Zero Waste Financial Freedom: CLOTHING

Photo by  Peter Hershey  on  Unsplash

Photo by Peter Hershey on Unsplash

Take it from someone who knows the apparel industry very well: clothing manufacturing is one of the most wasteful and environmentally damaging industries in the world.  Not only is there waste in the actual manufacturing process, from water to textiles to energy consumption, the retail environment is set up to make consumers churn through clothing at an astounding rate.  In the world of cheap fast fashion, walking into any store makes you feel as if the clothes on your back are no longer socially relevant, and that you must spend money immediately in order to be “on-trend” (an expression I’ve grown to despise).  Distancing yourself from the need to buy more stuff is going to help you tremendously on your way to financial freedom.


The hot, in-the-moment trends we often feel compelled to buy are usually the ones that are quickest to disappear and become “irrelevant” once again, which is why chasing fashion trends is a never-ending cycle.  Think about the clothes that you’ve owned for a really long time.  They probably don’t adhere to a trend that was quick to come and go; they are probably classic pieces, like a pair of jeans with the perfect wash that fit just how you like them, or a jacket that’s cut in a way that flatters your figure perfectly and goes great with your favorite sneakers.  I find that my favorites transcend all the fast fashion trends, and I end up loving them (and keeping them) for a very long time. 


Think also about what percentage of your wardrobe you actually wear in a given month.  We all have clothes that sit somewhere in our closets, forgotten and gathering dust.  We hang on to them, telling ourselves we’ll wear them at some point, when the occasion is right, but we never do.  They sit there, longing for a body to bring them to life.  Think about the money you’d have saved if you never bought them in the first place, and think about the joy you’ll give to someone else when you take them to the charity shop and clear out some space in your closet (and your head).


There’s no rule that says your favorite pieces have to be bought new, and in fact it’s very possible to find them second-hand.  People cast off perfectly good clothes all the time, and you will likely find that someone else’s trash is your treasure.  You’ll also save a lot of money buying an item pre-loved than buying it new. 


The world of disposable commodities in which we live has made us forget that we have the ability to extend the life of our clothing by repairing it.  Often when something gets a hole or a stain, we toss it in the charity donation bin.  By putting a little effort into caring for our clothes, we can wear them to the point that they are truly worn out, rather than spending money to replace them.  You can learn how to repair seams, mend holes, remove tough stains; you can get your shoes re-soled, your watch band replaced, and the handle of your leather handbag repaired.  You’ll find great satisfaction in getting more life out of the things you already own, rather than chucking them out and buying new ones.


I can’t tell you how much money I’ve saved (it’s a lot) since I stopped dry-cleaning my clothes and switched to steaming and hand-washing them instead.  I no longer have to wait three days for my clean clothes to come back, and I have the peace of mind that no harsh chemicals were used in the process.  This was one of the first ways I started to save money by going zero waste, and also one of the easiest.


This goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: your clothing will last a lot longer if you take care of it.  This means treating a stain as soon as it happens, repairing holes before they grow so much they’re un-repairable, putting on stockings carefully, washing lingerie properly, hanging your clothes to dry instead of tumble-drying them, and folding them and putting them away neatly when they’re not being used.  With a little bit of effort, you can keep your things looking great for a long time, avoid spending all your money replacing them before they’re truly worn out.