A third year of no-shopping?

Two years have passed without any clothes shopping on my part and you might wonder if I am embarking on a third year. Truth be told, I am wondering too. I would like to continue another year without shopping, these past two years have been a joy. When shopping is not an option you don’t even enter stores and don’t have to investigate if a potential purchase is a sustainable choice. You don’t need to worry about whether you really will wear that thing as much as desire tells you that you will. Lots of energy, thinking and money saved. Such a relief. And, as a bonus, I have gotten creative with my rarely worn clothes to find combinations and outfits where these things do work after all. So these two no-shopping years have been truly great for me and my wardrobe.

However, less than a month into the new year, I violated the no-shopping rule. I simply had to buy nylon stockings because it would be silly, frankly, to ask somebody to buy them for me just to keep the no-shopping record. As I’ve written about before, to me the purchase or financial transaction is not really the problem, it’s acquiring things you do not need. So, this year, I’m allowed to buy recycled nylon stockings from Swedish Stockings. And, if the urgent need arises, I might be allowed to buy other things too.

This, however, is murky waters and arguably more difficult to navigate. Shortly after buying the Swedish Stockings, I thought I needed to replace an item that is slowly getting worn out. I started googling what to replace it with and, as a result, fashion adds started popping up all over my internet. After not being able to sort out what would be a sustainable replacement, I, annoyed with the adds and fruitless time spent googling, returned to my closet only to find that I did in fact already own something similar enough that a purchase was not really warranted. Surely, I am not the only one who can’t memorise everything that’s in the closet? Now that shopping suddenly is an option again, if there is a need, I imagine there will be several similar situations this year. And how do you decide if there is a wardrobe need anyway? Murky waters.

Entering 2019, I’m proud to say that my mending pile is smaller than it’s ever been. This is a result of the 7h and 14 min I spent mending last year, on average 36min/month. I also spent 4900 SEK during the year at the dry cleaner/mender, ca 400 SEK/month. This is something I could potentially reduce if I got better at sewing buttonholes, hemming and thinking twice before dry cleaning clothes. On the other hand, sometimes it’s worth getting help rather than not gettings things done at all. I also spent 1600 SEK on repair at the shoemaker, an unavoidable cost.

Despite not shopping, my wardrobe experienced an increased in- and outflow during 2018. In total, 29 items entered the wardrobe, mostly things I inherited from family members. Six items I made, either knitted or sewed, for myself. While, as I concluded during last year’s wardrobe audit, I logically don’t need to make any clothes, I have enough as it is, these items still ended up becoming favorites. So while I need to be mindful of making too much or too fast, a little might be ok, I tell myself, as sewing and knitting is also a recreational practice. I do my best to only source sustainable fabric and yarn or, even better, use what’s already in my possession. For example, I sewed two Ogden camis last year, one from fabric scraps and the other from an old Laura Ashley pillow case and I very much love both of these.

As for the outflow, 30 items, I sold a few (which I’ve written about before) and wore out the rest. So not shopping does have a slow accumulative effect where things do get worn more and, eventually, even worn out. Overall though, I’m still in the ‘upper end’ of wardrobe size with 540+ items. And my prediction is that I’ll stay there for quite some time.

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Re-homing: how to give things you don’t want a new home

Re-homing means making sure that the things that leave your home gets a new home and don’t become waste. Post-Christmas is prime re-homing season as gift giving often means that people receive things they don’t need. Interestingly, while minimalism and decluttering has become trendy,  most people still buy gifts for others. It’s as if we feel inadequate if we don’t give to others. Right before Christmas, the Minimalist wardrobe blog even published a series on how to decline Christmas gifts, which caused some controversy.

This past year, I’ve tried and tested quite a few re-homing strategies and here are my thoughts and experiences.

Charity shops. There’s a lively debate around charity shops and whether things donated there do get a new home. What is clear is that we send an increasing amount of clothes to charity (30 ton of textiles per week in the case of Swedish Stadsmissionen). Is there a market for this enormous amount of clothes? The short answer is, no, there is not a market for these amounts of clothes locally so large amounts are instead exported to developing countries and sold there. There is a debate around whether this export of used clothing is good or bad. On the positive side, it is better for the environment that the people in developing countries use used clothing instead of new. However, some African countries argue that the large import of used clothing has harmed their national textile industry and thus tried to imposed tariffs on imported used clothes. As a result of pressure from and dispute with the US, it seems only Rwanda actually introduced the tariff. As I am not currently part of the charity shop market (I don’t shop at all) and it is uncertain if clothes to charity shops do harm or good, I avoid sending clothes there.

Giving to friends and family. This is where a large part of the clothes that enter my wardrobe comes from. However, be prepared that friends and family might give things back eventually. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes clothes are only right for you in a certain stage of life and then right for someone else. One of my favorites in this category is an old trench coat that my grandmother, mom and I have all worn. I cherish this coat.

Swap days. This is on my to-try-list. It’s as it sounds, you swap some of your clothing for someone else’s. In Sweden, Naturskyddsföreningen arranges a national clothes swap day every year. This year it’s April 6th, mark your calendars!

Reselling online (for example Blocket.se in Sweden, Finn.no in Norway). Usually there is a set price for the add, depending on the site, whereas you decide the price for what you sell although potential buyers might try to bargain. I’ve bought clothes this way (before my shopping ban), for example ski jackets etc. If you buy from someone local you can try clothes on before you buy. Also works well for furniture I find.

Selling on commission.  You get a part of the price and the commission store or site also takes a part. You set the price for the clothes together with the store/site. When selling on commission, you have to find the right outlet for your item. For example, selling clothes from French label Isabel Marant on French site Vestiairecollective.com worked really great but for example Italian brands did not work as well there. Selling a Filippa K dress in the Filippa K second hand store in Stockholm also worked great- it sold fast and I got a good price (and the store is super nice! Couldn’t all brands have their own second hand store?) So for commission, it’s worth considering the audience you will reach and if they are interested in what you’re selling. There are good venues for selling used books on commission too, for example Swedish Bokbörsen or the used books on Amazon. com, I use these a lot.

Auctioning. You set the starting price and the site usually takes a percentage of the final price. I’ve mainly used Swedish e-bay site tradera.se which worked great, for example for selling a pair of Converse Allstars, probably because it’s a rather standardized product where people know their size. Selling clothes has been more difficult, but it still got sold. Tradera is really excellent, however, for buying and selling homeware across the country and things that can easily be shipped. For more expensive things there are also the classical auction sites Bukowskis, Auktionsverket, Barnebys and Blomqvist in Norway etc. I’ve mostly bought furniture and glassware here.

The benefit of the online services is that it’s very easy to search for exactly the brand and size you’re interested in. There is also a bigger market with even international sellers and buyers. And you don’t have to search through a second hand store. The benefit of an actual store or buying from someone local is of course that you can try it on.

However, there are more items on my re-home-list than I have time to re-home. Reselling takes time and effort (finding out where’s the best market for this item- there are so many different reselling channels). So this is a great reminder to not acquire things I am uncertain of.  Eventually re-homing these things will just be work.

When re-homing, you also risk getting rid of something you might need or find useful in the future. There is usually also a loss of financial value when reselling clothes, rarely will you get more than you initially paid. Selling something and later buying it again new is not wise financially. On the other side, wearing something you don’t really like just for the sake of it when someone else might cherish it doesn’t really make sense either.

There is also a bit of a social movement push towards having a small wardrobe, being minimalist and the fact that some of us have less space than we would maybe need. As my non-minimalist sister says, maybe I don’t need less clothes but a bigger wardrobe so it doesn’t feel so crowded!

On the picture: the Filippa K second hand store in Stockholm, an excellent corporate initiative.

Why is it so hard to resist fashion?

And maybe even more so, the sales?

It’s three years this August since I gave up conventionally produced fashion. Three years ago I decided to only buy sustainably produced fashion. Many of the items I subsequently bought (Veja shoes, Serendipity organics sweater, my Palmgrens bag) are still wardrobe favorites. The only time I cheated was when buying a pair of Chloe pants at the sales that winter (that in the end didn’t fit me and ended up with my sister). One and a half years ago, I decided I actually didn’t need any new clothes at all. The same month I traveled to London during the sales and  found it really challenging to resist shopping. I decided to not even enter the big department stores to resist fashion shopping. Shopping abroad and the sales-  getting expensive fashion cheap- is somehow so very hard to resist.

It also seems that fashion is more difficult to abstain from than other kinds of shopping. I recently finished the book ‘Not buying it’ by Judith Levine. Levine and her husband decide to only buy the very necessary goods (basically groceries) during a year. The book is a personal reflection on this experiment. They obviously save lots of money but also find certain types of socializing tricky. Interestingly, the only times Levine does cheat is in the fashion department. One time she cannot resist a second hand store when on vacation. She cheats a second time at the sales of her favorite fashion brand. Thus of all the kinds of consumption she has to abstain from- restaurants, books, interior design- fashion turns out to be the most difficult. And particularly when traveling and at the sales.

Funnily enough, Levine uses some grey area shopping strategies, just like me. In the book, friends buy her cinema tickets and give her presents, things she isn’t allowed to buy herself, since she has the shopping-ban. Similarly, I’m getting a year’s supply of Swedish Stockings nylon stockings for my birthday (so excited to try them!). These days when family wonders what I would like for my birthday, I tend to want something very specific in the wardrobe area. Is this cheating? It’s at least a grey area. And a way for family members to give me something I very much need as a gift.

Levine’s ‘Not buying it’ initiative was partly motivated by financial reasons but also has a political undertone. Unlike her, I don’t see anything wrong in paying someone for a service or a good as long as you can afford it and its production and consumption is environmentally and socially sustainable. My own shopping-ban is a way to stop my own overconsumption of fashion. To use what I own and get a manageable size wardrobe.

The general problem is really that so much of our consumption is not environmentally and socially sustainable. If we fix this, change production and end-of-life processes so that they are sustainable or even circular, I don’t see any reason to limit consumption.

If you are not politically against financial transactions and/or markets, there is nothing wrong with paying someone for providing you with a sustainable service or good.

A second year of no-shopping?

At the end of a year of no clothes shopping, I concluded that I would not be able to continue another year. Despite ending the year with ca 540 items in my wardrobe, I saw ‘needs’ that meant that I would have to resume shopping this year.

Five months into 2018 and it turns out I was wrong. There have not been any urgent needs that I have had to address. Sure, I am running low on nylon stockings (but still I’ve managed 1,5 year using only my stash!). The boots are getting worn but they are still fine with a bit of leather balm. Clearly, I overestimate how much I wear items. In this part of the world, seasons change so fast so clothes/shoes are used only a few times before the weather is too warm/cold and the items get stored away again. The wardrobe gets worn oh so gently.

A friend asked how much time I spend mending. Yes, mending takes time. In fact, I’ve kept track of how much time I’ve spent mending the last four months. As a general pattern, I mend more when I have time to do so and less when I’m too busy. Only natural. What happens when I’m busy is that I get professional help with the mending and I’ve kept track on that too this year. So far it looks like this:

February: 32 min mending, no professional help

March: 15 min mending, professional help SEK 1600 (including mending,  dry cleaning & shoes repair)

April: 10 min mending, professional help SEK 2600 (including dry cleaning & sewing)

May: 1,5 h mending, no professional help

So I don’t spend a lot of time mending, but when I do I get a lot done (17 mends overall). I had five occasions of professional mending/sewing to a totalt cost of SEK2500. Two instances of shoes repair to a total of SEK 500.

From a financial perspective, it makes sense to mend things yourself. It’s fast and cheap. However, in very busy times, it might make sense to get help and save the stress of possibly not having the clothes ready for when you need them. I get help with mending and sewing from my dry cleaner and yes the cost adds up. Above all, less dry cleaning would save both the environment and my wallet. In once instance, I successfully avoided the dry cleaner by washing outerwear in the washing machine, after realising that it was mostly cotton and thus supposedly washable despite the label saying dry cleaning. Shoes repair I’m happy to leave to the professionals at all times.

I’m also happy to report that almost half way through 2018, my wardrobe is  minus 2 items. I went plus 8 when I inherited some clothes, mostly outerwear, from my great-aunt. In addition, since January, I’ve worn out 10 items (mostly basics). Since I don’t expect to suddenly inherit more clothes (fingers crossed!) and if I successfully keep other temptations at bay, I hope the wardrobe content will decrease even more. I am, as we speak, selling a pair of hardly worn Converse All Stars on auction site Tradera. That’s another minus one.

So to sum up, I’ve now managed 1,5 years without wardrobe shopping and, since the start, reduced my wardrobe with six items. It’s safe to say that I will never have a minimalist wardrobe. And that’s not the issues here either. I love my clothes. I just need to wear them instead of getting new ones all the time.

The wardrobe audit: 2017 in review

Despite a year of not shopping any clothing my wardrobe is still full. Very few things got worn out last year. And, miraculously, things we’re added to the wardrobe without shopping. Consequently, I was quite curious to know if I expanded or reduced my closet last year. Basically, did I go plus or minus wardrobe-wise.

So I counted all my clothes the other day. I even put them in an excel sheet. If you google ‘count your clothes’, you’ll see that I’m far from the first person on earth to do so. It seems that an average, non-minimalist, wardrobe contains between 200- 500 items. Needless to say, I’m in the upper range, ca 540, including outerwear, swimwear, formal wear i.e. basically all form of clothing but no accessories or shoes. I might include these too in the future though.

To my defense, I haven’t given away clothes to charity shops the last couple of years because of sustainability reasons. As Karen Templer defined slow fashion, it’s about “wearing each item (whatever it is, wherever it came from) for as long as it lasts, extending the lives of things through care and mending, and re-homing anything that doesn’t work for you.” I think the last term ‘re-homing’ is important, making sure the item gets a new home, which isn’t the case of charity shops these days.

Reviewing last year’s wardrobe outflows, I re-homed a silk shirt and tank top to family members. I threw away some underwear, socks, and nylon stockings (after already mending them several times, thrown in the trash). Two t-shirts torn beyond mending  became rags to clean with (I remember my mom saving worn out clothes for rags when we were kids, when did we quit this habit?). A pair of jeans with broken zipper is stored away to use for second life sewing  somehow, i.e. practically they’re no longer in the wardrobe (anyone knows how to mend such zippers?). In total, I parted with ca 10 items.

On the inflow side, I sewed a scout tee from silk scraps in my fabric stash. I knitted a dark blue wool sweater (a knitting project my mom started but had abandoned). I found a 70/80s Austrian wool jacket and skirt at my parents that joined my wardrobe as well as mom’s old 80s salt and pepper wool coat. My sister trusted me with a torn Marella blouse that I mended and made sleeveless (on the picture). Thus six items joined the wardrobe. 

All in all, my wardrobe went minus four items last year.

At this pace, it will take a 135 years to wear out my wardrobe. Seen like this, it looks like my shopping days are over.

There were also a few items that neither added or subtracted but simply changed categories. A red wool jumper left the ‘wool sweater’ category and joined the ‘wool cardigan’ group. This refashioning of a sweater into a cardigan following Worn values tutorial was a success, I have been wearing the ‘new’ cardigan a lot, I never wore it as a sweater. And instead of 27 wool sweaters I now ‘only’ have 26. The wool cardigan category went from 17 to 18 accordingly.

As a knitter, it becomes quite obvious here that one might not need more than 26 wool sweaters. I so very much enjoy knitting sweaters and cardigans but will I wear them? There are, in my climate, maybe six months of wearing wool sweaters and cardigans, ca 180 days. Assuming that you wear either a cardigan or a sweater, not both at the same time, it means that I can wear each sweater/cardigan four times during the season. Basically, it will take many years to wear out a sweater when it gets worn maximum four times a year. Consequently, I have to rethink my knitting habits. While I can finish knitting my current projects, there is now a ban on starting new sweater/cardigan projects for myself. To tell the truth, I did not suspect I had such an abundance of knitwear in my wardrobe before I counted it.

While I was doing my wardrobe audit Worn values posted a review of her slow fashion year 2017. Interestingly, she calculates not only how many items joined her wardrobe but also at what cost. Since I had a year of no-shopping, I paid nothing for new items last year, the only cost was shortening the hem of a skirt (because I was too lazy to do it myself) to the cost of approximately 200 SEK. I also put new soles on few pair of shoes. It would have been very interesting to compare this amount to what I used to spend on my wardrobe. Of course, I never calculated what I spent on my wardrobe before (a passionate shopper doesn’t want to know)  but I suspect I’m saving around 30 000 SEK a year.

During 2018, I would like to not only keep track of in- and outflows but also of how much mending I do.  Sometimes I feel like mending is all I do, so quantifying it would be a way to highlight the effort I put into my wardrobe.

Previous posts about my quest for a sustainable wardrobe: “Is owning less more sustainable“, “2017, the year without shopping“,  “A month without shopping“, “The health bonus of no-shopping: reduced chemical exposure

A month without shopping

It’s been a month since my no-shopping commitment. Abstaining from shopping has been easy. Possibly because I had already quit habits such as reading fashion magazines and window shopping.

What’s more challenging is to wear what I own. All of it. They say women only use 20 per cent of our wardrobes (some say 30 and others 44 per cent). Supposedly, men are even worse and only wear 13 per cent of their wardrobe. The minimalist and decluttering initiatives tell us that’s a good reason to get rid of the unused 80/70/56 per cent. What they fail to mention is that throwing things out contributes to more textile waste. The longer we wear something, the better it is for the environment.

Personally, since I’m not shopping, I’m stuck with what I have. So if I want variation, I need to wear everything in my wardrobe. I have to turn the 80 per cent that’s currently collecting dust into things more wearable. Fortunately, there are some easy strategies for doing so.

Mending. Somehow I never learnt to properly mend clothes. I do remember my mom mending my torn pants as a kid but I never really adopted this habit myself. Having things mended for you is, sadly, sometimes as expensive as buying new things. Luckily, there are lots of help to be found on the internet. Wornvalues has a great tutorial for mending knits, for example. Katrina Rodabaugh has a tutorial for elbow patches. Cotton and curls for how to remove pilling and removing stains on shoes.

Second life sewing. Clothes beyond repair can be turned into ‘new’ things. Traditionally, we made rugs out of left over textiles. Aiayu, does so with their textile waste. But you can also make clothes. I removed the torn sleeves from a shirt and thus making it sleeveless. Using the left over fabric and another torn shirt, I made Willow tank, for example. All you need to know is how to operate a sewing machine.

Refashioning. For clothes that are wearable but where you don’t like the style or the size, refashion them. Make the hem a bit shorter or cut off the collar. I’ve been following Wornvalues tutorial for making a cardigan out of a former v-neck sweater that I never wear. This way I get a ‘new’ red cardigan without shopping. Cotton and curls have a tutorial for making jeans slightly bigger, which seems useful.

Dyeing. You can simply dye a garment if you don’t like its color. This natural dyeing book is on my wish list. I’m planning to dye a boringly white dress.

Embellishment. One of my new year’s resolutions is to start embroidering. This is a great way to make some garment a little more fun. There are again lots of inspiration on the internet on how to embroider clothes, for example Elisalex of By Hand LondonTessa Perlow or these collars by Nadya Sheremet.

Styling. If truth be told, there are also items that are absolutely wearable as they are but that I still don’t wear (typically stockings with pattern). In these cases, I have to challenge myself to put on the garments that are not in the comfort zone (but that I at some point thought was a good idea). I find that the key is to figure out new combinations. What I would love is some super inspiring blog for how to wear not-so-easy-to-wear things in ones wardrobe. How to combine items we already own but rarely wear to look really stylish. However, the styling blogs and Instagram accounts I encounter typically try to get us to buy things from different brands. There’s just much more available ‘inspiration’ to buy things and so much less for taking care of what you’ve got. But it does exist and the above are some of my favorites.

Got recommendations for blogs that style what we already own or other take-care-of-your-wardrobe tricks? Please share !

2017, the year without shopping

‘I own so many things, I probably don’t need to buy anything for the rest of my life’.

This thought hit me while looking into my wardrobe yesterday. Unable to shake off this thought, I made up my mind. I will only use what’s in my wardrobe for a year. Then I will see if it is true. If I really don’t have any need for ‘new’ items. If it is only desire, identity and social impulses that make me buy new things (which this podcast discusses so well).

I used to be a passionate shopper, although somewhere in the back of my head aware about the issues in the fashion industry. I guess I thought buying more expensive items meant less environmental and social issues. I’ve since learnt that it isn’t necessarily so. Price isn’t a good indicator of quality production.

I finally decided to do something with the knowledge I had. I took on a sustainable fashion challenge during Autumn 2015, and since then I only buy sustainably produced garments. You can find how I defined ‘sustainably produced’ here. Acting in new ways during six month efficiently changed my habits. Of course, I’ve had at least one relapse (staying away from the sales still requires self-discipline!). But otherwise, how I acted during the sustainable fashion challenge describes well my current purchasing behaviour. As a result, I buy much less clothing (maybe five in a year) and I’ve saved money, a bonus.

Since Autumn 2015, I’ve learnt a lot more about the textile trash issue in society. From what I’ve read, throwing or giving away what you’ve once bought is not sustainable. So personally, I want to limit my contribution to the textile trash problem. This means taking responsibility for what I own by using it, mending it or refashioning if it doesn’t fit anymore.

How will I practically manage a year without clothes shopping? I will use what I have and if there is a clear need for something, I am allowed to make it myself. Making it myself means knitting or sewing or some other technique I haven’t learnt yet.

But as visualised in my homemade ‘Sewarchy’, focus should really be on the lower parts of the pyramid: on mending what I have. Making new items from scratch should be rare events. Luckily I am a very slow maker. I am not able to sew or knit so many things in a year.

 

The only exception to the no-buying rule is gifts to others. And then I will aim for sustainably produced items.

Has anyone similar experiences? Please share your thoughts!

Is owning less more sustainable?

A popular reaction to our overconsumption and environmental  challenges is  to own fewer things. For example the 100 thing challenge says that we should only own 100 personal items. There are  many similar initiatives telling us to declutter and streamline our homes and wardrobes. It is a way to opt out of consumerism they say. Some even claim owning less is good for society and the environment.

Is it true though? Is owning less more sustainable?

Let’s look at the sustainability side of it i.e. the impact on people, environment and future generations.

Items going into your home. From a sustainability aspect, you want to keep new items going into your home to a minimum. Producing new items is resource intensive. The majority of items sold in stores are not produced in an environmentally friendly way. On the people side, a lot of manufacturing exploits workers by not paying a living wage.

When you reduce the number of items you own, many throw out two items and then buy a new one to replace these two. In addition, when you own fewer things (because you threw out a lot) the items get worn a lot more and need to be replaced more frequently. As a result, more new things go into your homes than if you had simply kept what you had before the challenge.

Items you get rid of. Most of these initiatives start by getting rid of a lot of stuff. Now what happens to the things you throw out? A lot of the products we buy today cannot be recycled. In large parts of Europe, they end up in a landfill where they release CO2 and other substances trying to decompose. In Sweden, textile waste is burnt . Clearly, this is a waste of resources.

What about giving it to second hand so someone else can use it? The majority of items donated to second hand are shipped abroad, often to countries with worse waste handling than Scandinavia. So unless you give it to a friend that will cherish it for life, giving things away is not a solution.

To summarise, in terms of sustainability, we should acquire as few things a possible and use the items for as long as possible.  Patagonia estimates that keeping an item for nine more months in your wardrobe reduces related carbon, waste and water footprint an estimated 20 to 30 per cent. Keep it for 15 years and it is a lot more.

So if the 100 items challenge means mostly keeping what you’ve got and giving a few items to friends so they don’t have to buy new, then go ahead. On the other hand, if you, like most of us, own a lot more than 100 items that you would have to get rid of then, no, it is not very sustainable.