My journey with downsizing my closet has been a long one. Coming out of high school I had a completely unmanageable volume of clothes, most of which I wore once (purchased from your token fast fashion retailers like Zara or H&M).
Throughout my life I have used shopping as a way of coping with my emotions. That instant gratification would give me a rush of happiness with an aftertaste of guilt. I would wear that one piece of clothing over and over again for a couple of weeks (as if there was nothing else I had to wear) then leave it in my closet for the rest of its time with me.
If any of this sounds like you, listen closely to find out how you can start reducing your amount of “crap”.
Step 1. Cut out Fast Fashion
When I began my journey with sustainable fashion, I committed to a year without buying any fast fashion clothing. NO exceptions. Cutting out fast fashion forces you to be more mindful of what you are buying and where you are buying from. It also makes it much less accessable to buy something new, which is a good thing, even though you may think its unattainable. This will also force you to do some research when looking for things like socks and underwear because, guess what, those count too.
You can still shop! Just not in a mall or convenient shopping centre for the most part.
Step 2. Start to Sort
When going through my clothes, I find it really useful to colour coordinate everything on hangers. Not only will this look nice, it’ll also show you if you have a bunch of the same item of clothing. This will also give you a much better idea of what you actually have, rather than piles on the floor waiting to get washed (I know I’m not the only one that does this).
Step 3. Eliminate
Then start to eliminate. Go through one by one (Marie Kondo style) and be brutally honest with yourself, “when is the last time I wore this?”. Does the item fit how you like to dress right now? Do you try to make outfits with it but never end up picking that particular piece? Then it may be time to say good bye. I often found that I would buy things I really liked but didn’t necessarily feel comfortable wearing.
When hopping from vintage shop to vintage shop in the heart of San Francisco, one of my good friends told me that she learned to appreciate nice clothes rather than buy everything she thought was nice (shout out to Michele, you really have that shopping thing down don’t you). Not everything is your style, and that’s okay. You need to learn more about yourself and ask the question, “will I really wear this?”.
This stage may take a couple of rounds and that’s okay. I myself am a glorified hoarder when it comes to clothes. I generally like to go through my closet once a month now and ask myself these questions. If something has been iffy to me for a while, it’s probably time for it to go. Give yourself some time, don’t rush the process or you may find yourself trying to replace what you got rid of.
Step 4. Find your “crap” a home
Before you shove those mountains of clothes into a bag to take to your local Goodwill, take a second to think about the journey that piece of clothing will take from there. It’s said that only about 30% of what we donate is actually sold in our own country meaning the rest is getting shipped off to become someone else’s’ problem. Is that where your gently worn sweater from Anthropologie belongs? If not here are some good options for you instead.
Swap clothes with friends. Make a night out of it! Trade piece for piece and get some new items you may want to wear more than those you got rid of.
Check out your local consignment shops. Do a thorough search of your area and see if your items may be a good fit for resale at one of these locations.
Sell on social Media. Post your clothes in your Instagram stories with the price and the size. More often than not people will go for at least a portion of what you post. Facebook Marketplace can also be a great place to get rid of some stuff along with Kijiji for more expensive items.
Donate to charity shops or youth centres. Before taking clothes to a true donation centre, donate them to a place that is more likely to give them to those in need. If you do a quick search of organizations in your area, chances are there is at least one place that would consider taking your stuff.
Invite a friend to look through the pile. Let them take what they want! Or better yet, find a second-hand stylist and let them shop your closet. If you have some more expensive items them may offer you a good deal for them!
Step 5. REPEAT
Do steps 2-4 over and over again until you find yourself happy with every piece you have in your closet. This is when you can start adding to the gaps through investing in sustainable pieces either from thrift shops or by investing in pieces from ethical companies.
This is not an easy solution, I’m going to be completely honest with you. Downsizing is not easy and won’t be until you break you habits. There is no quick fix to our consumption problems. It is a constant battle, but it does get easierwith time. You need to work at it but I promise you it will be well worth the work.