7 Ways We Make Our Clothes Last Longer

I wonder how many people I just lost with that title, for the simple fact that many people don’t want their clothes to last. My friend said to me once, “I love shopping, and I get tired of my clothes. I don’t care if they wear out quickly.”

Then this blog post is not for you! Which is totally fine! Everybody has their own preferences when it comes to shopping and getting themselves dressed.

But I thought that for today, I’d share my way of thinking about long-term clothing choices and shopping….

7 Ways

My way of thinking goes something like this:

  • Our budget is tight, and I want to shop smart and well.
  • The more I shop, the more I want. If I shop well and get stuff that lasts, I go to the mall less often, and therefore I spend less.
  • When I find something I really love wearing, I’m sad when it doesn’t last long. I want to enjoy it for a long time, and get my money’s worth out of it.
  • Shopping well means that I love what’s in my closet. I’ve written before about how I don’t want a closet full of clothes that I don’t really love – tons to wear, but I don’t want to wear any of it.
  • There is so much excess in the world, and I love figuring out how to live with less.
  • Shopping is voting – when we buy a ton, we’re saying, “Please make more! There is a demand for it.” If our clothes last longer and we shop less, I’m saying, “We’re good! We have what we need.”:)

I’m a details person, and I actually analyze our clothing and shopping habits. Maybe that makes me weird, or maybe my observations will be helpful! Not sure, but here’s what I’m thinking about these days as I buy our family’s winter wardrobe:

1) I’m snobby about fabric.

I do not buy anything made out of polyester or fleece. (Unless it’s pajamas for the girls – then polyester is better than fabrics coated with chemicals to make them flame-resistant.)

The problem with polyester and fleece is that they pill like crazy. Even though I don’t dry any of our clothes in the dryer, it only takes about two months of wearing and washing polyester for it to get “pilly” looking and worn out.

This is a shirt that I wore for two months, and it already looks like I’ve had it for a few years. I was so disappointed, because I loved the shirt, but forgot to check the tag to see what kind of fabric it was made from. Lesson learned – check the label!

shirt

The same goes for sheets, by the way. Polyester sheets are better for not looking as creased as cotton, but it won’t take long for polyester sheets to feel rough because of all the pilling. I love smooth, soft sheets, no pills!!

2) I choose when to splurge.

I love finding good deals, but there are some items that are completely worth paying extra to get good quality, and get what you really want, need, and will use.

For example, shoes. Four years ago, I had to start wearing insoles, which meant going out and buying all new pairs of shoes that fit the new insoles. It was a bit financially painful, because shoes for insoles all cost around $150 each. I needed three pairs: sandals, runners, and dress shoes. I had never spent so much money on shoes in my life!!

But guess what? I haven’t bought shoes since, and I won’t need to for quite some time, because those expensive shoes are still in good shape.

Another item I’ll splurge on is a wardrobe staple – something I know I’ll use for a really long time. Two winters ago, I needed a black cardigan. I always need a black cardigan. I already know that I’ll use it a lot, and I found one that looked exactly how I wanted it to look, and it fit perfectly, but it was expensive. I bought it anyway, and two years later, it still looks brand new, I wear it all the time (summer and winter, because it has 3/4 length sleeves, and works with everything!), I love it as much as I did the day I bought it, and I’ll wear it for a few more years to come. I saved money by spending money. (Try convincing your spouse of that one!)

my girls

3) I’m particular about brands.

That also sounds snobby, but here’s what I’ve found: I used to buy cheap, non-brand clothing for our family in an effort to be frugal. It didn’t fit well, wear well, or look the way I wanted it to, but it was cheaper than buying it brand new.

Then I discovered second-hand clothing, and suddenly, our family’s wardrobe improved dramatically, because I started buying everything brand-name. The brand-name clothing lasted longer, so even though I bought it used, it still looked like new, and in many cases, I’ve been able to resell that clothing after our family is done using it, and make a lot of my money back. (But that’s with two little girls who aren’t hard on their clothes – I expect things will be completely different with a boy in the house!)

When I go second-hand clothing shopping, I force myself to be very picky. I only buy the brands I know are good, and I only buy stuff that I would buy if it were new. I have to love it, or it stays at the store. It isn’t actually saving money to buy cheap clothes I don’t really like, and won’t ever use.

4) I pay attention to what wears well.

For many years, we bought Ben T-shirts what would last for about a year, if we were lucky. Then they’d always start getting little holes in them, and it would be time for another whole new round of shirts. But what I noticed is that polo shirts last much, much longer – the thicker weave doesn’t wear out nearly as quickly. Neither do cotton button-up shirts, but I don’t choose to make time for ironing, so Ben has become a polo shirt kind of guy. He has them in many, many different colors, and maybe it’s not the most exciting wardrobe, but when he goes to work each day, as long as he’s clean, nice-smelling, and professional-looking, I don’t think anyone really cares if he’s wearing polo shirts every day of the week.;)

Ben and Kaylia

5) I know what we like, and wait for it to go on sale.

We buy the same kind of jeans every time, but we are very strategic about when we buy them! I get email notifications about sales at our favorite stores, and we plan ahead so that we can always get good jeans for cheap. Online shopping makes this super easy to do! (This is also how we keep Ben supplied with his collection of polo shirts!)

6) I own a clothes shaver.

Sweaters last forever if you own a clothes shaver. Whenever they start looking worn out and a bit shabby, you can just shave off all the pills, and sweaters look brand new again. When I was growing up, we used a clothes shaver all the time, so I thought everybody had one of these, but I’ve since found out that many people don’t have one, and get rid of perfectly good clothes, simply because they don’t know they can shave them!

*I’ve tried using my clothes shaver to save polyester clothing items, by the way, but sadly, it doesn’t work. The pills form far too quickly, and it would mean shaving the clothing item after every washing, which in my mind is a total waste of time. Sweaters only need to be shaved once or twice a year.

7) I don’t put our clothes in the dryer.

I hang everything to dry on racks, or on hangers that just go straight into our closets. Talk to me in a month, when there’s a newborn in the house, and this may have changed.;) But for now, we hardly use our dryer, which is great for the hydro bill, and great for our clothes, because there is a lot less wear and tear on them.

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And there you have it – the complete list of Kendra’s anal clothing choices and shopping habits!;) Do you have any awesome tips to add to the list?

 

I’ve written about our clothing choices a few times before – you can check out those posts if you’re interested…

Why (and How!) I’m Choosing to Own Less Clothes

Tips For Purging

35 Days of Favorites: Clothing

This post is part of a series called “35 Days of Favorites”, in honor of my 35th birthday. You can read more about the details here

Last year, I decided to clean out my closet, get rid of anything I didn’t use and love, and shop more carefully in the future.

I have LOVED owning less clothing. Because I only keep what I love wearing, I rarely feel like I don’t have anything to wear.

Owning less clothing made me realize fairly quickly which item was my favorite:

Kaylia and me

That grey scarf is the best clothing purchase I’ve ever made. I have worn it over and over (and over and over…) again since buying it last year. I have a few other scarves, but none as versatile as this one.

It goes with almost everything in my closet, it’s comfortable, and makes me feel like I’m just a little bit dressed up when I go out.

Tips for Owning Less Clothes 

Along with discovering how much I love my grey scarf, here are a few other things I’ve learned about owning less clothing over this past year:

1) I love scarves and cardigans, in general.

Being able to layer, and mix and match, means that while I don’t have as much clothing as I used to, I feel as though I have more options for how I want to wear what I do own. This has kept me from getting completely sick of my clothes over the last winter (along with the fact that I only keep what I really love).

 2) The  Three-Piece Rule feels true to me. I can be wearing jeans and a t-shirt at home, throw on a cardigan and a scarf (usually my grey one!), run out the door, and feel like I’m wearing a different outfit without actually having to change.

3) Having one or two neutrals as the base of my wardrobe is smart. I stick with black or navy, and only buy clothes that go well with my basics, usually grey, white, or jewel-tone colors.

Sometimes I look at my clothes and wonder how boring it must be for people who see me constantly wearing so much grey, black, and white, but it’s easier to mix-and-match, it fits my personality to keep things simple and basic, and I honestly don’t think anyone thinks about my clothes enough to notice or care.

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It feels kind of ridiculous to write out my wardrobe strategies, because I’m a little embarrassed to confess how much I think about my clothing. However, being intentional and knowing exactly what I want has helped me save money, simplify, and feel better about what I’m wearing.

And I love the idea of thinking about clothing so that I don’t have to think about clothing – I figure out how I will dress myself well, and then I stop thinking about it, and just feel comfortable and satisfied with what I’ve got.

There are so many fantastic articles and blog posts out there on how to own less clothes. Here are a couple that are influencing the way I think about my wardrobe:

A Practical Guide to Owning Fewer Clothes

How to Downsize Your Wardrobe With Common Sense

But having said a whole lot on owning less clothes, I also want to add this:

I have a lot of clothes because as it would turn out I just really liked getting dressed. To some, 30 pieces is a lot. To others, it’s a fraction of their closet. In my mind this idea of being a minimalist, perhaps the complete opposite of who I am, was who I thought I needed to be.  If I shop too much, then becoming opposite of that would help me, is what I thought.  I would peer into my friends’ closets and see half of what I owned and would be ashamed of the amount of items I had. So I decided to look at my closet in a different way and what I saw was not that I wanted less, but that I could do more. (Kendi Everyday)

If you love owning a ton of clothing, then do what feels right for you.

I want to own less clothes, because I want to own less stuff in general. I want to simplify my life, which includes my closet.  I just love the idea of doing more with what I already own. Basically, it comes down to this:

Use what I own. Be content with less. Shop well, when necessary.

What’s your clothing strategy? Do you use what you own? Love to shop? Want to own less? I’m curious to hear your wardrobe thoughts!

The Topic I Most Hate to Talk About

So I’m sure you all know by now that I love camp. For a multitude of reasons.

But there is one thing I hated about every summer. It was the night each year when I had to do the “Girls’ Talk”.

The “Girls’ Talk” was when one lucky female full-time staff member got to meet with all the female summer staff members, and talk about dress-code, and dating, and anything else related to “appropriate” female behaviour.

I kept doing it year after year for a few reasons: No one else wanted to do it, I generally love speaking/teaching publicly, and I loved those summer staff girls like crazy. I would do just about anything to save them from making the same mistakes I made when I was their age.

There was just one problem: Nobody wants to be saved from mistakes. They want the freedom to make them, or whatever other choices they need to make at that age.

Actually, there was another problem: I happen to possess controversial views on dress-code. My views have been labelled “very conservative”, and are usually unwelcome.

I really dislike the labels “liberal” and “conservative”. But that’s a whole different blog post. I will just say this: I used to dress in ways my mother would not have approved of. When you wear cut-off jean shorts, you can cut them any length you want. You can also change before you go home. Or unroll the cuffs to a more appropriate length.

I was 18 and independent, and I didn’t see anything wrong with wearing very short shorts, even though I was brought up in a home where modesty was taught.

I never tried to flaunt any cleavage though, because I’ve never had any. Who knows what would have happened if I did.

But there were a few events in my life which changed how I felt about the way I dressed, which I will share with you, although I still hate to talk about modesty. I think I’m emotionally scarred from trying to stand up for something I have experienced to be true in my own life, knowing it usually brings discomfort to those hearing it. This is not my desire.

My desire is for an open discussion, and for Christian women to ask what it means to dress in such a way that we are in the world but not of it. I may be totally, and completely wrong in my opinions, but I can have a story. Here’s what I’ve learned from my story:

1) Ogling has no age limit.

What women put out there, men will enjoy, whatever their age.

The summer before Ben and I got married, it was a hot summer, and I was still wearing my very short shorts. Ben’s job for the summer was running a franchise for College Pro Painters in Winnipeg. In order to get customers, he would hire people to go cold calling – going door to door, asking if people wanted a free estimate on a paint job. I helped him with this as often as I could.

It was the first summer I wasn’t at camp. At camp, short shorts meant a second look from cute boys my age, and I had always enjoyed the attention.

But that summer, as I went door to door, I was exposed to a completely different flavour of men than I had ever encountered before. I found out how different it felt to get a second look from men much older than me, and it was not enjoyable.

My wardrobe quickly changed.

I’m not saying my looks are so magnetically beautiful that I got loads of attention wherever I went. What I am saying is that if you dress to show a lot of skin, people will look at it. I hadn’t really given it much thought before, but suddenly it became very clear to me that I didn’t want attention from anyone but Ben, and I was pretty sure a few extra inches of fabric on my shorts would not make me that much hotter in summer.

Years later, when we were living at camp, I was driving past a nearby beach. There were two very beautiful girls in very small bikinis walking along the road, and I watched as two older men in a convertible pulled up behind them, and followed them very slowly down the road. Their facial expressions and hand gestures made it perfectly clear how much they were enjoying the view.

I am not interested in being a view enjoyed by random old men. Or any age of random men.

2) The mind automatically completes a picture.

It’s not something we need to consciously do. If we ever see a partial picture, we will fill in all the details.

This means that when women show men a partial picture, it will most likely be mentally completed. If you look around, it is amazing how many styles today are made up of incomplete pictures – bra straps can lead to picturing the whole thing. A bare stomach or a strip of exposed underwear make it easy for the mind to continue that mental image in greater detail.

I think it’s hard to fully understand this as women, because although it’s a huge generalization, we just are not wired in the same way.

Nevertheless, I experienced my own “completing of the partial picture”, and it was nasty. I was at a beach a few summers ago, and happened to see an older, very large woman wearing an extremely low-cut shirt which wasn’t leaving much to the imagination. Her shirt partially revealed a tatoo on one of her large, saggy breasts.

Trust me when I say I had absolutely no desire to mentally complete that picture, but before I saw it coming, there in my mind was a completed picture of this woman’s tatooed breast. Ew.

After this experience, it became personally clear to me that mental images can happen so quickly, there isn’t always time to stop it before it’s formed.

Shortly after Ben and I were married, we went to a wedding. As we sat down, I couldn’t help but notice the woman sitting a few rows in front of us. She was wearing a strapless dress, but the pew completely covered any trace of a dress, and at first glance, it looked as though she was sitting there completely naked.

Of course we all know she wasn’t attending that wedding in the nude. But it looked that way. And she had especially nice shoulder blades. I confess to spending a good amount of time wondering if Ben was noticing the woman with nice shoulder blades who appeared to be naked, even though she wasn’t. In my world, we were taught not just to avoid evil, but the appearance of evil as well. I’m not saying strapless dresses are evil, but I am saying that you should be careful how you sit if you’re wearing one.

Or maybe don’t wear one if you are concerned about men sitting behind you, imagining you naked. Or admiring your shoulder blades.

The point is, our culture rams the message down our throats that it’s okay for women to wear whatever they want, and they are not responsible for men’s thoughts. Which leads to my next point…

3) Pornography is a ridiculously huge problem.

There is a statistic claiming 80% of all Christian men will struggle with pornography at some point in their lives.

After 10 years of working with youth, I would say our experiences have supported this statistic. Having lived a very sheltered life, and somehow managing to marry a man from the 20% category, it is very difficult for me to fully grasp the truth of this.

But it breaks my heart. I have seen what pornography can do to a Christian home, and I really don’t believe it’s possible to do too much to help men with this struggle.

I have yet to hear a convincing argument for why women should be able to wear whatever they want when there are men desperately fighting to control their thoughts and temptations.

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I am not suggesting by all of this that women should spend their summers in long skirts and turtleneck sweaters. But I would like to suggest an openness to consider what is at stake, and what simple steps we can take to make a difference, and promote purity of thought and wardrobe.

So…any thoughts or comments? You are most definitely allowed to have a different opinion than me, and we can still be friends!

What I’m Learning As I Purge Our House

There was a time in my life when I moved at least once a year. It was during those college years, and the years of being newly married, before Ben and I finally built our little house in Niverville.

During that stretch of time, I didn’t have a lot of junk. I used what I owned, and I got rid of the rest. Moving is very handy that way.

But during the times when we’ve stayed in the same place for a number of years, and added a couple of kids to our family, oh my word, is it ever easy to store up stuff!!

STUFF! Tons of it is so unnecessary.

So as our moving day is approaching, I’m purging away like crazy, and I have lots of time to think while I’m emptying drawers and packing up boxes of belongings I do not wish to belong to anymore.

Here are some of the things I’m learning while getting ready to move again:

1. The less stuff I own, the happier I am.

I always think that shopping and getting new things is fun and exciting. But how long does the excitement last? (And how shallow is that excitement, anyway?!)

I’m finding that when I own less stuff, I get rid of guilt in my life over things I shouldn’t have bought in the first place, or don’t use because I don’t like it but feel that I should be making use of it.

For example, I read somewhere that we only wear 15% of the clothes we own. That’s a pretty small amount of clothing. I think I need lots of clothing so I will have lots of variety, and not get tired of my clothes, but then I only end up wearing my favorite stuff, anyway.

So I got rid of all the clothing I don’t actually like and never actually use, and it feels wonderful. You would not believe the joy I receive when I open our closet, and see only my favorite things in there. Pure happiness.

2. The more I get rid of, the less I feel like shopping.

All the effort of sorting and purging makes me think twice about buying more stuff. When I think about how much money I spent on all that stuff, and now it’s just getting shipped off to MCC, it seems like a very big waste.

When I choose to buy something, I am spending money on it, I’m spending energy on it by shopping for it, and then organizing it, and finally getting rid of it.  It would be better not to buy so much stuff in the first place.

To read more on that topic, check out this fantastic blog post.

3. There is a very fine line between owning stuff, and having it own you.

I want to have things. I want to own things. I look at stuff on Pinterest, and it is very beautiful. I go to the mall, and suddenly, I am very convinced that I must own all of those wonderful new things that will make me appear more stylish and trendy and rich. (It sounds so ugly, but let’s just get it all out there, shall we?)

But then I come home, and all of my stuff controls how much time I have to spend cleaning and organizing. My stuff takes up room in our house and in my head. I didn’t actually realize it until I started getting rid of it. When there is no guilt about items I’m not using, and there are no objects to clean around, and the girls actually play with most of their toys, and I actually like reading all of the kids books in the basket, I wonder why in the world I put up with all that stuff for so long. Now that it’s gone, I can feel the space it left behind – and it’s a very, very good kind of a space.

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Now, I realize that not everybody is actually moving right now, and are therefore not experiencing the same motivation. If you wish you had that same motivation, you could always try the little game Ben and I used to play when we were living in Niverville. We cleaned out our basement one spring, and the question we asked ourselves over and over again was, “If we were moving to Africa, would we keep this?”

Africa, because it needed to be somewhere very far away to make it more dramatic and obvious which items would have to be stored, and which items just WERE NOT WORTH IT!! It worked very well. I highly recommend it.

Wouldn’t it be fun if MCC stores were suddenly swamped with boxes because everyone was “moving to Africa”? 🙂 So much freedom, so much joy.

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For some practical tips on purging, read this post.