In the past, I would find myself inevitably standing in front of my closet every year, staring at it in disbelief. How did I have so many clothes, again? I had just donated 4 boxes full last year…
Back then, I had so many “reasons” why I needed new clothes constantly. I needed more nursing scrubs, I needed a dress to wear for a company holiday party, I needed a new shirt for a job interview.
The clutter of it all was overwhelming every time I peered into my closet. Yet it was my own doing, living up to the cultural expectations of excess.
I bought into the idea that my gym clothes had to be trendy, that I needed that bikini I saw on Instagram, and that I couldn’t wear the same formal dress twice around the same people.
Most days it would take me far longer than I’d like to admit to find something to wear, yet my closet was full of items. Some of them I never even wore! The tags were still on them when they were donated the next year.
Talk about a waste of money.
The ups and down of pregnancy weight gain/loss led me to donate most of my clothing, and have to start fresh. But this time, restocking my closet was an opportunity for me to look at my clothing purchases from a new perspective. Did I really need as many sweaters as I had before? Why did I have so many jeans when I only ever wore one or two pairs?
It also caused me to really evaluate how much I must have been spending on clothing, back when we had two incomes, no kids, and no real budgets.
For argument’s sake I did a quick search…
Statistics Canada shows the average household spends rougly $3400 annually on clothing and accessories.
$3400? For clothes? Annually??
Why? We are made to believe that clothing should be disposable.
Things aren’t made to last anymore; they’re made cheaply and quickly, and they need replacing often. Let’s not forget fashion is a multi-billion dollar industry, yet the garment workers themselves are usually in unfair working conditions being underpaid. The more I looked at the fast fashion industry, the more I wondered: what had I been doing?
I had been giving my money to companies that didn’t treat their workers fairly, only to wear the item for a season, get rid of it, and buy more. Again and again, over and over. A lot of the time, the t-shirts would stretch out in the wash or the sweater would start unraveling (seriously).
It was time to rethink the way I purchase clothing.
I can’t all together avoid purchasing clothing- the boys are growing like weeds. However, I’ve set one of my challenges for 2020 as: to alter or mend something we already own, and if that’s not possible, then to only buy second hand clothing for myself or the kids. [Socks and underwear as the exceptions, for obvious reasons] And I resolve to focus on brands that are of higher quality and made to last.
In the future, if we absolutely needed to buy something that wasn’t available used, it will ideally come from ethical companies that create quality garments.
Here’s a great visual to accompany what I’m trying to say: The Buyerarchy of Needs by Sarah Lazarovic.
Basically, buying new should be your last resort.
Credit to Karis at No Makeup Mama for reminding me of this image!
For an example of altering something I already owned, last summer I saw a dress that would have been perfect to wear to an upcoming wedding. It was a halter neck and a long skirt, in a beautiful soft floral. The flowers reminded me of a dress I had wore the summer before, that one with longer sleeves and was now a few sizes too big.
In the spirit of minimalism, I decided that instead of buying that new dress, I would take the old one and alter it into the style I wanted. There’s something that felt so wrong about taking a pair of scissors to my dress, but in the end I had exactly what I wanted! And it didn’t cost me anything or add another “worn once” item to my closet.
That seemed to light a fire under me, because now I’m changing up some of my “not quite right” clothing into things I love and constantly wear.
I’ve also been patching and mending the kid’s clothing, as well as my own. My favourite jeans, purchased in 2012, have been patched 3 times already and are almost needing a 4th repair. I can’t give up these jeans- the company doesn’t make them anymore. Jeans without stretch last so much longer, I’m telling you… these ones have been worn consistently for 8 years (I was going to say except for pregnancies but then I remembered doing the elastic band trick through the button hole so I could keep wearing them!).
We’ve become so accustomed to throwing out an item instead of repairing it!
That might seem daunting to some, but you can learn how to do so much online now. You can do it too!
As far as my closet these days, starting fresh was a great opportunity to keep it to a minimum.
I would estimate I have about 1/6 the amount of clothing I used to own, but I actually wear the majority of it now. My husband and I share one dresser; I’ve claimed only 2 mini-drawers for socks and underwear, and the rest of my things are hanging in the closet. Getting dressed in the morning is so much easier because I know that what I have in there will all fit and be comfortable. My closet doesn’t stress me out anymore, and I know where everything is.
But, it could still use some improvement! I never did let go of all my casual summery dresses, even though I rarely wear them anymore. Does anyone else have this problem? For now they’re all tucked into a plastic bin in the bottom of my closet, waiting for a summer season when I won’t be climbing on playgrounds or over logs in the forest with my kids (so…. never then?). It makes me laugh to think about this, because I do consider myself an “aspiring minimalist”… I guess I will always be as long as that bin is hanging around!