the thing about stuff
So over the last few months I’ve been sending newsletters. I send them for the obvious reason – to let people know I’m running a workshop, course or retreat, but what has become the most fun for me (and the most clicked, according to analytics) are the little ‘favourites’ lists I include at the end of each letter.
I include links to recipes, to articles, to playlists – but also to clothes, face oils, candles, perfumes – to ‘stuff’. To be honest, I’ve had moments wondering what people might think of me, proclaiming to be a yoga teacher who is also glorifying the purchasing of ‘things’ that we probably do not need.
I love things. I think most of us do. For some people it is an excellent book collection. For others it might be their car, makeup, kitchen supplies – whatever. But there is no denying the fact that most of us, have way too much of it. When I first moved to Sydney and was hopping from sharehouse to sharehouse my parents (who would always be roped in to helping me move) would complain about how much stuff I had. But because everyone else had a lot, and I never had the most stuff, I didn’t see anything wrong with it.
The thing about practicing yoga is though, if you really get into it, it starts to infiltrate your entire life. One second you’re fumbling your way through a sun salutation, the next you’re on your own table at work functions because not partaking in eggs basically makes you a psychopath, as does buying your family keep cups and funky stainless steel drink bottles for Christmas. As well as food and constantly carrying a weeks supply of tupperware in my bag at all times, yoga also influences my relationship with things. Clothes, in particular.
I remember the first time it hit me, walking into Topshop shortly after the boxing day sales and instead of feeling excited, I felt depressed. The cheap dresses all squished up next to one another, people pushing, flustered, holding like 20 items that might be worn once. I couldn't stop thinking about where the clothes came from, how little they would be worn. I didn’t swear off fast fashion in that moment, but I did walk out the door and go home empty handed.
Nothing really shifted until I read Marie Kondos the life changing magic of tidying up. In terms of practically applying advice to your life, this is one of the best books I have ever read. If you haven’t read it, do it, and if you read it but didn’t follow it, read it again. Since reading this book I have so. much. less. stuff and every time I buy something it is considered, special and adds to an apartment and collection of things that are either useful, bring me immense joy, or hopefully both.
I feel as though I love and appreciate beautiful things more than ever before. But I’m not really buying anything at all. My reason for not buying is two fold. The main reason being that I'm putting every cent I make back into becoming a better yoga teacher through trainings, workshops, retreats and also growing a little online platform (okay okay and travelling, I'm always going prioritise travelling over a new pair of shoes) but I also see this as a good opportunity to truly wean myself off overconsumption and fast fashion for good – even when I give myself a little extra money to play with again.
To be honest, this is not an easy practice. The hardest part is relearning how much things should actually cost. We've come to understand that a skirt should cost $70 and we should have 5 of them, and when we see or hear $300 we say "oh my goodness, I could never afford that, can you believe how much money Jenny spends on clothes!?" While the monetary cost of that skirt may be low, it’s environmental and ethical cost are extremely high. Why do we need five skirts? Why can’t we have one or two? And why do we shame people who spend a lot on clothes?
Just like transitioning to an ethical diet, when you see the reality behind what's on your plate, or hanging on the clothing racks in Zara, it makes it easier. When it becomes part of what you might call a spiritual practice, it becomes easier still. But it's still very easy to rationalise it all away, particularly when everyone else is doing it, and its so engrained in our culture to wear something different every day and to have clothing prices so outrageously low. It’s even harder when you’re on a tight budget and you actually need something new. But how many of us actually wait until that point to buy?
I’m definitely not perfect, by any stretch at all. In my experiment so far, the only new items I have bought for winter are an organic cotton cardigan from Kowtow and a pair of cotton socks from Muji. The cardigan cost more than I would ever have spent before, but it’s my trade off for buying just one item instead of two. I have worn it at least four times a week (if not more) since buying it in March, and it does feel special and lovely to wear, as you would expect from something made with such integrity. And well, Muji is my biggest, cosiest, always homesick for Japan weakness.
I hope over the next year or so I can build a small collection of beautiful, lovingly made clothes. Of course always buying ethical is the ultimate goal, but I think more importantly is buying mindfully and simply buying less. That everything is thoughtful, considered and has a place. Maybe starting by asking yourself do I really need this, to scrolling through Well Made Clothes, or even to buying a more high end item instead of three or four at a cheaper cost. I don’t think it’s helpful to beat yourself up if you struggle, or buy something you only wear a couple of times. From my experience, the more you try, the more discerning you become. Learning to create a great capsule wardrobe is a skill that most retailers and fashion magazines try to prevent us from having. And hey, if you absolutely need a huge variety of clothes and outfits to feel joyful, fresh and you – second hand, vintage, clothes swaps, ask your friends for what they don’t wear anymore – there is so much more than enough to go around.
Your experience or thoughts on this? Favourite ethical brands?