Before you rush to the last bestsellers of January sales on payday, start with a wardrobe overhaul

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Find new ways to wear old items. (Photo by Edward Berthelot/Getty Images)
Find new ways to wear old items. (Photo by Edward Berthelot/Getty Images)
  • A wardrobe overhaul is, without a doubt, a daunting and tedious task that forces us to face a harsh reality about our spending and hoarding habits.
  • As payday approaches, it might be tempting to take advantage of marked down items we've had our eyes on for a while, but maybe it's time we looked at the hangers at home first.
  • Afika Jadezweni shares her experience of overhauling and decluttering her wardrobe this January, plus where you can donate your gently worn clothes in South Africa. 

New year, new me, old clothes!

Many can relate. Including myself.

This is why I often think about that 'Fast Fashion' episode of Netflix's Patriot Act. In this episode, Hassan Minhaj draws our attention to the fact that in the '80s, the average American bought about 12 new items of clothing each year.

He revealed that in this day and age, the number is said to be around 64 - 68 new pieces a year - half of which are only worn three times or less.  

This kind of buying power is of course, not as prevalent in South Africa given our economic disparities. Not to mention our lean rand fighting against heavyweight currencies.

Slow fashion has actually always been a big part of how South Africans approach clothing. From the hand-me-down culture that is so widely practiced in black communities, and those of us who grew up only shopping about twice a year (Christmas time and getting one or two winter items around June) - unless there are special occasions and surprises in-between.

But even so, many of us still find ourselves piling up more gently worn clothes at the back of our wardrobes every year as we try run up a descending escalator of 'here today, gone tomorrow' trends. 

READ MORE | Statement silhouettes, shades of black, sneakers - The little we expect from fashion trends in 2021   

This is not to say I've been slavishly following fast fashion trends, but I somehow manage to amass clothes and shoes that all look pretty much the same. Add to this the fact that I'm a hoarder, I have a penchant for investment pieces over seasonal trends, I thrift often, and the fact that I neither gain nor lose weight in polarising proportions.  

Also worth noting is how our style evolves (even slightly) over the years, so clothes that are not necessary old or ill-fitting will now look odd against the rest of your aesthetic. 

What this means is that - much like me, you will have clothes with a lifespan range from anywhere between three weeks old to 11 years old.

Yes, my favourite winter coat is 11 years old.  

So this January, while enjoying the remaining delights of my festive season leave, I took on the mammoth task of decluttering everything I own - not just clothes. 

I had to interrogate a lot of my habits - like, why do I still have my 2010 student card? Why do I think there'll be an occasion where I'll wear a bodycon dress at any point after 2015? Why do I still have single bed linen from when I was living in res? 

On the flip side, there was a lot to keep as well. A very good way to curb any potential spending. Case in point - after sheepishly realising that I own more shoes than I can wear in a single month (and then another month after that), I decided it's time to employ the KonMari Closet Method.  Also a Netflix star, Marie Kondo, is known for her tidying expertise.

This is especially relevant now as payday approaches, when it will probably be tempting to take advantage of marked down January sale items we've had our eyes on for a while, but maybe it's time we looked at the hangers at home first.

Fellow hoarders, walk with me. 

Marie Kondo's method entails the following:

- Commit yourself to tidying up.

- Imagine your ideal lifestyle.

- Finish discarding first.

- Tidy by category, not location.

- Follow the right order.

- Ask yourself if the item sparks joy.

I managed to tick four of these criteria - committing to tidying up, discarding first, categories, and following the right order. 

I also did squeal with joy every now and then when I would try an item on and realise it fits a little tighter than before (personal weight journey things), so I guess in some way, I did ask myself if items sparked joy. 

You'll be disappointed to find out that I discarded no shoes at all, though.  

But if the KonMari Method doesn't appeal to you, here's another hack from The Effortless Chic that I've found to be useful along the way:

"Keep a log of what you actually wear all day, every day for one to two weeks. Write everything down. Then afterwards, sit down and evaluate what you actually wore. Categorise the items [as such].

"Next, start paying attention to the areas of your closet that are over or under represented in your closet. Do you rarely dress up for work but own a closet full of pencil skirts and blazers? Stop buying them! Invest in pieces that are casual and that you’ll likely wear every day."

This might be tricky to accurately assess during WFH and lockdown days, but it's still worth a shot based on Instagram posts and camera roll photos from January to March 2020 perhaps. 

READ MORE | Why the capsule wardrobe is going to be the next best thing in 2021 

So what did I do with the items I no longer wear nor see myself wearing ever again? 

While a few Instagram friends who caught snippets of this wardrobe overhaul via my IG stories, suggested that I sell things to them - and I genuinely considered it (still am) - I am a little too attached to my clothes. 

I've ended up keeping my investment pieces for keepsake and I know I'll continue finding new ways to wear old clothes. 

If you're crafty and creative, try upcycling your items too - cut up worn out jeans and combine them with other fabric offcuts to make bespoke tops or skirts. 

For example, I have a pair of classic Levi's jeans bought in December 2009 that I later distressed and ripped for an edgier look in 2014. They were an awkward leg cut, so I created a permanent fold-up effect and sewed it down with red cotton to keep that Levi's 'signature'. 

(I scrolled down a long way to find this)

The rest - gently worn items that no longer align with my style - will be donated. 

Donate those duds!

If you're facing the same textile mountain, here are your donation options once you've stashed what you still wear and value:

A previous W24 article mentioned that Clothes to Good is one organisation where you can donate clothes you no longer wear. They value clothing donations at R7 per kilogram and the money get distributed to their separate initiatives including a feeding program against hunger, a Clothes to Wheels program to support differently abled people, among other initiatives. This organisation often work with schools and companies to collect mass clothing, but individuals are welcome to donate too. If you are in Gauteng you can contact Clothes to Good here to possibly arrange a pickup point.

READ MORE | This is where you can drop off all the clothes you no longer need or want

The article also shared that the Clothing Bank is another initiative that encourages entrepreneurship for unemployed mothers in efforts to combat the high unemployment rate in the country. Clothing items are collected in select malls in Johannesburg and Cape Town to be collected and resold by women who are part of the program. View the full list of drop offs here

Lastly, H&M still has their donation bins in all their stores available for us to drop off our unwanted clothes. They confirmed with us this week that "when you drop off a donation bag of clothes, you receive a 15% discount voucher off your next purchased item." 

Do you have any other overhaul hacks or clothes donation drives you support? Tell us here.

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