Spring Cleaning Challenge
Posted: Apr 04 2016
Now that it's really Spring, those of us who don't curate a capsule wardrobe and fold our socks using the KonMari Method should really start to think about doing a little spring cleaning. Why must we clean in the spring? you might say. Well, you could read about the many possible historical reasons here or just take my word for it that getting rid of old stuff we don't need and decluttering our spaces just feels good. And when birds start chirping and flowers are blooming on our walk to work– which now takes twice as long because of all the pictures we have to take of said blooms to get that perfect shot for Instagram– that feels good too! Why shouldn't these events be intertwined?
Ideally, to do a thorough spring cleaning, we should address our whole living space, but that seems a little overwhelming at the moment. I just want to focus on the closet. Or maybe in your case, the giant mound of clothes covering far too much surface area in your bedroom. It's time to purge. And simplify. The thing is, it's not your fault you have too many clothes. (Well, it sort of is– you bought them.) But fast fashion should take a big part of the blame as well. When the decision process behind whether or not to buy a mostly-cute top has all but been removed due to its price tag of $12, it's no wonder our closets are overflowing with clothes we barely wear. Most of us think it's harmless to buy a floaty crop top here, a bodycon midi skirt there. Who cares if I don't wear it that much? It was less than my lunch!
Well, here's the thing, and my goal is not to bum you out, (but be prepared to be bummed) the fast fashion industry is literally deadly to thousands of its workers. It employs modern-day slavery. Child labor is de rigueur.
If you're a fan of fair wages, consider that for the estimated 40 million people working in the garment industry, it's not uncommon to work 7 days a week, with forced overtime, making $3 a day or less. Meanwhile, the founder of Zara is now the richest man in Europe.
Fashion yourself a good feminist? About 80% of the people behind our clothes are women. Among the things these women have to worry about on a daily basis that you probably don't? Getting fired for getting pregnant; sexual harassment and even rape right in the workplace; fainting because the working conditions are so terrible; getting beaten up by your boss for speaking up about injustice.
Care about the environment? The fashion industry is the number two source of pollution in the WORLD, second only to oil. Behind agriculture, fashion is responsible for the most pollution of the world's clean water. And what's all this for? So that 85% of all our clothing and textiles can end up in a landfill.
So this spring, let's start fresh, by identifying those purchases that in hindsight were not the best idea. Let's go through that assortment of going out tops and keep only the very best. Let's remove the accessories in colors and shapes you can only wear with that *one* outfit. Can't see ever wearing it again? Toss. Haven't worn it in a year? Toss! But what if it has sentimental value? Well, fine, if you wore it on your wedding day. There should be VERY few of these items that you know you won't wear again but just cannot part with... don't go crazy! And just to be clear, when I say "toss," I mean toss into a pile designated for one of the below categories.
What do I do with my stuff?
Hosting a clothing swap can be a great idea as long as you don't use it as an excuse to stock up on more clothes you don't need or dump your old clothes on your friends. They don't need more stuff either! However, if everyone has an idea in mind of items they'd like and would otherwise buy, swapping with friends is a good way to save money and clean out your closet at the same time.
For the clothes you have that no one is going to wear as is, find a fabric recycling center near you. Your clothing could have a thrilling second life as someone's home insulation, cleaning towel, or mop! Or DIY it and cut your stuff up into rags you'll keep for cleaning. Spring cleaning.
You can upcycle your old clothes by tweaking certain elements that you never quite loved. And if you have something you would otherwise wear, but it just needs some fixing, bring it to a tailor!
Companies like Goodwill and Salvation Army are great in principle, but honestly, this should be one of your last resorts. Americans donate about 2 million tons of clothing a year, way too much to be sold in local Goodwills. Most of it heads to textile recycling plants which then sell the clothes in huge bales to markets in extremely poor countries. This practice effectively obliterates the local garment businesses in those countries.
Try to find a local charity or church group looking for donations that will stay within your community. If you're ditching a bunch of work clothes, try Dress for Success. Have prom-worthy dresses? Try Cinderella Project (Google one near you). Fashion Project is another good place to donate, but they're picky about brands.
Is it riddled with holes, covered in blood, or some mysterious unremovable substance? Fine, you can throw it out. (Why did you still have it?)
Here's the point of all of this: begin a fresh start with your clothing and how you think about clothing. Only keep what you love and what you wear regularly.
Fashion is not disposable. Back in the day, you would get your one new dress a year and you would have to physically pick up a needle and thread to mend it if it ripped. Which wasn't likely, because back then, clothes were made to last. Let me repeat: fashion is not disposable. Try to make a commitment to yourself to not treat fashion purchases like you would your morning iced chai latte.
Be a thoughtful consumer and try to only replenish your wardrobe with pieces you love that are made with quality, by people whose basic human rights have not been violated. And don't worry, fashion is still allowed to be fun! Just remember, when you're enjoying the thrill of the fashion hunt, that there are real people behind your clothes.
Wouldn't it feel good to know that when you are spending money, that money is going to a company that cares about its workers more than its bottom line? You wouldn't rather give your hard-earned money to a company that allows things like this to happen regularly in its supply chain, would you?
But ethically-made fashion is too expensive! No, it's fairly priced. No one should have been allowed to sell a dress in the US for $20, but it happened, and now it's trained us to expect those prices. In the past 30 years, apparel prices have actually been dropping, in spite of inflation, and counter to every other category. We need to actively change our habits and way of thinking to correct this dangerous trend, or human labor will continue to be devalued.
I know it's hard changing our ways. Believe me, I used to be America's #1 Shopper (that's what my mom called me at least) and I LOVED bargains. The cheaper the better. The more items the better. That was until I finally researched the sweatshops I had always sort of known about but never wanted to think about.
Here's the good news: I want to make it easier for you to say goodbye to that mound of old clothes taking up space and welcome in just one new ethically made dress that you are guaranteed to get some serious mileage (and compliments!) in.
I'll send you $100 to use on lafillecolette.com if you share your spring cleaning experience on Instagram or Facebook.
- You must post a picture. This can be anything related to your spring cleaning process.
- You must include a caption that briefly explains what you are doing with the clothes or accessories and why.
- You must tag @lafillecolette and use #SpringCleaningwithColette in your caption.
- You must post before midnight (EST) on 4/22/16.
- I'll direct message you a unique coupon code which will be good for $100 off any dress on lafillecolette.com and will expire at midnight on 4/25/16. If I don't send the code right away, email me at email@example.com.
- If you have a private account, email me screenshots of your post and profile/following at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll email you your promo code.
- Your $100 credit can only be used towards a dress from the Fall/Winter 2015 collection. Inventory is limited and not all sizes are available. Out of stock products will not come back in stock.
Thanks so much for reading! I hope that you're starting to think about your wardrobe in a new light and are on your way to being a more conscious consumer!