January 2013

4 posts

Avoiding the seasonal clothing trap

A reader emailed asking:

Any suggestions for how to avoid the lure of new clothes that comes with the change of seasons? The emails and catalogs are calling to me…

The idea that we need new clothes for a new season sure is a win for marketers, but something I’ve never understood from a practical point of view. I’ve lived most of my life in the Northeastern United States. Every fall I pack away my warm-weather clothes and unpack my wool and heavy pants. Which means each fall and spring I unpack a whole new wardrobe!

Usually the excitement of seeing a t-shirt or a skirt I haven’t seen in six months (coupled with the warm air) is enough “new” to satisfy me. Especially if I unpack something I’d forgotten I even owned.

But realistically that’s hard. So two concrete suggestions:

1. Allow yourself to purchase one new “seasonal” item to freshen up all your leftovers from previous years. I just did this today, in fact: a lightweight pair of pants for spring that I plan to wear while sitting at an outdoor cafe in Paris with an old friend.

2. Get rid of all those catalogs and emails! Unsubscribe from the emails. Cancel all the catalogs. I use Catalog Choice to make it really easy to cancel catalogs. It lets you track and resubmit requests when somehow you keep getting those same tempting catalogs!

The less stuff I see, the less stuff I want and need. So what works for me is to see less. Best of luck as you fight the temptation to keep buying and buying and buying.

I love the idea of Make it Do. I try to do the same, mostly by reminding myself that buying things does not bring happiness. You wrote that you have a few shirts/pants/etc. I think that's awesome. But how do you address the need for different clothes for various situations? I keep several sets of clothes, from weddings to weekend casual to nights out. I try to buy versatile classics but still - it all adds up, even when pared down! Do you have any suggestions? Thanks! -Megan

I agree, it does add up! I have more clothes for the summer, stored away right now, that includes dresses. I find winter is easier and try to have a few things that work for wedding/nights out and then just everyday. I guess I have more than a few shirts/pants/etc but I find I mostly wear those few items, then have the “dress-up dress” and those rarely used but necessary items. 

If anything I’d suggest trying to get as much use from something as possible, like a nice pair of black wool pants that can be dressed up with a blouse for evening out but worn with a sweater for work or weekend. Not that I do that exactly! :)

Making do with less

I’ve got a pick-up scheduled for next week to donate a bunch of household stuff. I can’t wait to get rid of all kinds of clothes (sweaters I’ve never unboxed this winter!) and old books I haven’t cracked in fifteen years. I’m already feeling the relief I get from having less stuff, and knowing my space isn’t filled with unused items.

Funny thing is that this time last year, I didn’t want to get rid of anything, for fear of needing “it”, whatever it was, and not being able to buy it. So I held onto all kinds of things I would have gotten rid of. A year later I realize I didn’t need any of “it” and I won’t need to buy “it” again. A few sweaters, a few shirts, a few pairs of pants is plenty for me. It’s all I wear and all I need to wear. And I have piles of fabric from which to craft anything else I may want. Plenty of books from the library keep me happily reading, and there are more there if I need them.

In freeing myself from the strict rules of Making Do, I’ve freed myself from unwanted stuff. Hadn’t expected that, what a treat!

Hello 2013

I wish I were posting a “Yay! I did it!” message. But alas somewhere around October, encouraged by a friend’s suggestion to “Just Make It Done!” I more or less gave up on this project. That’s not to say I started buying everything in sight, but I did remove the Rule that had Hung Over Me for the previous nine months. It wasn’t the relief I’d expected, probably because I didn’t go shopping for stuff except for things I kinda needed — like new Gore-Tex pants because I discovered mine from 2004 were no longer water-resistant during a rain storm on a glacier in Wyoming. :(

Mostly I’ve just felt sad about failing at this project in the way I wanted to succeed: in documenting this journey, and in finding it meaningful and profound. While I had tons of posts in my head, I never seemed to have time to write. While I felt it was a good experience, I didn’t wake up this morning transformed. I’ve always valued a less consumer-y, more sustainable, life style. I confirmed it doing this, and ultimately I found some peace following my heart.

But what the heck 2012?! A year that started so wonderfully, skinning into the backcountry of the Tetons on January 1, drove right off a cliff for me in late October. Here in New York City a nanny murdered two young children. Then Sandy hit and we lost power for a week, while others lost everything. An image that continues to haunt me: two young children drowned, swept from their mother’s arms as they fled rising waters. Then the reprieve of Thanksgiving was shattered by the school shootings in Newtown, CT.

A Quaker Open Letter describes what it means to add to the silence of a Quaker meeting:

If you feel moved to contribute after others have spoken, our experience is that it is as well to leave a fair time, and ask yourself whether you will be carrying further what has already been said.

As the mother of two young children, it’s been hard for me to focus on almost anything but just loving my kids these past few months. That doesn’t take money, or stuff, or words with anyone but them. Making Do seems very insignificant indeed.

So this morning I awoke thinking I’ll continue to Make Do as much as possible, and to write about it when there’s something to say. Here’s to a brighter 2013!

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