The average Dutch person owns 173 pieces of clothing, according to research of HvA (CREATE-IT applied research), MODINT, Saxion, Circle Economy, Sympany and MVO Nederland. That number includes shoes, socks, underwear and accessories such as scarfs. When I read the number I thought “That’s a lot, or isn’t it? How many do I own?”
I started counting and reached 156 items. That’s a bit below average, but still way too much in my opinion. And, to be honest, I counted two weeks after my first big wardrobe clean out.
A smaller wardrobe
My desire to minimalize my wardrobe actually dates back to the summer of 2017, when me and my hubbie returned from our holiday in Spain. We wanted to travel light and both only took hand luggage (yes, I know, flying is NOT good for your ecological footprint, so that is definitely something I still have to work on, but that’s not what this particular blog post is about). Eventhough we traveled light, upon our return I realized I only used half of the clothing I carried. If I could manage with such a little amount of clothes during the holidays, why not pursue a downsized wardrobe throughout the year?
What’s the big deal about fashion and your ecological footprint?
The fashion industry is the second most polluting industry (after big oil). After watching the documentary “True Cost” I was shocked by the true scope of the impact fashion – and fast fashion in particular – has on our planet.
Did you know it costs on average 6.000 liters of water to make one single pair of jeans? That’s the equivalent of 137 five-minute showers!
Note: it’s difficult to calculate an exact number, different sources quote estimations ranging from 3.700 to 20.000. That is why I used an average.
Keeping in mind this fact and with the voice of the queen of tidying Marie Kondo in the back of my head (she sold more than 7 million books about the subject) I quickly gathered two big bags full of clothing that I was able to donate. By the way, you can also upcycle old clothes and turn them into handkerchiefs, napkins, bags – all things that are still on my list to try. This was a good start of my tidying up project!
Obviously, the goal is to not replace any of the items I tossed out, otherwise this whole project makes no sence. And that’s exactly what I am going to do in 2018 (so far, so good, I would say, considering the year is almost 3 months old). No new shoes, no new trousers, no new coats. Nothing, niente, nada. If a garment piece is completely worn out, I will try to find a new purpose for it, or bring it to the textile recylce container, but I will not replace it.
The biggest challenge of keeping your wardrobe downsized
I am really satisfied with my choice not to buy any new clothes in 2018. It gives me peace of mind. And I am saving a lot of money! Between the 1st of August of 2017 and the 31st of December of 2017 I only bought 1 item – a new winter coat – and received 2 as a gift: a dress for my sister’s wedding and a pair of shoes for Christmas. A satisfying number in my opinion, if you take into account that Dutch people on average buy 46 new garment pieces each year.
So, what’s the big challenge, if I am so satisfied with my choice? It’s my environment. Really. For me, it’s super easy to walk through a shopping street without feeling the need to enter a fashion store to buy something new. Because I know that happy feeling won’t last longer than a couple of hours. After that, the new shirt probably will make it’s way to the bottom of my pile of clothes, where it will be picked out once a year. No, the most difficult are the responses from people that are close to me. I was drinking tea with some friends and when I told them about my resolution, they looked at me as if I’d gone crazy. And my mother gave me a gift card for a shoe store for my birthday.
The decision to minimalize and to try to reduce my ecological footprint is one that makes me really happy. However, I understand I can’t just impose my way of living on others. That’s not my intention at all. I hope that by writing this blog and by entering into conversations with people, I can inspire others to make a change too. The last thing I want is to be a pain-in-the-ass.
I explained to my friends why I made this decision. I pointed out how much water is needed for one pair of jeans. They were just as shocked as I was when I found out. A week later one of them send me a message she decided not to buy that pair of trousers. I gave my mother a big hug to thank her for the birthday present, and I am sure that, once my current shoes are completely worn out, I’ll find a beautiful new pair to replace them. By the way, my mother also bought me organic soap and the book Doughnut Economics of Kate Raworth. Because I was nagging about that book since last year. Hmm, on a second thought, it might work to be a pain in the ass sometimes.