Welcome to Tales From The Thrift Shop, a place I've created to share my journey to living purposefully. It includes a whole lot of thrifting, a little bit of lipstick, and some amazing brands that are good for you and the environment.
Ah, straw. Whether it’s made into bags or worn as hats, straw is one summer trend that isn’t going away any time soon. Thankfully, all great trends come back again, which means that you can skip the fast fashion and hit the thrift store to find yourself the trend. But when you do, it will likely not be in pristine condition. Secondhand shopping means sometimes looking at items with a little imagination. Maybe there’s a little snag in the brim of the hat or an ugly accessory wrapped around the top. There are plenty of ways to fix the brim of a thrifted straw hat with items that you already have at home. You’ll just need a little bit of time and patience to get the look that you saw on Instagram.
My straw hat came to me by surprise. I wasn’t necessarily looking for one when I entered the thrift shop that day, but I’ve been eyeing up anything straw when I pass it by lately. I tossed it into my cart, grabbed a few other items, and went over to the fitting rooms. As soon as I put on the hat, I knew it was meant to be. There was pretty much a big golden halo and the *AHH* church sound effects going off in the background. Then I turned around and the person behind me was clearly not seeing what I saw when I looked in the mirror.
I couldn’t blame her, to be honest. While the hat did fit on my head well, it had glue marks from something that had been ripped off of the band. It was also curled up around the outside. Your average thrifter might have tossed this to the side and tried again. But I could see the potential of the straw hat from the moment that I put it on my head. It was a no-brainer for me — especially since the price tag read $1.99 and it was half off day. SCORE.
The next step was to take my new straw hat home and get it looking as good in real life as it did in my head. My first concern was to sanitize it. While I generally don’t mind buying hats a thrift store, I still take them home and make sure they’re as sanitized as possible before I wear them. Thankfully, this was easy, since it was a straw hat. The next concern was cleaning the glue off the band and seeing if I could get the edges of the hat to sit flat, instead of curling upward. Here’s a simple, step-by-step of everything I did to fix my thrifted straw hat.
Clean the straw hat.
Before I did anything, I sprayed my newly thrifted straw hat with Castile soap. I am a big fan of using this spray mixture on thrifted items. My personal recipe is very non-technical. I squirt a few squirts of Castile soap into a spray bottle and fill the rest with water. After spraying the hat and letting it sit for about ten minutes, I wipe it off with a rag. Then I spray it down again with some white vinegar, wipe it off, and it’s good to go.
The Castile soap mixture also worked to get the glue off of the band of my hat. This was a nice little surprise to me and made my job that much easier. The Castile soap isn’t just antibacterial, but it helps visually clean off anything from the hat too.
Iron the brim.
I really hope that you didn’t just read the heading and not dive into this part because it’s not exactly that easy. You can’t just put the iron on the brim. That might burn the hat or make it stick to the iron. Since I didn’t want to ruin my straw hat, I was really careful.
I turned my iron on the medium setting, set a towel over the top of my straw hat brim, and ironed it that way. Honestly, I probably could have put it on the high setting, but I didn’t want to ruin it. The straw hat went from curled brim to flat as a pancake in just minutes. It stayed that way since, too.
It’s truly that easy, my friends. When it comes to thrifting, sometimes a little imagination and a quick DIY go a long way.
I have been thrifting pretty regularly for about two years now. I’ve gone through many phases during that time. There was the throw-it-all-in-the-cart phase, where I would toss in every single thing that I *might* like. There was also the spend-half-an-hour-in-the-fitting-room phase, which was the most annoying to other shoppers. Oh, and who could forget the homewares-only phase, which left me with 72 mugs and no place to put them. Now, I am on the buy-only-what-I-really-need phase, which is my personal favorite of all of them. I’ve gotten a clear focus on what my personal style is and now I’m on to the search for all natural fabrics — linen, cotton, and silk.
Why natural fabrics, you ask? Well, to put it simply, synthetic fabrics are harmful to you and bad for the planet. That’s the short explanation. But to dig deeper, you need to know a little more about synthetic vs. natural fabrics. Natural fibers are created by animal, vegetable, or mineral sources. Synthetic fibers are man-made textiles that are made entirely of chemicals. You can probably guess from reading their definitions why one might be deemed “better” than the other.
Of course, no fabric is completely perfect. There are ups and downs to just about everything in the fashion world, and ultimately what you wear and buy is a personal decision. Fashion, in general, is personal. What you choose to wear on your body may differ from someone else. Personally, I like to stick with natural fabrics for a few reasons; 1) They feel better on my body and 2) They create no chemical or microfibre runoff when in the laundry.
I’ve thrifted so much that I can pretty much tell what an item is made out of when I touch it. I love to walk through the aisles and push the hangers from one side to another to feel the fabrics. While I don’t go through every single item in the store, I can easily push through the colors — mainly grays, whites, olive greens, and anything striped — and styles that I like. But I didn’t start out with having the sixth sense for fabrics. I started searching for natural fabrics by reading the labels.
Reading labels is the number one way to learn about fabrics.
I know, I know. Reading labels takes time. But if you’re committed to knowing what’s on your body, it’s worth it to take the time to read. Think about it this way: you wouldn’t buy a new product in the grocery store without checking the ingredients, right? The same goes for your clothing. Your skin is your biggest organ, and what you put on it matters. Your skin will absorb what sits on it. If that is chemicals, dyes, and pesticides, then that’s what you’re absorbing. That’s true no matter how many times you wash it.
Of course, even natural fabrics have their downfalls. Like I mentioned before, fashion is personal and so is the decision of what you buy. Personally, I will always stick with natural fabrics. Here’s the low-down on my top three favorite fabrics to shop at the thrift shop, so you can make your mind up about what to buy too.
Before we get all technical about what linen is, let me gush about my love of the fabrics for a little bit. Now that summer’s here, I am all about that linen life. First of all, it’s breathable. I absolutely hate sweating, and there’s nothing worse than wearing a fabric that makes you even hotter in the summertime. This lightweight fabric keeps you cool at all times.
Secondly, I really love that it wrinkles. I love fabrics that look lived in, because, let’s be honest, that’s what clothing is for. I don’t want to walk around in a fresh-pressed, stuffy outfit all day. Instead, I want people to know that I love and live in the clothing that I wear. It’s the ultimate sign of comfort.
Now let’s get into the technical reasons to love linen. The fabric is made from flax plants, and every single part of the plant is used. It’s extremely versatile, is stronger when wet, and doesn’t absorb bacteria. Pretty much the only downside to linen, besides that it wrinkles, is that it’s pricey. This is because linen takes longer to manually produce than other fabrics. Thankfully, it’s super affordable at the thrift shop.
Nothing beats the feel of cotton. Well, except maybe organic cotton. This fabric is a staple for a reason. It wears well, is comfortable, and last a super long time. On top of being light and breathable, it’s also completely natural.
Cotton, as you might know, is a plant. It’s completely natural, but there are plenty of downsides. Cotton is extremely water intensive. It can take up to 700 gallons of water to make a single t-shirt. The plant is also often genetically modified, which can be harmful to the plant and the farmers growing it. This is why it’s great to shop for cotton at the thrift store, instead of buying new. Let’s make the most out of the cotton that’s already out there before buying new.
Ah, silk. Is there anything more satisfying than slipping on this smooth, delicate fabric? Rhetorical question. It’s expensive feel, and, well, expensive too. Unless, of course, you get it from the thrift shop. Silk is a fabric that’s been around forever. Seriously, it was first observed in 27th century BCE, when a silkworm cocoon fell into her cup of tea and began to unravel. Come on, that’s incredible.
One of the biggest and most obvious downsides to silk is that it’s made by silkworms. That means that it’s not vegan. Unfortunately, the silkworms die once they are done making the fabric. They are also domesticated to create silk until then. At the end of the day, it’s a personal decision to buy or not buy silk.
There are — and will always be — ups and downs to all fabrics. But, by far, the most ethical choice of them all is to shop secondhand. Using what is already made is always the best way to go. You know, besides not buying anything at all. The more you thrift, the more you will find what fabrics are your favorites. It takes time and awareness to figure out what fits your lifestyle. Do your research, read your labels, and get excited about learning about new fabrics.
Once in a blue moon, there are buzz words that float around online. “Minimalism” and “vintage” are just a few that come to mind. You know, words that you hear everywhere but still don’t exactly know what they mean. “Timeless” is one of those words. It’s kind of the same as classic, but not and seems to represent that you’ll have the item forever without ever getting sick of it. But there’s one thing about “timeless” pieces of clothing that you might not realize — the meaning is different for everyone.
Online and print publications love to tell people all about timeless clothing items. A quick Google search for “timeless” clothing items will bring you over 72 million pages. Items talked about including the striped t-shirt, trench coat, white button down, and blazer. I don’t know about you, but there two items on that list that are not in my closet and I haven’t needed either of them. Not to mention that none of the online publications have the exact same list. Other items included things like basic cardigans and even got as specific as dark-wash, boot-cut jeans. If someone followed this list, they’d end up with a ton of different items and no cohesive style at all.
The official definition is timeless is, “not affected by the passage of time or the change in fashion.”
The problem with pairing the definition with fashion is that it becomes relative. Someone might love a striped t-shirt and never get rid of it. Another person might hate stripes and never want to wear them. Personally, the timeless items in my closet are my striped t-shirt that I pair with everything, striped dress that I wear during all four seasons, and my denim jacket that I’ve had forever. For you, it might be the perfect fitting pair of jeans or sweater that goes with everything. Or maybe it’s the perfectly patterned tee that you absolutely love.
It’s important to remember that a “timeless” clothing item is different for everyone. The word “timeless” is not synonymous with “plain” or “minimalist.” Your stylist is anything that you want to be, which means that the items that stick with you the longest might not always be plain and boring. Maybe you’re someone who loves colored and the rainbow-striped tee is your go-to item forever.
Not sure what your timeless items are? Here are five ways to know when you’ve found a timeless item:
1. It’s good quality.
No matter what your timeless item looks like, it will always be good quality. Think about it this way: you can’t have an item forever if it’s not made to last. I’m not saying that you will never get a rip or tear in it, but you also don’t want the fabric to wear out on you over the years.
2. You see yourself in the item.
You’ll know you have a timeless item when you put it on and look in the mirror. You’ll just feel like yourself in it. Maybe you notice how good your eyes look or nice your hair is. You are comfortable putting it on. So comfortable that you want to wear it every single day or with tons of different outfits. The key to a timeless item is comfort. And notice that it has nothing to do with how it looks since that will change from person to person.
3. You can imagine wearing it with other items in your closet.
The key to a timeless item is the ability to match with other items that you love. Now, it doesn’t have to match EVERY item in your closet, but it will make a handful of the items that you already own even better. It could be the perfect white button up that can be worn under or over anything. It could also be the bright pink sweater that you love combining with colors of different seasons. There’s no wrong or right way to do it, as long as it works for you.
4. It fits you right.
A timeless item will fit you just right. It’s as simple as that. It won’t be the shirt that’s doesn’t quite tuck into some pants but is a little too cropped with others. it will be the one that fits your body correctly, so you can do more with it. The key to a timeless item is having flexibility, so you’ll want it to fit just right and not just look good with some items.
5. You love it more and more as you wear it.
Some of the best items are the ones you love more and more with time. It gets comfier as you wear it or you get excited to wear it in new ways. Heck, you might even know that it’s timeless just by getting excited as you carry it around the store. You’ll find yourself reaching for it throughout the week and getting excited to wear it. The excitement doesn’t fade, even though you’ve had it for a while or wear it a lot.
Finding a timeless item is something that you feel. After reading this, you might even see more clearly the timeless clothing items that you already have in your closet. Just remember that just because an online publication tells you that your timeless items should be plain doesn’t meant that they have to be. Find what works best for you and stick to it. After all, there’s no wrong way to have a personal style.
Building a sustainable lifestyle is not about Instagram likes. It’s not about showing off eco-friendly clothing or having the perfect bulk mason jar pantry. And it’s definitely not about having it together all the time. it’s about being open to knowing the truth. To let yourself be pissed off about what’s going on around you and channel that rage into change. It’s about the daily choices that we make, moment by moment. The most important top and, in my opinion, the only way to build a sustainable lifestyle is to know why you’re doing it.
It’s easy for a sustainable lifestyle to look showy. There’s trendy and, let’s be honest, stupidly pricey zero-waste kits out there, beautifully curated minimalist homes going around on Instagram, and high-end sustainable outfit circulating. Don’t get me wrong, there is an appeal to having nice things. But that’s not what living sustainably is all about.
The key to living a sustainable lifestyle is to know why you’re doing it.
None of the flashy items or gorgeous homes or expensive outfits matter. It matter that you have a big enough “why” to keep you kn your sustainable journey. When your house is messy and you’re wearing your favorite, worn-out t-shirt, there needs to be a reason that you so what you do. A reason to grab the reusable bag before you leave the house or skip the coffee while you’re out because you forgot a reusable cup or utter the words “no straw, please.” If you don’t have a “why,” a reason for making the daily life choices that you do, then all of it will seem like a burden. But if you know your “why” and truly believe it, then everything will magically get easier.
And it really is quite magical. There have been studies shown that people that believe their “why” are more committed and more likely to stick to their goals. There are TedTalks and books on the topic. Heck, pretty much every online course has a section about know why you’re there or who you are. This is true even in daily life.
May your why starts with going vegan to save the animals or help the planet. Maybe it’s going plastic-free because you’re sick of seeing plastic take over the beaches. Maybe it’s just remembering to bring a reusable bag with you. Or maybe you’re just outraged after seeing a report about global warming. No one’s journey is the same. For me, it started with a love for thrifting and slowly took over all aspects of my life. Why? Because I kept daring to learn more.
There’s one thing that stays the same in everyone’s sustainable journey — learning.
Once you know things, you can never un-know them. It’s really that simple. If you take the time to read the report, watch the documentary, talk to a friend, you cannot ever say that you don’t know again. When you gain info about the world around you, it’s up to you to react. You can decide when or if you’d like to help. You can make your won sustainable living rules. From there on out, you will have your why. If you believe it enough, everything you do in the future to help the planet will suddenly get easier.
Not sure where to start? You’re in luck. If you haven’t quite found you “why” yet, it’s easier than ever to get the information. There are tons of documentaries, reports, news articles, and entire blogs devoted to whatever topic lights you up. Here are some of the resources that sparked my interest and made my “why” stronger than ever.
This should come as no surprise. I’ve talked about this documentary a lot in my past posts, and for a reason. The documentary, which is available on Netflix, gives the story of Rana Plaza and the thousands of people that lost their lives for fast fashion. It also covers organic cotton farming, the lives of garment workers, and how fas fashion affects the planet as well.
This documentary was my ah-ha moment. I can even remember the exact moment. It was a late summer night, underneath my covers, with the glow of Netflix illuminating the room that I knew that my life would never be the same. I could no longer unknow what I watched. This changed the way I live my life to this day.
This book changed the way I see food. Not just for the animals, but also for the planet and my own health. It goes through family vs. factory farming, the ethical factors of, well, eating animals, and gives so much insight into how the planet if affected by slaughterhouses.
After I read this book, the way I ate completely changed. I didn’t immediately go vegan or even vegetarian, but I shop completely differently. Food is a personal journey, and I could spend an entire blog post describing why I eat what I eat, but it’s not worth it. My main point is to read this book — whether you’re a vegan, vegetarian, or a meat-eater — because you’ll learn a whole lot about the world around you.
If you’ve read my post on this free online class, you’ll know how much it changed me. I learned about the supply chain, but, more importantly for me, about synthetic versus natural fibers. I jumped into the course by discovering that one of my favorite, ethically made dresses was terrible for the planet. Yes, really. It was eye-opening and changed the way that I shop, the fabrics that I buy, and how I wash them.
The great thing about learning is that there is no right or wrong way to do it. Maybe it’s an Instagram post that you stumble upon one day or an entire course that you take. Whatever it is, just do it. Seek out the information. Participate in Dressember this year, listen to podcasts, follow new people on Instagram. Find your why.
Building a sustainable closet or lifestyle in general can be intimidating. It takes changes in habit, new lifestyle choices, and a true passion for the life that you want to live. Changing any habit is tough, but it’s not impossible. Of course, it won’t happen overnight. But a simple step in the right direction can be as easy as detoxing your Instagram feed. Surrounding yourself with like-minded people is one of the best things you can do for your personal sustainable journey, and all it takes is a few “unfollows” and some added “follows.”
Let’s just be honest, it is not always possible to surround yourself with people who believe the same things as you in real life. I learned that the hard way. While I did have friends that loved thrifting and making better choices for the environment, it was exhausting to try to explain every little life choice to some family and friends. There are some things that are worth explaining, like Rana Plaza or simple clothing washing tips. Then there are topics that I’ve researched in depth for a while that are just too much to lay on someone right away. Bottom line: in real life, I can’t be surrounded by people that are supportive and make empowering choices all the time. But I can be online.
Detoxing my social media was one of the best things that I did for my sustainable journey. The task is simple, free, and totally empowering. It’s nearly impossible to change your life when you’re scrolling through Instagram and looking at bloggers buying new shoes, sweaters, and skirts every day. Or people from high school that you no longer have anything in common with. If you’re looking for permission to delete these people from your online life and follow who you really, truly want to, this is it.
Like I mentioned before, detoxing an Instagram feed is one of the many ways to start or dive deeper into your sustainable lifestyle journey. It also happened to be the most impactful for me. There is no right or wrong way to detox your feed, but here are three simple steps to start your Instagram detox that really worked for me.
1. Slowly unfollow people that only buy fast fashion.
That blogger that’s always promoting her “super affordable” fast fashion finds? Unfollow. The friend you had in high school that spent more time at the mall than class? Gone from your feed. The people that you knew in college, but don’t have anything in common with anymore? Feed be gone. It’s that simple.
This was a big step for me. Of course, I always want to support fellow blogs that I love and friends who love fashion. But ultimately I decided that it was not helping me to see new items promoted every single day on my feed. Instead of going through my friend list and deleting everyone in one fell swoop, I waited until they popped up on my feed. If it was something that wasn’t inspiring, I’d click their profile, decide if they’re worth having on my feed, and then hit “unfollow” if they weren’t. I still do this little trick today.
Of course, I’m not saying that you have to get rid of everyone that isn’t living a sustainable life. This is your journey, and there are no rules. But you are what you constantly see, read, and think. The less time you spend looking at and being subconsciously influenced by, the easier your personal sustainability journey will be.
2. Getting rid of brands that aren’t inspiring.
Just about everyone follows some sort of brand of celebrity on Instagram. But it’s worth it to ask yourself, what are they adding to your feed? Brands and celebrities are often promoting every single thing they do. That’s a whole lot of marketing in your face and on your feed. Is the message that they’re promoting in line with your values? Do you genuinely love reading and seeing the content? These are all personal decisions that you can answer for yourself.
Of course, there are some brands and celebrities that will be in-line with your personal values. You don’t have to unfollow everyone. These are simply just suggestions to curate the feed that’s right for you. People always talk about curating photos on their own grid. But we need to think of out feed as being curated as well. You can make the rules for what you want to see. It’s also worth it to remember that most brands and celebrities have public profiles, so deleting them from the feed doesn’t mean that you’ll never be able to see that content.
3. Find people to follow that inspire you.
Like I mentioned before, it was nearly impossible to surround myself with people in real life who have the same personal values as I do. It was much easier to do it online. Although it took some time and a few down-the-rabbit-hole moments, I have found a community online that I can comment back and forth with and get excited to see their content every day. Some of the people I love to follow are @the_spines, @petraalexandra, @thegreenedition, and @kate.eskuri. Not all of them have the same content as me or as each other, but I genuinely get excited when I see their posts pop up on my feed. That’s what Instagram is all about.
You can do the exact same thing with brands. I love to follow brands that I’ve bought from and even the ones that I’d love to buy someday, especially if they have an incredible message. I follow brands that don’t push me to buy “right now” but ones that are genuinely inspiring.
Now it’s time to curate your own feed. Think about the people and brands that you truly enjoying seeing on your timeline. You don’t have to follow people just because it’s your cousin or best friend’s bridesmaid or anyone for that matter. This is your personal feed to get inspired by. Think about it as your own personal vision board. It’s time that Instagram be a place of inspiring messages and positivity — and it can be if you make it that way.
When I first started building my sustainable closet, I didn’t actually know that I was building one. I knew that I loved to thrift and saving money was great. It just so happened that I found out about saving clothing from the landfill around the same time, which made me amp up my habit and stock my closet with only secondhand finds. It wasn’t until I downsized my closet, focused on fabrics, and decided to stock up on items that I knew would last that I decided to invest in some sustainable items. And, yes, let’s just get this out of the way now, sustainable clothing is expensive.
Sustainably made items are priced higher for a few reasons, but that topic is for a different post. (If you’d like to dive into the price, this Live Plantedpodcast episode is a great start!) My point is that jumping into building a sustainable wardrobe is intimidating. It’s a huge task that can seem daunting. But there are three ways to start building your sustainable closet that are completely free. You won’t have to buy any fancy brands or throw everything out and start over. Because the truth is that building a sustainable wardrobe is all about focussing on what you already have.
Sustainable fashion is a spectrum. There is no one way to build a sustainable closet, and not everyone does it the same. It’s important to know that before you start. There’s also not a check-list of how to be sustainable. You don’t get a new colored belt for reaching a new level or receive an award. Building a sustainable closet is a personal journey. It’s about keeping yourself accountable and staying true to your beliefs, while also helping the world and the people in it in the process.
1. Know Your “Why”
You will not succeed at building a sustainable closet if you don’t know why you’re doing it. That goes for just about anything in life. You need to know your reason why and you need to believe it. We all have our own reasons for going sustainable. Whether it’s to help the world, contribute to living wages around the world, or just to save money, there is no wrong or right reason. You just have to really, truly believe it.
If you’re unsure of where to start, the documentaries The True Cost (available free on Netflix), River Blue (buy a digital download), and Sweatshop: Deadly Fashion (available on YouTube). These are great films to watch and even rewatch no matter where you are on your sustainable journey to remember why you’re on this journey.
I find that keeping a fashion journal of brands I love, outfits that have become my favorite, and my little findings that I want to keep in mind. If you’d like to see how I do my fashion journal, I can definitely do a post about it.
2. Stop Buying (Just For A Few Weeks)
One of the best ways to go sustainable is to stop buying clothing for a period of time. I recommend starting with a week, or trying for two if you’re feeling ambitious. This gives you a chance to see what you’re thinking about on a daily basis. You might be surprised at how much you think about fashion. But the opposite of buying fast fashion doesn’t have to be buying from slow fashion brands. It can be simply taking a break from buying anything at all.
I’m not saying that you should stop shopping forever. This is just a way to take a little break from buying any items and see what you think about on a daily basis. By slowing down your spending and shopping habits, you can focus on what you already own. It gives you a chance to see what your personal style is and what your closet could really benefit from when you’re ready to start buying again.
3. Wear What You Own
Contrary to what Instagram makes you believe, you don’t need a closet full of slow fashion brands to call yourself sustainable. You just need to get the most wear out of what you already have in your closet. It’s hard to appreciate the clothing that you have when you’re constantly adding new items to your closet. Take a step back, look at what you have, and celebrate the items that you own. Heck, you never know what you’ll find in the back of your closet.
This is also a great way to nail down your personal style and take inventory of what you have. You bought the items in your closet for a reason. The best way to figure out your personal style is to look at what you already own and work your way from there. You can also downsize the closet that you own, donate items that you know you’re not wearing, and have a better grip of your closet if you do decide to add to it. You know, instead of just buying more hangers and shoving items in.
4. Change The Way You Wash
This tip is so simple that you might not even realize it’s a way to go sustainable. But by stepping back, reading labels and changing your washing habits, you can truly become more sustainable without spending any money at all.
First of all, read your labels. Taking the extra time to look at how your items need to be washed will prevent them from shrinking, tearing, or stretching out. You won’t have to buy new items, because you’re taking care of the items that you already have.
Wash on cold. It’s so simple and so effective. Lower temperatures protect the dyes and prevent items from shrinking. While we’re here, you can also try skipping the dryer by air-drying some of your clothing. It saves energy and helps your clothing hold up better.
Lastly, wash your clothing in like-colors. You know, darks with darks, lights with lights, colors with colors. This helps the colors keep their hue. You won’t have to worry about your whites turning pink or getting rid of clothing because they get beat up in the wash.
5. Borrow From A Friend
Okay, so you stopped shopping, looked at what you own, and are still feeling the need to shop. Instead of shopping at the store, shop your friend’s closet. Borrow isn’t just sustainable, it’s really freaking fun. This is the perfect opportunity to “try on” a style that you’ve been dying to. And it comes at no cost to you or the environment.
Let’s be honest, your friend will probably be flattered that you asked. Plus it’ll be fun to get together and explore each other’s closet. Just make sure that you’re taking care of the item(s) that you borrow and give them back in a timely manner. If you end up liking the item enough, you can start looking for it at the thrift store or invest in the item from a sustainable brand.
There is no right or wrong way to go sustainable. This is your journey, so do what’s right for you and make your own rules. The only wrong way to go sustainable is to do nothing at all.
It’s springtime. The flowers are blooming, the days are longer, and you’re probably eager to swap out all those sweaters in your closet for something a little more springy. In other words, it’s closet cleanout time. Whether you’re going full-Kondo or just doing some tweaks here and there, all of those unwanted items have to go somewhere. As good as you might feel about doing all of your spring cleaning, it’s important not to forget about where all of your unwanted clothing items are going after they’ve left your house.
Cleaning out a closet can be a long, daunting task as it is. I get that. But just throwing unwanted clothing items into a bag and sending it to the thrift store just simply isn’t working anymore. Part of this, as you might already know, comes from the big boom of Kondo-ing a house. After Marie Kondo made her Netflix debut, people started donating items in extremely high quantities. (It’s the same problem that happened after the book came out, I’d like to add.) Kondo does not give practical recycling or disposal tips, which I personally see as one of the downfalls to how she approaches home cleanouts.
Secondhand shops cannot physically handle the number of donations that they are getting. That means that some of those items will most likely go to the landfill. According to TIME, some thrift stores even had to restrict donations after the Marie Kondo show came out on Netflix. Storage is already a problem in many thrift stores, and some places even have to pay to dispose of the items that it cannot sell. That defeats the purpose of donating items.
But even if you’re not into Kondo-ing your home, it’s nice to find new, local alternatives to where your clothing is going. Believe it or not, there are plenty of non-profits that are putting specific clothing items to good use. Yes, it takes a little bit longer to separate dress clothes from loungewear and workout gear from denim, but it really does pay off. If your main goal is to keep item out of the landfills, then the below alternatives for donating are for you.
Dress For Success has 153 offices in 29 countries, so there’s likely one around you ready to take your unwanted women’s workwear off your hands. It’s a not-for-profit organization that has a goal to empower women to achieve economic independence by providing them the support, resources, and clothing that they need. You can donate your gently used professional attire, give a monetary donation, or volunteer directly. This is a great way to give your unwanted blazers, dresses, and trousers a new, meaningful purpose.
This non-profit organization teams up with local community organizations to collection workplace clothing for men and women that have recently been released from jail. They take everything from blazers and blouses to suits and shoes to give to people who need a little help getting back on their feet after being incarcerated. There’s a national directory on the website for the places you can donate. Each person must sign up and qualify to receive assistance, and the organization also offers tattoo removal and job training.
Career Gear is a non-profit based in New York City and takes specifically men’s workwear. The organization gives to low-income men who need help finding a job. It also offers job and life skill training. If you’re not in the area, you can mail in your gently used casual and formal menswear. The organization also takes accessories like watches, hats, and bags as well. The only catch is that it will cost you to send them in. As an added bonus, Career Gear has a green initiative on the website as well.
Any gently used workout clothing or accessories can be sent to RunningWorks. It’s a non-profit that provides career development, mental health counseling, group therapy and help with housing for the homeless. To donate, email email@example.com to get an address to send to.
If your workout gear is from Patagonia, the brand will take it right back when you’re done with it. You can ship the clothing to Patagonia Service Center at 8550 White Fir Street in Reno, NV (89523-8939). You can also take it to participating Patagonia stores near you. The brand will make sure that the items get recycled and stay out of the landfill.
Soles4Souls takes unwanted shoes and gives them a purpose again. The non-profit creates sustainable jobs, repairing the worn out shoes that get donated, and give them to those in need. You can donate your shoes at your local DSW or Zappos.
Nike will take any old tennis shoes for its’ Reuse-A-Shoe Program. The program takes old tennis shoes and turns them into high performance surfaces around the country. You can donate any brand of tennis shoe to any Nike store.
Cotton Incorporated came up with this program that turns unwanted denim into insulation for Habitat For Humanity homes. The program accepts any colored denim in ay condition. You can ship them directyl to the brand, using the mailing labels on the website. Or you can take them to any Madewell, Rag & Bone or American Eagle store to get 10% off a pair of jeans while you’re there.
Yes, even your bras can be donated somewhere other than the thrift store. This non-profit takes used bras and give them to survivors of human trafficking to sell in their country. Women can start a safe business and earn living wages. You can donate to Free The Girls at 1552 Pioneer Trail Chesterton, IN (46304). The website also has drop-off sites throughout the country.
When you buy a bra from Harper Wilde, the brand will send you a return label to send back all of your used bras. The brand collects them to turn them into new bras. Of course, there’s the catch that you have to buy one first.
These recycling steps take a little more effort than just throwing them into a bag, but it is worth it. When we can get items directly to where they can be reused, they have a better chance of staying out of the landfill. Of course, there are plenty of local places to take your clothing as well. There are always clothing banks or even just friends in the area who are us for a swap. That’s the magic of clothing.
I used to have a knack for justifying owning a lot of clothes. I love experimenting with it, styling outfits in different ways, and hunting for new items at the thrift store. So when it came to putting it all away, I’d get creative with storage or buy those thin hangers so I could fit more. It wasn’t until we moved into our apartment that I realized that owning a lot of clothes was hurting my style instead of helping. Although I had tons of different options, none of them seemed to go together. Even worse, none of them were really me.
Downsizing was the best thing that ever happened to my closet. I found that the fewer items in my closet, the easier it is to get dressed in the morning. Each time that I downsize my closet, my job gets easier and easier. That’s why I’ve decided to join Petra Alexandra’s May 30×30 Challenge.
For one month, I’ll be wearing only 30 items. (Get it? 30×30.) The items include tops, bottoms, shoes, and jackets. Everything that I’ll need for the month, not including loungewear. Basically, it’s a seasonal capsule collection of items that all go together in different ways.
The rules of the 30×30 Challenge are simple. You wear only the 30 closen items for the entire month. You can re-wear any items as often as you’d like and trade out things early on if you notice that they’re not working. The idea isn’t to limit yourself with items. It’s to show you how versatile the items are in your closet. You can experiment with different layering and re-wear items in new ways.
I had a really fun time putting together my 30 items. I started with my staple work pants, jeans, and a handful of tops that I find myself wearing all the time. From there, I added in some color and shoes to go with it all. When I had all of my favorites laid out, I had about four more spots to fill with newer items that I have been wanted to add to my spring collection. Honestly, I just went with the items that I really love, will work for different occasions, and are really, truly me.
This is my very first time doing a clothing challenge like this. I have no idea if all of these items will work well together or what outfits I will put together for the entire month. But experimenting with clothing is the only way to figure out what works for you. At the end of the day, it’s only clothes. Who knows — maybe I’ll fall in love with my smallest wardrobe yet.
You are what you surround yourself with. You’ve probably heard it before, but, trust me, it’s true. When I first started my sustainable fashion journey, I didn’t have anyone in my life to talk about it with. Yes, I had a few close editors and a great friend group that loved to hear about my journey. But there was no one that completely got what or why I was so committed to this new purposeful fashion journey. There was no one to swap sustainable shopping tips with or grab a coffee and talk about our latest thrift finds.
Then I found sustainable living podcasts.
Podcasts truly changed my sustainable lifestyle journey. With them, I had the ability to surround myself with advice. I could go out, grab a coffee, and listen to like-minded people. Or drive to work every morning with a virtual passenger telling me all about mindful shopping, the progress of organic cotton, and more.
Now, I’m not saying that I didn’t talk to my friends and family about all things sustainable. If you know me even just a little bit, you know that I love to talk about my passions. (I’m not saying that I get drunk and talk about fair wages for garment workers… but okay, yes, that happens sometimes.) It’s just really nice — especially at the beginning of going sustainable — to have something to open your mind up to new topics.
I listen to a lot of different podcasts, but there are three that I instantly listen to as soon as I see that there are new episode. Green Dreamer, Conscious Chatter, and Wardrobe Crisis are my go-to podcasts. I love the spirit of them, the positive advice, and the incredible interviewing skills. Because, let’s just be honest, there’s nothing worse than listening to terrible interviews. All of the hosts are knowledgeable but approachable, serious but proactive, and don’t pretend that they’re perfect. Each woman is on their own sustainable journey, just like you are.
No matter where you’re at in your sustainable journey, these podcasts will be the support and encouragement that you need. By all means, surrounding yourself with people IRL is incredible. But if you’re not there yet, or you’re just looking to learn a little more, then these podcasts are for you.
This podcast covers everything from fashion to farming to mindfulness with one main theme — sustainability. Most of the podcasts are done interview-style by Kaméa Shane, who is an incredible interviewer.
Kaméa summarizes what you’re hearing while you’re hearing it so that you don’t get lost along the way. I absolutely love how diverse the topics are and knowing that I’m going to learn something new with every single episode. Also, stay until the very end, because the five rapid-fire questions at the end are just as great as the rest of the episode.
While this podcast does have a heavy focus on fashion, it’s got a little bit of everything else sprinkled in-between. Each brand spotlight goes way beyond the product or service and into a bigger conversation about the world. The podcast takes an interview style but has a little storytelling and action steps that we can actually take to make a difference.
Kestrel picks thoughtful topics every single week. From her own personal sustainable clothing brand to the flower industry to publishing living wages, this podcast will have you binging the entire 150+ episodes and waiting every week for more. You’ll become obsessed in the best possible way and feel inspired to do more in your own personal life and your community.
This is the heaviest of the three, conversation wise. The conversations are deep and the experts are wise, but, no matter where you’re at in your sustainable journey, you’ll be happy to be a fly on the wall in the conversations. Even as someone who has been into sustainable fashion for a few years, I still am surprised by the guests and brands that she highlights. Topics include everything from the green carpet, upcycling, and politics and fashion.
Clare Press has written two books — Wardrobe Crisis and Rise & Resists — about, well, fashion and activism. I haven’t read them yet, but you better believe that they’re on my to-read list. She talks in an informal conversation style and adds in the most lovely commentary. Like mentioned before, it’s a little bit more fast pace than the others, but it’s worth the listen.
I love to listen to these three podcasts on my way to work, running errands, and even at the gym. What I love the most about them is that they inspire and uplift the listener, even though the topics may seem heavy. Surrounding yourself with positive conversation in just one click? It doesn’t get better than that.
The last time that I was at the thrift store, I saw people from all walks of life. There were mothers with small children, husbands sitting in the for-sale couches while their wives shopped, and teens running through the aisles looking for the best over-sized sweaters. There were conversations starting with, “do you think this will work?” and “OMG how cute is this!” over by the fitting rooms. Some people were looking for work attire, others for day-to-day clothing. Everyone had a reason for being at the thrift store that day, but they all had different levels of privilege.
Everyone gets into thrifting for their own personal reason. For me, it was to save money, and then eventually that turned into trying to save clothing from the landfill. But others might be thrifting because it is their only choice. When you step through the thrift shop doors to see what you can find, you’re not alone — you’re bringing your privilege with you.
Privilege by definition is a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group. If you thrift to find cute clothing, to save a few bucks, or basically any other reason beside you absolutely have to, you are bringing privilege with you. It’s important that we keep this in mind when running through the aisles looking for new clothing or poking a little fun at outdated items that you might find on the shelves.
Of course, thrifting is for everyone. That’s what makes it so much fun! Anyone can walk in, save some clothing from the landfill, and find some seriously great deals. It’s just important that you realize that not everyone in the thrift shop with you is there for the same reason and be mindful of everyone’s reason as your filling up your cart.
Thankfully, there are three super simple ways to leave your privilege at the thrift shop door. Of course, not everyone’s privilege will be the same. It’s more of a spectrum than a do-I-or-don’t-I answer and will fluctuate throughout your life. But these three ways will help you use the privilege that you have to everyone’s advantage.
1. Remember that you don’t have to buy everything that you like.
Just because you see a bunch of items that you like doesn’t mean that you have to buy it. It’s as simple as that. If you’re shopping with privilege, you’ll likely be able to fill up a cart and buy a handful of items that you find. That doesn’t mean that you need those items in your life though.
The best way to combat this privilege is to think hard about why you want to bring an item home with you. Will it make your life better? Do you have a place for it? Will it get a good amount of use? Or will it be better off with someone else? Asking yourself these questions will help you decide if buying the item is meant to be or if it’s not the right match.
2. Be mindful of other shoppers.
By all means, get excited when you’re at the thrift store. Skip down all the aisles and get excited to be there. Just remember that there are other people shopping who might not be as excited as you. We are all on different paths to the thrift store. Some people are there because they can’t afford anything else. Others are there to resell or find a great hidden gem.
3. Bring a bag of donations when you go to the thrift shop.
Some people use the thrift shop as a place to dump their unwanted items. But if you’re really looking to drop the privilege, you’ll bring something with you when you come to shop more than just once or twice a year. And if you really want to make a difference, you’ll bring some items that people actually want. Not just your out-of-date sweaters or t-shirts that you’ve already worn to death.
I heard the motto, “give what you can, take what you need” earlier this year, and it really resonated with me. It’s not about the charity aspect. It’s about keeping the thrift cycle alive and not just taking from it. Especially, if you don’t necessarily need those items.
The thrift shop is a place to experiment with style and find incredible deals. Most importantly, it’s a place to have fun while doing it. The truth it that almost everyone is shopping with privilege. When we can drop it at the door, be mindful of why we’re there, and take only the items that we truly need, the thrift shop experiences is more enjoyable for everyone involved.