Decluttering, minimalism and a sustainable wardrobe

If you are interested in creating a more sustainable wardrobe, there is a good chance that you will stumble across to minimalism. Minimalism is the movement that aims to simplify people’s lives by untangling their attachment to ‘stuff’, downsizing, and offering alternate vision of success- one that doesn’t promote more (money, things, experiences, work), and focuses on quality over quantity.

At its essence, minimalism is a very sustainable concept. It frees you from materialism and the need to buy new and better, or to consume your way to happiness. However, as happens when a concept is in vogue, there a great deal of very poor minimalist advice out there.

Decluttering is an important process for you to go through. However, if you simply purge your clothing quickly, without mindfulness, you are likely to keep continuing your poor purchases and overconsumption habits. It is important to clear your wardrobe over time, taking the time to mindfully recognise what motivated you to buy something you never wore, or hold on to something that doesn’t fit and so on. If you don’t recognise your motivations for the clutter, you will simply keep repeating old mistakes. Let’s face it- how many times have you cleared out your wardrobe before?

So, as you work through the decluttering process, whether it takes you a week or a year, be sure to give yourself the headspace to really examine your attachments to your clothes. This way you won’t continue to accumulate and hoard a wardrobe full of clothes you have no use for.

To declutter sustainably it is also important that you try to find new homes for the clothes that you can. Try a clothing swap, giving to family and friends, selling your clothing second-hand, donating directly to a women’s or homeless shelter or so on. Donating to charity/thrift stores should be a last resort, especially for fast fashion items. It is estimated that one third of donated clothing is resold, one third is shipped to the developing world where it is resold –undermining local artisans and industry in the process- and, the final one third cut up for rags or going to landfill. If you have good quality items, you can probably donate them safely. But if you have fast fashion items you should consider just using them yourself until they fall apart and need to be recycled or repurposed. If you keep these items for another year, and you still don’t wear them, donate them then. This way, at least, you can be sure that having them as a constant reminder of your poor shopping choices will motivate you avoid the same mistakes again!

And just finally, a sustainable wardrobe needn’t be a bare minimalist wardrobe if that doesn’t suit your personality. A sustainable wardrobe is one that contains good quality clothing, in sustainable fabrics, that you wear regularly and get good use out of, and then dispose of in a sustainable way. Whether that means owning 30 items or 100 is up to you.

E BOOK Sidebar

If you enjoyed this article, you will love my guide to sustainable fashion 6 Steps to a Sustainable Wardrobe. A 60 page guide and 21 page printable workbook packed with simple actionable advice and activities for living more sustainably without compromising on style.

Decluttering is one of the critical steps to creating a sustainable wardrobe. But you need to know how to do this in a way that is kind to the environment and avoids waste. If you want to confidently approach your wardrobe sustainably, untangle yourself from consumer culture, declutter mindfully and learn how to shop sustainably, how to assess a fashion label’s ethics and sustainability credentials, and much much more, 6 Steps to a Sustainable Wardrobe is the resource to help you do this.


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  • https://www.projectselvage.net Shannon

    Thanks for this article, it is really good to define the difference between de-cluttering and minimalism. I stumbled across minimalism in my research of sustainability and also through travel. I travel a lot and it’s just not practical to take too much with me. It made me realise what I can live without, so when I came home, I found new homes for all the stuff I didn’t need. It has made my life a lot simpler and easier- no more tough decisions about what to wear, I have narrowed the choices down quite considerably! I kept the good quality things, that I really loved and know will last a long time.

    • http://www.tortoiseandladygrey.com Summer Edwards

      Thanks for your comments Shannon. It is really interesting to hear your perspectives. I think that distilling your belongings down to what you really get use and value out of can be a really freeing experience. I am far from a minimalist- I still own lots of creative materials, books, camping gear etc. But I try to question what I need and only keep those things that I love and get use out of. Sometimes I wish that I could cull my stuff more drastically (having kids makes cleaning difficul to stay on top of). But I know that I would regret letting go of my creative materials, even if I don’t have much time for using them now, whilst my youngest son only 1. Some would say that this isn’t minalism, but I disagree. As long as you are making conscious choices about the items you curate into your life, then I think you are taking a minialist approach. What do you think?

      • https://www.projectselvage.net Shannon

        I think you have really hit the nail on the head! When I first discovered minimalism, I was reading different perspectives from people about what it actually meant. Some people thought it meant owning under 100 items, some under 30 (those people didn’t have kids!) But I believe that there is not set number for it. I agree, that it is about keeping what you use and what you love- and not just mindlessly consuming. I have no idea how many things I own, and I don’t intend to count. I just know that it is enough for what I actually need and I believe that is most important.