How to detox your wardrobe in 2020 — and beyond

Ahh, clothes. Threads. Garms. Apparel. Whatever you call them, and whether you consider yourself a fashion enthusiast or not, what we wear is an integral part of our everyday lives (well, nudist's excepted).  

You see, our relationship with fashion is a complicated one. On the one hand, our outfits are an outlet for self-expression; from proudly signalling who we are to the world to a cosy comfort blanket for when we’re not feeling our best (or just bloated — thank you, oversized t-shirt dresses). 

At the same time, fashion brand’s thrive off making us want more and buy more. Day in and day out we’re bombarded with messages to shop, shop, shop, from glossy ads in magazines to celebrities sharing their latest sponsored #ootd. Thanks to social media in particular, we’re forever scrolling, browsing and adding to cart, usually purchasing out of a subconscious desire to feel or look better, rather than buying when we need. 

To make things worse, the fashion industry thrives off pace, and it’s now faster than ever. Not too long ago, it used to work on a basis of four seasons a year, but now there can be up to a whopping 52 micro seasons a year (yep, that’s one a week) with new drops arriving in stores or online almost every day.

Back in 'the old days,' aka our parents and grandparents time, fashion moved slower. They’d invest in a few pieces, wear them, care for them and pass them down. Today, we often don't want to be caught wearing the same outfit twice. Well, when you can purchase a new dress from Forever21 or H&M for the same price as a Starbucks latte, why would we need to? 

The result? We’ve become a generation overwhelmed by clutter, not just physically but mentally too. All this, yet research shows we still only wear 10% of our wardrobes! Throw in fashion’s impact on people and the planet and it’s clear we’ve gotten ourselves into quite a pickle.

Now, this mess isn’t necessarily our fault, reader. It’s crystal clear the fashion industry needs a massive overhaul from the top down in how it operates, both morally and ethically. What we can control, though, is our own shopping habits and becoming more conscious of what we let into our lives — and it starts right at home in our own wardrobes. Here’s how:

Step 1: Get rid of temptation.

Think about what your buying triggers are and remove them, stat. That may mean unsubscribing from the emails of fast-fashion brands who spam your inbox with sales (use this handy tool) or unfollowing influencers that are continually peddling wares and paid posts on instagram. 

Even changes in our mood make us more prone to impulse shopping (hands up if you’ve ever felt an increasing need for retail therapy when you're stressed or anxious? Yep, us too.) Getting to know your psychological triggers and making changes will help you avoid buying unnecessarily. 

Ethical fashion detoxing your wardrobe Sex and the City style

2. Have a date with...your wardrobe.

Pour yourself a glass of vino (or whatever else you fancy), haul everything out of your closet and have a good try on session. 

Revisit and rediscover the pieces you haven't worn for ages (could they be worn again?) or the pieces that you’ve bought but feel awkward to wear. Too often we’ve decided to buy a piece that is just ‘ok’ in order to feel like we haven’t come away from a shopping trip empty handed, only to realise upon getting them home that it needs adjusting, the fabric feels itchy or uncomfortable or it was just an emotional (or perhaps PMS-induced) ‘impulse’ buy. 

There's a few quick and easy categories you could sort them by: 

1) Stuff to keep

2) Stuff to keep but needs altering or mending

3) Stuff to donate or recycle

Doing this exercise really makes you take stock of everything you own (that's an awful lot of stuff, isn't it?) and confront your own shopping habits. If you feel you really need some help to get it done, rope in some gal pals or family members for moral support and make an evening of it. 

3. Remove responsibly.

Once you’ve successfully completed step 2 and have a pile of items ready for removal, it’s time to choose your methods. Instead of just making a bee-line for your local charity shops, which are often already drowning under piles unwanted clothes, consider the following: 

— Do you have a friend they would look amazing on? One (wo)man's trash is likely another (wo)man's treasure!

— Could they be donated to a different organisation in your local area, such as an organisation supporting women in need, or reintegrating back into the workforce?

— If they're nice enough and in good enough condition (and you can bare them sitting around in your wardrobe for a little bit longer) you could resell them on sites like Carousell or Refash (if you’re in Singapore) Ebay or Depop (if you’re in the UK). You can even rent your wardrobe now thanks to apps like Closet Share, By Rotation or HURR Collective. A little extra $$$ never hurt anybody.

4. Could you swap, donate or resell?

If you've exhausted all of the above, call around to charities to see what type of donations they need before visiting. You could also reach out to swapping organisations or resale platforms, who may need extra inventory. You could even get together with friends and hold a collective clothes swap or second-hand sale! 

Giving your wardrobe a good cull likes this has two major knock-on effects: a) you don't feel like you have nothing to wear because you can actually see everything you own which b) makes it easier to buy less stuff. Win-win!

Remember: a closet detox doesn't mean never shopping again, but when you do we guarantee you'll be more thoughtful and intentional (or research sustainable alternatives!) before you swipe or hit 'add to cart'. Even just resolving to ask yourself 'do I really need it?' could help you avoid future wardrobe blunders and fashion waste. Now that’s a resolution worth making — and keeping. 


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