One Planet Living

Making Do – Clothes

January 30, 2017

I meant to write this last week, but time kind of ran away with me, so now I’m squishing in the last couple of posts for our first month of One Planet Living into the last couple of days of the month!

This first month of our One Planet Living focus is all about Making Do, or loving the stuff we already have. Lots of people in my Facebook community have been having great success with Making Do with food this month, and have been shopping their cupboards and freezers, making all kinds of variations on ‘Fridge Soup’ and other inventive meals.
Other people have been focussing on Making Do with the clothes they already have, or have committing to not buying any more craft supplies until they have used up their existing stashes.
Today, I’m going to focus on Making Do with respect to our clothes, and share some tips and links that will help you learn to love and appreciate the clothes you already have, instead of buying into the fast fashion messages that you need to constantly be replenishing your wardrobe.

The fashion business is the second most polluting industry on the planet, second only to oil and petrochemicals.
We all need to wear clothes, and we all buy clothes.
So we all have the power to create change by making different choices.

Making different choices about the clothes we buy, choosing to buy ethical labels, to buy less but buy better, or to buy secondhand, are all really powerful ways of ‘casting our vote’, but chasing to not buy, to re-use, repair, make do with what we already have is another form of gentle activism, and a great way to resist the consumer messages we are bombarded with every day.

Top Tips for Making Do with the clothes you already have:

1. Do a wardrobe audit.
Empty your drawers, your wardrobe, the boxes under the bed, and anywhere else you stash clothes and pile it all up on the bed.
Take each item in turn, and consider it carefully. To borrow a phrase from tidying Queen Marie Kondo, does it ‘spark joy’? Do you love it? Does it make you look and feel good? If you don’t love it, put it to one side. If you love it, but you never wear it because it doesn’t fit, then put it to one side. If you actually really hate it and it makes you feel rubbish when you wear it, but you’ve just held onto it because you don’t have anything else, put it to one side.
Bear in mind that not all of your clothes that you need will necessarily ‘spark joy’. Some will be more functional. So before you discard your greying pants or your uninspiring socks, make sure you leave yourself enough pairs!
Make four piles:
– one of clothes to keep
– one of clothes that have potential but need mending, altering, upcycling
– one pile to go to the charity shop/be Swished/donated etc
– one pile of clothes that are no good for any of the above – these can go in the textile recycling bins

2. Create your ‘capsule wardrobe’.
This doesn’t have to be a tiny wardrobe of only 10 items that all work fabulously together, but it simply involves giving some thought to what items work with others, and how many different outfits you might be able to create with different combinations.
Check out Courtney Carver’s Project 333 if you want some more inspiration for creating capsule wardrobes – she has a great concept of choosing just 33 items (including shoes and accessories) each season, and has lots of ideas for how to Make Do with fewer clothes.

3. Get mending.
Set aside some time in your diary to tackle your mending pile. Write it in your diary! A couple of evenings hand sewing in front of the TV, or an hour or two with the sewing machine, is probably all that it needs, and once you’ve done it you will wonder quite why you procrastinated for so long (I speak from experience here!)
If you need help or advice, or even just some good old fashioned accountability, then head over to my Facebook group which is full of friendly souls happy to share their mending experience and know-how.
This tutorial here from my fab friend Erin is a great one for invisibly mending holes in the crotches of jeans. Or check out this post here for 3 different ways to patch jeans if you are struggling with holes, or there’s help with basic darning right here.

4. Get upcycling.
Take a look at your pile of clothes you no longer love, and think about whether any of them could either be modified in some way to make them more appealing, or re-purposed into something completely different.
Jeans or trousers can be turned into skirts pretty easily, and woolly jumpers can be turned into funky cardigans. Sometimes all that is needed is a change of buttons to completely transform the look of something.
If you can’t figure out a way to alter an item so that it ‘sparks joy’ again, then change your outlook slightly, and view this pile of clothes as ‘fabric’ rather than ‘a shirt’ or a ‘skirt’. Some clothes have a surprising amount of really usable fabric once you start unpicking and things like jeans are incredibly versatile – here are some great ideas for upcycling jeans.

5. Take care of the clothes you have.
This one is totally tedious, and so grown up and sensible BUT in that annoying way of grown up and sensible things, it actually really makes sense.
I have started wearing an apron when I am cooking, and I am not kidding you, this has changed my world! To the extent that I am thinking about pitching a new book idea “The Life Changing Magic of Wearing a Pinny” to publishers, or maybe even starting a new campaign: “Wear a pinny, save the world” with a ‘super-hero’ proudly sporting a suitably floral apron as they save the world from environmental disaster. This one simple act means that I end up needing to wash my outer clothes (jeans and jumpers etc) far less – I now simply give them a shake and hang them back up ready for their next outing, rather than having to wash everything, every day.
And now I’ve mentioned it, hang stuff up! Or fold it and put it away. We all have ‘that chair’ right? The chair where we dump the things that aren’t dirty enough to need washing, but not freshly washed and dried, so we kind of dump them in this no-mans land of ‘the chair’ until we wear them again, or wash them. Don’t do it! If stuff doesn’t need washing, start hanging it up again after you’ve worn it – it’s better for the clothes, and you will feel so much better without the reproachful pile of clothes in the corner staring at you each night. It also means that your clothes will last longer and stay in better condition.

So what are your favourite tips for Making Do with the clothes you already have? Do share in the comments below, or come and join in the conversation in my Facebook group 🙂

PS. I’m just compiling the first One Planet Living monthly round-up for my newsletter subscribers – you can sign up here to get it straight into your in-box.


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  • Reply Annie February 1, 2017 at 3:40 am

    Yes! Wearing an apron is awesome. I wouldn’t say it prevents me from having to wash stuff after wearing (I’m pretty active and clothing is usually quite dirty by the end of the day) but it does prevent stains. I usually wouldn’t notice a stain until it had gone through the wash once and then I have to wash again after putting on stain stick so it prevents double washing for me.

    • Reply Jen February 2, 2017 at 9:57 am

      Yes! I’m the same, and sometimes they are harder to get out once they’ve been washed too. Hurray for aprons!

  • Reply Vicky January 31, 2017 at 11:18 pm

    Really like your twist on KonMari Jen, I’m doing it at the moment and it takes so much longer the eco way! But is slowly changing my life. I hang up my top inside out at the end of each day, then assess (read: sniff) in the morning whether it can be worn again/put away or consigned to the wash basket. Would be interested to hear if anyone has a home made eco version of Febreze!

  • Reply Kanerva January 31, 2017 at 10:30 am

    Another vote for wearing an apron! I also change out of my work clothes the minute I get home. Actually after I get home the second time as the dogs need an outing the minute I walk in the door 🙂

    • Reply Jen January 31, 2017 at 7:47 pm

      There’s a whole army of apron’d wonders out there, who knew?!

  • Reply Helen January 31, 2017 at 4:09 am

    I’ve found that less health-damaging deodorants don’t stop the sweat as much and so I have to wash upper garments more often, which is a shame. I used to be able to wear the same top for two, if not three, days.

    Still, that doesn’t affect skirts and trousers…. and like you, Jen, I have got into wearing a pinny when cooking. I also wear pyjamas around the house a lot more – that saves wear and tear on my outdoor clothes (i.e. I’m not so bothered about nightwear looking a bit worn).

    • Reply Jen January 31, 2017 at 7:47 pm

      You are right Helen, a lot of the more natural deodorants aren’t anti-perspirant (i.e. they don’t block the pores and stop you sweating) but I think I’d rather wash my clothes a bit more often than go back to them 🙂
      Maybe we should reinstate the housecoat..?!

      • Reply Helen January 31, 2017 at 7:49 pm

        Yes, definitely better to wash clothes a bit more often!

  • Reply Julie January 30, 2017 at 3:57 pm

    I had got into the habit of wearing tops once and then putting them in the wash but actually unless I’ve been gardening or particularly sweaty, they’re fine to wear again. So our washing pile is now smaller and hopefully my clothes will last longer. I also bought a darning mushroom this month and mended all our jumpers. I’ve just sorted out another pile of mending which I’ll do tonight. In terms of clothes, my wardrobe is full of lovely stuff but most of it doesn’t fit cos I’ve put weight on. I’m having another go at losing weight (not diet just lifestyle – I’ve shifted from long term vegetarian to mostly vegan) but if I don’t think I’ll ever shift the middle-aged tum then I’ll have a go at altering some clothes or maybe just give them to charity and make do with what does fit or just buy a few extra bits if really needed from charity shops.

    • Reply Jen January 30, 2017 at 9:12 pm

      Well done on reducing the washing pile Julie! And do let us know how you get on with the mending 🙂

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