A couple of months ago I read an article about someone who was doing a decluttering of their wardrobe and they included a piece of advice that I’d read dozens of times before: go through what you have and if you haven’t worn it in a year then get rid of it. Give it to charity, sell it or throw it out. I’ve always been a little dubious about that idea but this time it really struck me – I actually think it’s nonsense.
Why haven’t you worn those clothes for a year? Is it because they genuinely no longer fit or you’ve completely worn them out? Or is it more likely that you’ve just become bored with them at some stage and bought more stuff? And as you’ve bought more stuff the closet gets even more full and those boring item goes right to the back – isn’t that right? Finally we arrive at the stage where we think ‘I’ve got too much – I need to declutter!’ We may feel good getting rid of stuff at the time but most of us know that we’re just making room for more. And in a year or two we’ll put together a new outfit and think “oh I need a green cardigan to go with this – I used to have one of those but I gave it away – now I’ll have to buy a new one.”
We seem to have become conditioned to believe that joy is only to be found in the new, therefore if you’ve had it for a while and no longer use it, you are within your right to say goodbye. This completely ignores the fact that, at one time, you liked this item enough to buy it and (hopefully) wear it. (Although there is a frightening statistic that the average British woman hoards £285 of clothes they will never wear.) If we actually looked into our wardrobes a little more closely, would we rediscover items that we could still very happily wear, rather than always reaching for the same things or thinking that we need something new? If we tuck things away for a while and then bring them out afresh will it feel like we have something new, when really it was ours all along and we’d simply forgotten about it? Livia Firth, eco campaigner (and wife of Colin), takes great joy in highlighting the things she wears that she’s had for many, many years with the hashtag #sustainablewardrobe .
I love clothes, and I love to shop. However I also care about the ethics of my wardrobe and so I do quite a bit of my purchasing in charity shops. This has led me to take on an attitude that all my shopping is guilt free and so I’ll merrily carry on. I have also been under the impression that if I bought something and didn’t like it, I could simply pop it back into a charity shop bag where it would benefit someone else. The whole cycle was a beautiful eco-shoppers dream – until I watched the film The True Cost. I thoroughly recommend that you get a copy (or it’s available on Netflix I believe) and let yourself be challenged by the state of the garment industry. This is an issue that I’ve been passionate about for a while but the film has reinvigorated that interest and has brought some fresh perspectives. For example, the clothes that I send off to a charity shop will not necessarily be bought by someone else. And if they’re not purchased they will be shipped to a developing country where they will flood their markets with very cheap clothes, or they will be put into landfill and leak toxic fumes into the atmosphere. Suddenly my theoretically righteous shopping habits became a bit more suspect.
I do often look into my wardrobe at things I haven’t worn in quite some time and think that I should get them out and figure what to put them with – but then I reach for the same 40% of my wardrobe day after day, week after week. So what to do with all the clothes that I have that I haven’t worn in ages? Finally this past weekend I came up with a plan : don’t do laundry! If the things that I always reach for stay in the washing basket then I’ll be forced to dig deeper and deeper into my closet and wear the things I actually own.
This is my plan, (which I started last Sunday) : I have emptied my washing and ironing baskets and have all of my clothes at my disposal, and aside from washing necessary undergarments etc, I will not do any more laundry until I have worked my way through my entire wardrobe. Let me be clear – I’m talking normal clothes. I’m not going to run out of stuff to wear and then turn up to the office in a bridesmaid dress because that’s the only thing left!
I’m hoping to gain something valuable from this experience. I would like to rediscover joy and gratitude in how abundantly blessed I already am. I hope to exercise fresh creativity in putting together new combinations of clothes I may never have tried before. I love to be creative in this way and recognise that it’s sometimes laziness that stops me making the most of what I have. I think there are rich pickings in my wardrobe just waiting to be discovered anew. I will also, hopefully, prove to myself that I can stop shopping – at least for quite a while!*
Plus, no laundry! BONUS. (I appreciate that I am heading for one almighty laundry mountain at the end of all this, but hey, for now my washing machine will enjoy the rest.) I’m calling this little experiment Full Laundry, Fresh Style and you are very welcome to join me if you feel the need to re-explore your own wardrobe. If I find any clothes combinations along the way that I’m particularly proud of I’ll let you know and I’ll keep you posted in a couple of weeks time with how I’m getting on. For now I’m off to decide what to wear tomorrow…
*I feel I must confess: between the time of writing this and posting it I did actually buy one more garment – but it was a case of serious wardrobe malfunction!! A very full floaty skirt and a windy day made it highly likely that I would spend an entire afternoon flashing my underwear around the city of Edinburgh and, y’know, I’m just not that kind of girl. So to save my blushes I bought a quick charity shop garment to continue on my way in all modesty – but that’s me done now, I promise!