2020- The year where I bought less than 20 items of clothing

At the beginning of 2020 I had the post-Christmas ‘how do I have SO many clothes’ as I struggled to pack them all in to my ever transitory life. I am frequently left feeling greedy and have a childish desire to take all clothes everywhere, which simply isn’t practical. Fast fashion is a phrase that has crept in to our vocabulary and I have become more and more uneasy about the habits that I, and a lot of my peers, have developed through growing up. Clothes are cheap, we have disposable income and social media adds pressure to be in a new outfit for each event. I had developed the habit of buying far too many clothes and 2020 seemed to be the year for change.

So I channelled some Marie Kondo (does it spark joy, for anyone that doesn’t know the phrase) into my life and set myself the challenge of only buying 20 items of clothing last year (see my initial post back in May here!). A lot of friends were sceptical that I would complete the challenge and feared for a rather shabby December. I must say the words ‘lockdown’ and ‘covid’ entering our vocabulary somewhat helped with my plight but nonetheless I managed to get to December 31st 2020 with the grand total of 15 new purchases.

What exactly might the benefits be?

  1. Spending less
    Like a lot of working young professionals I am privileged enough to have enjoyed a healthy clothes shopping habit as I have grown up. In one of my first jobs as a waitress, my tips used to come in pound coins and would be squirrelled until I could buy another Topshop skirt. Now as my wardrobe has diversified into work clothes, leisure clothes, workout clothes, going out clothes, going out OUT clothes… the ‘need’ seems to be ever growing. But I, probably similar to a lot of other young professionals, also wonder where my money goes and why I have so little to show for what I earn. I wanted to be a little more conscious of what I was spending and aim to reduce needless shopping, hoping to channel some of this money into longer term savings as well as more meaningful experience-based pursuits.
  2. Meaningful purchases
    I have a tendency to see a bargain and immediately feel the need to buy it. Not because I need nor necessarily even want it that much, but simply because it’s a good deal. It’s exactly these items that hit the clear out bag a few years later as I shamefully haven’t found quite the occasion to have worn it. I wanted to change my mindset, to focus on quality pieces that last and that I love. I figured if I liked something enough to want to fit it into the 20 items schedule, I’d prioritise the things that I wanted the most. I might also be able to afford the clothes in the sustainable categories which often seem more expensive as overall I would be spending less. Bringing me nicely on to…
  3. Sustainability
    It is no secret that the fashion industry is seriously harming our environment. The water required, the waste fabric, the speed with which we buy and chuck items is frightening. I am aware we can’t be perfect and it’s often alarming to realise quite how much damage our lifestyle might do to the planet, even if we’re not intending to do so. Cutting down on my consumption of fast fashion I felt was a good contribution to my efforts at being more conscious of my impact on the planet. I also hadn’t banned hand-me-downs from this years clothes cull as they don’t contribute as much to any of the negative aspects I wanted to reduce (apart from the overflowing wardrobe!). This meant I could get a bit more creative and reuse clothes that may have previously gone to waste.
  4. Materialistic/ Consumerism notions
    Finally, I find myself alarmed at quite how addictive shopping can be. Buying a new item of clothing still takes a little leap of fear to spend, giving a little rush of dopamine when you actually buy it, get it home and wear it. Sure, this can be great, I like feeling confident wearing new clothes. However, isn’t it a little shallow that it is what I need? I wanted to try and focus my energies elsewhere; seeking positive experiences through sport, being outdoors and being with friends and building my confidence in similar ways. The ‘need’ for new clothes I felt shouldn’t play such a crucial role in my se
  5. Self esteem and happiness.

How did I manage it?

It wasn’t nearly as difficult as I had initially feared. As I mentioned, spending 5 months of the year in a state where only those over zoom could see what I was wearing definitely assisted matters. However one of the first things I did was to remove temptation. I’ve never been a huge online shopper, so unsubscribing to any emails for my favourite brands cut out the thought. I filled my weekends (pre and in between covid) with climbs, walks, books & crafts, rather than drifting down the road from my apartment in Milan to the Corso Buenos Aires shopping street.

I then kept a wish list in my ever present notebook. When I returned to Milan in June, it was suddenly hot and I was spending a lot of time with Em on the beach and at the lakes. My bikinis were old and tired; I wanted a new one. I wrote it down and thought about whether I reaaaally needed another one, given I did have others. I sourced a few I wanted and even watched one go out of stock. After a good month of thinking about it irrationally frequently, I decided I wanted it enough, crossed it off the wish list and treated myself.

Finally, I focused on finding other ways to feel good about myself rather than just buying a new item of clothing to satisfy the need. I channelled energy into yoga so that my body felt strong and supple. I found my natural curly hair come back as I stopped straightening religiously, giving it a length and volume I hadn’t seen for years. Surrounding myself with people who were similarly frugal minded meant I was donated clothes, which I worked on transforming to suit me.

It was a challenge worth doing and one in which I have greatly appreciated the results. I have found myself splurging a little over the Christmas and January period, perhaps coincidence, perhaps driven by a previous rationing. Nonetheless I have taken a certain ‘frugality’ in to my decision making having practiced what I preached for a year. Just to decide for the 2021 challenge… one in one out?!

For anyone that wants to know precisely what items filled up this quota, here is the list as follows:

1. Navy spotty work dress 2. Sports Bra 3. Wedding guest dress 4. Long summer dress 5. White party dress 6. Hiking t shirt 7. Hiking vest 8. Hiking long sleeved tee 9. Navy collared top 10. Long sleeved cream top 11. Work navy jacket 12. Fleece lined leggings 13. Black skinny jeans 14. Bikini 15. Long white winter coat

Have you tried anything similar? Or perhaps become conscious of the need to buy less? Let me know if you are thinking of doing it yourself or drop me a line if you have any great ideas for my next years challenge!

Love Zo xx

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