I love fashion and the idea of dressing, well just as much as anyone; heck, who am I kidding, I probably love it more than the average person. Over the years, I amassed an embarrassingly large number of clothes, many of which never even saw the light of day—some bought impulsively during a sale I couldn’t resist, others bought with the hope of eventually wearing for a special occasion, only to find those special occasions never come by as often as imagined. As a result, a lot of stuff has ended up cluttering my closet, my life, and my mind.
We live in a world that offers us an abundance of choices, and it is very easy to fall into the trap of constantly consuming, and yet, never reaching a point where you feel fully satisfied with what or how much you have. Not only that, our private choices have public consequences.
Fashion is the second most polluting industry on the planet, and few brands consciously adhere to ethical practises in the making of clothes. In short, mindless consumption is neither good for the mind nor the planet.
As a mindfulness practitioner, I often think about how I can extend a sense of mindfulness or conscious awareness to all areas of my life, not just the time I spend on the yoga or meditation mat in the morning, but to all aspects of my work and my life—how I relate to others, how I parent, how I eat and even how I dress.
Since dressing is an activity I engage in on a daily basis, and therefore, takes up considerable mental and energetic space in my life, it seemed like a good place to begin practising greater consciousness. For me, bringing a sense of mindfulness to my closet has taken on the following aspects.
1. Give Away What I Don’t Need
I began by doing a Marie Kondo style inventory of my closet, and applying the ‘does this spark joy in me’ test to every single piece of clothing I had. The result was 10 bags of clothing that I was ready to completely detach from, though not without a fair amount of resistance. Thoughts of holding onto my dresses to wear when I’m finally able to lose those last stubborn ten pounds, or when the right mood and occasion finally strikes, abounded.
Fortunately, after several hard reality checks, I’ve been able to part with most of my discard pile, and give stuff away to a combination of friends, family, and charitable organisations.
2. Go on a Shopping Fast
At first, I thought I would experiment with only committing to shop from ethical or sustainable brands. This worked well for a while, however despite the self-imposed constraints, I found I was still falling into the trap of acquiring more stuff.
I realised what I really wanted to be able to do is to completely rid myself of the desire of owning more stuff, and instead, begin a healthier process of feeling satisfied with and even loving what I already had. With that in mind, I made a commitment to go on a year-long shopping fast, which meant no new clothes, shoes or accessories for 365 days. (I am almost three months into my fast, and I can honestly say my closet and my mind have never felt lighter.)
3. Get Creative with Repurposing Existing Clothes
The best thing about being on a shopping fast is that it has opened up the floodgates of my creativity in re-using my existing clothes in different ways. Afterall, I still need to satisfy the fashionista in me. With the help of a skillful tailor, I’ve been able to turn a slew of old sarees, for instance, into skirts, jackets, crop-tops and even business suits. Among the many benefits of repurposing your existing clothes is that you get outfits that feel like new, but at a minimal cost to your wallet, and no additional cost to the environment.
4. Engage in Clothes-Swapping
Since there are only so many clothes that one can repurpose, another effective way to bring a freshness or newness to your closet is to engage in clothes swapping with your friends, and to organise a clothes-swapping party. Almost all of us have new or nearly-new outfits that we have outgrown either in taste or in size. What better way to consciously part with an outfit that is simply taking up space in your closet than to trade it for someone else’s outfit that you know you will enjoy wearing more.
The words of Mahatma Gandhi ring more true today than ever before: “The world has enough for everyone’s needs, but not enough for everyone’s greed.” Ever-increasing consumption is filling our landfills, but not our hearts. By bringing greater awareness and mindfulness to how we dress, we have a way of taking our power back from the stuff in our lives, and live in a way that is good for our hearts and kinder to our planet.
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