This post was developed as a thoughtful response to the reader question of  ‘how do you plan to approach shopping when your challenge ends’ ? 

Waking up at 11am it was evident that my body had needed over 12 hours of sleep to ‘mend’ the issues caused by the virus I have been battling. Given the choice I would prefer not to spend twelve of my precious life hours sleeping, and would want to use the time on something more productive, but that was obviously what I had physically needed and one can’t be denying their body of that.

Wants and needs are a funny things.

We develop the desire to want from such an early age. Whether its something that intrinsically part of being human or a desire that we have been programmed to actively chase, there is no denying that we all have things we ‘want’.

Needs on the other hand, are those pesky requirements that we all ‘have to have’. The tangible essentials such as oxygen, food, water, shelter, or the intangible need for security, employment, and empowerment. With our basic needs met most of us have desires, or ‘wants’; be it holidays, a coffee (some people would debate caffeine is a need), concert tickets, or that divine pair of shoes you saw in that boutique window.  These wants are the additional extras that make life twice as nice. When you think about it you don’t really NEED concert tickets to live (unless you are being held at gunpoint by a person demanding them) you will probably carry on just fine in life without that extra pair of shoes, and life really is possible without caffeine.

The things we choose surround ourselves with and the adventures we take are the results of our executive decisions as to what we want in life. This is something that as individuals we have complete control over.

I was thinking quite extensively about ‘wants’ and ‘needs’ yesterday as I distracted my sick self with the INTO MIND Personal Style and the Perfect Wardrobe Workbook. Planning for the future where I will once again be free to shop has seen me addressing the the issues of what area of my life requires the most attention in regards to my closet, and how many items to I really ‘need’ to stay clothed for these events. Analysing my lifestyle has shown me that the majority of my closet should consist of items to wear to for exercise.

When I am not sick, I tend to be very active, attending the gym, yoga classes, cycling, bush walking/mountain climbing, beach trips, and dog walking, completing at least one of these activities every day. Living in a warm climate and being a sweaty person means that these items are washed after wear. If the activities weren’t too sweaty, or it was winter I can try to get a few wears out of items but for most part it’s an ‘outfit per day’ kind of lifestyle. Washing regularly with small loads is a waste of water, so generally I save up and do a few large loads a couple of times a month. Gym wear can also easily be washed in the shower, but can take some time to dry without the spin cycle so it isn’t viable with a small workout wear closet.

All these factors taken into account I decided I would ‘want’ a wardrobe of seven ‘bottoms’ (two shorts and five leggings), ten tank tops, two long sleeve cover ups (for evenings and winter walks), one hoodie (for cold days), and a oversize cropped tee (to throw over tanks on hot days to prevent the racer back suntan I get every year). Having worked lingerie I have a large collection of sports bras so this ‘need’ was satisfied.

A rough calculation of purchasing these items new from my favourite (not necessarily eco friendly but fabulous quality) label came in at $1143, this grand total excludes two of the five pairs leggings as I have two nearly disintegrated pairs remaining.

Obviously it would be a fun excursion to rush out and buy a completely new gym wardrobe, but this isn’t really a viable option for me money wise and doesn’t sit well with my sustainability values. So I hit my closet head first with new eyes by getting all my sports bras and tanks out, and laying them on the bed.

Having them all lined up in front of me provided a good visual to work with and I managed to create six ‘outfits’ of bras and tanks (most of which were bought second hand on eBay), and assessed that I own two pair of leggings that I love but need replacing, one pair of thrifted polyester running shorts that I despise wearing but are still functional (and they will probably outlive me), and one pair of tight short ‘hot yoga’ shorts (also originally thrifted). There are two long sleeve tops that I throw over after class, the thrifted one is nearly thread bare, the other is nine years old but still OK. My hoodie is eight years old but has never been functional due to the colour and fit as the moment I put it on sweat marks are evident all over.

After doing an assessment of what I have, the ‘want’ for ten tops, five pairs of leggings, two pairs of shorts, and four new coverups comes down to really only ‘needing’ three pairs of leggings and a four tank tops, and a cropped cover up to hit my ideal functional wardrobe criteria. However, as some of the items aren’t in great shape, it is likely I will be replacing them in the near future.

So I have a shopping list ready and will be set to start ‘buying up’ when I find brands that satisfy my EXTREMELY fussy legging shopping criteria. This criteria is based first and for most on the opacity, any leggings that are the tiniest bit see-through are out, secondly  on quality, the current brand I purchased from last around 3-4 years of being worn at least 3 times a week and washed on average twice a week in a regular wash cycle, and thirdly on fit and function, if I can’t bend/flex/stretch/squat without them coming down then they are out! I believe it will be a little difficult meeting all these criteria in a ‘ethical/sustainable’ company but I have heard great things about Lululemon leggings and they rate well as a company on ShopEthical, there are some contenders at Patagonia, and I have been looking around at some smaller ‘eco’ companies. Teeki have great ethics but I am not sure if their printed leggings might be one, a little out there for me, and two, see through? If someone has a pair I would love feedback on the opacity.

Many other companies have cotton or bamboo leggings two fabrics which I have tried in the past but haven’t been satisfied with the longevity, shape retention, and/or colour retention, having found that bamboo disintegrates in under a year, and cotton fades, bags out and falls apart in a year and a half. This is not to say that all brands are like this so I am open to any suggestions as I prefer to wear natural fibres over synthetics but haven’t found a viable option in gym pants. They just have to live up to my high expectations 🙂

Then after all that thoughtful assessment. If you look at the reality of it all. I don’t actually need any of these items at all! Owning them is satisfying a want. As a newly thoughtful and strategic consumer this ‘want’ for these items has been calculated to reduce my need for un-necessary washing, prolong the lifespan of my clothing by rotating the usage, and to ensure that my time is maximised for other more important things than washing and folding clothing.

While wants and need are funny things indeed if you tackle them with a strategy you can find the best possible way for you to reach your desired ‘wants’ by minimising your impact on the environment as every little thing we ‘do’ or ‘use’ consumes resources.

Do you have any tips on strategically working your way through your ‘wants’?

Feel free to share below.

Outfit notes: Todays ‘belt your outerwear’ challenge was a challenge! It too warm for serious outerwear so I un-interestingly wrapped myself in an old ‘retail employment’ uniform sarong as a halter dress and belted it. Not really my ‘style’ but it was comfy enough for another sick day.

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