I have what I think of as a rather American propensity to accumulate “stuff” – particularly clothing, shoes, and beauty products. I like to think that I have a discerning eye and a strong will against the persuasions of advertising, but when I see something beautiful and sustainable, I can easily rationalize how it will add to my eco-chic life. In that moment, though, I easily forget that there’s nothing eco-conscious about owning things I don’t need.
So recently, spurred by a move to a fabulous studio (from a fabulous one bedroom), I purged my life.
From cosmetics to body care to attire and footwear, I had a heart-to-heart with myself and everything I own. How often do I wear these pants? Do they still flatter my figure? Does this eyeshadow color match my maturity? When did this lotion expire?
I trust many of you are familiar with this dialogue. I had it just about every day with the things I encountered throughout my morning routine. You see, that’s the difficulty with owning a lot of stuff. If, like me, you have a closet full of lovely clothes, yet half (or more) you’re never excited to wear, you lose precious time (and enthusiasm) searching for what does excite you, unable to see just how gorgeous and rich your life really is. You cannot see the forest for the trees, as the saying goes. And the things you love the most, you often find yourself “saving” for the right occasion because, well, you have so many other things that aren’t quite as perfect, and if those have a place in your life, too, the better things surely deserve extra special attention, right?
And here is where another dialogue occurred for me. From the inner voice of my wisest, most peaceful and loving self came this insight: “You and everyone else in this world deserve to feel extra special every minute of every day. There is no occasion more special than this one. So keep what makes you feel your most divine and share what doesn’t so that somebody else may find what makes them feel their most divine, too.”
Some 20 boxes and 5 trips to donation sites and consignment stores later, I sit in a spacious studio looking at the most beautiful things I’ve collected over the course of my life. Things I want to treasure for many years more. And the 24 pairs of heels I gave away are being walked in by a woman who feels they perfectly personify the power and beauty she holds within her, a feat they no longer did for me (no pun intended).
On top of that, every item that surrounds me matches my commitment level to a sustainable life – clothes made out of organic fibers, skincare made with essential oils, cosmetics that have never been tested on animals, furniture built from renewable materials.
Having what I need and loving what I have, without the excess, is contentment. And while I still covet a well-constructed jumpsuit or the latest styling tool, I’m patient with myself while I determine if it’s really something I cannot live without.
If you feel like now is as good a time as any to let go of the things that don’t serve you and embrace only the things that really do, here are some suggestions on how to get more by giving up more:
If you haven’t worn or used it in a year, pass it on.
It will find its way to a home where it could be used every week.
If it’s past its expiration date, get rid of it.
Many supplements and vitamins can be composted. Seek out a community-based take-back program for safe disposal of old prescription drugs. For cosmetics and body care, contact the manufacturer to find out if they have a recycling program for expired products. And check out this article about the shelf-life of your beauty products and the reasons why you shouldn’t use them past their expiration date: “Have Your Beauty Products Gone Bad?”
Have a fashion show with your most trusted confidante to let you know what still looks good.
Does the fabric look worn? Does the style make you look 10 years too young? Does the fit still flatter? Come up with criteria in advance, and have fun with it. Think Carrie Bradshaw and her best gal-pals going through her entire closet over a bottle of champagne and some uber-fun 80s music. Who knows – if you get a group to participate, you each may take home some treasures from a friend’s collection. Donate everything else, and feel great about organizing your own little clothing-drive.
When it comes time to repopulate your closet – or your home – consignment stores offer chic, affordable, and sustainable choices. Items that are in really great condition can be sold for cash or credit at many consignment stores like Crossroads Trading Company, Buffalo Exchange, and Plato’s Closet. This terrific article by style blogger and fashionista B. Jones is a great guide for how to make the most out of your consigning experience: “How To Sell: Tutorial.”