Last week, I wrote a column about purging your closet of everything you don’t love.
If you did that and donated a substantial unused portion of your wardrobe, I’m surprised people out there are actually taking my advice.
But more importantly, I’m proud of you. It’s a daunting task, but it’s a rewarding one: You may have noticed that your mornings are less stressful or that it’s easier to pick out an outfit you love. You may not even miss the clothes you donated at all.
But the work is not over yet. After all, you need to make sure your wardrobe continues to be something you can be happy with.
This part is the maintenance stage, which I consider to be even more important than the downsizing stage. The goal here is to continue to love everything in your wardrobe and ensure you will get use out of it for years to come through sustainable practices.
Loving what you own
Sustainability in fashion is popular these days, with many people opting to shop at thrift stores instead of buying new clothes.
What most people don’t realize is that the most sustainable thing you can do is love what you already have.
Social media might make it seem like you need a brand new outfit every day, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Most of our clothes can be worn dozens — if not hundreds — of times before they start to deteriorate.
If you stick to basic, classic items that never go out of style, you will never run out of outfits to wear to any occasion — for instance, by pairing a basic black dress with different accessories and shoes, you can wear the same piece to class, a job interview or out with your friends.
If you find that you need a particular item, get creative! Instead of buying new clothes, cut a pair of old jeans into a pair of shorts, or make a trendy cropped tank out of an old T-shirt. Arrange a clothing swap with friends who wear the same size as you to double the size of both your wardrobes without spending a dime.
But like I said before, our wardrobes should grow with us, and our interests and style change as time goes on. If, in a few months, you find that you “never have anything to wear,” it might be time to go shopping.
When you do need to shop
There will inevitably come a time in your new minimalist-wardrobe life that you will need to buy new clothes, but there are plenty of easy ways to stick to your game plan while shopping.
The easiest thing to do? Avoid fast-fashion retailers.
Fast-fashion, for those who may not be familiar with it, is a term used to describe stores that recreate trendy looks for a low price. Clothing at fast-fashion stores is stylish and affordable — and thus appeals highly to college students.
Fast fashion includes stores like H&M and Forever 21 but also online retailers such as Shein. Their clothes are cheap because they’re typically made in sweatshops with low-quality materials. If you’ve ever bought anything from one of these stores, you would know this — the clothes will tear after about a year of regular wear and end up in the trash.
The key here is conscious shopping: buying things because you need them or have wanted them for a while, not just because they’re on sale or because you saw them in a TikTok yesterday. These clothes will end up neglected in the bottom of your drawer once the trend is over… or worse, in a landfill.
The easiest and cheapest way to avoid fast fashion is to shop at thrift stores — a State College favorite of mine is Plato’s Closet, but we also have a Goodwill and a new Uptown Cheapskate.
However, this doesn’t mean you should only buy clothes secondhand. You can absolutely shop at fast fashion retailers, so long as you don’t treat the clothes as disposable.
For example, if you buy a pair of jeans at H&M, wear them often, and cut them into shorts or patch them when they tear. When you don’t love them or don’t fit into them anymore, donate them or give them to a friend.
I wrote these past couple of columns as a way to document the journey I’ve been going through to simplify my life and share it with others.
If you think that what I did might be too drastic of a change for you, that’s totally fine. Moving toward minimalism is by no means an easy task, and it’s not for everybody.
But if you have time this summer, I encourage you to take a closer look at your closet and spending habits and think critically about your purchases — you might learn a lot about yourself.