I used to think that creating a more sustainable wardrobe meant throwing out everything I own and starting from scratch. Like most people, I’ve accumulated a lot of fast fashion over the years. Even as I’ve gotten older and have been able to invest more money in nicer pieces with more longevity and better fabrics, I still am often left with a closet full of pieces that I don’t wear as much as I should. And I still am as tempted as anyone to purchase super low-priced, trendy items — even if I know that won’t last very long.
Over time, though, I’ve discovered small habits that make me shop smarter, buy less, and produce less landfill waste (this is where most of your donated clothes end up, after all). I still have a long way to go when it comes to shopping 100% sustainably, but finding habits that I can stick with month after month has changed how I buy (and wear) clothing. Most of all, it’s made me feel better about the clothes I do have. The best part about these changes is that they cost zero dollars!
1. Have A Monthly Closet Clean-Out & Sell Unworn Items
The single best habit I’ve developed in the past year has been monthly closet clean-outs. Once a month, I assess my dresser and closet for items I’m not wearing. I ask myself why I’m not wearing them: are they ill-fitting? Sentimental? Not my style? Uncomfortable? I make myself consider the last time I wore the item or wanted to wear the item, and whether I’d want to wear it in the future. If I don’t need it, I add it to a pile of items to sell on an app like Poshmark. If I’m unsure, I make a mental note to assess it in next month’s closet cleanout. Selling clothing online is not only a great way to recoup some of the money you spent on the piece originally, but it also ensures that it’s going to someone who is that much more likely to wear it, thus extending its life.
2. Take Notes About What Lasts and What Doesn’t
What this process has also helped me with (in addition to majorly decluttering my home) is identifying patterns. After just a few months, I was able to tell which brands of clothing I was donating and selling the most, and which I held onto. Now, whenever I’m tempted to shop at a certain store I ask myself how often that brand makes it into my closet clean-outs. If the answer is regularly, then it’s easier for me to not shop there. In other words: I buy less of the things that I only wear once or twice. What’s more, the process makes me think about the quality of items. When you’re constantly taking note of which pieces are falling apart and which have held up over years, it becomes easier to purchase one or two quality pieces instead of dozens of cheaply-made options.
3. Wash Your Clothes Less Often
An easy way to conserve resources with your wardrobe? Wash less clothing. Consider whether you really need to wash your jeans after every wear (spoiler: you really don’t!) or whether that sweater truly needs a run through the machine or if spot treatment will do. Just cutting back one or two wash cycles a month can save dozens of gallons of water — and even more, if your washer is an older model.
4. Reward Yourself For Wearing An Item A Lot
One thing that’s helped me be more critical about how I shop is assessing how often I wear an item. I pay very close attention to my most-worn items and to why I wear them now. Is it because the item is comfortable? Breathable? Trendy? Completely my style? When I notice that I wear an item dozens of times, it feels like a win that I can congratulate myself for. Consider rewarding yourself for every time you wear an item more than 10 or 15 times, or more. Maybe treat yourself to a nice meal, or a manicure.
5. Think About How Many Ways You Can Wear One Item
An easy way to assess whether or not to buy or keep a single piece of clothing: Ask yourself how many different ways you can wear it. Is it only good for one season a year? Is it something you’ll only wear on vacation? Does it not complement any other clothing you already own? Is it something you’ll have to buy a new undergarment for? Being critical about how well a single piece of clothing works into your wardrobe and life is a simple way to ensure that you actually wear the things you own, and wear them often.
What all of these habits have in common (other than being completely free, of course) is that they force you to be thoughtful. Shopping mindlessly can be fun and momentarily satisfying, but most of us can probably agree that there’s nothing worse than ending up with a closet that’s bursting at the seams with clothing that still has the tags on. Buying sustainably-made clothing and accessories is always a good idea, but sometimes the most impactful changes aren’t about shopping at all. Sometimes it’s just about changing how you think.
Like this Article? Here’s More from PF We Know You’ll Love:
1. Tips for Recycling and Repurposing Your Clothes
2. Breaking the Fast Fashion Habit
3. Value vs. Price: Shopping More Consciously
4. Easy Ways to be More Eco-Friendly
5. Bridging the Intention Gap: How to Shop According to Your Values
6. Best Ways to Recycle Your Clothes
7. Are Organic Fabrics Worth The Investment?