From Shopaholic to Minimalist

I didn’t grow up buying clothes often. In my early teens, I was frugal with my earnings from babysitting. Hand-me-downs didn’t work, being a larger size than my older sisters. With my babysitting savings, I found the clearance racks at Forever 21. I could find brand new clothing pieces for $3-$5 dollars. In my last years of high school, I dove into fashion. For the first time, I got to express myself and explore my own style. Believe it or not, I posted a few fashion blogs back in the day. Proof:

I was very creative.

For a few years, I continued to shop at Forever 21, Charlotte Russe or Papaya. It was affordable and kept up with the trends. Eventually, I had so many clothes I could barely fit it in my dresser. I would need an item I saw in the store the week before, I couldn’t get it out of my head. Yes, for a short time, I was a shopaholic. Within one or two years, I didn’t even want to wear half my clothes because it was out of style. A lot of the items I realized weren’t even comfortable, but those qualities had been overlooked because of the low price. A handful of items began to unthread.

No matter how often I went shopping, there was always another new style tomorrow. According to The Good Trade, fashion retailers often release new products every week to stay on trend. I would never be able to keep up.

Only later would I learn the term fast fashion. Fast fashion is the term used to describe clothing designs that move quickly from the catwalk to stores to meet new trends. The collections are often based on designs presented at Fashion Week events. Fast fashion allows mainstream consumers to purchase trendy clothing at an affordable price.

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Even shopping at the cheapest stores, it just didn’t seem like a maintainable hobby. It wasn’t maintainable for my pocket, my closet, or the earth.

The average American now generates about 81 pounds of textile waste each year.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 2014

The sooner I donated my new clothes, the sooner those items would end up in a landfill or textile factory. My shopping came to a halt and I donated my clothes. Quickly I fell in love with basics. They all matched each other. The neutrals weren’t as loud, so I could mix and match. It was much simpler.

Then I took it to the opposite side of the spectrum. (I tend to do this. I like trying everything before I decide what works best for me. I guess I’m just really curious.)

I wanted to see how much I could simplify my wardrobe and my space. It has such an impact on mindset. It’s one of the first things I look at in the morning and the last thing before bed.

For my bedroom to be cluttered or give me any stress was unnecessary.

Thus began my journey into slow fashion. Slow Fashion is an awareness and approach to fashion, which considers the processes and resources required to make clothing, particularly focusing on sustainability. It involves buying better-quality garments that will last for longer and values fair treatment of people, animals and the planet.

I read about Project 333: 33 items for the three month season. If I remember correctly, it didn’t count undergarments or pajamas, but it did count shoes.

Instead of lasting for the season, I cut down my closet to about 40 pieces of clothing items–for good.

I was just. so. tired. of sh*t that didn’t fit. So I ended up with 5 dresses, 5 jeans, 5 leggings, 3 jeans, 2 skirts, 5 t-shirts, 10 blouses, 5 jackets.

Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Pexels.com

Seemed like plenty. And it was! For a year and a half I happily lived with those 40 neutrals and basics. Simple. Truly content. A feeling began to grow–I wanted to bring back a little spunk to my wardrobe. Things quickly changed.

The first thing was that I realized that if I buy secondhand, I’m not directly supporting the fast fashion industry. As a purist, this was especially true if I didn’t buy items from the current trends that had quickly made their way to the donation centers. It’s surprising how many pieces do! But either trendy or vintage, buying secondhand is eons better than buying new from a mall.

The second thing that changed was a I landed a fun sports injury. This major knee injury allowed me to do…not much, really. Understandably, it was time for some retail therapy. I crutched into that secondhand store and poured my sad heart out. Not recommended as the best coping mechanism, but considering the situation, it did lift my spirits a little.

My fashion butterfly re-emerged from the cocoon.

– says me
Photo by Toni Ferreira Ph on Pexels.com

It has almost been 10 years since I’ve gone shopping “just for fun.” Making my clothes an ensemble–a piece of art. I truly love expressing myself through my clothes and hair. I’m grateful to express myself through fashion while cutting back on environmental impact.

I still keep a simple closet. I just swap items back into the market, supporting a circular economy. If clothing pieces don’t represent me well anymore, for example a few of my “therapy purchases” last summer, I donate back to thrift stores. There’s a variety of apps like Depop, Thredup, or Poshmark keeping the clothes on the market and out of the landfills.

But buying less and secondhand isn’t the only way to cut back. There’s also sustainable clothing brands who often up-cycle or offer organic natural fabrics. This is opposed to synthetic fabrics that count as micro-plastics. We’ll talk more about micro-plastics later.

I’ve learned to love the process of waiting for the right item.

If I don’t find something I had in mind, it wasn’t meant to be. Very rarely do I need a certain item in a certain time frame. Secondhand apps are great for that. Often I come across something I didn’t except and fall in love with. I’ve also found so many vintage pieces. What factories are churning out now, most of the time have been in style before and can be found on thrift store shelves.

Each year, the U.S. sends about 21 billion pounds of textile to landfills. I intend to minimize my portion of that by circulating my clothing. I don’t need to give up fashion. Just the “fast” part.

I love my style now more than ever before. Not just how it looks, but also the smaller carbon footprint produced.

Let’s stay sustainable & stylish my friends. The latter is optional. 😉

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