If you haven’t noticed from a few of my posts lately, I’ve become a lot more dedicated to reducing my waste. Two years ago I became fascinated with minimalism, but not for the right reasons (I mostly just liked the looks of everything). But since that fascination, I’ve started to think about what minimalism truly means, why it’s important to own less, and the positive impacts it can have on your wallet, your life and the environment!
The first stage was about acquiring a lot of the right products and replacing certain things – like making sure I’m well-stocked in to-go containers for meal-prepping, getting some reusable produce bags, etc.
But now I’m at the stage where I have to seriously think about changing my behaviour as well. All the bar soap in the world can’t compensate for some things. So I thought to myself, what’s something I can definitely help in the immediate future?
Well, how much I shop, for one.
I’ve never thought of myself as a big shopper; I never hung around malls a lot when I was young and I am not “into” fashion. But that never stopped me from spending unnecessary money on new blouses because the ones I’d bought a few months ago no longer looked as nice, buying new jeans every six months because I needed more to rotate through, and thinking I needed a new dress for every occasion that required a dress.
I’ve tried in the last few years to cut back, and I have. But I thought to myself, the only way to break this is to just cut it out. So I made a vow. On May 18, the first day of the long weekend, I told myself, no “new” clothes for a year.
By “new” I mean, no new purchases of firsthand clothes. If I truly need new clothes, I will look for them secondhand through thrift shops, vintage, clothing swaps and other means. I chose to do this because putting some work into finding clothes that I have convinced myself I “need” will make me shop more mindfully and less impulsively, and will give me more chances to ask myself, “Do I actually need this?” For example, two weeks ago I realized I don’t own a pair of proper shorts (as in, non-workout shorts) that I can wear with friends or at work. It took me a few weeks of sifting through vintage shops and Kind Exchange to find a pair, but I got one that was the perfect length and print!
Not bad for $14!
I’ve included only two exceptions (besides bras, underwear and socks, because, ew!!): bags and shoes. The justification for this is that I hardly buy either (I own four pairs of shoes and two purses) and that it’s really hard to buy these items vegan-friendly when they’re vintage. When winter rolls around, I may reconsider hats for hygienic reasons, but I also don’t see myself needing any new hats (those, I do own a lot of). Tops, bottoms, jackets and other accessories (yes, even sunglasses), however, are part of the no-new rule.
Here are a few rules I’m following during this time:
I’m still budgeting
I’d previously followed the rule I’d read once that a professional adult woman should dedicate no more than 10% of her take-home pay to building a professional wardrobe. So, I’ve always put that in my budget, and I always came up under.
But I’m still putting that down as my monthly budget, even though I’m on track to spend about a fraction of what I set out at the beginning of the month (seriously, those shorts are all I have bought). Part of the reason is because sometimes, vintage clothing can be expensive, and I know that I might actually need something specific like a dress or a jacket sometime soon and I want to be able to still track my clothing purchases. Also, seeing how much I save in a year is obviously a huge incentive!
I’m not using thrifting and Bunz as an excuse to not shop smart
When I started using Bunz, I thought it would be a one-way ticket to guilt-free, waste-free shopping. Instead, I observed on the platform – both in others and myself – the same toxic shopping patterns that plague so many of us in the first place. For example, about 90% of the clothing I see on Bunz is castaways from Old Navy and Zara with comments like, “Worn once, doesn’t fit” or “I bought this impulsively and it really doesn’t look good.” Should we continue to hop on low-quality trend pieces just because they’re free? Bunz and thrifting aren’t magic.
In fact, Bunz, thrifting and clothing swaps are kind of like those imaginary band-aid financial solutions. Just like giving up your daily Starbucks won’t result in you becoming rich enough to afford Gucci, no matter how dedicated you are, you can’t just keep trading all your old H&M stuff until you magically work your way up to Burberry.
I’m planning my outfits the way I plan my meals
Meal planning helps you save on food costs and impulsive snack and fast food purchases, so why doesn’t outfit planning get the same credit? I use my journal every Sunday night to plan out my weekly wears, which also helps inform my laundry scheduling.
There’s two major benefits here. One is obvious: I have been able to find variety in my clothing, to mix things up by giving myself a bit more space to plan. The other is one that comes after a few weeks of planning: you start to notice your patterns and, more importantly, you notice what you’re not wearing.
I’m taking better care of my clothes
I’m slightly embarrassed of the fact that I can’t really sew (even buttons!) but I’ve been taking some time to learn in the last few months in order to help my clothes last longer. My aim is to start with basic hemming (I learned how when I was young, but need a refresher, especially since I don’t have a sewing machine), then to learn repair work and then, maybe one day, alterations. I’ve been told to brace myself for the eventuality when dealing with vintage clothing that I’ll probably need to invest in good alterations, which I’m all for, but taking a few years to learn to do it myself is even better.
I’m also hand-washing a lot more, hand-treating stains, hanging to dry, ironing right away and storing my clothes in ways that are better for their overall structure.
I’m thinking of it as more than a “challenge”
Things like 30-day challenges are a great way to get exposed to concepts like spending freezes, DIYing and even veganism, so I don’t want to knock these challenges! And I also am aware that me saying, “This isn’t just a challenge, it’s a lifestyle change!” is not all that different from people who give up all carbs for a month and say “It’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle!”
But hear me out: I’m trying to actually spend this next year thinking about why I’m doing this. Why was I convinced this was a good idea? How am I benefiting? Who is benefiting besides just me? What am I learning?
If I’m doing this just for the sake of doing this, then I’m doing it wrong. So I want to continue to check up on myself and see if the new patterns emerging in my life are for the better.
Have you ever given up buying new clothes or gone thrift-only? What are some of your favourite resources for secondhand clothing? What do you think some skills I should learn are? Let me know all about it in the comments!