Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Mindful Consumption: Unintended Consequences of Wearing only Six Items of Clothing

Thinking about the clothing we buy and making informed decisions is arguably a smart thing to do. Jumping into a six items for four weeks challenge to raise my awareness was a little rash, especially with a toddler, 20 degree temperature swings, and a nebulous definition of what environmentally conscious means.

The 10 for 4 HavenotWant Mindful Consumption Challenge

Lately I've been barraged with pleas to Shop Local, Buy American, and so on. I'm all for well made garments and for Living Wages. But, how much is just marketing hype and how much is real? I wanted to raise my own awareness of where the clothes I was buying came from and how they were produced. So, for May, I pledged to wear the same six items of clothing for the next four weeks with certain exceptions. I didn't really think about the feasibility of such a challenge. I saw write ups about successful completions and figured I too could do it. And off I went.

Personal and Environmental Opportunity Costs

I carefully picked out my items, and planned to wear only those chosen six items after Sunday, May 4th. I spent a lot of time figuring out what items I'd pick, making sure that the items could be used to create multiple outfits. I forgot to think about what happened if an item got dirty during the week.

I made it to mid-morning on Wednesday before one of the tops had milk spilled on it. I quickly changed tops. Barely an hour passed and I had guacamole on my skirt. Off with the skirt, on with the jeans. And then it hit me. I no longer had the items I'd planned to wear when we went to play miniature golf.

Requires Additional Laundering

I went to the laundry to see if there were enough other items for me to run two loads, one for light colors and one for blacks. Typically we do a load of lights when we can run a full load (about every week and a half), the same with a load of blacks. In this one week, because I'd chosen items with a range of colors, I needed to do two loads of laundry, double the normal energy expenditure and three times the amount of water typically used. Living in California, a drought-stricken state, conserving water is something that's second nature. Being mindful of how my clothing is produced and how the fibers are manufactured so that I could make more environmentally conscious choices and then wasting more of a limited resource seemed at odds. (I did it anyway as I hadn't budgeted time to hand wash clothing.)

Wastes Energy and Saps Productivity

I typically love picking out outfits and accessories. And since taking Style and Styleability last October and participating in Hilary Rushford's Style Me Instagram Challenges am able to pull together an outfit "worthy of remark" from items in my closet in about 10 minutes. There's something about an outfit that looks great and that I'm not second guessing that starts my day off on the right foot. (Another benefit is that by always feeling confident in my outfits I've also cut my unplanned fashion purchases from a few hundred dollars a month to planned purchases as I'm wearing items that I'd forgotten I'd owned. I now have a $1,500 budget for the year that covers replacement items or required wardrobe for work and shoe repair. I also plan to rent/sell seldom worn, in demand designer items from my wardrobe. In the past I've spent upwards of $5,000 for the year on impulsive clothing purchases.)

Just one week into the challenge, figuring out what I was going to wear became a chore again. And that negative energy sapped my productivity for the day.

Takes Me Out of the Moment

The worst unintended consequence of the challenge involved how I interacted with Gates. Knowing that I only had six items of clothing to make 7 outfits with made me overly cautious about getting dirty. (Had I thought this out better, I would have chosen six dresses, so that I'd only have to repeat an outfit once a week.) Unfortunately, dresses don't offer enough flexibility when I'm with Gates. From one moment to the next, we may be racing cars on the living room floor to rolling a ball down the hall to drawing at the art table. After I got three items dirty in less than two hours, I found myself keeping Gates at arms length instead of letting her hug me unconditionally.

Guidelines for the 6 for 4 Challenge

A Need to Relax the Guidelines

By Sunday, May 11th, I was sick of running the opposite direction from my toddler in an attempt to avoid getting clothing soiled. On Monday, May 12th, I amended the challenge, adding four more items for a total of 10 items of clothing for the next three weeks, again with certain exceptions.

Adding Four Items to the Original 6 for 4 Line Up
Have you tried wearing six items of clothing for four weeks? Ten items?
genuinely eden

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Credits: All layouts designed by and images taken by Eden Hensley Silverstein for The Road to the Good Life.