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Last month I moved and it was painful.

Not only because moving is an overwhelming job (especially with a newborn, right before Christmas) but also because it forced me to confront the shameful reality of how many clothes I have.

Way more than I need. Especially now that I work from home, have an infant that barfs on everything I wear anyways, and am at a stage of my life where I can admit that some trends were just a bit too “fun” for me (ie. the acid wash jean vest that I held on to for approximately ten years and wore once. With a belt.).

Because of this I have decided that my January project, in an effort to live more meaningfully and thoughtfully, would be a meaningful closet cleanse.

I did some research on steps I could take to feel better about my wardrobe and here’s what I came up with. I hope this information helps you too.

1. Cleanse and donate somewhere responsible.

In the past, I would routinely go through my closet, dump all the clothes I didn’t wear anymore into a garbage bag, and then drop it in my closest clothing bin without even considering who I was donating to and why.

I’ve since decided this process is almost as bad as the mindless shopping that brought me to my current problem in the first place.

After doing some research I feel better choosing a donation program that supports a cause I believe in and is managed transparently.

Here are a couple options I would recommend to you.

Dress for Success

Why I like this option:

This is an international not-for-profit (with offices in Regina and Saskatoon) that supports women by providing them with professional clothing and other supports to help them be successful in work and life. What a great cause, especially at this critical time for the women’s movement.

How to donate:

They accept clothing donations that are appropriate for the workplace: suits, skirts and tops, accessories such as shoes, boots, purses, scarves, and jewelry, and outer wear such as coats, hats, gloves, bags. It’s also important that the donations are still in current style and in good condition (they discard donations with stains, rips, tears, pilling, etc.)

Side note: I’m actually collecting clothing donations for them until the end of February! Ladies: feel free to drop your suitable donations off with me before then and I will wash, sort, drop them for you.  

Your local shelter/homeless outreach program

Why I like this option:

Unlike the donation bin programs, with these programs donations generally go directly to these who need them without a middle man.

For example, Regina’s Soul’s Harbour Rescue Mission collects donations right at their clothing store, where it then gets sorted by volunteers and given away to people in need. A related note about Soul’s Harbour – my husband and I have volunteered in their soup kitchen before and they are a wonderful organization with very hard working, dedicated staff.

How to donate:

For Soul’s Harbour, just drop your donation off at 1836 Halifax Street (in the Gerri Carroll Hope Centre) Monday to Friday from 12:30-3:30PM.

Clothing donation bins

Community Living

Why I like this option:

They really are convenient (donations bins seem to be everywhere) and the vast majority of proceeds from clothing donations support the Saskatchewan Association For Community Living, an organization that helps people with intellectual disabilities live ordinary and fulfilled day-to-day lives and become included and valued members of society. (Community Living retains some of the proceeds to cover their operational costs.)

Locations of their drop-off bins

Diabetes Canada

Why I like this option:

Simply because diabetes is becoming everyone’s issue. You probably know someone affected by the disease (the Canadian government estimates that approximately two million Canadians have it) and it is a rising cost for Canadians (the government also estimates the disease costs us up to $9 billion a year). Therefore, by donating your clothes to Diabetes Canada, you can feel like you are somehow helping a major, growing national problem.

Locations of their drop-off bins

Note: Both Community Living and Diabetes Canada partner with Value Village to run their clothing donation programs. The respective organizations collect donations and sell them to Value Village, which pays for them by the volume.

Value Village has been criticized recently for not being as “charitable” as it alleges to be and for overstating how much of its proceeds from direct donations are passed on to the charities it supports. If you’re interested, here’s an interesting article about this. This is why I wouldn’t recommend donating directly to Value Village and instead donating via the organizations mentioned above. But make up your own mind about what’s important to you!

Salvation Army

Why I like this option:

Salvation Army operates its own thrift stores and proceeds from these thrift stores go towards supporting the organization’s great programs, including homeless shelters, women’s shelters, disaster relief, camps, etc.

I also like that this clothing donation program has an emphasis on recycling. According to the organization, in 2016/17 their donation programs helped divert 73,339,300 lbs. of used clothing, household items, and furniture from local landfills. Their recycling efforts also encompass clothing and materials that can’t be re-sold – these items are sold and re-used for other purposes overseas.

Note: Some critics will argue that selling non-usable clothing to developing countries is worse than just throwing it out because it undermines local, community businesses and because of the environmental impact of shipping items abroad. Again, I encourage you to make up your own mind about these issues before donating here.

Locations of their drop-off bins

2. Pick a uniform and invest in responsible, high-quality clothing.

I recently watched a Ted Talk about how to create a ten-item wardrobe.

Ten items may be a bit of a stretch but the basic premise was do-able: invest in a strategic collection of fewer, high-quality items rather than many low-quality items.

What are high-quality items? Items that will not only survive wear and tear but will also survive fashion trends. Many of the brands we know and love these days are criticized for perpetrating “fast fashion,” which means they turn our lower quality clothing with faster turnover, a process designed to get you to buy more, more often. Some brands that are most notorious for this are Zara, Forever21, H&M and Joe Fresh.

Avoiding fast fashion means you will be paying more for high quality items. In order to help you make sound investments, decide on an “uniform” look, or an outfit/colour scheme you feel comfortable in and that suits your body and style. This will limit your criteria for shopping and will keep your wardrobe tight.

I found this practice useful. My “uniform” these days is skinny jeans or leggings and a long top (that can be barfed on several times a day by my aforementioned adorable child). Not only did this idea help me decide which clothes to donate, it also makes getting dressed in the morning about a 30-second affair. Win/win!

3. Don’t shop emotionally.

Maybe the most important part of this whole cleanse for me was understanding the fundamental reasons my wardrobe got to be so big in the first place.

I’m a rational person and generally a conservative consumer. So why do I buy more clothes than I need?

Because for me (and for more people) shopping is emotional. Anyone who’s taken an entry level marketing class knows that we shop to fulfill basic human needs, encompassing everything from desires for belonging, self-esteem, youth and self-actualization (here’s a little refresher, courtesy of Wikipedia.) For example, my thought process ten years ago might have been something like this: If I buy this jean vest, I will become younger, more attractive, confident, carefree, etc. I bought the dream.

Just understanding the emotional underlay of why/how we shop was important for me. If I know I’m going to shop emotionally I can put the proper limits in place. Now I have a rule that I will only go shopping when I need an item that fits into my uniform and I will only buy that one item.

Note: I also have a personal rule against buying anything from online ads – they are expertly designed to prey on your most vulnerable impulses!

***

In conclusion: I am not purporting to be anywhere near where I should be in terms of only having what I need. However, taking these small steps has helped me to live a bit more thoughtfully and meaningfully.

I hope this information helps you too!

Delaney

 

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