When I first discovered zero waste I was in a situation with little freedom to try and change my habits. I was living in someone else’s household and many things weren’t up to me. Therefore, all my inspiration went towards my cosmetics and my wardrobe. The only things I had control over.
While getting further into the topic and looking for inspiration for new undertakings I discovered the “capsule wardrobe” idea. It is a collection of clothes and accessories that usually contains no more than 40 things in a season and in which everything matches everything else. As I was working during the days I had no physical ability to declutter my wardrobe but I did have access to Excel.
For three weeks my wardrobe declutter only happened digitally in my big spreadsheet (which was “digitally decluttered awhile ago”). Complicated formulas and many, many numbers helped me make decisions what to keep. When the time for the real declutter came only 40% of my things stayed. In about a year the other 60% were donated, although a small part (the most sentimental ones) stayed at home, perhaps for the next generation.
This was not an easy process and I would not recommend it. I just have a real attraction to Excel. The truth is that physically touching our belongings is much more valuable when decluttering and organising than some spreadsheets, as Marie Kondo teaches us*.
Despite that this undertaking completely changed my day-to-day. It no longer took me hours to get dresses. There were no more moments of sitting in front of a stuffed wardrobe with “nothing to wear”. There were no more piles of clothes which I am too lazy to put away; no more jewelry spread on the shelves; no more shoes wherever you look.
It turns out that the clothes I took out of my wardrobe were psychologically weighing me down. I no longer had those that don’t fit, aren’t my style, had a stain or were broken, never went with anything else… Those that stayed were the embodiment of me. The real Vassya and not that unreal ideal which I thought I will someday be. All of a sudden I got rid of “what could be” and was here and now.
3 years later I have even fewer things. No, I don’t have a capsule wardrobe because it wasn’t me. But after I went through KonMari*, Project 333 and multiple house moves, I am so happy with the quantity I have now. Yes, I would like to have a better quality overall, but that, as with everything else, is a process.
In one of my declutter challenges I donated all items made of artificial materials. It is proven that artificial materials shed plastic particles when washed, which eventually adds to the growing levels of plastic pollution in the oceans. Therefore, I buy almost no items made from artificial materials. The only things I do have are my winter jackets, yoga leggings, sports bra and bathing suits. And yes, maybe someone else will add to the plastic pollution with those items of clothing but nevertheless it helps the circulation of existing resources, instead of the production of new ones and I believe that is very valuable.
The way I shop now has also changed drastically. As with everything else I have no more impulse purchases and everything has to match my own standards. That allows me to really think over the items I do want to bring into my life- quality, style, price, which is not exactly easy. After I ruined my favourite white top last summer I find it really difficult to find a replacement. I have such an exact idea of what I want that I still cannot find it.
Traveling, on the other hand, is so much easier as I never carry unnecessary clothes. I know exactly what I will wear and what would stay untouched in my luggage and I just don’t take it. Just like I wouldn’t take a book with me if I know I will be constantly moving around or around people. Packing takes me half an hour regardless of whether I am going away for 2 weeks or 2 months, and it all effortlessly fits in my carry-on (I haven’t travelled with checked-in luggage in years). Of course I will be honest and say that I usually travel to Bulgaria and I do keep some clothes and shoes there. This saves a lot of space in my luggage, although most things in Bulgaria are home clothes or those for the too cold (ski stuff, snow shoes) or too hot weather (sandals and beach dresses), which I do not need in England.
„The True Cost”
The contemporary fashion industry is one of the biggest polluters worldwide and is developing against the planet and the industry workers. The documentary “The True Cost” gives a good overview of what happens behind the fashion windows. The film got me truly interested which then led to my own research and I now know I don’t want to be contributing in any way to that industry. The alternatives however, are very attractive: sustainable companies and second hand – both full of unique clothes and accessories.
The fashion companies which are developing sustainable designs are very attractive to me. Their work in small scale, directly with all their workers, with sustainable and eco materials is honestly inspiring and the designs are created with so much effort and attention. Unfortunately the prices match the quality and that is for now outside my reach, hoping that soon it will change.
Meanwhile I will continue our family’s tradition for second hand shopping. It has been part of our family for as long as I can remember (some members may even be overdoing it a little bit :*) and I have always been proud of it and have never hidden it. And what exactly does it matter how much you’ve paid for something. This is possibly the post sustainable way of shopping where clothes are circulated instead of thrown away; we don’t add to the need for new production and therefore the need for new resources and low paid workers (yes, this is an oversimplification of the industry).
And yet, shopping second hand clothes is not easy in England (unlike other things like home wear). Our favourite shop in Dobrich has a big stock with a weekly turnaround. With regular visits you can easily find what you’re looking for. And although I fully support the charity idea in England, it can be difficult to get what you need. The shops are small and items are rarely changed. As much as would like to, I do not have the patience to visit 10 different shops every week to see if they have something for me. It is nice that I have my own personal shopper – mum knows exactly what I want and keeps an eye out for things in our store.
The other textile parts of my life are bedding and towels, which is quite the small collection. We have two sets of beddings, both in dark blue so they can be mixed if needed. Both are 100% cotton as I don’t want artificial materials as with the clothes. Maybe if we lived in a hot climate (or used a tumble drier) we would only need one set, but that’s not how we roll. Our pillows are in quite the poor condition and we are thinking about investing in sustainable and eco options (it’s not a small investment).
Our towels, although all in the orange color scheme, are completely different – a big mix and (miss)match. It isn’t necessary but I can’t wait to change them and make a real set from our four towels (two face towels, one for Nic and one for me). I will probably keep to the blue scheme this time to match the bedding.
I don’t know exactly how many things I have in my wardrobe and honestly I don’t want to know. There is no point of it because what I find to be the right number would be extremely minimalist for some but absolutely maximalist for others. I live in England and Bulgaria – I need a wardrobe that will cover four seasons with a real summer and a real winter. Therefore I will always have more things than a minimalist in Hawaii for example. The feeling of minimalism comes from within us and not from comparing to others. What our heart considers right, is right.
This time I won’t refuse help with:
Sustainable fashion labels
*Soon I will post about Marie Kondo.