The Zero Waste ClosetThe Zero Waste Closet

Last week was April 15th! For most it meant tax day. For me: Biannual clothes shopping day. The day I refresh my worn out basics and add some zing to my wardrobe. I wait and prepare for it for months at a time. I love fashion and I only shop twice a year: April 15th for spring-summer, and October 15th for fall-winter.

Before each spree, I visit the library and go through magazines to get inspired and educate my eye. This is a system that I have lived by for the past eight years.
But, please… don’t blame me for being tempted by fashion, symbol of a disposable and ephemeral closet: I graduated from the London School of Fashion, and still enjoy expressing myself through dressing. And as long as my shopping habits follow my sustainable ethics, isn’t it alright to be fashionable? What can I say: I do care about my looks, regardless of the Zero Waste lifestyle, sadly associated with careless / carefree clothing. Did I mention that one does not need to conform to a certain fashion style to be a Zero Waste advocate?…My personal fashion sense is rather about wearing exciting, one of a kind, USED pieces to make my everyday more exciting.

I can see some of you cringing at the idea of thrifting already. “I can’t find anything in that mess”, or “Oh! I can’t take the smell in thrift shops”, people tell me… It’s true that the items in the shop have lost their smell of off-gassing plastics and that these shops don’t have perfume in the air (department stores) to cover it up. Isn’t it sad that most people prefer to shop in a store that reeks of plastic because the smell is associated with new things, the high of shopping and consumerism? You know what I am talking about if you have practiced department/new store abstinence before. It is like discovering the true smell of your house after a long absence… Well the true smell (or is it the phthalates?) of those new stores actually makes me nauseous. And if the term “used” bothers you, call it “vintage”. Somehow vintage stores, although they also only carry used items, have a better reputation.

But what I love most about thrift and vintage shopping is the hunt for the unusual clothing, the minimal price tag (where I shop they use a piece of paper stapled to the garment as a price tag), and the carbon footprint redemption, of course… This is where you choose a garment for its fit, not its tag or brand.

Here is my system:

  • I stick to minimal closets: My boys, for example, have a set of 4 pants, 8 shirts, and a dressy outfit for each season. I’ll spare you my wardrobe list.
  • I keep a minimal shoe closet: I have paired it down to just 6 pairs of shoes: slippers, boots, ballet, medium heel, high heel sandal, and sandals. For the kids, I buy athletic shoes second hand, and when worn out I take them to Nike “Reuse a Shoe” program. (At the rate that my little one goes through sneakers, we wait to fill a bin before taking them in). They also own a pair of dress shoes, flip-flops and slippers.
  • I own only a small selection (3) of purses: 1 everyday/evening wrist wallet, 1 small foraging messenger bag and 1 work bag (to fit my computer).
  • I keep an updated inventory of my closet, made up of neutral colors and exciting season-less essentials. On that same excel file, I highlight the items that I wore out (holes, tears or stubborn stains) and need to replace on the next shopping trip.
  • I shop twice a year: It avoids compulsive buys, keeps us out of the mall. (We actually only shop once a year for my husband).
  • I shop at second hand stores mostly: I believe in reusing before buying new organic clothes. This season, the new items I purchased were a pair of sandals (could not find a basic secondhand pair) and a bra. The rest I bought at the thrift shop for $40 (I can proudly say, it is a record low)
  • If I do get a new piece, I make sure that it is good quality, and only carries minimal tags (I leave the shoe box at the store). Patagonia, I hear, recycles some of their garments to make new ones.
  • I am ruthless on fit, it is as simple as: “If it doesn’t fit, I must acquit!”
  • I bring a basket: Too often we think about the reusable bag at the grocery store, but don’t apply it to other stores.
  • I put it back on the market before it goes out of style: If, for some reason, I do not wear a specific piece of clothing for a month, I give it to a friend or Goodwill. Otherwise I end up with a closet full of nothing-to-wear. Keep it on the market and share it while it’s hot!
  • I keep some of my worn out clothes for rags (duh), but I label the rest as “rags” and take it to Goodwill for recycling. Call your local Goodwill to confirm their participation in the program.
  • With sewing, I have been able to save many outfits, with only a few stitches (shorten a hem, add an elastic or change buttons…)
  • I take it to the tailor, if something is out of my technical expertise (I recently had to take a coat in, the fabric is too thick for my machine)
  • I keep handkerchiefs handy in my closet and purses.
  • TMI: I keep vitamin E balm next to my sandals to add shine to my polish-free toes.

And you know what the bonus was on this last thrifting spree? Finding a two liter Le Parfait jar for only $2. Yoohoo!

Last week was April 15th! For most it meant tax day. For me: Biannual clothes shopping day. The day I refresh my worn out basics and add some zing to my wardrobe. I wait and prepare for it for months at a time. I love fashion and I only shop twice a year: April 15th for spring-summer, and October 15th for fall-winter.

Before each spree, I visit the library and go through magazines to get inspired and educate my eye. This is a system that I have lived by for the past eight years.
But, please… don’t blame me for being tempted by fashion, symbol of a disposable and ephemeral closet: I graduated from the London School of Fashion, and still enjoy expressing myself through dressing. And as long as my shopping habits follow my sustainable ethics, isn’t it alright to be fashionable? What can I say: I do care about my looks, regardless of the Zero Waste lifestyle, sadly associated with careless / carefree clothing. Did I mention that one does not need to conform to a certain fashion style to be a Zero Waste advocate?…My personal fashion sense is rather about wearing exciting, one of a kind, USED pieces to make my everyday more exciting.

I can see some of you cringing at the idea of thrifting already. “I can’t find anything in that mess”, or “Oh! I can’t take the smell in thrift shops”, people tell me… It’s true that the items in the shop have lost their smell of off-gassing plastics and that these shops don’t have perfume in the air (department stores) to cover it up. Isn’t it sad that most people prefer to shop in a store that reeks of plastic because the smell is associated with new things, the high of shopping and consumerism? You know what I am talking about if you have practiced department/new store abstinence before. It is like discovering the true smell of your house after a long absence… Well the true smell (or is it the phthalates?) of those new stores actually makes me nauseous. And if the term “used” bothers you, call it “vintage”. Somehow vintage stores, although they also only carry used items, have a better reputation.

But what I love most about thrift and vintage shopping is the hunt for the unusual clothing, the minimal price tag (where I shop they use a piece of paper stapled to the garment as a price tag), and the carbon footprint redemption, of course… This is where you choose a garment for its fit, not its tag or brand.

Here is my system:

  • I stick to minimal closets: My boys, for example, have a set of 4 pants, 8 shirts, and a dressy outfit for each season. I’ll spare you my wardrobe list.
  • I keep a minimal shoe closet: I have paired it down to just 6 pairs of shoes: slippers, boots, ballet, medium heel, high heel sandal, and sandals. For the kids, I buy athletic shoes second hand, and when worn out I take them to Nike “Reuse a Shoe” program. (At the rate that my little one goes through sneakers, we wait to fill a bin before taking them in). They also own a pair of dress shoes, flip-flops and slippers.
  • I own only a small selection (3) of purses: 1 everyday/evening wrist wallet, 1 small foraging messenger bag and 1 work bag (to fit my computer).
  • I keep an updated inventory of my closet, made up of neutral colors and exciting season-less essentials. On that same excel file, I highlight the items that I wore out (holes, tears or stubborn stains) and need to replace on the next shopping trip.
  • I shop twice a year: It avoids compulsive buys, keeps us out of the mall. (We actually only shop once a year for my husband).
  • I shop at second hand stores mostly: I believe in reusing before buying new organic clothes. This season, the new items I purchased were a pair of sandals (could not find a basic secondhand pair) and a bra. The rest I bought at the thrift shop for $40 (I can proudly say, it is a record low)
  • If I do get a new piece, I make sure that it is good quality, and only carries minimal tags (I leave the shoe box at the store). Patagonia, I hear, recycles some of their garments to make new ones.
  • I am ruthless on fit, it is as simple as: “If it doesn’t fit, I must acquit!”
  • I bring a basket: Too often we think about the reusable bag at the grocery store, but don’t apply it to other stores.
  • I put it back on the market before it goes out of style: If, for some reason, I do not wear a specific piece of clothing for a month, I give it to a friend or Goodwill. Otherwise I end up with a closet full of nothing-to-wear. Keep it on the market and share it while it’s hot!
  • I keep some of my worn out clothes for rags (duh), but I label the rest as “rags” and take it to Goodwill for recycling. Call your local Goodwill to confirm their participation in the program.
  • With sewing, I have been able to save many outfits, with only a few stitches (shorten a hem, add an elastic or change buttons…)
  • I take it to the tailor, if something is out of my technical expertise (I recently had to take a coat in, the fabric is too thick for my machine)
  • I keep handkerchiefs handy in my closet and purses.
  • TMI: I keep vitamin E balm next to my sandals to add shine to my polish-free toes.

And you know what the bonus was on this last thrifting spree? Finding a two liter Le Parfait jar for only $2. Yoohoo!

  1. Anonymous says:

    April 24th, 2010 at 10:07 pm (#)

    Oh, Bea, I would LOVE more details about your wardrobe plan (colors, number of items per category, etc.) unless you really would prefer not to share that information. It is not so much that I wish to imitate as be inspired by your methods about which I have so enjoyed reading!

  2. Sandra says:

    April 24th, 2010 at 10:08 pm (#)

    Thank you for your post! I realize that although I try to be careful about buying too much clothing, I don't really know what I do have. I think it is a great idea to keep careful track and be conscious of the clothes we do have and make better use of that, rather than buying new.

  3. Anonymous says:

    April 25th, 2010 at 1:00 am (#)

    For the kids: I read in one of your other posts that you only do laundry once a week. But they only have four pairs of pants. Are your boys cleaner than the normal (or do they get cleaner as they get older? Mine are 4 & 2, and I have a 7 yo daughter who also gets quite grubby) or do you have some other system for stretching their wardrobes?

    You don't have sneakers/hiking shoes in your wardrobe?

  4. cleanhippie says:

    April 25th, 2010 at 10:28 pm (#)

    This is great reading. I just cleaned out my closet, and realized how many things I just never wear. Your method takes more thought at work than just grabbing whatever catches your eye at the store, but nothing worth doing is every easy, right?

  5. Vanessa says:

    April 26th, 2010 at 2:16 am (#)

    Thanks for this Bea, it's so inspiring to get a report from someone further down the minimalist path. I too keep a spreadsheet and look through magazines for inspiration when I need to replace something. But I still have twelve pairs of shoes, and thought it was the minimum – you've helped me rethink that. I realise I'm holding on to three pairs of heels I don't wear, just because they're lovely. And someone else could be wearing and enjoying them.

    I'd love to know how many pieces of clothing are in your wardrobe, for the same reason. My spreadsheet has a list of 30 things for autumn/winter and 30 for spring/summer, with about 30% of pieces crossing over. That doesn't include underwear, nightwear or accessories (I have three bags, like you).

    Questions: with so few shoes and clothes, do you find things wear out fairly fast, and you're replacing most things every year? Or does the quality of the things you buy mean they last a bit longer? Also, how did you find thrift shops that stock good-quality, fashionable clothes? I've been trying out my local op shops, but they're full of cheap, nasty clothing. Do you travel to shops in affluent areas?

  6. Vanessa says:

    April 26th, 2010 at 2:17 am (#)

    Sorry for another enormous comment! :-/

  7. Anonymous says:

    April 26th, 2010 at 3:16 am (#)

    I have just recently stumbled across your blog. Wow,I am impressed! I have a long long way to go in the zero waste mode. Thanks for all the information and showing how much can be done.

  8. Anonymous says:

    April 26th, 2010 at 3:28 am (#)

    Can you provide a resource list of stores? I would love to know where you shop for yourself and the kids.

  9. mary says:

    April 27th, 2010 at 4:57 pm (#)

    If you care to share, I would love to know where you shop locally for your fabulous finds… Buffalo Exchange or Crossroads? I am about to have to do the same as well as a clothing purge and am so tired of going "thrifting" for clothes to find nothing good. Thanks for sharing this! Another inspiring post! 🙂

  10. Anonymous says:

    April 27th, 2010 at 11:15 pm (#)

    Bea, I also need a resource for kids sizes larger than 6. I have a girl, so I won't be competition for your great finds! Thanks.

  11. Bea Johnson says:

    April 28th, 2010 at 1:27 am (#)

    Hi there:
    Thanks for all your comments. Although I would love to share where my last shopping spree was, I would rather recommend that you take the time to find those that work best for your family needs. I have scouted and changed my favorites many times over the past 8 years, thrift shops change overtime too. Everyone's fashion sense is different. My girlfriends and I don't even enjoy the same thrift shops for example. And please note that going to an affluent neighbourhood does not necessarily work for finding quality clothing since many thrift shops (mainly chains) send all donations to a central location and redistributes to their stores.
    As for hiking boots or sneakers… I personally do not need them. I hike and bike (my 2 sports)around town in flats. If I were to pick up a new sport requiring sneakers, I would have no problem giving up either the ballet flats or the medium heels though (I don't wear them often).
    As for the boys and their 4 pairs of shorts: I do only wash once a week, which means that the boys (8 and 10yr old) have to wear their shorts twice. We switched to 4 only last year, before that, they were too messy to make it work;)

  12. Bea Johnson says:

    April 28th, 2010 at 2:44 am (#)

    Anonymous:
    Here is a quick inventory of my closet:
    9 tops
    5 sweaters (3)/cardigans (2)
    5 bottoms
    3 dresses
    5 intimates types
    6 shoes
    3 bags
    5 jackets
    9 accessories
    I'll keep the details private, every girl needs a secret 😉

  13. Vanessa says:

    April 29th, 2010 at 1:11 am (#)

    Thanks for this, Bea. It's made me think hard about what I actually NEED. There are quite a few things I hold on to just because I worry I might not be able to afford to replace them in the future… Must find some good thrift shops so I don't have that worry.

    Oh! I did some googling and discovered that there is a tour of the best thrift shops in my city. I also found quite a bit of discussion on the web on people's favourites. Other readers might find the same thing in their area.

  14. Anonymous says:

    April 29th, 2010 at 8:09 pm (#)

    I think of this entry as more an inspiration than a what-to-do. For example, I think most of us can get by with 4 to 10 pairs of shoes, no problem. But they might be different types for different people.
    I am very active: I need shoes for (serious) hiking/backpacking and light-weight hikers for day trips (if you actually hike, as in over 5 miles at a time, you will not question these pairs!); I play in the creek and explore tide-pools (so I need water-resistant non-slip shoes); I play basketball and soccer with my kids, so I need tennis shoes/sneakers. On the other hand, I do not need slippers or ballet flats!
    "If, for some reason, I do not wear a specific piece of clothing for a month, I give it to a friend or Goodwill"–does not ring true to me. Ski jacket? Not worn May-Oct, but I'm keeping it. Fancy top for weddings, religious events? Bathing suit cover up? Same thing.
    Anyhow, this is thought-provoking, and that is always a good thing.

  15. Cindy says:

    April 29th, 2010 at 9:51 pm (#)

    Thank you! I so appreciate your blog. Before you opened your life to us all I would not have thought a zero waste lifestyle was possible. Or that my husband would be on board with it. But after perusing and considering and discussing we are building a strategy for really managing our waste output. Thanks for doing great work!

  16. Bea Johnson says:

    April 30th, 2010 at 4:17 pm (#)

    Cindy: Comments like yours give me the strength to keep this blog going, thanks for the feedback! and Thank YOU for revising your waste output!
    Anonymous: this blog is naturally not about dictating what you should do, but rather give you something to think about, thanks for making that point…
    For me, the ideal closet is made of garments that have double (or triple) duty and that I can wear anytime (nothing left behind in a dark corner for a rare occasion). Neutrals and season-less have been the key to my minimalism. For example, my bathing suit cover-up is also my only wrap and my only scarf. And I wear my fancy tops any day to add zing under a jacket. But I understand if that system might not work for you. People have different needs based on climate, and styles. Wouldn't it be boring if we all had the same wardrobe contents?

  17. Anonymous says:

    May 3rd, 2010 at 3:28 pm (#)

    Bea, I am addicted to your blog! You have completely inspired me to go through my closet! I emailed your web page to several of my friends also! I am on pins and needles to know what purse/bag you selected as your only 3. How do you select them? Were they gifts? Are they eco friendly? Or did you just select one very nice purse that should last for a long time? Also, does your french market bag count as one of the bags? -Diana in Cali

  18. Bea Johnson says:

    May 3rd, 2010 at 5:15 pm (#)

    Hi Diana:
    My 3 purses were selected according to my activities. My main one is a wrist wallet with a strap. I bought this one new (after spending hours looking for a used one), because I was looking for something very specific: black, small, gold hardware (my metal color of choice is gold), minimal credit card pockets (3:credit card, ID, insurance card), a zippered coin section, an area for bills, a wrist band, and just thick enough to occasionally carry my cell (once a week), a pen, a tiny notepad, a flat tin of homemade balm, a handkerchief, 4 biz cards, and a key. The second one, I bought used and use on hikes to forage, it is as big as a sheet of paper and flat. I can get the interior of this one dirty, carrying plants or dog treats, or a wet bottle of water. The third one is the largest, my girlfriend gave it to me. This one can fit my computer, my wrist wallet and some papers.
    All 3 are black and made out of leather. Black because it goes with everything in my wardrobe, and leather because it is most durable and repairable.
    The shopping baskets stay in the family car. So we never forget them when shopping or running errands. The family might use one for the beach, but it stays in the car when we return.
    I hope this helps!

  19. Anonymous says:

    March 8th, 2012 at 9:51 am (#)

    Have you ever considered buying fake leather or another vegan material instead of leather, even though you think that leather is "most durable and repairable"? I'd much rather create just a little more waste in the world than have an animal lose its life and its skin for me to have a purse. Sometimes animals are even skinned alive for leather because this is thought to either be easier on the industry/workers or make a better leather (I have no idea why).

  20. Bea Johnson says:

    May 25th, 2012 at 4:24 am (#)

    Fake leather is made of petroleum.
    The greenest product is the one that already exist. I will keep buying used leather.

  21. Anonymous says:

    May 3rd, 2010 at 5:34 pm (#)

    Bea, I've gone thru my closet and have eliminated half of it. How long did the process of moving from normal life to "waste free" take you? I understand that this is a journey and not an overnight process. But looking around my place right now, even though it's small and I don't have much, is pretty overwhelming! Were you always able to keep your purse collection to such a minimum? If I could accomplish that, I think I could do anything in life…however, in the past I've acquired quite a purse collection! -Diana

  22. Anonymous says:

    May 10th, 2010 at 7:05 pm (#)

    Are all your clothes 100% cotton, or do you have some synthetics like polyester blend, etc.?

    I LOVE your blog…totally addicted and it has changed my outlook on my family's lifestyle, needs, carbon footprint, etc. Since you started your blog, our spending habits have changed for the better. I'm grateful to your commitment to a healthier planet and your courage to share with us! Thanks – Kate

  23. Bea Johnson says:

    May 11th, 2010 at 4:50 pm (#)

    Hi Anonymous, Thanks for your encouraging comment! you make this blog all worthwhile!
    Although I try hard to mainly buy natural fibers from the thrift shop, I do end up buying some blends too, sometimes the cut of a piece will dictate my choice. On this last spree, I bought a silk tank top, a cotton shirt, a leather skirt, and a wool coat, but I also bought a lace and a one shoulder tops that were blends.

  24. Anonymous says:

    May 31st, 2010 at 1:21 am (#)

    Nice shoes! But you couldn't possibly have found those in a thrift store, right?

  25. Bea Johnson says:

    June 1st, 2010 at 4:46 pm (#)

    Hi Anonymous: If you must know ;)… 3 pairs were from thrift shops, 1 pair was a gift, and 2 pairs I bought new (incl. the sandals mentioned in this article). Surely, if I shopped the thrift stores more than twice a year, I would shop a bigger selection and I could achieve 100% seconhand shoe closet… Consignment stores could also help achieve that goal, since their selections are usually better. I might just do that for the shoes I have trouble finding next season!

  26. Vanessa says:

    June 3rd, 2010 at 3:48 am (#)

    Bea, check out eBay as well! After my recent thrift store disappointments, I had a look online and eBay is a treasure trove of beautiful-quality secondhand clothes and shoes – it's easy to search through them, too. I've just bought a handful of pieces to fill some gaps in my wardrobe, including an absolutely gorgeous pair of handmade leather boots for relative peanuts. 😀 Very, very happy to be finally buying used clothes!

    Now I just have to get better at asking the vendors to use only paper/cardboard to wrap my purchases…. 🙂 I know online is not ideal in that it brings "waste" into the house, but I do reuse the packaging to sell things of my own if possible. I'll keep searching for some good thrift stores too.

  27. Bea Johnson says:

    June 3rd, 2010 at 4:24 am (#)

    Vanessa: you're awesome. Always bringing up some good points and tips to the blog.
    Ebay is great as a filler, I completely agree. I have been able to occasionally find specific items on it (colored leather jacket with puffy shoulders for ex). You can request paper based-only packing material from the seller, turn around, sell the jacket you're replacing, and reuse the packing material to ship your jacket.

  28. Anonymous says:

    June 25th, 2010 at 4:50 pm (#)

    Great advice. One thing you said though stuck with me. You leave the shoe box at the store. Well, what I've discovered is our local shoe stores throw all that tissue paper, etc. they stuff the shoes with into the trash. We request to take it home with us where it will get reused and or recycled at least. I understand the zero waste home but I also understand our home being a conduit for keeping stuff out of the landfill even if it's just us redirecting it.

  29. Bea Johnson says:

    June 25th, 2010 at 6:31 pm (#)

    Hi Anonymous:
    It goes without saying that one leaving a shoe box at the store can only do so if:
    1- one makes sure that it is recycled by the store (ours does)
    2- one also sends a letter to the shoe manufacturer to remind them that shoe boxes are wasteful and unneeded.
    Not acting on both or at least one of these 2 options (by simply taking it home or simply leaving it at the store without saying anything) will obviously only perpetuate the shoe manufacturing wasteful practices.

  30. glorya says:

    July 6th, 2010 at 9:52 am (#)

    Thanks for posting your closet details!!! very inspiring. I had previously thought that I was doing well with one in-one out policy and shopping at op-shops only…but I have some work to do!

    Owning only 50 items is very disciplined 🙂 Top job.

    I really enjoy reading this blog and finding helpful tips to reduce waste…Keep up the good work

  31. Tami says:

    July 28th, 2010 at 5:16 am (#)

    Hi Bea, love your blog.
    Can you go into the children's wardrobes a bit for me? Do they own 8 shirts total or 8 shirts per season. i.e. short sleeved for summer, long sleeved for winter. Also what about hoodies and things like this. How many items of outerwear? Thanks a million, Tami

  32. Bea Johnson says:

    July 29th, 2010 at 10:05 pm (#)

    Hi Tami and thks for your questions:
    I have 8 shirts per season for the kids (8 short for spring/ summer, 8 long for fall/winter). They have a hoodie, which they use all year, and a ski jacket for the occasional trip to the mountains in the winter.

  33. Christine says:

    July 31st, 2010 at 7:30 pm (#)

    Dear Bea, I love your blog. It really inspires me because you are so real and down to earth! I am trying to pare down my wardrobe, but for some reason, I'm having a really hard time in that area. I guess I'm concerned about my image….would love for you to talk more about how you can be so stylish and , in the same time, so minimal! May be in a new blog when you come back….thank you again! Christine

  34. Anonymous says:

    October 15th, 2010 at 4:05 pm (#)

    Bea,

    Did you go clothes shopping this week? I'ld love an update on the wardrobe replenishing process!

  35. Bea Johnson says:

    October 20th, 2010 at 9:04 pm (#)

    I sure did, thanks for asking. I shopped to replace 1 pair of jeans, 1 sweater, 1 dress and 1 long sleeve shirt from my inventory. And I am really happy with my finds, as I find that all my pieces are cross seasonal and can be dressed up or down depending on the occasion, which means that I can wear my whole closet all year long. I am tempted to be a "sixer" but don't have enough accessories to make it work (http://sixitemsorless.com/).

  36. Brandy says:

    January 17th, 2011 at 3:18 am (#)

    Bea, like many others here, I have grown obsessed with pouring over your site and absorbing your discoveries so that I may emulate your accomplishments in my own life. In reading your blog, I've noticed there is little said about the purchase and disposal of undergarments (and socks), so I was curious what you might have to say about it. Donating underwear is a big faux pas, and I would certainly be concerned about buying any available, and I wear my socks until they fall apart, so what are the solutions here? I can't imagine a way to repurpose these items in any efficient manner, so I'm looking forward to what the zero-waste goddess has to say!

  37. Bea Johnson says:

    January 20th, 2011 at 1:57 am (#)

    Hi Brandy:
    -Please do not call me zero-waste goddess. Like you, I just try to figure things out as I go.
    – There is used DIRTY underwear and there is used CLEAN underwear.
    -It is NOT a faux-pas to donate used pre-owned CLEAN underwear/lingerie or socks that are in good condition, would you want to pare your count down.
    -Many thrift shops gladly accept them because many people gladly buy them.
    -I do not buy my underwear used, mostly because I am picky about shape, color and fit. I have however bought a used bra and a great vintage bathing suit(one of my faves) before, I washed them and survived, just as I would purchasing them from Target.
    -Do you think that the "new" underwear or bathing suit that you buy at the department store is necessarily unworn? Let's not be naive. There is no law in place preventing underwear fittings or returns, which makes your "new" underwear as "new" as that of a thrift shop.
    -It is common sense to wash any newly-bought underwear, no matter where you purchased it.
    -As mentioned above, worn out pieces of clothing as such (socks that you cannot darn), can be used for non-washable messes such as caulking or house painting.
    -There are also many things you can make with the top of a long sock, including a reusable gift card pouch.
    -Funny you just posted this question though: My son and I just made and stuffed a much-needed indoor football with CLEAN worn-out underwear and socks.

  38. Anonymous says:

    January 20th, 2011 at 11:17 am (#)

    Bea (and other readers),
    I really enjoy your blogs, and take and use some of your ideas, BUT please don't refuse those shoe boxes; use them to fill and send as Christmas gifts for Operation Christmas Child, through Samaritans Purse charity. If you haven't heard of them, try google.
    Ann.

  39. bookspersonally says:

    February 22nd, 2011 at 5:12 pm (#)

    What a great idea. I was referred to your site by a commenter- will be passing this on to people. Look forward to reading more.

  40. Sara-B says:

    February 26th, 2011 at 11:51 pm (#)

    Bea – I just discovered your blog after reading about you in Sunset magazine. I love what you're doing, and look forward to catching up on past blog posts. We are just getting started on paring down and going minimalist. We have a long way to go. Thanks a million!

  41. Ariel says:

    February 28th, 2011 at 7:00 am (#)

    Brandy: Just retired some socks yesterday, and intend to put them on my hands and dust with them!

    Ann: Thanks for suggesting Samaritan's Purse, it is my favourite part about the Christmas season. 🙂

  42. Anonymous says:

    March 31st, 2011 at 3:44 am (#)

    Bea
    Great Blog! so many ideas!

  43. Anonymous says:

    April 3rd, 2011 at 3:36 am (#)

    Bea,
    Are you getting ready to go on your annual clothes shopping? What are your finds? What are you purging out of your closet this year? I know this is rather personal and you may not want to share all the details, but I would really appreciate your sharing in details as much as you can stand (more detail the better), as I suspect for many(myself for one), keeping our wardrobe to absolute minimum is one of the biggest challenges of zero-waste lifestyle.
    Thank you!

  44. Bea Johnson says:

    April 7th, 2011 at 12:36 am (#)

    Anonymous:
    Yes! Thanks for asking! April 15th is around the corner and I am so excited. I will come back to comment after the date. I have not yet decided on an action plan, all I know is that I need something for my brother's wedding that I will be able to wear again, dress up or dress down and wear throughout the seasons. I think I am Ok with sharing the details on my closet now that TV has been in it;)

  45. Tanny says:

    April 8th, 2011 at 6:54 am (#)

    Bea or anyone else in the community – How do you handle extremely work out shoes that are not donation worthy? I understand Nike's program accepts atheletic shoes only, but what about other types of shoes? Following the example of others here, I am writing to the shoe manufacturer about this, but just wanted to check what everybody else is doing.

  46. Bea Johnson says:

    April 13th, 2011 at 6:41 pm (#)

    Tanny: The way to handle worn-out shoes is to be proactive… Buy less, but high quality. Leather shoes can easily be repaired.

  47. Bea Johnson says:

    April 13th, 2011 at 6:41 pm (#)

    Jessica: 😉

  48. Tanny says:

    April 13th, 2011 at 10:20 pm (#)

    Hello! I am definitely being proactive on this front now. Unfortunately I have a closetful of shoes from the last few years which have no home – not really fixable or donation worthy. I did write to Naturalizer and they have forwarded my issue to their Customer Resolution team. They said to expect a response in the next few days. If I hear of anything, I will definitely pass it along. Thanks Bea, for being such a leader in this field.

  49. Anonymous says:

    April 22nd, 2011 at 4:14 pm (#)

    Looking forward to the next wardrobe posting!

  50. lint roller? says:

    April 26th, 2011 at 1:31 am (#)

    What do you use for a lint roller? I have animals and their fur gets on my clothes.

  51. Tanya says:

    April 26th, 2011 at 5:19 am (#)

    Hi Bea, Can I just say that you rock?! This blog is amazing an you and your husband seem to be doing an amazing job raising sweet, caring and conscientious children. I also pour over your blogs. I have seen that you graduated from a school of fashion. Is there any "must haves" you think are for every woman's wardrobe that she can interchange etc? I am a single mother of two boys, and would love to have a simple, classy wardrobe but am so daft when it comes to piecing things together. I am on a very fixed income and sometimes get totally overwhelmed at thrift stores. I live in the NW, where it definately has four seasons. Thank you, Bea for your hard work and dedication.

  52. Anonymous says:

    May 5th, 2011 at 3:33 pm (#)

    Bea, did you have any luck finding what was on your list on your 15 April shopping day? And what is your strategy when you can't find the item(s) you're looking for at the thrift stores?

  53. Bea Johnson says:

    May 12th, 2011 at 4:59 am (#)

    Anon: I hope to cover that in a wardrobe decluttering article…thanks for asking!

  54. Littledove HF says:

    May 18th, 2011 at 7:51 pm (#)

    I am so happy that you are living the life and squelching peoples' fears about living simply and responsibly. If you would give me the opportunity to share my passion about making garments from cast off clothing and other would be waste materials. I know you are educated in this field but may not have the time. I have the time and need an advocate and think it would be fun. Merçi and keep up the good works.

  55. Lindsay says:

    May 27th, 2011 at 1:54 am (#)

    Thanks for the detailed description of your wardrobe. So many of us don't think it through enough! I have applied your thrifty and sustainable ways to clothing my daughter!

  56. wepurpose says:

    June 10th, 2011 at 12:49 am (#)

    Bea, In this post you mentioned a sewing machine. I don't remember in any of pictures seeing a sewing machine. Would you be willing to do a post on how you organize and store art supplies, projects, crafts, your sewing machine, or anything of that nature? I often think I would like to get a sewing machine to do some of my own simple repairs but I am not sure where to store it and how to keep it from becoming something that attracts a lot of stuff. I love crafting and creating but I do find that this is an area where I end up keeping many things in the purpose of "I might use this to make a craft or repair a piece of clothing" and before you know it I find I've accumulated a lot of stuff. Thank you, ~Kelly

  57. Corinna says:

    June 13th, 2011 at 8:25 am (#)

    Great ideas, Bea. Thanks for sharing! I have a question about your 3 bags… how did you figure out "what works" and still only have 3?

    Maybe I should explain… I'd love to have only 3 bags, but I find that you need to wear a bag for a while first to really see if it works for you. I've ordered a few bags online from Etsy, etc, and they always look great online, but when I get them in person I don't always LOVE them and therefore don't use them that much.

    Or I'll buy a new bag (after looking it over carefully), but then as I use it I find that the pockets are too deep, small, in the wrong place, pick-pocket friendly, etc. These are things that, even though I try to anticipate beforehand, I don't discover until it's "too late" and I've been using it for a while and can't return it.

    Obviously I don't just let the bags pile up in my closet… I give them away as gifts or second-hand donations… but then I feel like I'm just adding to someone else's pile of crap… and that isn't truly being zero-waste, is it?

    This is the same with clothing… I totally agree with your "don't buy it if you don't love it" mindset, but often the piece of clothing doesn't feel the same way in the fitting room as it does when you wear it around for a while and see if the seams rub, scratch, etc. I've tried combating this by leaving the tags on for a day or two while I gently wear it around the house… then if I really don't like it I can always return it. But sometimes this doesn't work, and then I'm left with something I don't love (and don't wear)… but it's not really my "fault"… do you know what I mean?

    How have you learned to make good choices at the store? Is it just a trial and error thing?

    Also, can you recommend a good brand of leather every-day messenger-style bag that can also be dressed up for something a bit fancier like going out in the evening? I have looked and looked and can't find the right thing. Would help to have a recommendation from you or any other reader here!

    ~Corinna

  58. Bea Johnson says:

    June 20th, 2011 at 5:23 pm (#)

    Corinna: Thanks for your question. I buy mostly used, so if I had misjudged a fitting, I could "return it" to the store by donating it back to the thrift shop.
    As far as purses are concerned, I have actually gone down to just one (also used). I will cover that in an upcoming post.

  59. Anonymous says:

    June 26th, 2011 at 12:05 am (#)

    Just a tip for the commenters who seem overwhelmed about donations–goodwill and other organizations DO accept worn shoes and clothes. Let them know they are worn out; rag pickers go to their locations and choose items that can be recycled (eg rubber, denim, possibly buttons) and they pay a small amount for what they collect. So, it is better than keeping or throwing away worn clothes and shoes because they can have a chance at being reused and the charity gets a little money.

  60. Susan d says:

    August 31st, 2011 at 3:19 am (#)

    This another area where I intend to get serious. We have been on vacation for the past three week and normally by now I would have filled an extra suitcase and then some with new clothing, however, I have purchased only a black cardigan and a black tee shirt. Both are new but this is a vast improvement from my old ways. I and my happy husband have you to thank.

  61. Anonymous says:

    October 10th, 2011 at 5:06 am (#)

    You and your family are awesome! Good for you guys! My family and I shop at thrift stores and do our best to keep the recycling organized and separated but you are taking it a step further. You are an inspiration!
    -Ashley

  62. Alexa says:

    January 13th, 2012 at 8:44 pm (#)

    Actually Bea, to your earlier comment that there "is no law in place preventing underwear fittings or returns, which makes your "new" underwear as "new" as that of a thrift shop," you're wrong. There IS a law. Underwear and swimsuits can't be returned after purchase unless they are faulty.

  63. Bea Johnson says:

    May 18th, 2012 at 1:04 am (#)

    At the time of writing my comment (a year before yours), there was no law prohibiting returns of underwear, as long as they have tags (which equals to trying them on at the store anyways). If you know of a new law, please provide reference to the code. I would love to look into it. Thanks!

  64. Stacy McKenna says:

    January 24th, 2012 at 10:36 pm (#)

    Regarding sandals, there's a local company here in Southern California that was founded decades ago on a minimal waste theory (primarily through durability and quality craftmanship) and their products are incredibly comfortable. You might be able to get a pair with no plastic tags/labels, if you contact them directly with such a request. http://www.rainbowsandals.com/about.aspx While they're not second-hand, they are an option should they be tough to find in the future.

  65. Anonymous says:

    June 21st, 2012 at 6:20 pm (#)

    Love your blog, Bea! FYI, "biannual" means once every two years. Your shopping trip is "semiannual," every half-year.

  66. Anonymous says:

    December 23rd, 2012 at 9:22 pm (#)

    Bonjour,
    J'aimerais tellement vous lire en français, se serait cool! Pourriez vous traduire votre blog ou alors qu''on puisse cliquer en français. En tout cas ça à l'air super vos idées mais pas assez de notion d'anglais. Bon vent et bravo!
    Martine

  67. Lor says:

    January 10th, 2013 at 11:31 am (#)

    N'hésitez pas à me contacter pour ça, Béa :). C'est drôle, car hier j'ai envoyé des infos sur votre livre à un éditeur français, au cas où.

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