How To Build a Sustainable Wardrobe: Phase 1 – The Closet Purge

A sustainable closet doesn’t start with buying clothing that is labeled ethical, fair-trade or sustainably sourced materials. Before venturing on the journey of building your own consciously curated closet, start by accessing where you are at what you have.

One of the things I love about fashion is its ability to tell our story. The clothes we chose to wear reveals a lot about individuals in various yet subtle ways. It can be used as an expression of our ideas, values, and beliefs through slogans or brands we consistently wear. It can also be a representation of our artistic style by our use of color either bold or minimalist or through unique shapes, patterns and more. Clothes are an important facet of our lives but in today’s culture, our clothing is often overindulged and doesn’t have the same life span or amount of use it once did. A 2018 study of 18,000 head of households from 20 countries revealed that more than 70% of the average wardrobe goes unworn. Reasons like these and many more is why fashion is one of the most polluting industries in the world and further supports the importance of building a sustainable and consciously curated wardrobe.

If you’re anything like me, chances are you have a wardrobe that’s overfilled with clothes but can never seem to find something to wear. You’re in desperate need of finding order in your closet and bringing back a sense of style and identity while building a sustainable, well-rounded, cohesive wardrobe that suits all your needs. If this resonated with you, I feel your pain and I’m here to help! Prior to educating myself about sustainable fashion and the effects of fast fashion, I would describe myself as a shopaholic. Retail therapy was my favorite pastime and I loved all things fashion and clothing. It didn’t help that I worked in retail as a stylist and was surrounded by beautiful clothes that I just needed to get my hands on. I took full advantage of my employee discounts and felt the pressure to keep up with ever-changing trends.
My habit slowly but quickly accumulated into credit card debt and my closet was overflowing with items that didn’t fill the void and didn’t represent me. Once I confronted my spending habits and started making changes, it became important to reprioritize quality over quantity, curb my overindulgent shopping habits, and use my money in ways that worked in my favor and supported my values.
Getting to this point hasn’t been easy and continues to be a challenge but it posed an opportunity to ask tough questions such as:

  • How often do you shop and what are your spending habits?
  • Do you ascribe to the idea of retail therapy?
  • How do you value your clothes?
As much as I love clothes and fashion, I value being debt-free and spending my money wisely a lot more! Throughout this series, we’ll go through a step by step process to understanding the mold of sustainable style and promoting actions and lifestyle choices that will help spark change over time. Not only will you build a wardrobe that looks and feels like you, but you’ll also be free of all the excess and clutter in the process.
Before venturing on the journey of building your own consciously curated closet, start by accessing where you are at what you have. More likely than not, your closet is already filled with forgotten gems and an assortment of clothing that represents your style and is in good, perfect condition or as mentioned earlier, never worn! There are several methods of how to go about effectively cleaning out your closet and you can find great resources through books, blog posts, TV shows and vlogs. In the past, I’ve done a closet cleanout by sorting through clothes in sections, but I’ve found the most effective method was the Marie Kondo way. By making a pile of every single item of clothing you own, you get the face value truth of all that you own and can appropriately sort through each item.

The Closet Purge Guidelines

  1. Set aside a couple of hours in your day or over the weekend to do a complete closet cleanout. Don’t forget to include clothing that is dirty, unworn, or stored in bins under your bed or other storage areas.
  2. Create 3 separate piles for clothing to keep, donate, and recycle (items too damaged to be fixed, upcycled or donated). Refrain from throwing any unwanted clothes in the garbage! Building a sustainable closet also involves responsibly getting rid of your unwanted clothes by donating to charity shops that have textile recycling programs, in-store garment collection programs or brand take-back programs.
  3. Focus on in-season clothing when going through your closet purge. This makes it easier to decide what to keep and helps you notice which items you wear the most. In-season items have a better likelihood of being resold in thrift shop since these are the items currently in demand.
  4. Don’t get caught up on the cost of the items your choosing to part ways with. It serves you no good to hold onto things for monetary reasons especially if it’s not being used nor suits your style. There are several ways to re-earn some money by reselling your clothes. (We’ll cover this in detail in a later blog post)
  5. Keep the things you love or as Marie Kondo puts it “what sparks joy.” This isn’t about going without or lacking things but it’s a process of noticing and paying attention. We all have articles of clothing that are our favorite either for sentimental reasons, comfort or overall style. Take your time to notice what those pieces are and find ways to incorporate them as staple pieces in your everyday look.
The objective of this introductory exercise is to face your current consumption and figure out if there is an actual need for more. A sustainable closet doesn’t start with buying clothing that is labeled ethical, fair-trade or sustainably sourced materials. It starts by being happy with what you currently have and learning new ways to make better spending choices when a need does arise. What makes something truly sustainable is its durability, reusability, and end of life cycle.
By confronting what you already have and learning about your own pattern, together we can build a cohesive closet that is not only you but represents and supports a new norm of consuming less, being satisfied with what you have and treating your clothing with care.

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