Last year, I watched a TED talk by Bea Johnson, the first Zero Waste Hero, and felt truly inspired. She spoke about living more simply and finding happiness through experiences rather than stuff. I was impressed with how she had de-cluttered her life. I felt envious of her beautiful, tidy house and intrigued when she talked about only having 18 items in her wardrobe.
It made a lot of sense. Less stuff means less mess, less tidying, less work and less stress. From an environmental perspective, it speaks to the first of the 5 ‘R’s’, Refuse! We are bombarded with stuff all the time, constantly under pressure to buy more and more things. Marketing people will have us believe that our lives will be complete once we buy this next thing and yet all this stuff is causing incredible damage to our planet. We are quick to buy and quick to throw away and most of what we buy doesn’t decompose, it remains. Our stuff will outlive us all. In fact the term, ‘throw away’ is deceptive. When we get rid of something, it isn’t ‘gone’ it is just ‘somewhere else’. Our desire to consume is unsustainable. We cannot keep trashing our planet. I was astonished to learn recently that 99% of everything that we buy, is thrown away within six months!
Back to the wardrobe situation. I thought I wasn’t doing too badly. I go through my wardrobe quite regularly, purge and donate to charity shops. But last year, my husband and I hit a problem. My husband runs his own company and has his desk in our bedroom, (I know, not ideal). He really needed some more space and the only way to create that space, was to get rid of a wardrobe and he and I would share. I was actually quite excited by the challenge. We set about going through all our things. This time though, we had an objective, a goal, and it really focused us on the task. When we had finished, I was shocked at the mountain of clothes we had both decided we didn’t need. I was still some way off Bea Johnsons 18 pieces, but I had made massive progress. Deciding what to keep, rather than deciding what to donate helped me focus on what I actually needed.
The end result is a small wardrobe containing clothes I actually wear rather than just store. Moreover, now that I have consolidated my wardrobe, I am keen to keep it that way. My whole attitude towards buying clothes has changed. I no longer buy anything on impulse. I am keen to only replace items when necessary. This has meant I have quite happily gone a whole 12 months without buying anything new. Indeed during the last 18 months, I have only purchased two items. In both cases, I chose good quality items that will last. It actually feels great to be free from the constant marketing pressure of ‘this season’s must have dress/shirt/skirt/top…’ that drops through my letterbox or appears on a daily basis in my inbox. I have now unsubscribed to all those companies which has the added benefit of reducing my paper waste. I am happy with my wardrobe and don’t need anyone telling me it lacks that special something or I would be much happier if only I made that one more purchase. In this case, less does really feel like more.