Introducing a New Way to Wardrobe Purge- Sustainably and Eco-Consciously
Almost every spring you hear about the “wardrobe purge.” And while it’s a great idea to cull your closet, I’ve been working hard on trying to think more sustainably. The word sustainable gets thrown around quite a bit on the blogs and Instagram posts I read.
We tout secondhand shopping as eco-conscious, and I agree that it is. However, after learning a little more about purging and where our clothing goes when you drop it off at the thrift stores, I’ve been trying to think of a different approach.
Quote of the day: “The quickest way to double your money is to fold it and put it in your back pocket.” Will Rogers
Now Will Rogers has a point. Not buying something is saving you more money than any other way. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE to buy new things and update my closet. Yet after talking about how to shop your closet earlier this week, I’m hoping you have some ideas on making what you have work for you.
Now when I decided to work on a wardrobe purge in a sustainably way, I didn’t want it to be a whole day process. I don’t know about you, but when you take everything out of your closet and go through them, it’s exhausting. And after about an hour or two, I don’t think we make good decisions because we are “over it.” I also think that when you try to do this all in a day, you can’t possibly try everything on and really wear it.
This sustainable wardrobe purge doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get rid of some of your items. But my theory is you bought the items in the first place for a good reason (either you liked them, you thought you needed them or they were a good deal), so why not see if they can work? It’s much cheaper than buying something new to replace it.
BTW, did you know that I post on Saturday now showing what I wore daily?? It’s proof that I’m trying to wear all of the things in my closet.
Turn Your Hangers Backwards
Now I will say this concept won’t be for everyone. My idea is to question the idea of the all day wardrobe purge. If we end up needing to do it often, wouldn’t that means it isn’t working correctly?
Have you heard the trick about after you wear something, to turn the hanger backwards? This is how I started my wardrobe purge. Sure, that means I ended up wearing the things I normally wear right at the beginning of this experiment. And that’s fine.
While you are wearing what you like, you should analyze it.
1-What do you like about it?
2-Is there anything you don’t like about it?
3-How else can you wear it?
Thinking about these questions will help you sort out the other items that don’t get worn as much.
Now the challenge comes when you go to grab a piece that is already hanging backwards. Now it’s time to push yourself to wear something else instead. Maybe a different color, or just another item the same color but different style. This is where you might need to revisit my Shop Your Closet series again.
Because I’m a fix it girl, I’m going to give some suggestions on what to do when you grab that item and it’s not right.
Insider tip: I’ve heard the excuse that “I like an item but I don’t love it”. I think love can happen over time like in a human relationship. It’s not fair to throw it out before you give an item a chance to be loved.
The advantage of grabbing an item and wearing it all day (as opposed to just trying it on in a wardrobe purge session), is you really experience how it feels when you move, sit and live your day. It’s no different than when you try on an item in a store. It’s actually much better to take it home and try to wear it for at least an hour (with the tags still on) so you know how it’ll move with you.
By wearing it all day, you are analyzing many factors about the item.
For example, if the item moves around too much because it’s a tad big, what can you do?
1– Somehow pin it or belt it to stay in place
2– Alter it
3– Layer under or over it
What if the item seems too small? Obviously if you can’t get it on your body, it goes in the giveaway pile. The best thing you can do is make the body you have now feel as fabulous as can be. Yet even a somewhat tight item can do a job in your closet, and I have a couple of ideas.
Now I’m not suggesting to buy items too big or small, but if they are already in your closet, maybe you can still use them.
Ideas to Help Size Issues
Now I’m not suggesting wearing something that doesn’t feel good. When I say tight, I mean that it may feel okay but look a little snug for your comfort.
1-If it’s too short–Layer it. For example, with a dress, wear it with tights or as a tunic. If a shirt is too short, maybe it would work with the higher waist pants that are in style now. Or layer a longer tee under it like I did with my peplum top under the cropped cardigan here.
2- Top half too tight. Cover it. You can layer a jacket or cardigan over a too tight top. Or unbutton the top/dress and wear it open over something else. Sometimes the somewhat tight tops are the best items to layer over because they aren’t as bulky.
3- Bottom half seems tight. Granted you need to be able to move, but sometimes what we consider “too tight” is only our perspective. However, I did style some pants that I considered too tight a couple of years ago. The ideas I used were to wear a tunic over them, adding a long third piece, change the focus or add winter layers.
Now let’s talk about other reasons you don’t normally wear the piece you pull out of your closet. I hear many women say they don’t buy anything unless they can pair it with 3 other items already in their wardrobe. However, I would like to contest that if you are using my tips from the Shop Your Closet series, that should NEVER be an issue. But let me break it down into three main reasons you don’t wear it (besides the size issues that I talked about above).
Insider tip: If the piece is just dingy, dye it!! I have a post how I dye my pieces here. Even dingy black can be dyed black again!!
If you look at the “problem” item and think there is nothing in your closet colorwise that goes with it, then I think rereading a couple of my color recipe posts will help. Because first and foremost, any neutral should go with any color. The easiest way to start would be with black and then white. I’d also include denim in the neutral that will work with anything and everything. I feel like those three neutrals are in everyone’s closet.
How else can you find other colors to go with that problem piece? I think the easiest way is to hold it up to every other piece in your closet. Really, it should go with SO much.
Another idea is to describe the color of the problem piece and find a print that you just love with that color in it. Maybe it’s a scarf, or a painting or even a rug!! By seeing something else with that color in it, it can give you ideas of other colors to pair with it.
Insider tip: If you pair two colors together and aren’t positive you like it, try adding in a print that has the two colors in it to pull it all together.
Wear It Other Ways
The other way a piece can be a problem is the silhouette or a detail about the item. This could also be called, “I don’t know how to wear it”. I’ll give you an example from my closet.
I purchased a top from Poshmark last year. What I didn’t realize is that it was cropped!!! And I haven’t been wearing cropped shirts in 20+ years, LOL! But instead of putting it in the giveaway pile, I decided to try to figure out how I could wear it. (Actually I’m really surprised I didn’t style it 5 different ways for a blog post, haha).
One way I wore it is as a layering top under a dress (seen here under a wrap dress). One time I wore it over a dress!! Heck, now that high waisted jeans are back in style, I might be able to wear it by itself. Once I used some of my tricks from Unconventional Ways to Shop Your Closet, it’s become well loved again.
The details on a clothing item can make you love it or hate it. My example of this was with the brown “jacket” I wore in Monday’s weekly wrap up here. When I first bought it off Poshmark, it had a ruffle at the end of the sleeves. It was too cumbersome, so I just removed the ruffle. Some of those fixes are very easy.
That’s why it’s good to analyze the “why” you don’t like something. And then think like a fix it girl to make it right.,
Insider tip: If you are having trouble with how to style an item, my latest experiment these last couple of years is to wear it right away by trying to style it 4-5 ways or at least with other colors. And then take photos of yourself in it, so you can remember the outfits. That’s how my series of styling something 4-5 different ways began. (You can find all of those blog posts on my categories page, under Themes)
Lifestyle or Taste Changes
This is the other huge reason people are ready to do a wardrobe purge. And it makes sense. For instance, you retire and realize you’re not going to wear your suits anymore. However, many of those pieces can be worn even for casual days. That’s a huge point in my Shop Your Closet post about mixing it up. It helps if we stop categorizing our clothing. In fact, one of my favorite outfits is layering a blazer over something very casual like a graphic t-shirt.
Other Options Instead of Throwing It Out
Now let’s just say, the piece really does need to be purged. I might have you try ONE more thing. Have you seen the site Upstyle? There are a ton of tutorials about either sewing, upcycling (some of them non sewing) or even how to wear an item. In fact, I contribute to the site, so if you wander over there, make sure to follow me.
You can easily search for a specific category or explore their tutorials.
BTW, if you are like me and end up down the rabbit hole with idea sites like this, finish this post, and then click over there. I can spend hours looking at some of the amazing ideas!!
There are other ways to sustainably “purge” this item. In fact, my mom just cut up an old sheet to make rags from it. I’ve cut the buttons off many a top to reuse them (have you seen how expensive buttons are lately?). If you don’t sew and think you don’t need buttons, there are other things you can do with them (not my post but worth the look-some people are just SO creative).
Remember clothing items are just material and material can be used for lots of other things. In fact, I once saw someone cut up a t-shirt to create “yarn”. I haven’t tried it yet, but on Upstyle, I saw a tutorial doing that with a pair of jeans!!
Give It Away
At the end of this sustainable wardrobe purge, there are going to be pieces that absolutely won’t work no matter what you do. Either that or you just don’t have the time to figure out how to make them work. But hopefully, this crazy idea of mine has made you think twice about just throwing clothes away, even to the extend of dropping them off at the thrift store. (Seriously, go watch The True Cost to see how the thrift stores get rid of much of their goods. There is too much to sell at their stores).
After seeing that movie, I have worked hard to see if my friends want the items I can’t wear anymore. In fact, it can be a fun party to have a clothing swap (which includes jewelry, purses and scarves).
Or the other option would be to find places that really “need” your purged clothing. Good Housekeeping has some interesting ideas here.
Insider tip: Don’t forget that if you need to get rid of shoes, DSW, has a program to donate your shoes and where you collect rewards!!
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