How to Shop More Mindfully

Our Care FP mantra reads, “mindfully taking steps to be a little better every day.” How can that philosophy be applied to the way we care for our bodies and spirit and planet? Here’s one way.

There ARE small changes we can implement in our daily routines to make them eco-friendlier. One of them can be particularly difficult, however, if you are anything like me — a self-proclaimed shopping addict.

Five years ago, I started styling as a part-time source of income. The shopping was (obviously) the best part. But surprisingly, it didn’t take place in boutiques or shopping malls, but rather in my clients’ own closets. Because most of us lack objectivity in assessing our wardrobe, a fresh eye and some new outfitting options is sometimes all we need. And that’s where I stepped in. And what I heard most from these clients was gratitude for saving them money and breathing new life into their most forgotten pieces.

Truthfully, the impact this had on the environment didn’t really hit me until recently but, once it did, I began to reconsider my personal shopping habits. After all, working at Home Office  often allows me a first glimpse of our collections before they hit our site, and by the time they do, my impulse is to add my favorites to cart –regardless of whether I truly have a NEED for them.

But with age comes wisdom. Now that I am well into my thirties, I can confirm that my relationship with clothing has matured — and I consider what wardrobe staples are necessary to build a strong foundation, what items are worth investing in, and what is worth replacing after damage or wear. Every other item outside of my “foundations” is extra, so I try to keep in mind a few things when deciding whether to make the purchase.

  • Does it fit comfortably and flatteringly?
  • Will I want to wear it in a year?
  • Does it go with at least two other things already in my closet?

That is not to say that I never end up buying something simply for immediate gratification, but what I AM doing is striving to make more financially sound choices, and it is nice to know that those same choices may minimize my environmental impact.

But what if we stopped shopping altogether for a short time? How would that impact our lives? What would we be sacrificing?

I recently learned that my colleague — our Assistant Designer for Intimates — gave up shopping for ONE year. One of the most fashionable women in our office (not seen wearing the same outfit twice – or at least I don’t think she has!), she was sure to teach me a thing or two about improving my shopping habits.  

What brought you to make the decision of abstaining from shopping for an entire year?

I’d been researching sustainability in the fashion industry for a few years, hoping to integrate the practices I was learning into my work as a designer. The more I learned, the more curious I became. Information about the fashion industry’s impact on the environment seemed endless — but also the amount of knowledgeable people working to innovate and find creative solutions to these issues. I started to develop beliefs that felt meaningful to me, and I wanted to put these thoughts into practice somehow. I’d always shopped vintage and made my own clothes, so it was really just pushing it that much further. I wanted to see how well my ideals stood up to my everyday needs and wants. I’ve always felt that fashion hinges pretty simply on what we want, and what we want to communicate about ourselves. I wanted to see what it would be like to explore that idea in a more conscious, sustainable way — to see if it could all balance out.

Was it hard to stick to?

Definitely, at first. Working in this industry, it’s easy to be saturated with imagery of the next trend, the next new shape. I’ve always used style as a way to express myself, highlighting internal changes in a really fun external language as I’ve evolved through life. I was used to switching up my look from time to time. But it became a two-step process — seeing a new shape I liked in a store or online and, rather than buying it right away, looking for an alternative vintage or secondhand option.

What were the challenges?

Since I nerd out about the vintage hunt, I found the new approach quite fun — but eventually it forced me to edit my choices pretty strictly because, at a certain point, I just didn’t want to spend that much time hunting for clothes. It challenged me to dig into clothes I already had, wearing the same things over and over, something I’ve come to love doing. Now I buy something I love and tend to wear it into the ground, repairing it over and over. I love that my clothes develop a history with me. The little repairs add memories.

How did it change the way you shop today?

It’s completely changed the way I shop. I buy new clothes here and there, but I still feel best when I purchase something secondhand — it just feels like the most responsible way for me to participate in this industry as a consumer. I still find it fun — sometimes it feels like diving into a research project or hobby. There’s so much you can learn by examining the way an old garment is made. But more than anything, it was a very sweet experience, recognizing how little we need in order to feel vibrant and satisfied, to express ourselves. Tie a little scarf around your neck, wear your mama’s old rings, share your sweetheart’s shirt. Self-expression is a gift that we’re so blessed to have and share.

Abbie’s year of no shopping is daunting to someone like me who is so used to regularly buying things, but it gives me a fresh prospective. Even if I won’t stop completely, it allows me to make better, more thoughtful purchases. I will thrift when I can, continue to focus on my wardrobe foundations and, for those “more fun” items, I plan to be selective about those brands from whom I buy, ensuring they their company philosophy (and their impact on the environment) matches mine.


+ Visit our Care FP page to learn more about our mission to be better every day and for a list of our environmentally friendly partners.

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Great tips! Been trying to shop more mindfully for the longest time!

Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog