How to reduce closet clutter & practice sustainable fashion in 5 steps

Your ultimate guide to clearing fashion that no longer ‘sparks joy’ and keeping your closet forever neat.

© 123rf

Have you ever been guilty of falling prey to the fast fashion trend? I feel you. Cheap and trendy fashion are big draws for our generation’s thirst for fresh #selfies and #OOTD (outfit of the day) posts.

What many unwitting consumers (like us!) don’t know is that most clothing these days are made from synthetic materials such as polyester, acrylic, lycra, spandex, nylon – AKA plastic fabric. All of these synthetic fabrics create microfiber pollution every time they’re laundered. These plastics that seep into our water sources, are too small to filter out and dangerously sneak back into our lives through consumables like seafood.

If you’re looking to practice a more sustainable manner of buying clothes and decluttering your current stash, read on because we have the perfect 5Rs for you.

REDUCE: Does it spark joy?

Choose your favourites wisely © 123rf

In true Marie Kondo spirit, the first thing you need to do is to take a good look at what you already have. Next, dump every piece of clothing you’ve ever owned on your bed. Now, pick each item up and ask yourself if it still sparks joy for you. Be really honest and ONLY keep items that you are still able to fit into and ones that you still enjoy wearing, even if it’s on occasions. The goal here is not to throw away as many clothes as you can, but to go through a process of finding new and old items that you really love to keep. Do the same for everything else – from accessories to bags, hats and shoes.

REORGANISE: Sort and section everything that’s left

Fashion retail shops are great examples of colour-coordinated organisation © 123rf

The best way to see everything you own at a glance is to ensure that your wardrobe is, first of all, clean. Then, organise your clothing into categories like tops, shorts, pants, dresses, socks, underwear and so on. Find a place for each category and then organise them either by size, length or colour. Choosing an item of clothing by its type or colour makes your life – and planning for OOTDs – easier. For example, organise pants on a hanger rack and arrange them by colour. Start from black pants, move on to denim, then coloured pants and eventually end with white or light beige ones. Organise tops and dresses by length, and use little boxes to store smaller items like underwear or belts.

Here’s a good guide to folding your clothes using the #KonMari method: Link

Organise your bags by arranging them on a shelf by size horizontally. Smaller bags can be kept inside larger bags (up to 3 bags stacked) for a super space-saving hack. Jewellery should be organised in neat, sectioned boxes by types and sizes – so everything can be seen at a glance. Items like necklaces can be individually kept in mini ziplock bags or any clear packaging so that you don’t waste time disentangling them.

REPURPOSE: Give new life to old fabrics!

Turn old clothes into creative projects! © 123rf

There are plenty of ways you can repurpose your old items that may be too worn out or damaged to donate. Like that favourite t-shirt that’s coming loose at the seams and riddled with holes – repurpose it as a kitchen dishcloth, or one to wipe and polish your car with. Turn patterned clothing into a quilt project. Or if you have kids, you can find various fabrics for do-it-yourself (DIY) projects for them to work on too! Old scarves can be given new life (and a new home) when reused in place of gift wrapping paper. Wrap the gift ‘furoshiki’ style and the receiver will get both a gift and a new scarf!

A great example of repurposing old clothes is how Kloth Klothing that created an autism sensory wall using unwanted fabrics and polyester materials for the enjoyment of the autistic community.  You can donate your clothes to them for other repurposing efforts as well.

RECYCLE: Monetise your items that are still in good condition

Sometimes, recycling does not equal destroying an item to make a new one. It just means giving the item a chance to serve its purpose. Some clothes may be too precious to be given away – like the expensive sequinned dress you wore only once for a special event. You don’t know when you would ever need it again. It’s too beautiful to toss out but too tragic to leave it collect dust in your wardrobe. Rent it out! Dresstal provides a platform for women to rent their evening gowns out to women who don’t want to splurge on formal dresses. This allows you to keep your dress and give it a purpose while making some cash off it too!

Brand new or worn-once clothes that are too ‘wasteful’ to be donated can be resold at Refash – a platform that resells your underutilised fashion splurges from impulsive retail therapies. Your items will be assessed by retail staff and you will be offered a sum for your clothes. There is a good possibility of recouping at least 50% of your initial investment, which is honestly better than nothing.

REFUSE: The root cause of all your wardrobe issues!

Purchase with care to avoid a cluttered closet © 123rf

If anything, this is the one ‘R’ that most of us do not consciously practice. Fast fashion which is easily available in most shopping malls in Malaysia have us purchasing more than we need because of the various price points. However, we don’t often consider the value of a brand’s quality and production ethics. We also buy into trends that last a short few months before becoming irrelevant (drop-crotch pants anyone?). Perhaps it is time to rethink our priorities and purchase in a more sustainable manner. Here are some points to consider:

  • Refuse cheap items. Chances are, their quality matches their prices.
  • Refuse items that do not match items you already own. Go for versatile pieces.
  • Refuse plastic microfiber materials. Go with natural fabrics like cotton or linen.
  • Refuse to buy brands that do not practice ethical production methods.
  • Refuse quantity over quality. Build your wardrobe to last for the long run.

Share