I try to leave the know-it-all vibe out of my writing, but sometimes it slips out anyways. This whole series is meant to show you what minimalism looks like in real life, and in real life mistakes are part of the journey. Which is why I’m excited to introduce a new part the series that I’m calling ‘bad minimalist’. The whole minimalist lifestyle is second nature for Clay and I so we should know better, but we still miss the point, we still hoard things, and we still buy things just because.

So look for the


headline peppered throughout my posts. I’ll use it to highlight all of my own mistakes and failures regarding minimalism to remind us all that I have no soap box with which to stand on. Because above all else, I want to be authentic.



Sorry to leave you hanging after Mindfulness; Fast Fashion. Truth is, I don’t have a glamorous action plan for how to dress more sustainably.

My #1 goal will always be to reduce the amount of clothes I (think I) need in the first place.

Beyond that I see if I can repair the clothes with my basic sewing skills.  And if that doesn’t work then I will

reuse or purchase pre-owned clothes

by borrowing, swapping with friends, or buying second hand. Used clothing is nothing to be turned off by, especially considering how quickly many of us discard gently used clothing these days. Thrift stores and garage sales are great, but there are so many other options such as consignment boutiques, and online shops as well.

Finding the right pieces takes time, and flexibility. If I need something specific I try to give myself time to find it, which can take months. But over the years clay and I have had great success finding pre-owned shirts, dresses, jackets, coats, exercise clothing, purses, accessories, etc. We are okay with pretty much everything except swimwear and underwear.

Though I do have a


I buy most of my pants new because I just can’t seem to get there in the pants department. Part of it is because I can never find pants that fit (i’m short). And getting them shortened often requires extensive alterations which never look or feel right. So I buy new pants that I know will fit me. Also to be honest my terrible, weak excuse is that for whatever reason, it weirds me out.

[for a better thrift store role model follow fellow minimalist Jess with Less she has a great Instagram account and always seems to find amazing clothes!]

No matter what your second-hand threshold is, I believe that our efforts in sustainable fashion would improve a lot if we could all

stop buying or making new T-shirts.

Thrift stores are overloaded with them in all shapes, colors and sizes.

I was only recently convicted of this after reading an Instagram post by Sarah Lazarovic. Sarah is the designer behind the brilliant “Buyerarchy of Needs” chart that has been circulating around the interwebs…

BuyerarchyShe has gotten a lot of requests asking if she could screen print her designs on t-shirts and she declined them all. Instead she asked everyone to trace the graphic onto an existing shirt, which I think is the most amazing thing ever.

bad minimalist confession:

I wish I would been convicted of this this 4 weeks ago when I bought that brand new t-shirt. It says “But first, whiskey” on it and I wear it all the time.

Speaking of buying new things…if all else fails and I can’t mend my clothes or find what I need second-hand, then I try it on. Even if it’s just a t-shirt.

While I’m in the dressing room I play 21 questions with whatever it is I want to buy.

I reduce the chance of making an impulse purchase by asking:

  • Where was this made?
  • Will it work well with items I already own?
  • Will I wear this more than 30 times? (wisdom via Livia Firth’s #30Wears campaign)
    (“Can I dress up or down?!”)
  • Does the old me want this or the new me?
  • Is it comfortable?
    Seems like a no-brainer but I’m surprised how often I still buy things based on style or current trends. We should feel good in our clothes. Life is too short to wear anything scratchy, too-tight, or uncomfortable.
  • Is it dry-clean only?
bad minimalist / bad environmentalist

I recently forgot to ask this question, and accidentally bought a dry-clean only shirt. This matters because 1) that’s one time-wasting errand I try to avoid 2) the waste of hangers/the plastic coverings (even if I refuse them or bring them back) and 3) the dry cleaning process isn’t great.

Full disclosure: I didn’t know about number 3 until yesterday! I always thought dry cleaning was like steam cleaning, but randomly researched the process this week. Turns out, it’s not like steam cleaning after all and requires chemicals that I personally am not okay with. Fortunately, there are dry cleaners in Seattle that claim to be non-toxic, but I haven’t looked into it further. 

At this point if the shirt I want to purchase passes my game of 21 questions then, I buy it! Spoiler alert: this doesn’t happen often.

When I do buy clothes, I’m willing to spend the extra money to buy from quality brands that I support and know will last for years.

Price isn’t always the best indicator but when a shirt is so cheap it seems too good to be true, it probably is. So I’m willing to research and pay extra for quality products. Patagonia is one of those companies (not perfect, but paces ahead of other retailers in terms of quality and sustainable efforts. They even have a resale recycling program for their clothes.)

Other great brands include: People Tree, Everlane, Gather and See (UK based, but they deliver internationally), and more. I’ve also found quality clothing that is Made in the US at Anthropologie.

Further, please don’t forget about your local fair trade store (you might have one that you don’t even know about! At the very least these people tend to be very knowledgeable on this subject and are generally willing to chat about it. here’s a good one in Grand Rapids)


Eventually we reached a point in our journey when we got rid of our Marie Kondo training wheels. After a year or so we realized that for us, it no longer matters if something ‘sparks joy’. Turns out, lots of things spark joy when I walk into Target or Anthropologie but when I look closer at where these clothes are made, or what they are made of, they don’t spark as much joy.

Our new yardstick of determining what to buy, even second hand, is a bit more ruthless:  “do I really need it?”.  And our threshold has changed, so usually our answer is no.

I know these tips are so basic. Shopping sustainably requires a lot of patience and flexibility, and we have to retrain our brains to let go of the consumption. And mindfulness is a muscle that takes time to build up. That’s it. There isn’t anything glamorous here.

But I hope you got something out of this. There are so many other sustainable fashion practices we could discuss: fleece, microfiber, clothes made with certain dyes, materials, etc. But just as I mentioned in “why this matters” I’m going to encourage you to do your own extensive research down the gloom and doom rabbit hole.

Educate yourself always, set your intentions, and pivot accordingly.


To see what my side of the closet looks like: Mindfulness & Clothes; Pt 5 is now up!

If any of this content on clothes has added value to your life, please like these posts, share these posts, and more importantly ask me questions!

I’ll be doing a Q&A segment to wrap up this series on clothes, so please use the form below to ask away! It’s anonymous!