As far as addictions are concerned, mine is both accessible and legal. It is generally socially acceptable, except on moving day when your nearest and dearest may start to feel more vindictive than understanding. You see, books are heavy.
And somehow, the acquisition has outpaced my reading speed. Many have actually worn out their welcome. But books can be hard to get rid of on both emotional and logistical levels.
The sheer amount of books I own is kind of debilitating. I’m having trouble being thoughtful about what to keep, get rid of, and how to get rid of what I don’t want in a responsible manner.
I began by attempting to “digitize my habit” and only purchase books for an e-reader. This resolution has not stuck. For one thing, e-readers work best for fiction novels. Books you read from cover to cover and don’t flip around in or refer to frequently. It is the constant need to recall specific work-related material that has also made borrowing from the library more problematic for me. Though, again, libraries are great for novels as well as seeing if a book is worth buying for my collection.
My preferred genre is non-fiction. The books I refer to frequently are about sustainable living, outdoors, health, zero waste, minimalism, parenting, and environmental science.
In order to tackle the excess, slow the inflow, and respect the treasures, I have adopted a new approach.
My New Approach to Books
Read only one book at a time. Read it through. Act on it after I am done with it (finished or decided against finishing). That is, sell/donate/gift it or put it on the appropriate shelf. I notice there is less drive to purchase books after adopting this habit alone.
Narrow down to three bookshelves: husband’s personal collection (he keeps at his discretion I don’t take from or add to), my personal books (school, work, personal growth), and family favorites (typically fiction and kids’ books).
Utilize the library, especially for kids’ books.
Borrow new novels from the library or purchase for an e-reader. (Libraries also lend e-books and e-audiobooks these days. It is definitely worth checking out!)
Don’t let the book number increase if there is no shelf space, cull to favorites.
For some of you, this may seem like a ridiculously lenient approach, but realize that this is for a family of 5, we’re living a stationary lifestyle, and the practice of minimalism is new to me having come from a hoarding history. (Full confession: I currently have 6 bookshelves in this room alone, the kids have books in their rooms, and I have a ton of unorganized, un-shelved books in boxes.)
How About You?
If you’re an avid reader like me, what do you do to slow the inflow and respect your treasures? Let us know in the comments below!
I hate wearing black and white. I know, I know, this is sort of minimalist blaspheme, but I can’t help it. I just don’t feel like myself when I am wearing them.
Obviously, this is about personal taste and there is nothing wrong with a black and white capsule, but if you’ve felt restricted and would like to add color and pattern to your wardrobe, read on.
When I first started designing my own capsule wardrobes, I began to wonder if I would have to put my personal aesthetic aside – most capsule wardrobes feature black, white and gray. This is probably because these colors have long been linked with a minimalist aesthetic. Regardless, I now feel as though I have cracked the code for colorful capsule wardrobes.
What is a Capsule Wardrobe?
A capsule wardrobe is a type of minimalist wardrobe that attempts to keep a clothing collection: cohesive and combinable.
This is so that clothing can be mixed and matched, making a small wardrobe feel filled with options. The emphasize is typically on quality over quantity and many capsule wardrobes have between 33 and 37 separate pieces. This number does not typically include: underwear, socks, PJs, work out gear, and specialty clothing, such as swimsuits. Most people also don’t include shoes or accessories, though some do.
A Note About Colors:
Before we dive in, I need to talk a little about color theory. Consider the color green. Not all greens are created equal are they? There are muted gray-toned greens, rich dirty greens, mint greens and even thatcrayon box green. You know the one. It isn’t ambiguous. It’s green.
So, when you have a pure color, it is called a hue. That crayon box “green” is a prime example. But if you were to add white to it, a little or a lot, you get a kind of mint green.
If you add some black to it, a little or a lot, you get what is known as a shade of green. It kind of looks dirtier or richer. If you add gray to it, a little or a lot, you get a muted tone. It looks washed out.
Every color has these four variations (except for black, white, and gray). So sticking to one group (hues, tones, tints and shades) will bring a lot of harmony to your wardrobe.
Determining Your Colors:
The first step is to determine your personal color pallet. Don’t sweat it, your closet actually will tell you what you like to wear. Simply, pick out all the pieces you love (leave out any you’re so-so about) and lay them out (or hang them up) together.
Ask yourself: what colors do you love to wear? Which colors are gathering dust? Which colors seem to work especially well together?
After you’ve gotten clear on your personal colors, you’ll want to figure out your neutrals. In many capsule wardrobes, these are black, gray, and white. But there are other options, such as tan, khaki, brown, Navy, olive, beige and jean.
Pay careful attention, though. Even though these colors are commonly thought to be neutrals, colors that more or less go with anything, brands will vary slightly in the undertone. For example, an olive can have a more muted gray-tone to it or a warmer gold undertone. Neither is better or worse, but consistency in your capsule is key.
My neutrals are: dark wash jean, browns and tans, and wheat with golden undertones.
Neutrals are great to stock up on. They make especially great bottoms (pants, shorts, skirts) and jacket layers. If one of your bottoms is in fact not a neutral (a base or accent color) then, you’ll find that some tops won’t work as well with it. I’m a green-fanatic, but I realized my mistake when I bought green pants. Most of my tops were ruled out when I put on my green bottoms unless I wanted to look like a leprechaun.
Next, you’ll want to consider your base colors. These are the colors I tend to use in my shirts and blouses and scarves.
Mine tend to be: shades of green, blue and red. For a capsule wardrobe, 3 base colors is probably more than enough.
Next, you’ll want to consider accents. These are your metals, materials, and pops of color. I like to use coppery-brass to gold metals and stay away from anything too silvery. I use a lot of faux-leather and amber and stone in my jewelry too, but that might be the bohemian vibe coming through. I have a few splashes of burnt orange and mustard-yellow.
In creating a minimalist wardrobe, sometimes we think we need to sacrifice pattern, but if you love pattern, don’t sweat it. You can have pattern, you just need to be strategic about it.
One strategy is to have all your patterns on the bottoms (leggings, pants, shorts, skirts). Think about it, typically we don’t wear more than one bottom at a time, so if all your patterns are here, you never have to worry about clashing patterns).
While there is nothing wrong with this strategy, it is harder to find great patterns for bottoms (unless you’re a bohemian skirt enthusiast).
Another strategy is to pick a different layer that is never combined. My strategy goes something like this: I use neutral colors on the bottom, I wear patterns in my dresses, blouses and one of my scarves and I keep all other layers (jackets, blazers, vests, base layers, and other scarves) plain but in my base or neutral colors. This keeps everything cohesive yet colorful and very combinable.
This system has created the most potential combinations without clash that I have found. This is my secret.
It is my hope that if you’ve been interested in capsule wardrobes but turned off by a lack of color, you now have the tools to develop a capsule wardrobe that speaks to you.
Though we may not be consciously aware of it, our society informs our clothing choices. What we select may not suit our tastes, our lifestyles, or our bodies, but what we see on our celebrities, our friends, or in our stores too often becomes our next regrettable purchase.
How can we develop more discerning decision-making power? How can we tune into what will make us feel great and what will pull weight in our wardrobes? That is what I aim to show you in 4 simple steps.
Step 1: Reconnaissance: Discover Your Preferences
Believe it or not, most everything you need to know you already do. It’s in your closet waiting for you to become more in tune with it. Those tops, bottoms, shoes and accessories you most often grab are your style. They are the colors, the size, the shapes that you feel most comfortable in.
The problem is, their message is often lost in the jumble of clothes that you don’t care for or you wear out of necessity (maybe laundry day is a bit too far off). You might not know that you’re a navy and cream kinda gal (or guy) because of all that lime green you see in your closet confusing you.
So, the first step is too clear out the closet. Take EVERYTHING out and only replace those things you feel great in. You don’t have to get rid of the other stuff yet, just box it up and put it someplace else.
Once you have those items you love, pay attention to what you love about them. The secret is to become aware enough of your preferences that you can recognize what you’ll love even when you’re not in your closet.
Don’t bother over-thinking it either. You don’t have to know that you’re a soft summer toned triangle body type (or whatever). What you like to wear will generally look good on you. That’s why you like to wear it. Plus, if you feel good, you’ll look good too.
Here are a few questions to help you understand your preferences:
What are your signature colors? And what do you avoid?
What are your signature patterns? And what do you avoid?
Do you prefer natural fibers to synthetic or vice versa?
Do you prefer things to be loose or fitted? Structured or flowy? Sporty? Romantic?
What is your favorite sleeve length?
What is your favorite pant shape? Boot cut? Skinny? Boyfriend?
Step 2: Find Your Uniform.
Your discoveries in step one are crucial here. When developing your uniform, you pin point your signature look(s). For example, your go-to might be a pair of blue jeans, a black t-shirt, and a pair of sneakers.
From step one, you’ve learned that you feel good wearing black. You also like dark wash blue jeans, maybe a straight-legged style. You know that you favor clean lines and don’t appreciate a more whimsical cut. You’ve realized that you like to keep it simple and sporty and don’t tend to wear any of your bohemian or romantic clothes and anything with a pattern makes you slightly nauseous.
Obviously, this is just an example. Many innovative thinkers have worked out personal uniforms so that they can go on thinking about other things. Steve Jobs, Former President Barack Obama, and Albert Einstein are just a few and they all have a different look.
You may have more than one signature look and they may very from season to season, but pick out your workhorses.
Here are a few questions that may help:
What do you spend your days doing? (Are you in an office? Outdoors? Chasing kids?)
What are three words you would use to describe the look you’re going for?
What is the message you want to convey to others?
What is your go-to silhouette?
Step 3: Do The Math.
Now that you know your style and color preferences and what you want your uniform to be, you need to do some calculations. Don’t worry, this isn’t rocket science, but it will be unique to you.
To start, you need to determine the distance between laundry days and how that affects the number of clothes you need. I get all my laundry done within 4 days, so I like to work with numbers between 4 and 6. Some items, such as socks and underwear, seem to require a few extra. I will generally shoot for 4-6 bottoms and 4-6 base layer tops. Some categories, such as layering pieces, can be worn multiple times between washes and therefore don’t require multiples. For some items, like my rain coat, 1 is all I need.
The next thing you need to judge is the number of combinations you can make with what you have. If you keep your clothes to a certain color pallet or style, you’ll be able to make a lot more outfits.
My preference is to have my base layers be plain and to add patterns through accessories like scarves or bohemian skirts. The reason patterned bottoms work for me is that I don’t wear more than one bottom at a time so competing/clashing patterns aren’t really a problem. Having basically plain tops allows me to mix and match base layer, vest, button down, jacket, coat, or whatever without having to overthink anything.
For my boys, I tend to keep their bottoms plain because most boy’s shirts are where the fun characters and patterns tend to be.
Discovering your magic number is a bit of a work in progress, but I recommend working from a minimalist bias. See how few things you can get a way with and you’ll refine your style much more quickly.
Step 4: Shop Smarter
When I was unaware of my personal style, the sky was the limit. I could always be shopping for the next new thing I didn’t really like. Something might catch my eye and when I brought it home, I would soon discover that it didn’t feel like “me” and the new thing didn’t match anything I liked to wear.
Though I tended to shop second-hand, it still amounted to a lot of wasted money and space. And wasn’t any good for the environment.
I am now (mostly) immune. I can go to a shop and quickly determine if an item suits my wardrobe and I know very specifically what I’m looking for. This saves me a ton of time and gives me a lot of clarity.
While I hope to see others answer questions of style in wildly different ways, I also hope for more people to share in the peace of mind I now enjoy.
I never thought that I’d be delving into the world of wardrobe design and fashion – let alone writing about it!
See, I was one of those awkward teenagers who made serious errors in judgment just about every time she dressed. Further, even the words “fashion” and “style” had an air of otherness to them. Other people thought about this, those girls over there probably did, but not me. As a result, I had collected an eclectic mix of style, color, and pattern, much of which didn’t suit my personality, body, or lifestyle. And so, despite having heaps of clothing, I never had anything to wear.
That awkward teenager in unfortunate attire? Well, she became an equally awkward adult in probably worse attire (as my body grew less forgiving with age and multiple pregnancies).
Stage left, enter YouTube, our new character. I began watching videos on minimalism and other sustainable living practices and clicked my way to discovering how these topics relate to the way I dress.
Now, I had the missing piece, the motivation that made sense for me: I would learn to dress well to spend less time and money and to produce less waste for our planet.
These days, I look better and more put together. I spend less time in my closet in order to achieve this. What I wear matches my lifestyle, personal tastes, and body. I spend money more consciously and I have a much smaller wardrobe.
There are many ways to achieve a minimalist wardrobe. You can have a personal uniform a la Steve Jobs. You can tailor your wardrobe to fit in a packing cube in your travel bag. You can embrace a 10-Item Wardrobe (or any other specific plan out there).
Initially, I wasn’t ready for any of these approaches. I didn’t even know what I liked to wear. I then stumbled upon Project 333 and the art of capsule wardrobing. This technique was a crucial first step for me to understand what I actually needed from my clothes.
Discovering the concept of a capsule wardrobe is life-changing. It isn’t just that I look and feel better and have more positive social interactions. I also got my first tangible taste in the lesson that less can be more.
I didn’t even have to get rid of anything to start trying it out (a major plus at the start because I could always reconfigure my wardrobe as I failed my way forward).
Capsule wardrobing is a manageable minimalist change that allows a peek into the benefits of minimalism. No need to overhaul your life and home, no negotiating with family or housemates, just begin with your own clothes. Then, bask in some of the benefits of simplifying.
What is a Capsule Wardrobe?
A capsule wardrobe is a streamlined, well-curated set of clothes that:
only includes clothes that fit you well and you love
has a limited number (the actual number can vary, but setting a hard numerical cap is helpful for decision-making purposes)
includes items that work well together to create more potential combinations to give the illusion of more clothes
A capsule wardrobe is useful for men and women as well as children.
A capsule wardrobe does NOT have to be monochrome or made solely of neutral colors. It is easier to combine multiple garments this way, but if you are thoughtful about selecting colors and patterns, you can make a colorful capsule.
Since the items have to pull so much weight, it is good to put careful thought into your selections. Does this support my lifestyle (maybe say “no” to the 3 cocktail dresses if you live in jeans)? Does this look good on my body (is it a good fit and color)? Is it my personal style? How often can I get away wearing it? And in how many different ways? The theory is that if you put thought into your selections up front, you won’t have to spend valuable brain power in the morning when you’re getting dressed.
Variations on Capsule Wardrobing
Capsule wardrobing has many variations. While you can find guidelines (such as Project 333, described below), tailoring your wardrobe to your life will make this practice far more useful.
For example, your region’s seasons may impact how you capsule wardrobe. If you live in a stable climate, an all-season capsule might be achievable. There are also two and four season variations. Some items will be useful in multiple seasons so it isn’t necessary to have four completely different wardrobes. Instead, you can overlap pieces.
Some of you who work two jobs or have vastly different home and work lives may opt for two simultaneous capsules.
The main traits of any capsule wardrobe are curation and combination.
My favorite capsule model is Project 333. It works well in a four-season climate, has a following with a lot of free resources available online, and the item number cap (33) is a challenge that is nevertheless doable.
The Basic “Rules” of Project 333 are:
33 pieces (shoes, purses/bags, outerwear, accessories, and clothes)
does not include: active wear, PJs, lounge wear, under garments, or specialty wear (such as swim suits or snow pants)
3 months (you set up for three months at a time and put the remaining or off-season clothes away)
you also want to refrain from buying additional clothes for the three month-duration
It may seem that this is a shallow subject, but all of us dress every day. When our choices remain unconscious ones, we can suffer from cluttered space, wasted time, embarrassing wardrobe malfunctions, impaired social interactions, money waste and so on.
If we manufacture a conscious wardrobe, we can save time, space, money, and embarrassment. We can also make choices in line with our values. So what are you waiting for?
Most conventional weekly pregnancy updates contain a to-do list telling the expectant parents to buy this or that each week. New parents hope to have a baby shower to help curtail the costs of the expensive and expansive baby gear. By the time the baby is born, s/he already has more belongings than the average medieval king.
This is my third go at it. At first we wanted two children, so I felt generous in gifting away my baby gear to friends and family with more urgent need. What these two factors mean is that I’m starting from scratch with a whole lot more parenting wisdom than I once had.
Special Considerations for This Age Group (0-3 months)
A young baby does a lot of sleeping with few transition times, so clothing should be comfortable to sleep in. No one wants to wake up baby to put PJs on.
Unless you’re very lucky in hand-me-downs (or a shop-a-holic), you will probably never need to “cull” a baby’s wardrobe (that is, outside of the transitions between sizes). This is because they grow out of sizes or damage their clothes so fast that the collection is pretty self-limiting.
Ease of nighttime changing should be a real priority. Waking up to feed and change a baby is exhausting enough without dealing with finicky clothing. For this reason, I avoid both snaps and buttons and go with zippered garments.
Footies are especially helpful as babies, with no control of their limbs, still manage to kick off shoes and socks.
After a baby learns to walk, footies should be avoided or include some kind of anti-slip strategy.
Hats and mittens for indoor use aren’t mere accessories. Many young babies have long sharp fingernails and can easily gouge their faces. They also often have bald heads which lead to heat loss.
My List of Essentials
1 outdoor car seat / travel suit. These preferably have built in hand and feet coverings, a hood and a crotch so that you can fasten a car seat whilst the baby is snug inside. This is especially essential for winter babies.
3 pair of indoor mittens. Light weight to prevent scratching. Baby socks can substitute for these.
3 indoor hats. To keep that big bald head warm (at least all of my babies were bald, but this isn’t universal). They don’t tend to get really dirty and can be reused between washes.
7-10 onesies. These are those typically white body suits that snap together over the diaper and are usually used as an infant undergarment. Short-sleeved lasts longer, but if you intend to use them as actual shirts, long sleeves are great for winter babies or kids with eczema.
7-10 sleep and play body suits. I prefer ones that zip and have feet attached. I usually like to have about 7 thinner ones and 3-4 warmer/thicker ones for very cool days or for night wear.
3 scratch gloves, 3 hats, 4 warmer fleece sleep and play suits, 1 warm travel suit, 7 zippered lighter-weight cotton sleep and play suits, 9 short-sleeved onesies (in a stack), 1 onesie spread out for illustrative purposes
That’s it! I know it probably seems like a small number of items, but babies don’t do a whole lot except for growing.
This is a great base to have, but you’ll probably get gifts from family and friends to supplement these items and to change things up. There certainly are so many cute outfits that you may get (and not want to use on a regular basis due to finicky parts). Pieces with sweaters and pants and buttons in weird locations.
All About Sizes
For the uninitiated, baby sizes are really confusing. For the first year, a baby could go through as many as 6 sizes (preemie, newborn, 0-3 month, 3-6 month, 6-9 month, 9-12 month). Thankfully, this speed of growth slows down after all that! Some garments will be marked with a single month (6 month, 9 month and 12 months are common) and some garments, such as outdoor suits and sleep sacks, are designed to hit a large range of sizes (example: 0-9 months).
Like the Pirate’s Code, sizes are more like “guidelines”, though. Different companies may use a different scale and a kid could be stuffed into the same clothing item for a large span of time, especially when short sleeves are used.
My babies have historically been on the large side of things. For this reason, I consider 0-3 to be the perfect first size for my family. This is where I invest in my full minimalist wardrobe strategy.
Even though I don’t choose to work a complete newborn-sized wardrobe, I do keep clothes of this size on hand for the brief time my kids fit into them. I usually have a few outfits (4-8) tucked away in the drawer and hospital bag.
A cube of newborn-sized gender neutral clothing. It contains scratch mits, a hat, a few onesies, a few outfits, and some body suits. Below the cube is pictured the coming home outfits for my hospital bag – one for a boy and one for a girl, just in case.
When asked which sizes I want from friends and family, I usually ask for size 6 month and up. The reason being is that enthusiasm over a baby wanes and once kids start eating solids (usually around 6 months), hand-me-downs and stocks in used clothing stores dwindle due to so many garments being ruined by baby feedings past.
In the past, I tried to get my first sizes (newborn and 0-3 month) in gender neutral prints so that if there is a surprise in the delivery room, I wasn’t unprepared. It was also more economical and eco-friendly as I was planning for multiple kids.
As this is our last kid, and we’re pretty sure that we’re having a girl, I didn’t stick as much to my rules about gender neutrality as I did for my older kids. I’ve decided to live up having a little girl to clothe. Additional Items We Chose to Have:
Above, I gave my absolute essential items. However, I’ve included a few additional items in my own baby’s capsule that may be useful or inspirational for other parents.
4 head bands, 4 pairs of soft white socks, 1 sweater, 4 long-sleeved onesies, 4 pairs of pants, 1 Halloween costume, 2 more finicky sleep and play suits, 2 jean dresses for photos
4 pairs of white fluffy socks (These could be used as extra scratch mittens or to keep little toes warm in the few footless outfits we have.)
4 head bands (This is baby girl specific)
4 pairs of plain pants (Shirts frequently come with prints so this eases putting outfits together)
4 long-sleeved onesies for outfits (I skip out on regular shirts that don’t snap in the crotch because they tend to ride up and expose baby bellies to the cold.)
5 “special” outfits (For upcoming holidays, pictures, costumes, etc. I have a Halloween costume, two cute body suits, and two jeans dresses that I couldn’t resist.)
I hope this knowledge from one parent to another is valuable and may your own little minimalist be comfortable and happy.
Sometimes, I’m not a very “think-outside-the-box” kinda person. No one ever told me that almost everything picked up with my broom and vacuum cleaner is compostable. But dirt dragged in from outside, food that’s fallen to the floor, and dust bunnies are all candidates for the compost.
Compost is nature’s recycling system and it does it better than we do. Plus anything that could return to the soil, but is instead trapped in a landfill is a missed opportunity.
That said, I’m going to pick out the stray plastic item off my dustpan and dump the remainder in the compost bin. And I’m going to empty my vacuum cleaner’s canister over the compost pile! (No more dust storm inside the house!)
(I’m never going back to a vacuum cleaner that requires a bag.)
It’s actually amazing that I didn’t even consider this before my aha! moment. But all these scraps previously went in my garbage.
How About You?
Does the idea of composting your floor waste strike you as odd? Or is it already a part of your routine? And if it is something you already do, was it going zero waste that made you do it? Let me know in the comments below!
Decluttering a young boy’s closet is surprisingly easy and has many benefits. Some specific benefits for school-aged boys include:
A curated closet contains tops and bottoms with the entire collection in mind. This gives a child a sense of autonomy and a good chance of success in picking out their own outfits each morning.
Designing a wardrobe can reassure the parents that the child has enough clothing. The planning stage also lets parents know where the gaps are which can lead to a smarter shopping list.
In consciously designing a wardrobe, parents can become knowledgeable about what they’re looking for in a garment. For example, I learned that elastic waist bands (without any finicky parts) are an excellent feature for pants when it comes to small children.
Culling the closet keeps kids from arriving at school wearing clothes that are too small, too large, or too damaged.
How I Compose The Wardrobe
I have two boys who attend school now. The composition of their wardrobes are roughly the same. I base my minimum number of items (6) on my laundry cycle plus a few extras for occasional changes.
For most categories, I pick out the best 6 and hang them or fold them in their closets / dressers.
The remaining pieces I put in a tote. Since they are always growing and damaging clothes, I shop the tote when I need a replacement and only go clothes shopping when I cannot find a replacement in a given category.
Once they outgrow the contents of the tote, I pass them along to another sibling or cousin if the piece is still in good shape. Otherwise, I toss them.
I don’t normally need to cull the number of clothes my sons own. As they are still rapidly growing, I feel that they outgrow clothes too quickly for them to become too numerous.
I also don’t dispose of an item until I have found it’s replacement. For example, we will need to get my elder son a new pair of snow pants, but until we’ve gotten it, his old one remains in the closet (He could still be stuffed into it if necessary!).
Hanging: Backpack, snow pants, rain jacket, winter coat, sweater, 5 long-sleeved shirts, 5 short-sleeved shirts, 5 pairs of pants, baseball cap and winter hat; Floor: “Emergency/Accident” Kits, play clothes, PJs, winter boots, athletic shoes, “nicer” shoes, “nicer” socks and under wear, and knit gloves
I’ve included my son’s wardrobe as a guideline only. Individual characteristics, such as climate, religion, family activities and laundry schedule will impact the make-up of another kid’s closet.
sun hat / baseball cap
Light weight rain jacket
Heavy weight winter coat
2 “nice” shirts
1 “nice” pair of pants
1-2 plain long-sleeved shirt or turtleneck
6 long-sleeved t-shirts
6 short-sleeved shirts
6 pairs of pants (with elastic, simple waist bands)
6 pairs of shorts (with elastic, simple waist bands)
6 pairs socks (at least)
6 pairs underwear (at least)
1 pair of sweat pants
1 pair of underwear
1 pair of socks
6 sets of PJs
3-6 pairs of socks
3-6 pairs underwear
3-6 pairs “play” pants
3-6 pairs “play” shirts
I believe strongly in the concept of “play” clothes for younger children. The reason is that having clothes that they can really get messy in allows for more fun and less parental anxiety. I usually down-grade school clothes that get damaged. During the summer months, I aim for a larger number, say 6. While during the school year, I only need about 3 sets.
If you have a school-aged boy, have you thought about setting him up with a minimalist wardrobe? What would be your essentials? How might you change it up for a girl? Let me know in the comments below and until next time,
Kids grow fast. On top of that, kids are really rough on clothes. I know, these aren’t great, revelatory observations, sorry. But for zero-wasters, this is a particular problem. It seems that every other day, my older son has blown out the knee of a new pair of pants. Or, irretrievably stained a school shirt.
I’ve discovered a local kids’ used clothing store called the Lilly Bean in my town. It is very well curated and decently organized and priced. And the store has loyalty cards. Yay!
This means that by accepting hand-me-downs and buying used, we can cut way down on buying new clothing. I still think socks, underwear, shoes, and specialty clothing may be an issue, but I will look first to Lilly Bean to meet our needs.
3 pairs of pants, 3 shorts, 2 shirts, and a pair of shoes for $30.
I’m very happy with my $30 haul. Because I now keep a cloth bag in my purse, I was also able to get it home with a minimal amount of fuss. Here is the garbage and recycling produced (not including the loyalty card and receipt, which are both recyclable) :
Top is unavoidable garbage. One pair of pants was brand new and still had a size sticker. The bottom pile contains the recyclable tags.
Buying used is one element in my efforts to clothe my kids in a more zero waste fashion. I also try to treat stains and make repairs to their clothes.
Soaking in cold water and super washing soda does wonders for most stains. Peroxide gets blood out.
I also do some mending if it seems worth my time and effort.
The biggest problem right now is finding out what to do with clothes that are too damaged to be worn. Obviously, donations are the wrong place for these clothes. I have heard of recycling clothes, but I wonder if this is a big city thing.
This is a topic I hope to explore more thoroughly for the future.
So How About You?
Does the need to clothe children complicate your zero-waste ambitions? How do you solve the conundrum? What do you do with clothes that can no longer be worn? Please post your tricks below!
The minimalist and Zero Waste movements intersect from the start. Béa Johnson, in her book: The Zero Waste Home, introduces the hierarchy of Zero Waste, known as the 5 R’s. The first two: “Refuse what you do not need” and “Reduce what you do need”, are clearly a call to minimalism.
These R’s are also deceptively simple.
But what is need?
We would all agree that we need food to survive, but do we “need” the deluxe food processor or blender? If food goes bad in our fridge week after week, did we “need” it after all? And that handful of chips I had with lunch. Did I “need” that?
The reason that Béa didn’t just write “refuse what you do not need or want” is that wants are such a slippery target. I think we’ve all experienced this at some point. You go into a store to buy something specific, but then you see all sorts of beautiful things around you, a desire you didn’t have before is awakened. Suddenly, you’re less content and left wanting more.
Needs are finite and wants can be infinite. So do we just ignore all of our wants and live in tents, cooking over a fire what we’ve foraged from the woods?
As much as I adore camping, I don’t think this is the answer. There are so many wonders that humans bring to this world when we’re not over-consumed by acts of survival. Along with camping, I’m also a big fan of the Internet.
So, how do we go about managing our wants so that they don’t overwhelm us?
Step 1: Determine Your Vision
The most important step in determining your “enough” will be to set goals for yourself. Do you want to be a nomad? Do you want to live out of a van or in a tiny home? Do you want a chic, white walled studio apartment decorated with green plants and little else? Or are your goals a little more conventional? Maybe, like me, you’d just like to keep a clean, clutter free home that reduces the family’s environmental impact. Maybe you’d like to live with less stress and less debt. There are all kinds of minimalists. What sort do you want to be?
Does the media you consume support or detract from your goals? I like to watch YouTube videos by extreme minimalists for inspiration about how little I actually need. It still creates a desire to emulate, just as watching a show where beautiful actresses prance around in expensive clothes and in expensive homes portraying the average American, but the result of emulation is healthier for me.
Step 2: Set Your Limits
I can’t sing the praises of limits enough, it seems. I’ve experienced immediate transformation of mindset just by pinning a maximum number or by allotting a certain space for things. When I had no magic numbers for my clothes, my satisfaction went up and down with my boredom or the proximity to laundry day. As soon as I told myself that six bottoms were enough for a season, I had to pick and choose from my favorites. I no longer felt deprived but instead over-abundant.
Step 3: Avoid Your Triggers
Children are often overwhelmed with their wants. Take a kid to the proverbial candy store, or, perhaps a toy store. See what happens.
Some parents will choose to avoid the situation in the first place: don’t take the kids to the toy or candy stores, don’t bake cookies if they’re not on the menu. Get upset with the school district when they serve chocolate milk and pizza with a side of chips for lunch.
This is because young children are under-developed in their decision making skills. They frequently aren’t able to set aside immediate gratification in order to reach more important goals. This is why kid’s toothpaste is sweetened and kid vitamins resemble candy.
The truth is, adults aren’t really that much better. Certainly, we have more life experience and can see that our immediate gratification might not be in our best interest. We can take our morning pill that might be tough to swallow.
That said, our ability to parent ourselves judiciously is finite. A few good decisions here or there are easily offset by allowances we give ourselves as reward for making good decisions.
Since our good decisions are limited, it’s best not to overwhelm ourselves with what is often referred to as “decision fatigue”.
Do you always overspend at the mall? Maybe trade mall shopping for going to see a movie or taking a hike instead.
I have the guilty habit of online shopping on pay day. I love the satisfaction of picking just the right things out and then waiting eagerly for the mail to come. When it gets here, it’s a nice little high. Admitting you have a problem, I hear, is the first step.
Now, get out a pen and a notebook. Write down everything you own. Every item in every drawer.
What’s that? Is the idea ludicrous to you? You, like me, wouldn’t consider wasting your time in this way? Chances are, then, that you have “enough” stuff. Maybe, if you were especially terrified by the sound of this assignment, you have more than enough.
WARNING: If you lack female parts, or are particularly squeamish, this post may not be for you. Reader discretion is advised.
I just finished that time of the month. You know what I’m talking about.
I used to buy packages of maxi pads every month and chucked the little plastic wrappers, liners, and the pads themselves away in a monthly mega-haul of embarrassing proportions and unmentionable content.
Not anymore. I want to share with you how I went zero waste in this area of my life. Years ago, I started using what many call “mama cloth” (my four-year-old calls them “mommy’s diapers”) and I still use this variety of period gear today. Greener still is the menstrual cup that I learned about later. I bought a Luna Cup.
“Mama cloth” is the cloth version of a maxi pad. They usually use snaps to attach the wings around the gusset of your underwear.
The menstrual cup (and there are many brands) is a funnel shaped cup with no hole in the bottom. It is most often made of medical grade silicone. You insert it while folded and allow the opening to pop open inside of you, thus creating a suction seal. The cup catches the flow.
Many women rave about menstrual cups. They are lightweight, compact, long lasting, and super easy to clean. They are very minimalist too. After a couple of months of practice, many women feel confident to use a cup exclusively. These women are often so confident that they use them while wearing a bathing suit during their periods! Amazing and more power to them!
Unfortunately, I didn’t have the enviable success that these women enjoy. In the interest of full disclosure, and the desire to help women who have a similar experience, I’ll tell you what I do.
I’m not sure whether the Luna Cup is just not shaped or sized correctly for my body (some women shop around before settling on a menstrual cup) or if, perhaps, the slight leakage I do get can be put down to human error.
What I like to do is double up on my protection. I use the cup and then a cloth pad attached to my underwear. I need far fewer pads (usually just one a day), because I use them to catch leaks. I use Diva Wash to clean my cup and store it in a nice little breathable cotton bag when it’s not in use. My favorite retail cloth pad is made by Bububibi.
On The Go
When traveling, I like using a little pouch intended to store cloth diaper wipes. Planet Wise puts out a style that has a front pouch to store clean gear and a lined pouch that can store used gear. I simply turn it inside out to wash it in the washing machine.
Typically, you will not need to remove a menstrual cup during the day, but if you’re traveling, you can take a squirt bottle (such as an old dish soap bottle) and fill it with water in a public bathroom sink. Then, in the stall, you can remove, dump, and squirt clean before re-inserting the cup or putting it in a wipes pouch.
You could also use disposables when traveling, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing.
I use peroxide on my mama cloth to combat stains and I soak in a metal bowl with some Super Washing Soda and cold water. I wash the pads with the cloth diapers or rags/towels wash.
I wash the Diva Cup with warm water and Diva Wash and I dry it in its cotton pouch. I occasionally boil the cup and will probably use this method after the Diva Wash has been used up to avoid buying more plastic.
Pictured: a Planet Wise wipe pouch, a Bububibi mama cloth, a Diva cup in baggie, Diva Wash, and a Lunapads mama cloth with three inserts.
How About You?
Do you use any of this gear? Did you have problems with the cup? Did they go away with practice? A new size? A new brand? I’d love to hear about it! If you’re willing, please post in the comments below.