Simple tips to create a zero-waste wardrobe
I recently finished reading The Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson and its been a total game-changer for me. It has a similar philosophy to The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (embracing extreme minimalism, keeping only what you need and love, etc) but I find that the ideas in this book might be easier to actually implement in my own home. This may be because unlike Marie Kondo, who was obsessed with being tidy since the day she was born, Bea was exactly like the rest of us only a few years ago--obsessed with consuming and surrounded by stuff, and since then she has slowly and thoughtfully eliminated the clutter and waste from her life.
Now Bea’s entire wardrobe can fit in a carry-on suitcase, including shoes. While I may not aspire to that tiny of a wardrobe, it has made me think about the clothes I surround myself with--most of which of course, I don’t need to the point of completely forgetting I have them. In fact, I’ve heard that most people wear less than ten percent of their wardrobe. So why do we keep accumulating more stuff?
My dad, a biology professor, likes to say that it's because from a biological standpoint, women are gatherers and like to collect things. We get a certain thrill from finding a good deal, for example. But I think it's also because 1. having a lot of stuff is glorified in our culture, 2. most of us are, on some level, deeply bored and get a thrill from shopping (and it fills time), and 3. retail therapy is a go-to for many people who are stressed or unhappy. I'm sure I'm missing some other important reasons, but the point is that our over-consumption is creating a huge demand for cheap junk that has horrible consequences for the planet.
So lately, thinking of my own wardrobe in terms of it being "zero-waste"--meaning nothing is accidental, forgotten about, or goes unworn--has really helped me get clear about what I need to keep, and what new stuff I need to bring in. As I pointed out in my decision fatigue post, having a smaller wardrobe actually makes getting dressed much easier rather than more difficult. When you have a capsule wardrobe made up of pieces that are high quality, versatile, and classic, mixing and matching is easy, especially when you have all your choices there in front of you.
It's funny though, because I've discovered as I've started to sort through my clothes, about 80% of them are still hanging around only because of guilt. Like...
I would really feel bad if I got rid of this because my mom gave it to me, and one day when she passes away I’m going to wish I still had it.
I would feel bad if I got rid of this because if I ever have another baby I'll have to buy new maternity clothes all over again...so I better hang on to it just in case.
I would feel bad if I got rid of this, because I made it myself and I worked so hard on it.
Realizing this has helped me be practical rather than overly sentimental, though it's still a struggle. Have you recognized a guilt factor in your own closet?
When deciding what items to keep or purchase for a capsule wardrobe, I've found it super helpful to consider:
-Fit: Does it actually fit you well, enough so you feel like you will want to wear it often? If not, would you be willing to spend the time and money to get it altered?
-Quality: Is the quality worth the investment and will it last through a lot of everyday wear?
-Versatility: Is this something that you can wear often, to a lot of different places and events? Does it go with other things you own? Can it be dressed up or down?
-Taste: Simply put, is it something you love and will gladly wear often? Does it flatter you and make you look and feel good? If it's something you love you will be more likely to take good care of it.
-Effort to care for it: Picture yourself washing, drying, folding, and/or taking it to the dry cleaners week after week. Is it worth the effort to care for, or not?
I listed a ton of helpful tips on how to get started overhauling your wardrobe in my post How to break out of the fast fashion cycle and start building a better wardrobe. You can check it out here.
I hope that helps you start to think about your own wardrobe in terms of zero waste. If we all started coveting less instead of more, imagine the impact that would have!
[Photo: Project 333]