At the moment I am experiencing sustainability in many different ways, on various levels:
Intellectually, physically an most importantly in my daily life. This culmination of events has led to today’s post.
I learned a great lesson about clothing that I own and how to re-spark joy. But read on to find out what happened.
1. Intellectual experience of sustainability:
The Centre for Sustainable Fashion (CSF) at the University of the Arts (that’s where I work) and the luxury conglomerate Kering have come together to offer a free online course on sustainability and luxury fashion. This is a very timely and relevant course and I am actively participating in it because I can never know enough about this topic. It’s a free course by the way, and you can sign up here.
2. Physical experience of sustainability (or lack thereof): Living in London, through the uncertainties of Brexit, the housing market has become a nightmare. My close friends are probably sick and tired of my complaining about flat-hunting for the last half year! To put it very short: I had to move due to my landlord wanting to sell in time before Brexit but in the process, I have encountered a very unsustainable housing market situation. Landlords are in a strong position, as very few properties are being offered for rent and those that are available have a large number of applicants. Landlords do not put in any effort or money to refurbish let alone repair their flats and rent for inflated prices. All this is fueled by the political situation.
As a result, I have ended up in a flat that had a hidden mold problem in the bathroom. Of course I spotted it as soon as I moved in and once the paint started falling off the wall by itself and am now in the process of finding a better and healthier place whilst arguing with an estate agent who is interested in profit only. If you are curious why mold is bad for your health, I recommend this article by the WHO.
Not having been able to unpack my things and settle in properly, waiting to move any moment again, I have made a wonderful discovery about sustainability which has affected my daily life. Re-sparking joy!
3. Daily Life experience of sustainability: I moved my possessions into this beautiful Victorian building and could not unpack. Everything is in giant bags and boxes. But I need to dress, I need to go to work and I need a change of clothes.
Yes, I struggled and cursed whilst digging deeply in my bags, looking desperately to find a pair of shoes and a jumper. After a few days of frustration I gave up. Leaving just 2 pairs of shoes out in the hallway and resorting to 2 trousers, a handful of shirts and two jackets, I began my journey of sustainable living.
First of all, I realized that even though I was walking around in almost the same clothes every day, I was still darn fashionable – because my vintage Gucci jacket made any outfit look awesome and because – I concluded – that one pair of jeans was displaying my derriere in a flattering way. What else can a woman of 40 want?
Second of all, I rewarded myself by allowing to dig around those giant clothing bags and fishing out a “new” item of clothing, in exchange for putting the initial one BACK into the garment bag. Got to be ready for the movers any day, so everything goes back in!
After just 2 weeks, I had completely forgotten what types of shoes or clothes I owned. They were gone – out of sight, away from my mind and hard to reach. I simply forgot! So when I rewarded myself by digging in the bags and fishing out another item – it was like I just went shopping! What a thrill to discover you own these very old Chanel flats! Yes, they are amazing, I re-discovered them and oh my God, I love them so much! I feel like a million dollars wearing them after I completely forgot that they existed.
It turns out, the best way to get the thrill of having new clothes is by hiding and putting away your old ones. It has the same effect on me. Re-spark joy!
And then it dawned on me: You can become sustainable, you can curb your over-consumption if you JUST PUT THE CLOTHES AWAY. Put everything away, and do not touch it for a few weeks. Then reward yourself by allowing to select one item (ok, shoes come in a pair obviously). The thrill is great. The rewarding feeling and the excitement is real.
We have everything we need, but when we are constantly exposed to it, we stop appreciating. Our possessions de-valuate and we go out to seek the thrill of something new. We shop, we purchase, we hoard, and other things we discard and fuel the immense chain of production. We increase the use of precious resources, we hurt garment workers who (even in Europe) are modern-day slaves and we add to the pollution of landfills or incarcerated trash. (Thank you Centre for Sustainable Fashion and Kering).
Another side effect of my apartment plight was that I got embarrassed about how much stuff I have got. It’s too much. Borderline hoarder, I decided to donate a few things to charity and sell a few more on the internet. Less is more, especially if you have to move into small urban spaces.
I like Marie Kondo and her Konmari method of de-cluttering by checking if your possessions spark joy. But critics have pointed out that there is a more serious cause to the need to de-clutter and this is our first world habit of consumerism. Perhaps we need to tackle this first. So before checking if something doesn’t spark joy and giving it to charity, please try this method of giving your things a second chance and re-spark the joy!
I might have to thank this unfortunate turn of events that has taught me such a timely lesson of re-loving my things. I hope that I can find my mold-free flat very soon, as for health reasons staying is impossible. But I will always remember this experience!
Tell me if you have experienced anything similar. I would love to hear from you about moving, clutter, sparking joy and re-sparking joy! Feel free to rant about Brexit and the housing market in London. I feel your pain.