Math isn’t my preferred subject but if I remember right, Clay and I have given away nine trillion items. That’s 400,000 car loads full. Which means we could travel to the moon and back 2 billion times if we lined up all our stuff.
Or at least, that’s what it feels like. Needless to say, we got rid of so much. A night and day transformation, for sure. Which is why I’m going to take a second and give myself a heaping helping of grace before I confess this next bit:
I still have a lot of clothes.
Marie Kondo advises that we should keep getting rid of things until something within us ‘clicks’. At that point we’ll know ‘this is the right amount of things for me’. Clay and I have felt that in other areas: our books, bath towels, and silverware drawer, but it’s been 4 years and I haven’t gotten there with my wardrobe, yet.
I know I can do better. I know -we- can do better.
This isn’t a convert to minimalism speech; I promise. However, I do think we need to collectively admit that we all have more clothes than we need. We need to stop blaming teenagers and everyone else and own up to our own excess.
Can I encourage us though? It’s not entirely our fault.
There are 52 seasons in a year, according to the fashion industry. Each week new designs are trotted out to make us feel like the shirt we bought 7 days ago is already out of style. These trendy clothes make us feel polished and put together at that baby shower, or at work, or when we grab drinks with friends. We get compliments on it, wear it a lot, and then eventually buy something new for a myriad of reasons.
It’s easy to justify buying new outfits more frequently because these clothes are so budget friendly. But with affordability comes disposability and our landfills are growing as a result. This ‘buy, wear, discard’ trend is evident in a 2015 study which shows that textile waste has more than doubled in just 25 years.
There’s a cycle here and it’s easy to get caught up in it without knowing. I did. My frugal husband did. And even as minimalists we still do. After all, we work hard all week so why not treat ourselves to a trip to our favorite store to find something that sparks joy. We deserve it. Yolo.
I’m sure you are all itching to see pictures of my current closet…but before we get to gawking I think it’s important you know why shopping less matters so much me:
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I never thought much about how my clothes were made or where they ended up after I donated them. I didn’t think about where they came from, who made them, what they were made of, or consider the fashion industry supply chain at all. I just knew I liked that shirt and not that one. Those pants looked like ‘me’ but those did not. I was an art major for goodness sake, clothes were a means of expressing myself; they were fashion statements. I had no idea how disconnected or oblivious I was.
Then that 8 story garment factory collapsed in Bangladesh. Over a thousand people were injured and over a thousand lives were lost.
A lot of us woke up after that.
Documentaries came out, articles were written, and fashion retailers rolled out new safety policies. I started looking at my closet and finding out where my clothes were made. I researched, asked a lot of questions and sadly realized that this was not new news. Factory fires broke out and took over a hundred lives just a few years prior.
Now that I knew what was being swept under the rug, I wasn’t okay with the horrifying environmental impacts, or death tolls, or the lack of ethics involved in the makings of my fashion statements.
I knew what a sweatshop was, but at the risk of exploiting my own ignorance, at the time I really didn’t know how bad it was. I was too preoccupied and I lived in a bubble.
Of course now we all know how our iPhones are made. And I don’t think I need to add more gloom to doom so I’m not going to share the details of my research. The information is out there if you want to educate yourself. (I included a few good places to start in the footnotes.)
If you do begin to dig, please don’t get stuck in whatever heaviness you find. You can carry those convictions with you but please, keep the gory images, frightening statistics, and other scare tactics to yourself. You’ll just bum us all out.
There’s a line of ancient wisdom that says “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Paul, letter to the philippians)
So I’m with Paul. I’m with Anne Lamott who says “love is sovereign here”. I’m with the Pixar movie Monsters Inc. because I agree that laughing and positivity can produce better results than scares do.
I want justice, clean water, and better fair trade policies too but we are so much more productive when we un-clench our shaking fists, and stop pointing fingers at everyone else. I know how easy it is to stay there. But clay and I are constantly reminding each other that “we’re all in this together”. So if that’s true, and I believe it is, then there is no us vs. them.
The moment I disarmed my fists and pointed the finger back at myself it freed me to move on and work on finding a solution. “Good bye Past Katie, I appreciate you. You’ve taught me a lot but I can’t take you with me”.
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Fast fashion retailers continue to bring in more revenue than the year before. And I know that global change won’t happen until our politicians and world leaders get on board, but I’m a dreamer, a romantic. “Love is sovereign here” and I wholeheartedly believe in the difference one person can make. Even if that difference is as small as downsizing, shopping at thrift stores, and buying less to begin with.
Luckily, I’m not alone. There are so many others waking up and trying to live this way too. There are lots of blogs and tips on how to make a more sustainable fashion statement (we’ll go there in another post). Also, more and more fashion retailers are making clothes ethically. So don’t forget to seek out those articles in your research. “Whatever is pure, lovely, admirable.”
There are so many other reasons why these tiny, trivial decisions: “should I buy these pants?” …aren’t so trivial to me. Yes, Clay and I were craving simplicity. Yes, we want to be good stewards. Yes, to lowering our impact on the environment and being frugal, mindful consumers. There are lots of other yes’s we could get into but this is one of the big ones.
Please don’t read this like a guilt trip. Guilt is -not- sovereign here. I won’t have it. Believe me when I say, I have plenty of planks sticking out of both eyes, so I’m not here to point out your speck of sawdust.
This is just -my- story, my awakening.
I care deeply for my brothers and sisters in Bangladesh, and Haiti and all the other developing countries where many of our clothes are made. So that’s why I wore the same few dresses to all your weddings. That’s why I don’t shop at that store, why I do shop at that one, and why I try to buy less clothing all together.
That’s why I want us all to do better and why I still think I have too many clothes.
Closet pics coming soon! Please don’t judge me though, promise? :)
A few launching points for your research:
- https://truecostmovie.com/ documentary, up on netflix. I won’t give you my film review but I will advise you to fact check.
- longer list of documentaries here
- Fast fashion, overview
- Indian farmer suicides: Monsanto’s side of the story. & Vandana Shiva’s side
- You could also research: microfibers, toxic waste, donation centers…