New Clothes Will NOT Make You Happy

Think for a second: can you remember what your co-workers wore yesterday? Or even the day before that?

I didn’t think so.

So you can imagine that it is very unlikely that they even noticed, let alone remembered what you wore either. Amazing how getting dressed- a task that many of us agonize over daily-  can become inconsequential in a matter of minutes.

What does matter though, is that you felt comfortable and confident in your clothes, not the brand, price tag, or how they rate on the “trendiness” scale.

With that being said, like many Westerners, I’m somewhat obsessed with clothes. Thanks to our lovely system of capitalism and the control exerted over our society by corporations, we have become a culture engrossed with our appearances and social media presence. But, like most consumers, I’ve reached a saturation point where I have too many clothes, and my overflowing closet feels like more of a burden than a boon.

This fact really hit me in April when I was checking in for my flight from Boston Logan Airport and found out (too late), that I was going to have to pay a whopping $90 to lug it the first step in my journey to Europe. All I could to was shake my head and try not to explode with frustration at the realization that I was paying money to carry my possessions around. Why hadn’t I packed lighter and brought fewer clothes!?

Well….clothes, like food, are complicated. We have complex relationships with these material things that we need in order to survive and function in society, and yet, it is far too easy to succumb to the in-your-face advertisements and buy clothes that we don’t need, and food that is both cheap and unhealthy.  We’re tricked into thinking that a new pair of shoes will make us happy, that the trendy blouse will make us attractive, and a flashy suit will make us successful. However, those are downright lies. You will make yourself happy by having fulfilling relationships, you will make yourself attractive by exercising and practicing self-care, and you will become successful through hard-work and determination. The short cuts that the companies sell are pure smoke and mirrors.

In fact, take it from me: when it comes to clothes, less is truly more. I am loving my closet and it is loving me right back now that I’ve given it room to breathe, and have only kept clothes that I actually want to wear, are in good condition, and fit me well.

My mantra now is quality instead of quantity, and I do not buy something unless I 100% need it, love it, and will wear it. Sure, the anticipatory “high” of shopping and buying online is intense, but I guarantee your life will improve if you open up your closet to find only clothes that make you feel your best. Ditch (donate/reuse/mend) the rest!

Here are some of other guidelines that I’ve found helpful:

  • Only buy clothes made from natural fibers: cotton, linen, bamboo, wool, and silk. My favorites are linen, bamboo blends, and (merino) wool.
  • Never purchase clothes made from synthetic materials (polyester, viscose, modal, etc.)  [More to come on this in the next post]
  • Avoid “fast fashion” brands (Forever21, Zara, H&M, etc.) and big corporations (Victoria’s Secret, GAP, Macy’s, etc.), and buy from local, small designers.
  • Buy U.S. made products over foreign-produced.
  • Buy used, second-hand, or consignment unless it’s undergarments/bathing suit.
  • I have to be able to wear it with what I already have in my closet.
  • No impulse shopping! Put it down, leave the store, and take a while to think about it before making the purchase. When I do this, the likelihood that I’ll buy the item drops from 100 to 1.

Be patient with yourself as you work to break your addiction to clothes and consuming. It’s not going to be easy, and you’re not going to be perfect. Most importantly, be mindful and conscious of what you’re buying, and the rest will fall into place.

Additional Resources:

If this is your first foray into cleaning out your closet, and cutting back on buying clothes, check out some links below to get started:

 

In case you’re still not convinced that fewer clothes will make you happier, stay tuned for my next post on the environmental cost of “fast fashion”.

 

The Not-So-Glamorous Impact of Fast-Fashion

Clothes. We can’t exactly live without them.

Nope, I need to go to work and not spend my life at a nudist colony. Darn.

But, we can certainly buy fewer and buy smarter.

Why should I care about clothes, you ask?

Well, for starters when we have too many things that we don’t love, it can cause us stress, decision paralysis, and it causes us to buy things we don’t need. If you think you might have this problem and you’d like some inspiration to go through your clothes once and for all, see my previous post here about Marie Kondo’s life-changing book.

Secondly, clothes are one of the most polluting and high energy/water-consumption items that we purchase on a frequent basis. All made worse by the fact that many of us shop as “a hobby”, a stress-reliever, or addiction; instead of only buying things when we absolutely, positively, can’t live without (i.e., toothpaste, a warm coat, etc.). It’s America, which means that most of us do this.

Third…Read below. I’ve pulled together clothing-related facts that I find both interesting and jaw-dropping.

According to Maxine Bedat’s Ted Talk:

-Consumers have 300% more clothes than they did just a generation ago. That’s like my parents only possessing 20 items of clothing, whereas now I own 60. (Actually, I own 112. Yup, I counted. And this is after I did a serious clean out of my closets. Omigod, I need to get rid of more. Disclaimer: this doesn’t include shoes/accessories).

-The U.S. went from having 95% of its clothes produced domestically to less than 2% being manufactured in the States today (that’s an 80% decrease). One can really see this particular fact come to life on the “Made in” tags of older, vintage clothes versus new ones.

-Polyester is in 50% of all our clothing– and is NON-biodegradable (hint: it’s oil-based); and when these materials are washed, thousands of plastic microfibers end up in the water. And then end up in the fish. That we eat.

Not to mention that plastic-based fibers are not breathable and they retain odors much more than cotton, silk, cashmere, wool, linen, or bamboo. To top it all off, they generally look and feel like the poor quality stand-ins that they are. One reason that “fast-fashion” companies (i.e., H&M, Loft, Zara, A&F, etc.) can sell clothes so cheaply is that most of their items are made out of polyester. Gross.

-Linen, on the other hand, only requires 8% of the energy that is used to manufacture polyester. Natural fibers for the win. Takeaway: DO NOT buy anything with polyester, acrylic, or other synthetic/human-made materials. Trust me on this.

40% of the clothes that the U.S. imports come from China where 75% of the power is generated from coal. Those Chinese-made clothes are dirty and bad for the environment.

One in six people in the world work in some part of the apparel supply chain, with 80% of them being women, and 98% of them not receiving a livable wage. Not to mention that many of them are frequently abused and exploited. If you care about human rights, and especially women and worker rights: Do. Not. Buy. Cheap. Clothes.

So, that leaves us with the big question: where do I buy clothes? Not to fret, I’ve got you covered with my post here.

And no need to throw away perfectly good clothes, learn how to repair them here.

If this got those wheels in your brain churning and your blood pumping with the clothing industry injustices of the world, read through more articles about the topic here:

“We have one eye open and one eye closed”: The Dirty Labor Secrets of Fast Fashion

“Fashion Must Fight the Scourge of Dumped Clothing Clogging Landfills”

“The Clothing Insurrection: It’s Time to Take on the Fashion Supply Chain”

“Is Fast Fashion a Class Issue”

Then, tell me, how many items of clothes do you own?

Must Watch!

If you have some extra hours of free time during this in-between holiday week, be sure to check out my earlier post about “How Big Oil Conquered the World”.

Then, once you’re fired up about it and eager to learn more, watch part two: “Why Big Oil Conquered the World”.

In my opinion, these two videos sum up many of the reasons that I’m choosing to live an anti-corporate lifestyle; that is, I do not want to support or condone their (you’ll find out of whom I speak in the videos) quest for absolute power and control over the world’s natural resources or my personal choices, privacy, or income level. We, as the consumers have the sheer numbers and dollars that can either prop them up even further or bring them crashing down.

Let me know what you think in the comments below.

2 Books That Will Change Your Life

Through my journey on becoming less materialistic and a more mindful consumer, I’ve found two books to be especially powerful, enlightening, and inspiring. I have notice marked improvements in my overall level of happiness, contentment, and stress levels, as a result of putting the lessons of these teachers into practice. I know I’m probably sounding hippie-dippy right now and perhaps you’re even rolling your eyes at this point, but every word of this I have found, in my own experience, to be the truth, and I encourage you to give both books a try and see what happens.

If you’ve already read them, I’d love to hear what you thought, and if you have seen similar results?

The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle

The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck by Mark Manson

 

What is a Corporation?

You may be wondering what a “corporation” actually is, or perhaps, how I define it on my blog; as well as that parameters that I’m going to follow as I embark on my journey of anti-corporate living. I, too, find this act of spelling out what exactly I mean by a “corporation”, to be both informative and necessary; so that I don’t ignorantly defy my own (self-imposed) values and ideals.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “corporation” as:

“1:   a a group of merchants or traders united in a trade guild 
        b the municipal authorities of a town or city
2a body formed and authorized by law to act as a single person although constituted by one or more persons and legally endowed with various rights and duties including the capacity of succession
3an association of employers and employees in a basic industry or of members of a profession organized as an organ of political representation in a corporative state”
Number two most closely aligns with what I think of when I hear the word “corporation”, however, it doesn’t quite capture the colloquial meaning of the word, or what we counter-corporation-ists choose to defy.
Incorporated“, meanwhile, means “1united in one body 2formed into a legal corporation”; now we’re getting closer. But let’s drill down even further: Entrepreneur.com provides a more detailed explanation in the context of incorporating a business which in its simplest forms means filing articles of incorporation with the state in which the company is registered, and the legal meaning: “A form of business operation that declares the business as a separate, legal entity guided by a group of officers known as the board of directors”. As they point out, “A corporate structure is perhaps the most advantageous way to start a business because the corporation exists as a separate entity. In general, a corporation has all the legal rights of an individual, except for the right to vote and certain other limitations”.
Now that the foundation for our shared meaning of the word “corporation” and “incorporated” is established, it is important to make a clear distinction about the type of corporations that I am going to proactively avoid. Indeed, I do not wish to generalize or paint a broad stroke about all businesses that have filed articles of incorporation; declaring them wholly evil or negative, because that would be both ignorant and false. Nor do I plan to avoid all incorporated businesses, since this too would be nearly impossible and unnecessarily difficult. Rather, when I refer to “corporations”, I mean mega-sized corporations that are conglomerates of subsidiaries that span many industries and countries, with billion dollar revenue streams. More importantly, I define them by their goals: those of total market domination, perpetual stock market growth, irreversible environmental damage, and staggering political influence.
For an introduction on some mega corporations, 2016’s list of the top ten largest corporations can be found here and 2017’s list can be found here. As you’ll note, the list largely stayed the same aside from the addition of Berkshire Hathaway to the list for this year. For these companies and their owners/CEOs, it is about ever-expanding resource control and power that comes with the sheer size and level of reach that they have over our daily lives and existence.
Lastly, I’m not going to be naive and expect businesses to not try and increase their profits and market shares because that is the very basis of business and competition; however, the difference lies in the intent and values of companies and corporations, and whether they have ethical business practices. In addition, I believe that it is important to support companies that treat their employees well, engage in responsible resource management, and strive to improve their communities instead of taking advantage of them for their own gain. Therefore, I will not draw a line in the sand and create an arbitrary dollar threshold that separates acceptable companies as those that generate profits less than $X from unacceptable companies that produce profits greater than $X.  Rather, I believe it’s important to make mindful choices about the companies from which you purchase your goods and services. Since spending money is the equivalent to, if not more influential, than casting an actual ballot.
I would love to hear your thoughts and comments on this, so please share below!