We're all guilty of buying too many clothes, for lots of different reasons. When I worked at IBM, I often bought a new blouse to dress up one of my business suits. OMG, am I dating myself as I stopped wearing those suits when I came home from Tokyo in 1995. And if I discovered a new blouse had to be ironed, I gave it away because time was precious and I only iron when I'm quilting.
Today my wardrobe is more diverse. There are clothes for cold, snowy places and hot desert weather in Arizona and visits to my granddaughter in Florida. Plus comfy work-at-home clothes and business casual clothing for business/networking meetings. Now the experience gained living out of one carry-on suitcase (my beloved wheelie), is helping me think before I buy new clothes. For example, with a wedding later this month, I could buy a new dress. But I rarely wear dresses, so I decided that the dress I bought for my son's wedding would be fine as I only wear it once a year.
So why do I think we're buying too many clothes? Keep reading and you'll learn how even our houses encourage us to buy more stuff. And how America's consumption problem has created an global industry where 45 percent of the clothing we donate, is exported by for-profit recyclers to developing countries around the world.
New Houses Have More Storage Space
Our houses have gotten a lot bigger over the years, although they've started to get smaller recently. But amazingly, a trend I've found in newer homes is the addition of more storage space. Walking through new houses, I first liked the idea of larger, walk-in closets in all the bedrooms to help clear the clutter that fills up our living spaces. At the same time, I know that more stuff, stored in more places makes it hard to find what we want … when we want it.
While it's always made sense for the master bedroom closet to be larger with two people sharing the space, the question is why do smaller bedrooms need larger closets? More and bigger closets also sends a subtle message that it's okay to buy a lot more stuff whether it's clothing, shoes, purses or games in a child's bedroom. What I do to reduce unnecessary buying is to give myself a budget, like no more shoes that the number that fit along two walls of my closet … or no more shirts if the shelves are full.
So what do you think about the storage spaces in this floor plan? And what we can't see is how much storage space there is in the attic or basement, the more traditional place for keeping things we only use once a year like holiday decorations. Do you see why w're buying too many clothes? collectibles? toys and hobby supplies?
- Large storage closet off the garage.
- Extra large laundry room with a desk.
- Media/hobby room off the family room (not shaded) where you can store things versus leaving them in the family room.
- Two large walk-in closets in the master bedroom.
- Standard storage spaces – front hall closet, kitchen pantry and linen closet.
- Built-in bookcases wrapping around the fireplace.
- Extra storage in the outdoor kitchen.
American Throw Away 12.7 Million Tons of Textiles Each Year
According to the article, The Truth About Your Clothing Donations “Every year, Americans throw away 12.7 million tons, or 68 pounds of textiles per person, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, and estimate that 1.6 million tons of this waste could be recycled or reused”.
You definitely should read this article to learn how big a problem this is because you're just one person, and imagine multiplying what you give away each year by 320 million which was the US population in 2015. How we live in the US is affecting lives around the world, in ways we can't imagine. When I traveled to Zimbabwe with a group of women business owners, we spent time with local women in Harare and Victoria Falls. That's where I learned that one of the businesses popular there was selling used clothing from America. So we think we're donating it … but we're in fact, creating a used clothing industry in countries around the world.
A few surprising facts worth noting, and hopefully you'll think long and hard before you buy any new clothing!
- With the sharp decline in clothing prices, we're buying 5 times more “disposable” clothing than we did in 1980, and donations are increasing 10% a year.
- Today's mass produced clothing is such poor quality, that organizations like The Salvation Army and Goodwill send it to the dump versus selling it in their stores.
- Less than 20 percent of clothing donations are actually resold there, with roughly 45% exported by for-profit recyclers to developing countries around the world.
- Used clothing is affecting local employment in these countries with textile and clothing employment down by 80% since 1975.
PS The photo on top reminded me of a family tradition. As the oldest in my family, I had my two boys pack up a box of toys for their cousins before Christmas each year, so they'd have room for new toys.