Every day at Pure Barre, the instructor tells us to get deeper in our stretch, or lower in thigh work, than we did the day before; sometimes just an inch is all it takes (but man, that inch is brutal!!). When you push yourself a little more, to do a little better, you will grow.
And that is all we can do, just a little better. It takes 10,000 hours of doing something before you become an “expert” at it; we all have to start somewhere. One step at a time, and each day we get closer to our goals and better at what we’re trying to “do.”
I have been fighting HARD against that all my life. I wanted to be the best piano player as soon as I started, hating to practice. I move quickly, and get frustrated when “life” doesn’t keep up. I am also easily overwhelmed by analysis paralysis, trying to do and be THE BEST when I get an idea in my head, or am on a mission, only to hit a wall when I (inevitably) realize that I am human, and I can’t do EVERYTHING ALL AT ONCE, or be “the best”.
There is NO SUCH THING AS PERFECT.
It’s a hard pill to swallow though, and has been a tough lesson learned. But you may have seen me repeat over and over again here in my Minimal Closet posts, and elsewhere: baby steps. The first step to having a better, more sustainable wardrobe, a closet that reflects your personal values about the world and the people/animals you share it with, is simply being more conscious of what and why you buy.
That’s it. Be aware. Arm yourself with knowledge. Choose to heed it and do ultimately what you think is RIGHT, or maybe not that day, instead choosing to make another choice if it works for you the moment. Either way, any time you make a decision, aim to make a mindful one.
Challenge yourself to make a better decision, and then don’t look back. Own that decision.
As a personal example, it’s important to me to purchase organic cotton now as much as possible, and I try to do so even if that means the item is NOT produced in the US. I decided that I wanted to replace the underwear I’ve been purging lately with organic cotton, and placed an order recently at Neiman Marcus that included three pairs of organic cotton undies and one “conventional” nylon/spandex pair that is made in the US. I made that choice consciously because I really wanted to try the brand and the style, and was willing to make that tradeoff.
So in that situation, maybe I didn’t make the VERY BEST decision I could have with regard to my position on organic cotton and the environmental impact of conventional cotton and/or synthetic materials, but at least I made it knew it was the “second-best” decision, and now own it completely. Better is better than nothing.
In the past, I would have derided myself for not sticking guns blazing to my core beliefs, but that hasn’t helped me up until now. In fact, it always made things worse.
Another very important issue for me is using/wearing leather and eating meat. I have been a vegetarian and a vegan off and on for most of my life, and in general, I lean heavily towards vegan under most circumstances, because I’m just really not a fan of eating animals for ethical reasons. BUT, I do love a nice slice of pork belly, or a grass-fed hamburger. And I have tried, but I just cannot quit leather. So I compromise. Oftentimes, I look the other way (Sam Harris talked at length about why we do this on a recent podcast) and just eat it. But most of the time, I restrict my meat-eating to what I purchase at Whole Foods based on the highest “animal welfare” rating I can get.
I used to feel guilty if I ate any meat at all that was not local, grass-fed, or raised organically/cage-free, but I have let go of that recently, choosing instead to do the best I can, be aware, own my decision, and just move on. That has worked for me better than self-flagellation ever did…
So, now, I try to follow the same logic with leather and other animal fibers like wool or cashmere, and do the best I can to get what I would consider to be more “ethical” leather, and then, if I can’t, and make the purchase anyway, at least I’m aware of what I did, and that I made the “second-best” decision, perhaps hoping to do better next time.
This is how I make all my decisions now, more mindfully, and with intention. I am fully present when I buy something, or eat something, so that I understand and accept the consequences of my actions, and that has made all the difference in my life and in my closet.
I no longer binge shop, and then feel hungover when I get home. And now that I’m giving myself some leeway to make the wrong decisions (still conscious, but wrong…) and not feel guilty about them, I am more accepting and loving of myself, which then leads me to WANT to make even better decisions, such as they are. Funny how that works, isn’t it??
So, if you aren’t ready to check out completely, still considering yourself a consumer, but want to be a more conscious one, what can you do? There is no PERFECT. Literally every decision you make, and every product you buy will have some impact, no matter how small. Our only option is to try and mitigate that and make better buying decisions going forward. Baby steps:
Made in the US
If you want to start somewhere, perhaps start buying more products made in the US. It’s not an ultimate solution, and has its problems (only one part of a garment need be finished in the US to be considered “made in the US”), but it is something, especially if you live in the US (lowers transportation costs, well-entrenched worker’s rights).
Artisan, Locally made
Next, maybe you try to buy directly from producers/artists local to you? Go to farmer’s markets, seek out designers on etsy or visit local boutiques, and buy items that are made by people in your community.
This is truly one of the most important things you can do as you choose to add new things to your wardrobe: buy more organic cotton, hemp, linen and natural fibers. (I will write much more on why this is so important, and what to look for)
Buy second hand
If you’re willing to, thrifting and buying second-hand at consignment shops is a great way to buy “new” without having as large an impact. You extend the life of a garment, possibly keeping it out of a landfill, and chances are if an item of clothing or a bag has made it that far, it’s of relatively higher quality and will continue to wear well for even longer.
Use what you already have
Even if you are like me, and appreciate new things, there are probably quite a few things you already have in your wardrobe you can work with. I keep all of my clothes out where I can see them (I don’t store things away seasonally), so I always know what I’m working with at any given time; I can see what I have enough of, and where my holes are. If you’re tired of certain pieces, examine why – maybe all they need is a hem or to be taken in a little? Or a dye job? Be realistic and honest with yourself about why you want to buy something new, or add something secondhand, but new-to-you to your wardrobe. Is it because you truly need the piece? or is there a more emotional reason?
Whatever your values & goals are for your life and your wardrobe, keep them in mind, and use them as a beacon, a guiding light, but realize you will get nowhere if you do not take the first step. It will not be perfect, but it will be better.
If you’re interested in becoming a more conscious shopper and getting your closet under control, but need a little push, I’m available to help 🙂 Please take a look at my Conscious Closet Consulting services at Grechen Reiter!