Let me set the scene: A Target near you. The clearance racks have been recently restocked. It’s slightly warm for the time of year. Social plans are on the evening’s docket — and it’s pay day.
Enter stage left, a rabid Alissa with heavy pockets & a devilish grin making a bee-line for the closest clothing deals she can find. Seven dollars for a pair of jeans — I would be FOOLISH not to! “Namaste in bed” tee for $3? I mean, how can I even consider living another day without it. And I know I have a pair of flats that same shape, color and style, but this pair has a little kitten heel, and, I mean, HOW cute?! And if I had somehow decided against bringing a piece home with me, I could have FOMO for days.
Hi, my name is Alissa and I am a recovering shopoholic. For the past 11 years, and ashamedly without fully realizing it, I was taken advantage of by the fast fashion industry, I was unapologetically & excessively contributing to the towering landfills of disposed garments, and I was consistently disregarding my budget in the name of fashion. I even started an Instagram to share my fashion choices that I shudder to remember I wanted to call @nothingtowear (Good thing it was taken.)
But I really loved my weekly shopping trips.
It was so fun to walk into work the next morning with a brand new outfit! I felt good — I loved to get compliments & I loved getting to express what I thought was my unique sense of fashion. And I truly don’t know how long I would have kept that up if it weren’t for, melodramatic drum roll please, Marie Kondo.
Marie Kondo changed my life
That’s really an understatement. I’m not kidding — my closet was exploding with fabrics & colors & patterns & shirts I’d worn once & jeans with tags still affixed. I had shoes in an over-the-door rack, shoes lining the floor of my closet, shoes in the coat closet, shoes in the office closet, shoes on the stairs, shoes in my car, shoes in the oven (kidding that time.) I had no personal style. My style was what was on sale. When shopping, I considered three things: Is it cute? Will it fit? Am I “saving” money by buying it?
So when my girl, Marie, said to create a pile with all the clothing you own so you can see the truth that is your wardrobe? I obeyed! And was somehow absolutely astonished.
My Old Wardrobe
My partner, Eli, and our cat, Wednesday, and my pile of clothing in the midst of the KonMari Method.
I spent little-to-no time deciding what “sparked joy,” as Marie would say. I knew I wasn’t in love with more than half of my wardrobe — that’s probably part of the reason I felt so compelled to keep buying so much more than I needed (other part societal influence and pressure?).
That collection of had-been keepers is now nearly gone, as I’ve moved on from focusing on the quantity of pieces in my wardrobe, to the quality of what I had. I’d always been into thrifting and shopping secondhand, but it wasn’t until I tapped into the thrifting community on Instagram that I met the sustainability community on Instagram.
I soon watched “True Cost” on Netflix (highly recommended) and was so horrified to learn that not only were many parts of the world disposing clothing at a higher rate than ever, but that companies were:
Creating garments with ever poorer quality — mostly synthetic materials that can take 200 years to decompose in our landfills. Synthetic fibers like polyester, nylon and acrylic are estimated to make up 60 percent of the world’s clothing.
Continuously selling us clothes 52 weeks a year;
Disrupting ecosystems with their toxic waste;
Contributing to the tons of microplastics found in our oceans that are so harmful for the animals and plants that live there;
What grew from the heartbreak
I was totally Bird Boxed. I couldn’t un-see not only what the world had done — but what I had done. I donated bags upon bags of clothing to Goodwill, saving some pieces to sell and others for the fabric. Within a few short months, I affordably replaced my entire wardrobe with high-quality secondhand pieces: 100% merino wools and silks and linens and organic cottons. I honed in on my true personal style — not the one fast fashion companies tell me is trendy! I created new questions for myself when shopping: Do I LOVE it? Will it last? Does it fit my wardrobe and my personal style?
I now spend so much less time getting ready in the morning. I don’t feel stressed trying to find something to wear, because my goal in creating my capsule wardrobe (which includes about 30 tops, bottoms, pairs of shoes and accessories in total) was to have each top match each bottom, setting me up for endless combinations even from a limited collection.
I’m learning to live more minimally and consciously. I’m learning to take care of my clothing. I’m learning to mend. This mindset is slowly seeping into other facets of my life, and I still feel wasteful in a lot of ways. But this is my journey now and I hope you’ll follow along.