This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.
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.
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.