Welcome to Second Hand September, it’s fabulous to have you on board and ready to reduce the amount of new clothes you bring into your life this month (and hopefully beyond).
October 2018 was the first time I had ever bought an item of clothing second hand. Prior to then my only experience of charity shopping was going in to donate items. I had this weird idea that buying from a charity shop would somehow make me feel “less”. Like I had less money, like I had less quality, I would be less trendy and my clothes would be less impressive. How wrong was I! I now realise that shopping second hand can help me have more money, afford me the opportunity to buy better quality clothes with more impressive designer names. I think back to my early 20’s when I lived in Liverpool and London and wonder what treasures I could have found if I had been open enough to check out the charity shops.
In 2019 we decided to do a year of no new clothes (myself and 3 kids) which seemed both exciting and a daunting challenge. I made this decision based on my knowledge on how our fashion choices impact the environment. I learned a lot on our journey to avoid buying new and I want to share the secrets that helped up make it through 2019 with only 1 brand new item of clothing being bought between the 4 of us (by Santa because he couldn’t find it second hand).
Whether you are setting yourself the goal of 1 month or 1 year, the same secrets apply when it comes to achieving your goal successfully. It’s my absolute joy to be able to share these secrets with you because I just know this will be the start of a new way of shopping long term when you see how easy it can be.
Grab a cup of tea (or beverage of choice) and let’s take 10 minutes to look at the basics together.
In the beginning
Let’s start with the very basics of avoiding buying new clothes – it isn’t running to the charity shop like you might think. It’s learning to shop your own wardrobe!
Buying clothing we never wear is a big problem. That dress in your wardrobe with the tags on or those jeans in your drawer that you bought with a view to fit into “some day” are part of a bigger problem. A £10 billion problem to be exact because that is the amount of unworn clothing estimated to be in wardrobes in the UK with most of those items being too small but we hope to wear some day when we loose a bit of weight.
While you may some day loose weight, buying clothes that don’t fit us is a real problem. It is a very real strain on the earths resources and let’s be honest, nobody feels good when they look at clothes they know don’t fit them so here is what I want you to do:
Secret 1 – get rid of what you don’t wear to see what’s really in your wardrobe
You might not love the idea of this but I want you to go through your wardrobe Marie Kondo style. Find the items you know you don’t wear because you don’t love them or they don’t fit and bag them up for the charity shop.
When you come across items that you keep for special occasions like party dresses or interview outfits, I wouldn’t suggest throwing them in the charity bag just yet unless they don’t fit – in which case yes bag them up.
The purpose? To enable you to see what you actually have in your wardrobe and to make your wardrobe easy to select clothes from.
Secret 2 – wear the clothes you love.
Stop keeping clothes for best! I mean I’m not asking you to wear your Saturday night party dress out to do the grocery shop but I do want you to wear the clothes you love and wear them often. Sometimes we find ourselves buying cheaper versions of the same item because we don’t want to risk getting the expensive one dirty or damaged. I ask you this – what is the purpose of an item that has to be worn so carefully it never gets worn? If you love it, wear it and if it gets damaged learn how it can be repaired.
Secret 3 – the repair culture
Currently only 1/3 of UK adults will repair their clothes if they get damaged and the other 2/3 find it more convenient to buy a new item. And I get it, I do. If your clothes get damaged and you aren’t well practised in how to use a sewing needle it can seem really daunting to repair an item but learning that our clothes can be repaired is a big step in avoiding buying unneeded clothing. Sewing is a lost art but there are some options here to help you with clothing repairs:
- Find that handy family member or friend who knows how to repair clothes.
- Support a local business and get a seamstress or dressmaker to repair the item for you. (Depending on the item this can often make us feel it’s better to buy a new one vs repairing because it is costing us money to have the item fixed. I urge you to try and see it from the view point of you are paying to save unnecessary waste from landfill and supporting your local economy all in one go).
- Take a short course and learn how to sew. This can be done online or lots of local colleges offer basic sewing courses too. (This is next on my list of skills to learn, I want to be that handy friend who sews!)
Secret 4 – avoid temptation
Temptation can come in different forms whether it’s the physical form of going into a shop during our lunch break or digital temptation.
- Unsubscribe from mailing lists. Simple enough – every time you see a message from a retailer pop into your inbox open it, click unsubscribe and say goodbye to the unwanted temptation in email form.
- Unfollow brands on Instagram. By following brands we give them the opportunity to follow us around and influence us into buying their clothes through our social media feeds. If you want to remember the name of brands you like the look of I recommend you “save” a post from their page and create a folder to pop all clothing brands into. Then if you need to find that brand again you can but you won’t see them in your feed.
- Avoid spending your leisure time going into shops to browse on your lunch breaks. It’s so easy to plan to just look and then give into temptation. Try something else, a walk around the area you work in for some fresh air, read a book, call a friend or heck even painting your nails will help pass the time more constructively.
Secret 5 – avoid buying clothes when you need them for a special occasion
This title has you confused right? You don’t want to go without clothes you need and thankfully you don’t have to. While ultimately shopping second hand is better than buying brand new, slowing our consumption of fashion down overall is seriously needed. How is it possible to gain access to clothes when we need need them without buying anything you ask? Well, for special occasions we can:
- Borrow from a friend or family member
- Go to a swap shop
- Learn to accessories staple items to give them a fresh look
- Hire from a dress shop
Secret 6 – shop second hand
I bet you didn’t think this would be last on the list!
When we have to buy then I highly recommend buying from your local charity shops, boot sales or second hand stores. This will help support your local economy while saying no to fast fashion. There are also a whole host of places to shop second hand online for when you are unable to physically go looking for clothes. I suggest checking out my list of websites selling quality second hand online here.
In other news
Ever heard of Earth Overshoot Day? This is the day when we have used up a years worth of the earths natural resources and start to overshoot and use more than the earth can provide.
Each year the trend has shown this date has coming earlier and earlier with 2019 seeing it in July. However, the pandemic this year moved the 2020 date to 22nd of August which is progress but still means we are using far more resources than the earth can produce. Seeing how we pushed the date back by 3 weeks in 2020 gives us hope. We need corporations and mindsets to change and we can achieve that by emailing business feedback on changes we want to see, consuming more mindfully and ultimately consuming less.