End of season sales, Boxing Day sales, Black Friday, end of summer sale: the calendar year seems to be divided by these new reminders to keep on buying. The message sent out to us could not be clearer: ‘Keep calm and carry on shopping.’ As customers always on the lookout for the best occasion, consciously or not, we often give into the bold advertising that can so effectively model our behaviour. ‘Fast fashion’, a term used to describe low-cost clothing collections that change very quickly and mimic current fashion trends, redefined the way dress fuelling our desire to follow the newest trends.
The effects are staggering. Some estimates that nowadays women have four times as many clothes in their wardrobe as they did in the 1980s. In UK alone, household consumption on clothing and footwear is € 59 billion. This means that British consumers spent on average about € 900 per on fashion. For the twenty-seven countries of European Union this is slightly lower at average of € 700 per year. In contrast, it is estimated that consumers in the UK alone have approximately € 41 billion worth of unworn clothes in their closets.
Of course, these are only average statistics, and there is some disparity between the UK and the rest of the EU. However, regardless of the exact figures, what is apparent is the sense of excess that defines our wardrobes. What’s more, if we take into consideration environmental sustainability and the extremely poor working conditions of those employed in fashion industry, these seasonal sales quickly lose their innocent appeal. Every now then accidents such as the 2013 Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh remind us of the real price of our consumption habits and of our overflowing wardrobes.
Spring cleaning, Lent resolutions or just the first Monday of the month—it’s always possible to change this seemingly unending cycle of excessive consumption and hoarding. But how to do it? Firstly, by starting small and digging into our wardrobes. Secondly, by reflecting on and altering our consumer practices. Ever more popular vintage shops, community exchange networks, and second-hand clothes’ swaps provide a plethora of opportunities to refresh one’s wardrobe without breaking the bank. Sometimes just having a proper look through our piles of tops, dresses, and apparel can be enough to realise that what is needed is not a completely new outfit but rather a more creative arrangement of few versatile pieces. Coco Chanel famously said: ‘Simplicity is the keynote of all true elegance.’
Another idea might be to follow a 30-day minimalist challenge as suggested by the authors of the famous blog The Minimalists. The blog, which now reaches millions of readers world-wide, documents the authors’ own journey from the world of corporate finance to a life of liberating simplicity. Similarly, David Michael Bruno posts about the 100Thing Challenge, that is his own attempt to ‘fight American-style consumerism and live a life of simplicity, characterized by joyfulness and thoughtfulness.’ Project33, for its part, invites people to dress with 33 clothes or less for 3 months. The overarching goal of all these initiatives is not just to get rid of stuff but, more importantly, to practice detachment and make room for more important things: more time, passion, freedom, and creativity. These are just some ideas on how to start de-cluttering our lives. Wardrobe, bookcase or desk—wherever you start decluttering, the effect this will have on your life will be a positive one. Now, over to you!