institute. If you've read this far in this post, I commend you and have one more easy to use suggestion in a great and very useful book called How to Reduce Your Carbon Footprint.
If you don't care about any of that, that's ok. I'm not going to judge. Some people very close to me would find it very boring if I started talking about my environmental concerns. They care about it if I tell them about the fact that they are getting ripped off buying clothes that are poorly constructed and will fall apart within a year or two of regular use. And that poor quality is intentional. This is not a conspiracy theory! It's called planned obsolescence. When it comes to fashion it's called perceived obsolescence, meaning it loses it's value once you feel it is no longer in style.
For more on this, check out Buy It Once, a site dedicated to helping us all out of the trap of buying cheap stuff that doesn't last. They base their philosophy on the amazing work of Annie Leonard, who wrote the book Story of Stuff and founded StoryofStuff.org.
There's a good video on that site called Why Your $8 Shirt is a Huge Problem.
FastCo's There's a Climate Issue Hiding in Your Closet was an informative read as well and when they write:
People don’t keep their clothing anymore; it is no longer owned, it is just consumed. They wear and discard it quickly.
I see this with my own eyes in every session where a client would like to go through their closets.
If you don't care about that, it means I still haven't convinced you and that's ok. Hang in there. I'm thinking of the people in my life who would still be skeptical while reading this post. Keep in mind that we know from experience (science tells us too) that when we do something for others we feel good inside, in this case, caring about the world we live in enough to change your habits. Think of it as volunteering to make small changes in your life with real impact in the world. When you address your own bloated closets and drawers you help someone else whose life, livelihood or home would be destroyed by global climate change. And if you're willing to share what you've learned and accomplished with your family and community, the good feelings will go on. It's a kind of good feeling you can't get from just binge watching Netflix shows.
You are also doing something concrete that will save you money and time in the long run. I can't even imagine that someone would not care about feeling good. That's why we do anything, right?
If you at least watched the videos above and put the books in your Kindle or public library queue then you can proceed to step two.
Reason #2: Feel Good About Shopping Because Step One Made You Smarter.
You get to go shopping!
Ok, if you have the money to replace all your clothes, you get to go shopping. Shop wisely and use this, this, this as a guide to start off with. Tell me how it goes because I can't shop for a new eco wardrobe but I'd like to hear about it from someone who can!
Now if wardrobe replacement is not in the cards or the budget you are not alone. If you go to my favorite store, madewell, you will spend $100 and get jeggings and a t-shirt. That's great if you work at a tech start up because you can wear it under your tech start up hoodie. But I want to look more pulled together when I meet clients. Otherwise, they might not let me into their closets. You can do what I do: go to a good second hand or consignment store and have the good quality vintage finds there altered to fit you by a neighborhood tailor.
Invest in a capsule wardrobe of a few good pieces, slowly over time, it's ok to take your time. If you don't have enough time to do that, go online to Ebay or etsy, I've had some luck finding deals on barely used or good condition eco fashion brands. Once you know the brands you can search for them and they are a lot cheaper than what you'd find in stores.
Reason #3: Save Time, Save Money, Kill that Morning "What To Wear Stress"
You don't need as much clothing as you think you do, trust me on this. As an organizer I see firsthand the much, too much clothing problem. Sometimes I think we all need a reality check on what's important, like the whole great world out there that needs helpers and makers but we're all busy moving our stuff around our houses instead of volunteering at hospitals or writing to the editor for better school systems.
In the 1920's a middle class American woman had only 4 or 5 outfits in her closet. Could we live with just a few well made outfits? I'm sure of it. If Arianna Huffington can get by wearing the same outfits over and over again, so can the rest of us. What else do we need? Maybe a few work out clothes. Maybe some old shirts kept as night shirt/ pajamas. I loved this project from 2009, the uniform project, to show that you can wear the same black dress 365 different ways and still look fashionable and lovely.
During sessions I find that enormous amounts of the clothing stuffed in closets and drawers are not being worn. Once we start going through it all it turns out that my clients end up feeling so good about giving it all away and keeping their favorites. And the benefits? More space, money for things you like doing and waking up to a simplified dressing ritual.
This is a gift you can give yourself right now if you wanted to.
Who couldn't benefit from reaching for the closest thing to your hand on the closet rack and throwing it on and looking great instead of trying on 10 different outfits and then rushing to work not feeling your best?
I always try to apply what I've learned from being an organizer to my own life and habits. In the past year, I've recycled and donated as many clothes as I can in my own closet, but still struggle every now and then for the reasons I listed earlier in this post. After my own trial and error in the 20 + years I've been shopping and dressing for myself I'm getting better at spotting the deals online and inspecting for better quality things and brands.
My sincere hope is that this post will inspire you to do the minimal bit of watching a few videos and reading a few articles I've offered and start to make some small but steady changes in your wardrobe and in your life.
And by this process of small changes, collectively, we help the millions on our planet who are suffering the immense consequences of climate change. This is a gift you can give someone else, right now, if you want to.