I’ve often heard people (typically women) say, “I don’t have a thing to wear!” Some even consider it a “clothing crisis”.
But, far from really having nothing to wear, we open our closets and the big challenge is usually deciding what to wear because we have so much. Often, we forget how fortunate we are to have those choices, feeling that we’re entitled to own closets and dressers full of clothing, shoes and accessories.
Most of our world’s inhabitants wouldn’t even begin to understand what we’re talking about.
The average US consumer bought 60% more clothing in 2014 than in 2000, but kept each garment only half as long. (McKinsey & Company)
In 2016, over 700 billion dollars were spent on clothing purchases in the United States. By 2020 the estimate is over 800 billion dollars. (Planet Retail) That’s a lot of zeroes!
Americans are the largest consumers of clothing in the world. In 2016, the annual US “clothing consumption” (what was purchased) averaged out to every American buying more than five garments each month. (The Statistics Portal, 2017) Keep in mind that’s the average, including many who can’t afford anything new, so the big purchasers are buying much more.
“Fast Fashion” is the term for clothing that is made inexpensively, feeds the whims of a “hungry for what’s hot” mentality, and is fundamentally “disposable”. There’s a lot of that.
The Real Clothing Crisis
In less than two decades, the amount of clothing that was thrown away has doubled from 7 million to 14 million tons. Only 15% of post-consumer textile waste (PCTW)—mostly clothing—is recycled. That means that the other 85% ends up in landfills! (United States Environmental Protection Agency)
And, even the majority of clothing that is “donated” ends up in a dump or incinerator. The Council for Textile Recycling asserts that only 20% of clothing donated to charities actually gets resold.
Most of those “dumped” items are made of synthetic fibers—nylon, acrylic, polyester—which are essentially plastic that will take hundreds of years to biodegrade. The “better” stuff—like linen, silk and cotton—if buried in landfills behaves like food waste, creating greenhouse gas methane! (Newsweek, 2016)
The average person in the USA throws away 70 pounds of clothing and other textiles each year! (Council for Textile Recycling, 2018)
What To Do With What We Know
The “Pareto Principle” or “80-20 Rule” holds that most people use 20% of what they own, 80% of the time. I’ve seen this borne out regularly, and when I teach the rule in a class, there are a lot of heads nodding, “yes”.
When you have a lot of possessions (like clothing) you don’t own them, they end up “owning” you. You move them, store them and sift through them. Living only with what you love and really use is a different kind of abundance and one that’s good for our planet.
Questions for Consideration
- When you buy something new to wear, what’s your motivation?
- Is shopping your hobby or “therapy”?
- Does adding to your wardrobe fill a hole somewhere else in your life?
- When you’re “finished” with a piece of clothing, where does it go?
I’m not at all saying that you shouldn’t care about your appearance—we honor life when we take care of ourselves and present ourselves in ways that make us feel good.
I’m not at all saying that you shouldn’t own beautiful things that make you happy—I believe firmly in “love it or use it”.
I’m not at all saying that you shouldn’t have a “personal style”—but that’s not just something you can buy; it’s also an expression of who you are at the core.
The late fashion designer, Cristóbal Balenciaga, said “Elegance is elimination.” Sometimes eliminating things (and not buying more of them) gives us the perfect opportunity for welcoming something else in. Something that’s not tangible. Something like serenity and breathing space.
Intentional Living embraces all aspects of our lives. It’s about how we walk through each day; how we treat each other; how we show respect for our world; how we make choices. Maybe one little decision can have a trickle-up effect. Maybe—with awareness of what’s really important— we can change our world.
©peace full home®/intentional living