February 7, 2018

Still Too Many Clothes

Used clothing bales stacked to the ceiling shows evidence we are approaching Peak Clothing.

The planet is being buried in one ton bales of discarded clothing. At one time people worried that the planet would eventually be completely paved over, a black ball floating in the blackness of space. It looks like the real threat was lurking in our closets all the time.

Considering consumers obsession with clothes, we may end up with a giant yarn ball against the bedazzled black velvet shawl of space. Call it Global Yarning. That obsession could explain why the post "Too Many Clothes" is in the top 10 most viewed on this blog.

People are trying to de-clothe their lives and reclaim some closet space. And they would like to do this in an ethical and environmentally sound manner, which may be getting harder to do.

It used to be that one could simple take unwanted clothing to a charity organization that would generally accept all clothing no questions asked. They would take what they thought they could sell, then passed on what they didn't want to textile recyclers.

The recyclers would take out any remaining sellable clothing, then sell that to used clothes sellers. Those sellers would then sell off the used clothes overseas, often in Africa. Not as much any more, as things are changing rapidly.

Today, many in Africa are no longer accepting used clothing from the over-stuffed closets of western consumer nations. If they don't want your used T-shirts, then charity organization near you might not want them either, unless it is to make rags, which is a less efficient option than re-use.

We are not going to solve our clothing problem by thinking that someone else wants our discards. Even if they do, the whole system is being overwhelmed by the sheer volume of clothing being bought, used or not, then discarded.

The one ton bales stacked to the ceilings of vast warehouses makes me think that the next big thing will be clothing bale homes, a modified version of the straw bale variety. Give me 20 or 30 clothing bales and I will give you a highly insulated house as comfy as your favourite sweater. And affordable, too. Barring that, we are going to have to figure out some other way of dealing with our clothing problem.

To solve clothing overconsumption, we just need to stop buying clothes we don't need, and other don't want. Less clothing in - less clothing out. We have reached Peak Clothes.

You can help stop Global Yarning, and a planet buried in clothes.  Say no to new, buy used, refuse the unsustainable conventions of high fashion, wear the same thing for a year, or try getting by on just two sets of clothes. Think creatively. Have fun. See if anyone notices.


  1. Anonymous2/08/2018

    It's a worrying issue for sure. I said to someone the other day that many problems like this one are occurring because we are simply too affluent which allows us to be careless and greedy with resources. Most people don't like to hear that bit of truth!

    Sadly, I think I may not buy another tee shirt as they just wear out too quickly. Linen and hemp seem to be the longest-wearing fabrics. Cotton seems to wear out very quickly, particularly in clothing designed for women. Sometimes I find I have more clothing in the DIY/gardening clothes pile than in the good-enough-to wear-out pile!

    As for wearing the same clothes everyday, Europeans do it much more than Americans and Australians. If you're clean and well-groomed and wearing a smile I'd say that's enough!


  2. i just bought a 'used' coat from ebay. I have reached the age where I am attending funerlas and needed a dark coat. It seemed pointless to buy a new one for the half dozen times each year that I might need it... It will last me a very long time

  3. Anonymous2/08/2018

    I agree with Madeleine hemp is the way to go. Most of by clothes are falling apart and some are donations. My wardrobe is pretty minimalist, but I do have newer clothes for work as a capsule wardrobe. Me and my wife wear our outer clothes for days without washing them.

  4. Hello! Another inspiring post. For several years I wore only two pairs of pants - alternating them with about 6 different tops and a couple of sweaters. I wore one sweater so much the elbows wore out (it was my favorite) and I still have it. I wear it at home because it is a nice wool sweater. As for the two pairs of pants, one day I was talking with someone who was talking about how small her closet was. I held out my hands to show her how small my closet was in my 1 bedroom apartment, and told her I only had 2 pairs of pants. She thought I was joking. I'm still wearing those two pairs of pants 5 years later. I hang most of my clothes to dry (the dryer is hard on clothes) and for many years I hand washed my clothes rather than go to the laundry mat.

    Your article has renewed my determination to keep my wardrobe small - it is really liberating. Thanks as always for the inspiration to continue to live responsibly and small.


  5. I donate my clothes to a very remote town charity shop and very welcome and much needed. For about one decade in my life I had a very few items to wear and I hated every day,well I am honest. Now I only get what I like and lately making my own fabulous dresses and tops and skirts. Beautiful fabric was given to me but I don't work and have all the time I need.
    Since I walk everywhere , the most comfortable sandals are important. Saffron

  6. Anonymous2/09/2018

    Oh, one of my favorite topics! Thanks, Gregg and Linda!
    Adornment is part of who we are, but many take it to the extreme. The photo you provided is obscene and makes a great point!
    I conducted an experiment several years ago where I wore only 8 items of clothing for six weeks. I mixed, I matched, but never went over those 8 items. Life was easier. And to my surprise, I got more compliments on my wardrobe than I ever did when I had loads of clothes! At the end of that six weeks, I asked a coworker if she had noticed my wearing the same green blouse several times a week - she never did. Turns out people aren't paying attention to what I wear - they are too concerned with that they are wearing.
    So I've carried that lesson with me. I buy used 95% of the time, and then only when I truly need an item. And when I can't buy used (socks and such), I only buy organic. It is expensive, but it is without chemicals and that is very, very important to me. I don't want to wear them, and I don't want the cotton pickers and other workers to be exposed to them. Finally, I don't want to add more chemicals to the environment.
    I love this post and wish everyone could pare down their wardrobes. Small is cool! Less really is more. -Erin

    1. Anonymous2/11/2018

      This is one of my favorite topics, too.
      Love your experiment, Erin. I am going to try this myself.
      I don't have many clothes to begin with & wear the same things over & over again. But I probably have more than 8.
      I agree "Small Is Cool!"

    2. Anonymous2/11/2018

      :) happy to hear from you, Linda! -Erin

  7. I love this post, really love it! Now that is a creative, out of the box idea, use bales of clothes to build yourself a house! But have to say that photo showing all those clothes baled up stresses me. It is very troubling to see photos of third world countries and the people in them are wearing Western clothes and not clothes native to their country. Giving them our "stuff" aka crap is striping them of their own culture. Seems there's a better way to help them and allowing their culture to thrive.

    You are right about it not being as easy to discard clothing. We are maxed out on clothes. Donations centers are refusing to take any more clothes. Sometimes they are refusing to take other items too. I've started feeling bad donating items. (still working on scaling down my crap.) It is certainly a good idea to donate and buy used, but we've created a monster. People are now justifying over-spending, over-consumption because they donate which makes them feel good, makes them think they are helping people and the planet when it is ever making the crap and buying it in the first place that is the problem. Everybody reading this blog knows all that.

    I'm not much of a clothes collector. Too many clothes means too many decisions about what to wear. It's stressful. I really don't like shoes or managing them. Most the stuff I have was either free or bought used. I go for higher quality and respect it. I wear items multiple times before washing. I have small set of around the house clothes and a smaller set of going out clothes which usually only get worn for a few hours at a time as I am home mostly. My clothes last a really long time, many years. I'm currently wearing a sweater that I got at least 15 years ago. At the beginning of winter, someone I've recently become friends with complimented me on it. I said, thanks, you will likely see me wear it often as I have for the past at least 15 years!

    I wash one load of clothes about every 3 weeks. Everything goes in together. I have enough to wear during that time and not a lot extra. Every other month I have an additional load of bedding and towels. I shower 2 to 3 times a week. If I worked at a full time job, I would expand all this a little.

    I went to the post you linked above and to several others you've written about clothes. I enjoyed them all. Thanks so much for continuing to write about things that are so important. Clothes are real easy to keep simple for me.

  8. Yes, to all of the above commenters! This is such a relevant topic, and something we must all get our heads around.I love the phrase Global Yarning! But the truth behind it is appalling. The clothing industry is truly brutal to the earth and its workers. Like Erin I wear mostly used plus organic/fair trade underwear. I tell you, organic undies are amazingly soft. Although this year I am going to learn to make my own underwear from my ex-t-shirts that I have been saving..
    In my four years of work at a primary school I wore pretty much the same five outfits week in, week out. i had five for summer and five for winter. I had one coat, and bought one new pair of shoes during those years. Not a single person noticed or cared. As noted above, people are too busy thinking about themselves to really notice what other people are wearing. We really need to just get over ourselves :)

    1. Anonymous2/13/2018

      Hi Jo,

      if you find a simple way/pattern to make the underwear please share it! What a great use for tee shirts that have seen better days :-)


  9. So many good ideas here. Linda and I also have many old clothes that we love and continue to wear. We don't purchase organic underwear, bur that sure does make good sense. We have many hand made clothes because Linda's sister is a seamstress. She works almost exclusively with hemp (organic hemp), so the pieces she made have lasted a very long time, and are very comfortable.

    I read once that back in the day uniforms were made from hemp because it is such a durable cloth. So durable that you could launder it in big batches by boiling it. We won't be trying that at home - we do all our wash in cold water.

    Making underwear out of old shirts is about as frugal as it gets. It is often difficult to know what to do with old shirts. Good idea if one has skills in that area, and I suppose we all should. Making things ourselves is the way to get off of corporate dependency.

    Thank you all for continuing this much needed discussion. We have been enjoying it. Less is the best when it comes to clothes, and most everything else.

  10. Anonymous2/15/2018

    There are so many good ideas here! I have been able to maximize my limited wardrobe because I store my off-season clothing in a small cedar closet. When it comes time to haul out my summer (or winter) wardrobe, everything seems new to me, even though I have owned these clothes for many years. I always get a chuckle out of the fact that "out of sight, out of mind"! I have so much fun re-discovering my old favorites and this also helps me stay out of the stores. If something wears out, our local Goodwill store is a wonderful resource for filling any gaps caused by worn-out items. I also remember my mother telling me that her family used to save old clothes back in the day )1930's), cut the sew them into long strips, and take this to a lady who wove and braided rugs from the cloth. I remember some of these rugs from when I was a girl and they lasted an amazingly long time. People can be truly resourceful!


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