As of March 1st, I’ve successfully completed three years without purchasing any clothing for myself. That means all clothes, shoes, jewelry, and accessories currently in my closet are ones that I’ve owned for at least three years or have come to me via hand me downs, clothing swaps, or – a few – gifts.
When I embarked on this journey, I had the goal to make it to one year. The purpose? To reduce the clutter in my closet to a minimum in the most environmentally friendly way. I’d love to some day have a more capsule wardrobe, but not at the expense of people and the planet by purchasing fast fashion. And even new, sustainable, fair trade clothing comes at a higher cost than those already in existence – not to mention the cost of purchasing a new wardrobe.
Deciding to Complete a Clothes Buying Ban
The first step is to determine the parameters of your ban and how long you’d like to continue it for. In my case, the parameters were no purchased clothing, period. I had the privilege of a very full closet with no need for anything, so that made the most sense for me.
If you already tend to stick to a more minimalist approach, you might consider allowing a set number of items per year or including secondhand shopping as acceptable. Whatever you decide though, make sure it is reasonable so you’re more likely to stick to it in the long run. If you push the boundaries too far, you may be tempted to give up early and buy more than you would have otherwise.
Know Your Purpose for a Shopping Ban
Beyond selecting your boundaries of the ban, figure out your “why.” Have you decided to try this out as a New Year’s Resolution because it sounded like a good idea? Or do you have more concrete ideas as to why you’re embarking on this challenge? The first few months are likely to be the hardest, so like with any goal, having a clear purpose will help you stick to it when it gets hard.
Your “why” might be similar to mine in the beginning – to declutter a closet that is bursting at the seams while knowing you have plenty of serviceable clothing. It might be to save money for a set purpose, such as paying off debt or saving up for a down payment on a home. Or it may to reduce your environmental impact in a category that has a higher impact globally than the airline industry. Whatever your purpose, write it out clearly so you have the motivation beyond those first few weeks of excitement.
Determine Your Shopping Triggers
For me, it meant not stepping into a Ross or a Goodwill for a few months after your ban begins in order to avoid the places that make it easy to buy a piece of clothing without thinking about it. Clothes buying can be a habit, just like picking up that cup of coffee in the morning, but it doesn’t have to continue to be a habit.
The first few months you might find yourself having to remind yourself and step back from situations that you would have mindlessly bought clothing for in the past. Perhaps you have a wedding to attend, or an important event at work, or a vacation, where you would normally buy something new and special for that purpose. Odds are, you have plenty of options in your closet already to choose from, and if you don’t, reach out to friends and family to see if you can borrow something from them.
For example, when I went on a trip to Iceland this past winter, I borrowed a nice pair of winter boots for the two weeks while we were there and then returned them afterward. I didn’t need them after that, so they weren’t a purchase I needed to make. Community bartering is an important part of ecofrugal living, and that extends beyond a cup of sugar and a lawnmower and can include clothing as well.
Tell Your Friends about Your Clothes Shopping Ban and Find Support
It might feel weird sharing with friends initially that you’ve stopped buying clothing, but it’s worth doing. Not only will that public announcement make you more likely to stick to your goals by being accountable to sharing with others, but you may find that they will then think of you first when they are getting ready to declutter themselves – giving you first pick of items destined for the thrift store.
Not only will you get variety in your wardrobe even during a clothes shopping ban, you’ll guarantee those pieces of clothing will be worn again, unlike many of the items that end up at thrift stores. When looking for solutions that are good for both your wallet and the environment, community is a key piece again and again.
If you’re feeling up to it, organize a clothing swap with friends and neighbors. It’s a great way to ensure the clothing you are ready to part with goes to someone who will actually wear it, as well as finding new pieces to wear yourself without purchasing anything.
With my last clothing swap, the remainder of the items not chosen by attendees went to a thrift store that specifically supports the homeless population in this area. When you do choose to donate to secondhand stores, make your choices wisely – your impact varies quite a bit depending on where you send those items.
The Ecofrugal Choice
A clothes buying ban, however long, is a great ecofrugal choice if you’re looking to do something different. You will find yourself saving money on unnecessary clothes, wearing through and mending the ones you do own, and connecting with others. After all, a community is also a big part of living a more ecofrugal life.
Save money and save the planet by starting a clothes buying ban today.
And if you have any questions, shoot them over to me! I’ve somehow become an expert on the topic through experience and love talking to anyone who wants to know more!
I’ve already written about years one and two (and 18 months) over at Tread Lightly Retire Early, so hop on over to read more of my thoughts for inspiration as you begin on your own clothes buying ban. You can do it!