Decluttering A Shoe Closet with Nisolo’s Shoe Reclamation Program + Get $30 OFF!

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I have a fairly minimalist shoe closet, but it was not always so. I am the first to admit my past self’s infatuation with owning shoes, and at my highest point, when I embarked on this journey of minimalism in a state of constant overwhelm from being surrounded by so much STUFF, I counted more than fifty pairs! Embarrassingly, a majority of which were cheaply made goods of mostly plastic materials, undoubtedly constructed in less than ideal working conditions. My shoe collection now is a fraction of my past, but I still likely wouldn’t pass the Instagram and Pinterest-worthy versions of what a  minimalist shoe collection entails. But who wants their image to fit in a box? All I know is that I am less wasteful and much pickier about adding to my collection. So how did I get from point A to point B?

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Certainly, not without a whole lot of anguish caused by the realization that in order to de-clutter, the shoes had to go elsewhere. And where else might shoes go after being worn by particular feet? I will guarantee you that not many people out there are willing to wear well-loved shoes. And when there are no people wanting your shoes, what fate is there left to befall them but to (try) to return to the Earth? Despite all hope of plastic products bio-degrading eventually, deep down we all know that they will never disappear quickly enough.

Thankfully, a shoe reclamation program with Nisolo exists to increase the longevity of your kicks, while also giving to those in need. I myself participated in the reclamation program a month ago, when more of my shoes were considered unnecessary and ready to be passed on. Creating a more circular fashion model, this system ensures that products and their materials are reused and recycled. In partnership with Soles4Souls, the shoes donated will be given to micro-entrepreneurs in developing countries, such as Haiti, Nicaragua, the Philippines, Moldova and other countries in Africa, for a chance to clean, repair, and re-sell unwanted shoes. These micro-entrepreneurs are given the chance to start their own small business when they would normally not have the resources to do so. Additionally, the shoes are being redistributed to an under-served local population. Nisolo’s goal is to collect 5,000 shoes by 2020. Last month, our household donated six pairs. In return for your donation, Nisolo will give you a $30 OFF discount code for every pair of shoes donated, to be used at their shop at any time. If you’d like to join the movement, here’s how.

I speak about this program in the hopes that those looking to live a life of less can do so with a sigh of relief, rather than with heavy hearts. Additionally, I write in preparation for #GivingTuesday, a day fueled by social media on the Tuesday following Black Friday and Cyber Monday, to get people rethinking about what it truly means to give. If you are preparing for Black Friday or Cyber Monday, perhaps you’d like to pre-emptively donate shoes, in order to receive a discount code to be used at checkout. More importantly, as the holiday season approaches, may we remember not to be entangled in the “giving process” so much as to tie our wallets down in the name of gifting. Instead, may we look to those in need and ask ourselves the question of how we can make a difference and bring joy.

For those interested in my shoe collection, here is a list of my shoes as they are depicted in the photos, left to right, top to bottom.
Cover photo: Heeled boot from Everlane (a similar one here), Elizabeth Slides from Nisolo, Sofia Slip Ons from Nisolo (a similar shoe)
Photo 1: Harper Chukkas from Nisolo (a similar one here), Paloma Mule from Nisolo, Smoking Shoe from Nisolo
Photo 2: Clifton Sneakers from Eileen Fisher, Huaraches from Nisolo
Photo 3: Isla Slide from Nisolo

Frugal Challenge: Avoid Shopping for Clothes for an Entire Year & Reap the Benefits

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I love promoting clothing brands that embrace slow fashion, which is to say that they make an effort to create products via ethical ways and/or with sustainable resources. Despite that fact, my closet is actually pretty sparse, according to some people’s standards. That wasn’t always the case. My closet used to be a monstrous mess. So much so, in fact, that there were clothes that I wouldn’t see for months, tucked away under piles of even more clothes, most of which I hardly wore. It took over a year of constant de-cluttering and re-assessing and letting go and organizing before I was able to get to a point of peaceful reconciliation with my never-ending closet. And still, I feel I have too much.

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In the early stages of creating a curated closet, what I found most difficult was that for every hour it took me to de-clutter would be a two minute moment where I would feel the urge to buy something new and add it to the collection. At some point, I realized that this habit of shopping “just because I felt like it” was not only counter-productive, but also extremely wasteful and unnecessary. So along with my purging of excess clothing came this challenge for myself to nix the act of shopping all-together.

In all honesty, it began as a frugal challenged fired by the awareness of how much clothing is being deposited at our landfills. I figured that the benefits of abstaining from the addictive act of buying more clothing are multi-fold. Firstly, I save money. I used to work at a retail store in my late teens and early twenties and I distinctly remember walking out with a handful of clothes every week. I’d consider it good if I was able to limit myself to one item per week, a thought that makes me woozy now. Secondly, I am no longer fueling the industry of fast fashion. And lastly, I am ending the ridiculous cycle of buying and de-cluttering. Eventually, I pared down my closet in such a way that de-cluttering does not have to take up my free time every weekend.

This year alone, I have only made two purchases: A pair of sneakers and overalls, both from Eileen Fisher, both made on the same day. Prior to those purchases, I have not allowed myself an article of clothing for 8 months. Just recently (during Fashion Revolution Week 2018, in fact!), I have made the decision to not shop again for an entire year, in an attempt to model the curbing of the excessive demand for more clothing to be produced. Also, it will continue to help us in our efforts to do just as well this year with student debt as last year. The funny thing is, the more I challenge myself to not buy clothes, the easier it becomes to not buy other things too. The habit has spread to other aspects, and it really teaches one to make do without, and to be completely satisfied and proud of that decision. Plus, the results are undeniable. Next month is my birthday and two weeks after will be Mike’s birthday. Sometime in between, we will exit the $500,000s and enter the $400,000s with the student debt! I definitely wouldn’t trade this feeling for a trendy wardrobe.

 

Curating Closets: The Unwanteds

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It’s been five years since the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh killed 1,138 people and injured thousands more, thus opening the eyes [of some] to the horrors that a fast-fashion industry has led to. It has been two years since my own eyes have been opened and I have made quite the effort to cater my consumer choices so as to avoid contributing anything that would harm people and the planet. It all started with a book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, whence my love for de-cluttering began. After which, I was made painfully aware of the trash I was creating and the people I was affecting, simply because I was buying into the world the fast-fashion industry (and largely, consumer culture as a whole) has created. The question, “Who made all these clothes?” triggered a Rube Goldberg machine consisting of subsequent questions, the answers of which toppled my world view like an aisle of dominoes. In the process of de-cluttering, I was left with Home Depot boxes, of the large variety, with nowhere to go. I was lost, and guilty, and very, very sad about my contribution to the crisis. Ultimately, I made a decision to never get to that point again.

I decided to write this post detailing how exactly we can curb the insane amount of trash that is stockpiling rather quickly at our landfills by prolonging the lifespan of our clothes past de-cluttering, in honor of the hard labor that went into their making. Specifically, what to do with de-cluttered goods, and how to make the de-cluttering process a bit easier for the future.

Choose Clothing Made from Natural Materials

De-cluttering can lead to a whole slew of newly created questions, namely, “Where will this all go?” While we recycle and donate our goods to reputable companies whose mission is to give our unwanteds a brand new home, it isn’t enough. It’s easy to unload a box at a local drop-off zone for used goods, and then forget about them all together but out of sight should not equate to out of mind. Unfortunately, there is no magic fairy dust that really makes these things disappear. Maybe a few will find homes, but some are left neglected, just as they have been when with you. Like the foods in your grocery store, there is a shelf life, and it is short. Once your items also become unwanted by the company you’ve offered them up to, they will end up at the landfill. And a majority of these things are not 100% recyclable. So, more effort is needed to make sure that the choices we make from here on out involve materials that are natural, which increases their ability to be recycled, or even better, composted back to where they once came from. This requires research, initially in order to learn which materials are actually sustainable, and afterwards, to discover the exact makeup of your clothing purchases.

Share with Friends and Family

When we were young, we were taught to share. As we got older, we were taught that having our own is more covetable than contributing to a communal pool. I think it is imperative to be okay with sharing and borrowing. Especially for one-time events, such as weddings and holiday parties, it does not hurt to trade and exchange and borrow, rather than buying a formal dress that you cannot realistically wear on a day-to-day basis without getting a few stares. I remember when my sister and I were in high school, we loved borrowing each other’s clothes. It would feel like we had something new and exciting to wear, without having to spend the money we didn’t have. Little did I know then that it also starves the demand in an industry determined to continually produce more.

De-clutter to friends and family, first. 

On that note, when it comes to de-cluttering, sometimes the best thing to do is to call up loved ones and offer your items to them. I have had my mom and sister rifle through our “donations” box plenty of times, and they usually find something that they love. I know that those items will definitely be put to use, a feeling I prefer over the dread of the unknown that settles in every time I drop off a box at a Goodwill. Will this ever go to anyone else after me? When my mother and sister are not around, I ask my high school best friend, whose daughter is now my size, and quickly outgrowing me at that! If there is a lot of interest in your stuff, perhaps a barter and trade system with loved ones works well too. Consider a party?

Be Particular About the Particulars

The chances of your clothes being wanted by another are significantly increased when the category fits the foundation. In other words, a business suit is more likely to be purchased when dropped off with Dress for Success. One thing that I personally do is drop off my formal dresses (saved up from high school dances and wedding events) to Yesenia’s Dream Dress Drive, an organization in Santa Ana that gives high-school girls who aren’t able to buy prom dresses a selection of FREE prom dresses to choose from. In donating your goods tp very specific stores, you will be targeting a group of people who are already coming to these stores with that type of purchase in mind. To increase the chances even more, make sure that the clothes are in the nicest condition possible. As in, laundered, ironed, and wrinke-free.

Re-Purpose

There are many ways we can re-purpose unwanted clothes. For example, re-purposing old tees for kitchen rags does just the trick.

In time, Be Okay with Less

I have a feeling that a majority of people in the United States have more than enough. What constitutes as enough is different for every person. I’ve also learned that we can change what we consider to be enough for us. Passed basic needs such as a roof over our heads and food for the table, there is little happiness garnered from having more stuff. So how to convince yourself that you have enough? All it requires is a slight shift in perspective. Looking at the world from a place of gratitude, for example, for all the clothes you already own, makes a huge difference in the way we view what more we need. From gratefulness comes plentitude.

Living Slow: Disconnecting from the internet, once in a while.

My relationship with the internet is a love-hate type of relationship. The love part is easy to see. Googly eyes, slobbery drool, drunken teenage stupor kind of puppy love. If you ask my husband, he would likely tell you that I am obsessed with Instagram. And it’s true. I am OBSESSED with Instagram, in a very unhealthy way. If you have me added as a friend on Instagram, you likely already know that in the past, I used to post once a day. Until I added a second account, which then made it twice a day. Some of you scoff, because the truth of the matter is that I actually have three accounts. THREE. Not including the other accounts I couldn’t keep up with and had to delete. And on one of those accounts, I have admittedly posted 4-5 times a day. I am seriously obsessed with social media, and have been for a very long time. Before I had Instagram, it was Facebook. And before Facebook, Myspace. And before Myspace, Xanga and Melodramatic. It was something that my generation grew up with, which is hardly an excuse, and something which affects the younger generations more profoundly than me.

Let me stop here and briefly say a thing or two about how I perceive social media. In my eyes and in my mind, social media is a platform that many people, including myself, use to portray an image that we want the world to see. It may be a true image, or it may not be a true image. Even if it is your true self, only a select part of your life is posted for the scrollers and their double taps. It is still an image. The surface of a body of water, flat, with no depth. I have spent hours and hours creating the reflection of myself in cyberspace, having wasted probably half of the last decade focusing on this (insert sarcasm) super important aspect of my life. I mean, image is everything, right? (Let that sarcasm drip.)

But let’s not stop at social media. I use the internet for other things too. I am obsessed with checking my email frequently, as well as checking my text messages to see if a red number bubble has popped up on the corner of that green little box. It is important to clarify here that I rarely get texts at all. I could hardly be considered the popular type, preferring being tucked away with my books in odd nooks and crannies. Despite this fact, checking my phone is an instinctual habit that I developed over the years. I am obsessed with looking up new releases of products from brands that I am loyal to. Even though I don’t buy said products, I want to be the first to know what new item other people come up with. I am obsessed with following people’s lives that I don’t know. Not even famous people’s lives! Mostly people who are creative, who throw events that showcase their new avant-garde ideas. And while it is a great source of inspiration, the extent to which I follow these people has become unproductive, at best.

It is safe to say that I love the internet for these aforementioned things.

But God how I hate the internet. Well, I don’t truly hate the internet. But I do hate the way I have interacted with the internet.

In my humble opinion, the internet has become the biggest food source for feeding my ego. And by ego, I mean the Eckhart Tolle definition of the word. Ego as our inner narrator, our sense of “I”, the voice in our head. Ego has it’s signature moves. The ego is never satisfied. No matter how much stuff we buy, how many accomplishments we achieve or delicious meals we consume, the ego never feels complete. The ego is constantly comparing itself to others. It has us measuring our self-worth against the looks, wealth, and social status of our neighbors. The ego thrives on drama. It keeps old resentments and grievances alive through compulsive thought. But most importantly, the ego robs us of life’s present moments. The ego is obsessed with the past and the future, at the expense of the right here, right now. I have primarily used the internet as a tool to try to satiate my forever unsatisfied ego. Vanity at its worst, I have found that my inner self continually tries to see what my friends, family, acquaintances, hell, even random strangers, are up to in their lives. There is a constant nagging voice in my head telling me that somebody MUST “need” me right at this very moment, prompting me to check the screen every few minutes. How egotistic is that? I feel the need to check constantly in case a life or death emergency comes along and somebody needs me. When really, truth be told, in a true emergency, I am pretty sure my friends and family would be calling 911 first, or well I hope they do. Even if they did call me, I would probably tell them, “You should call 911 right now.” Pretty much, if you are reading this, don’t call me in the case of an emergency, okay?

In addition to allowing the internet to feed my vanity, I have allowed the internet to eat up so much of my precious and valuable time. All this talk about decluttering and minimizing in order to live a slow, simple, and meaningful life cannot save me from the single fact that the internet adds so much noise to my every day. My thoughts are constantly fragmented, disconnected from each other, interrupted by every silent whisper telling me to go online to check what I’ve been missing in the last five minutes of everyone else’s life. That’s exactly what it is! I am missing out on so much of my own life because I am continually concerned with everyone else’s life. Anyone else? Don’t get me wrong, the internet adds value to my life too. I mean, you’re reading this ON MY BLOG. And I couldn’t have graduated dental school without Google, let me tell you that. So yes, the internet has its uses. But it has definitely been overused (by me) and has prevented me from creating the particular lifestyle that I am currently working towards. The internet is a wonderful source for, well everything. But that’s just the problem. I don’t want everything anymore.

I am constantly being informed of what new products are out, which trends are popular, where I have yet to vacation and explore. The internet has on blast what my family and friends are up to, who made it to that last party, what so and so just bought, who that one-girl-i-met-once-in-passing just got engaged to, blah blah blah. I wake up every morning and go on automatic scroll mode. My fingers are cramping from double tapping for two hours. I seriously think I’ve cross-eyed myself because of all the fast scrolling I’ve been doing. And the worst part is, I end up despising myself every time I binge on surfing the net. I literally would look forward all day to get home and relax after work, and then come home, and turn on my phone. The next thing I know, it’s 9:30pm and I have to start getting ready for bed.

I have been working pretty hard to minimize the excess unnecessary STUFF and have cut out those which do not add value to my life, only to realize that I am still so far from living a very meaningful life. There is plenty of room for improvement. Where I am succeeding in terms of physical clutter, I am failing in terms of mental clutter. There is so much noise around me, and I want to start focusing on cutting the fat out of that. I use the internet as a pacifier 99% of the time. Like others use Netflix, or TV or weed or chocolate or coffee, I use the internet as a crutch, a drug, a way to pass time, not even for enjoyment, but just to fill a void. Like everything else, it takes up space in my life and currently, it is using up way more space than I want it to. It’s a problem and I’d like to fix it now. My initial thought was naturally the extreme method of cutting out excess noise: Killing the internet at home. Quit cold turkey. Go big or go home. But I live with another person and that is absolutely not (“no way!”) an option. Trust me, I asked. Morals of the story here: What does not add value to your life, may add value to someone else’s, and, it is never a good idea to try and change somebody. So with plan A out of the window, I have plan B, which took shape based on a friend’s internet policy.  I figure I’d start with a 30 day trial run to see if removing internet use at home would add value to my life. Here are some goals I have for reducing wasteful internet use.

  • Upon getting home, separating myself from my phone, by placing the phone in a designated space and then letting it go.
  • Putting the phone on Silent and removing Vibrate.
  • Checking email only once a day.
  • Entering Airplane mode when going to sleep.
  • Not keeping the phone on the bedside table.
  • Allowing only maximum 2 hours of Internet time per week (plenty of fun time!)
  • Making a list of things I want to watch, listen to, or look up, and setting the list aside until the designated time to use the Internet.
  • Removing notifications and phone apps

Even as I am writing this list, I am having second thoughts, doubts, and heart palpitations. I’d imagine this must be what it feels like to abstain from an addicting drug. Because that’s exactly what it is. But I should stop being a baby, quit my whining, and just do it. The worst that could happen is that I hate it, and then revert back. The best that could happen? I could start reading more, writing more, exercising more, trying more, focusing more, dreaming more, healing more, sleeping more, inspiring more, connecting more, loving more, living more.

Worth it.

If you have any suggestions at all as to how to minimize internet use or mental clutter in general, let me know! I am all ears.