One thing I find challenging about living in Minnesota is keeping the number of items I own to a minimum but keeping the warmth and coziness factor to a maximum in the winter months (meaning October through April.) Not having a bulky closet in this temperate climate can be difficult, and for those of us who like to update the closet every once in a while (and students), keeping the cost down is important. This is why I have become increasingly interested in sustainable fashion and being a bit more minimalistic. There are a few ways I have been working on this for several years that might just help you out when your closet begins to stress you out when you open it. Pick and try some of these options that sound doable for your lifestyle, or challenge yourself!
1. Before buying one item, plan on removing two from your closet.
This helps me remove bulk from my closet while updating it to one I will use more efficiently. If you're like me, you might find yourself with items of second-hand clothing from friends and family that don't fit quite right, aren't flattering, or have seen better days and might need to be repurposed. If this is the case, and you want to buy something new and wonderful, consider picking two of these extra items that don't get much use and finding a new home for them. If its very worn or faded, try making produce bags for grocery trips from the fabric (link here on how to do that!) If they are very wearable, find someone who would love to have them. Donating is also great, but do some research to make sure your clothes are ending up in the hands of someone who needs them. Here is a good article about places to donate, and here are the best places in the Twin Cities! Practicing this when shopping makes me think about how much I really want the new item and if I have things it can replace.
2. Before submitting to fast fashion, try thrifting or swapping for it.
There are a lot of clothes already circulating around the market out there that need to be used before they end up in a landfill. If you have the urge to buy something, and you don't mind giving your new clothes an extra wash, thrifting really is a great option. Obviously, sometimes thrifting isn't perfect. You find something you like, but its the wrong size, or you strike out all together. Part of thrifting is also being creative- altering your thrifted clothes can be fun! For example, I bought a large GAP striped turtleneck last year. I cropped the shirt and was able to create a cute tank top and scrunchie from the left-over fabric (three for one!) You may also be able to trade or borrow the clothes you want with your friends, or online. Plenty of people are hopping aboard the swapped clothing train!
3. Go through your clothes regularly and see which ones you often neglect.
Doing a huge closet clean-out is a massive task and could take up your whole weekend. Practice looking at your items once a week and gathering a basket of things you really don't need. Try to find new homes for them, or reintroduce them into your closet in a more exciting way. You can dye, embroider, crop, distress, or alter them yourself if you like getting a little crafty. I've lengthened the lifespan of lots of clothes this way.
4. Make a list of all the clothes you own by category.
It is likely that you already have everything that you really need in your closet. If you have some extra time and like lists, try finding out how many items you own. It can be shocking! I had no idea how many tank tops I had until I tried this (hint: a stupid amount). If you find you have a glaring gap of some items that you need, then maybe its time for a little bit of shopping!
5. When shopping, put half of the items back that you want to buy.
Prioritize what you want. I find it shockingly easy to put items of clothes back that I don't need by doing this for years. First of all, it saves you money. Second, it makes you evaluate the clothes and their quality (either to you or overall) more closely. Third, it saves you from making impulse purchases that will sit in your closet.
6. Wait and think before you buy.
It may just be the fact that I find it hard to part with my money, but I find myself looking around stores and seeing things I like, but leaving with none of them. If I find myself thinking about it weeks later, and it is still in the store, I sometimes get it. This keeps me from impulse purchases and also makes me evaluate whether or not I would actually use the item.
7. Don't be hard on yourself.
At the end of the day, clothes are just clothes. Being mindful of what you own and how you interact with it is a process. I certainly have not mastered it, and find myself hanging on to things that should have been gone a long time ago (*looks at 70s polyester mesh dress I have never once worn since I bought it in high school*). At the same time, clothes are truly items we use every day, and should make you feel good. If sustainability is your thing, having a less cluttered life and more ethical clothing might be what makes you feel good. If you feel amazing in that dress you found at H&M, that might be what you need. There is also never a better time to start making changes in your habits than today!