Spring has sprung. As I write this, I can hear the birds chirping to one another outside my window (and being next to the freeway, I can also hear the whoosh of cars and the buzz of motorcycles, but I’ll take birdsong when I can get it.). It was a wonderfully wet and cold winter, which on March 5, finally put an official end to one of the longest droughts we’ve had in California – an incredible 376 weeks. I don’t think I will ever complain about rain again.
The transition from winter to spring brings a change of attitude and a change of clothes. The longer days give me a sunnier outlook. And my wool skirts and heavy sweaters that I’ve been hunkering in since November give way to cotton pants and long-sleeved t’s. Living in the San Francisco Bay Area where the temperatures are relatively mild, I have a wardrobe that could mostly be worn year round. But a few years ago, I adopted the practice of those who live in places with more dramatic climes. Twice a year, I switch my closet from fall and winter to spring and summer.
At first I did this because I have limited storage space, and I found myself repeatedly pulling out the same outfits from an overstuffed wardrobe. But I soon discovered the benefits of this new habit. At the end of each season, I was finding that there were some clothes that I needed to part with, that just didn’t get worn for any number of reasons. And so instead of being packed away, off they went to the Goodwill or the local consignment shop.
But just as fun was welcoming the return of clothes to my closet that I hadn’t seen for half a year. It was as if that old favorite was new again. Any boredom that I once had with my clothes was gone. I was finding that I didn’t have the urge to go shopping for new clothes like I used to do, that I really could just “shop my closet.”
Which has me asking, just how much stuff do we really need?
I’ve adopted a more frugal mindset in the last year, but not strictly financially speaking. I’m thinking about the Earth’s metaphorical bank account too. How much more life can those shoes have if I get them re-soled? Can the frayed neckline of that sweater be darned or covered in new trim? In the past, the cost-benefit analysis of repairing such items would point to tossing them and replacing them with something new. So what if the new tread on my ten-year-old sandals cost nearly as much as a new pair would have? I just saved them from the landfill, while avoiding drawing on new resources to replace them.
That said, there are a couple of times a year when I need some new threads, for a splashy Broadway opening or a replacement for workaday clothes that have finally given up the ghost. So renting a sequined number from Rent the Runway does the trick, or shopping an online consignment store like TheRealReal provides a more sustainable way to get my fashion fix. It’s heartening to see clothing lines like Eileen Fisher adopt environmental sustainability goals in an industry that notoriously contributes to a throw-away society. Companies like these are making it easier for me to never have to shop for “new” again.
My husband sometimes teases me about my affinity for the finer things – my champagne taste, he calls it. But I’ve always subscribed to the notion that you should invest in the long-term, rather than succumb to in-the-moment satisfaction. In the past, this philosophy applied mainly toward big-ticket purchases, like furniture or household appliances, but I am now more keenly taking that view with my wardrobe. In an environmentally fragile world, perhaps fashion forward isn’t being “on trend” but instead, being ubiquitously classic.
Living a greener life means living a simpler life. Less really is more. For me, green really is the new black.