There’s no denying that consumerism is embedded into Western society. In Australia alone each person buys on average 27 kilograms of new clothing every year (less than America but twice the global average), and as a collective we dispose 500,000 tonnes of it. So I think that’s a good enough indication that our turnover of clothing is out of hand.
Brands and retail outlets are constantly pushing prices down, putting clothes on sale, and churning out new styles. Everything is pushing us to buy. I come across multiple items each week that I want to add to my wardrobe – outfits from Instagram, sales in my email inbox, a shop window on my way to work, it never ends. Lucky for me, I have a rule that helps me to control my consumerism which I’m going to share with you soon.
But first, let me just say, this (below) is not ok. Brands need to stop glorifying consumerism especially at the expense of people’s ability to budget. It is sending a message that buying lots of cheap clothing on the reg is OK, and I’m here to tell you it’s not (for so many reasons, read this for clarification).
We need a mindset change. And if you’re reading this, I assume it’s because you’re ready, willing, and want to know how to do it. So I’m going to tell you how I do it. And it’s super simple.
Changing the way you consume
I have a rule that spans budget, quality, and the truest test of all: time.
I love fashion, I want it in my life, but not at the expense of “my lunch” (to quote The Iconic‘s Facebook post). Making room in the budget for fashion is important to me, so I have an allowance. This means I’m accountable for the money I spend on my clothes, and it’s not impacting my savings goals or my ability to pay bills. To do this I simply split my money into a few accounts: general expenses, splurge, and short- and long-term savings. Splurge is eating out, Ubers, and fashion, and sometimes short-term savings is a bit of fashion as well (eg. if I’m on holidays).
Because I like nice things (read: sustainably made and made to last), most things I like aren’t exactly cheap. So this means waiting until there’s enough money in the splurge account to buy it. This is good because it’s also in line with another part of my fashion-purchasing rule, time. We’ll get to that soon.
The second part of the rule is making sure that what I’m buying is made to last. Brands and stores that are synonymous with fast fashion almost certainly aren’t making quality clothing that stand the test of time. And while there’s always the option to repair damaged clothes, it’s hardly worth it when a garment is worth so little and breaking in multiple ways. For example I used to love Gorman (still do, but I don’t buy it new), but its hems always fall down and the clothes shrink even when they’re hand-washed, so it doesn’t pass the rule of quality.
But quality isn’t just about the the way it’s made, it’s also about the fabrics used and the design as well. Something that is very seasonal or on-trend doesn’t pass the test of quality. The design needs to outlast the season and passing trends, too. And quality fabrics are often natural like cotton, wool, leather and tencel.
Consuming fashion has never been easier. It’s cheap, it’s available 24/7 (online) and there’s never been more options. Add to that the rush of happiness when you buy something and you’ve got yourself a never-ending cycle of wanting to consume. So how can we stop this desire in its track? The answer, my friend, is time.
Scientists have found that most of our decisions to buy something are made instantly, a sign that our emotions are in charge. By giving yourself a time barrier between wanting something and buying something, you allow yourself to apply rational thought to the purchasing decision, rather than letting emotions take the wheel.
How much time? For me it’s two weeks. It’s enough time for me to encounter however many other things and realise that I don’t actually need/want it in some cases. It removes the impulse buy, and turns it into a thoughtful purchase.
If you’re wanting to change your consumerism habits, this is a great place to start. You won’t take a hit in the wardrobe or your bank account, you’ll be happier for it, and the planet will be too.