The Sustainable Wardrobe Part 2: A Capsule Case Study

The Sustainable Wardrobe Part 2: A Capsule Case Study

Posted By BuyMeOnce USA

The stalwart BuyMeOncers among you may remember that back in the autumn we tackled the sustainable wardrobe. For part one of our series we looked at building a sustainable capsule; for this next installment, we want to take it a step further (or several hundred steps… but maybe that’s just how it felt to me) by combining the principles of building a sustainable capsule and wardrobe de-cluttering in one terrifying experiment involving my very own shoe collection. The mind reels at the things we humans will do for the causes we believe in. 

To help me navigate this seismic shift in shopping habits, I invited BuyMeOnce’s founder, and my dear friend, Tara Button into my home to offer her support and expertise.

Before I started mindlessly hurling my treasured belongings in the direction of my local charity shop in the name of sustainable, considered dressing, we needed to take some time to get methodical. This was not a task for the faint-hearted and success completely depended on a range of essential guiding principles.

START SMALL

Tara was strict with me – we could work on one collection only. Trying to tackle my entire wardrobe would have been superbly overwhelming not to mention impossible in a couple of hours. So I chose my shoe collection and as you’ll see from our film this was in no way the easy option.

ARRANGE THE COLLECTION INTO CATEGORIES AND CREATE A CORE CAPSULE

Once we’d chosen the collection in greatest need of our attention, we gathered every little and seemingly insignificant item hiding in the wardrobe, loft or garden shed and pulled it all together in one place. This step quickly helped us understand the scale of the undertaking that lied ahead – reviewing the form, function and relevance of about 50 pairs of shoes… yikes!

Time to start organising. Tara and I arranged my shoes into categories based on use and seasonality. Not only was this an easy and painless way to start the process, but it also immediately highlighted candidates destined for departure. I was already better at this than I imagined!

Once my collection was clearly organised, we created a core capsule; this micro assortment made up of ten pairs was selected by applying the filter of “Which pairs are my ultimate, go-to essential shoes?” and “Which pairs can I not do without?” The idea here is to cover all bases from winter to summer.

At this point there could be no further denying it – we’d perused, we’d organised and arranged – now the de-cluttering process had to begin in earnest. Time to face this giant task head on and be brave.

For this part we equipped ourselves with three very large boxes labelled Keep, Donate and Store. Here’s a little breakdown of what happened with each box:

Donate – I had to be brave with this one. I challenged myself to fill it as much as I could with shoes that I was willing to or had to part with.

Store – As Tara kept reminding me, this was not a box for anything I wanted to hide and hold onto. So in went my summer sandals and smart wedding shoes. Nothing more, nothing less.

Keep – For the shoes I wore regularly and those I could not bear to be without. Tara challenged me to justify each pair’s place in my life. Anything that didn’t meet a need or that didn’t give that all important spark of joy was out for good.


Image: Geneva Vanderzeil, A Pair & A Spare
Image: Geneva Vanderzeil, A Pair & A Spare

As we went through the process, conversations arose which both provoked and answered questions about how I’d reached the point of obscene shoe ownership and how I could let things go and move forward. These are the pearls I’d like to share:

GIFTING IS ABOUT LOVE, NOT THE ITEM.

When we’re given something by someone we love that we don’t use, the tendency is to hold on to it. The prospect of editing said item out of our lives brings a suitcase of guilt to our door. During these moments, we need to remember that gift giving is more about an expression of love than a physical item. You are not rejecting that sentiment by getting rid of a gift; you are still able to remember and acknowledge the gesture. Free yourself from stuff and allow the gift to exist for someone else.

DO YOU LOVE THE ACTUAL ITEM OR THE IDEA OF IT?

For many years I’ve kept a pair of beautiful leather knee-high boots that belonged to my mother. I’ve never worn them; not one single time. Yet still they’ve prevailed and held their place unchallenged in my wardrobe. I’m unashamedly sentimental and the thought of losing things that feel like they’re part of an important family archive has made me anxious in the past. That was the old me – the me who owned 50 pairs of shoes. This new, evolved human before you accepts that these boots are way too high for her and don’t work with anything she owns. They are exquisite and the thought that they could be adored and enjoyed by someone else makes me happy.  Hand over the donate box!

IF YOU’RE UNSURE, WEAR-TEST THOROUGHLY.

Some items were so much easier to cleanse myself of than others. I’m constantly drawn to shoes with statement details, all practical considerations be damned, and this particular pair spoke to me; I’m thinking now of my slightly bonkers pony skin (not actual pony!) printed boots. I fell in love and bought them when I was heavily pregnant. Even though I couldn’t wear them at the time due to the super high heel, once I had returned to normal and had the ability to wear more than just trainers they’d be an instant staple. This hasn’t yet happened, but my little one is only a small toddler so there’s still time. Tara challenged me to put my bonkers boots to the test and see whether they’re able to earn their place in my wardrobe. Stay tuned!

After a long afternoon, we finally made it through my entire collection. We were both exhausted. Some of us may have been a tad emotional but definitely elated. This process was not easy, but dammit it was worth it! I now have half the amount of shoes taking up space in my head and home, and I’m happy to be parting with shoes that will hopefully live on with other people. I highly recommend trying this with a trusted friend (no one should attempt this alone); someone who will challenge your decisions, but whom also has your best interests at heart. You never know, they might just take some of that stuff off your hands too.

Check out our video to watch the process in full if for no other reason than to see my shoe collection in all its glory.

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