. . . Continued from Part 3.
It can be bleak to read how suffering is in the world, but we have a choice in how we spend our money and time! There are always little steps to take to clothe our families well while at the same time being good stewards of the planet and people. Here are 10 solutions to help you do just that, beginning with the simplest ones to carry out.
1. Shop at thrift stores.
From my high-school years into our first few years of marriage, I saved money by going to Goodwill and Value Village from time-to-time. I most often bought blouses that were easy to mix and match with pants or skirts and occasionally brought home sweaters, too. It’s hard for me to find pants that not only fit, but that I like!
Thrifting can be wonderful . . . if you know what you want! If you don’t, it can be a real waste of time as you drive to different locations and walk all the aisles . . . and time is something to steward, too! It helped me to learn more about the colors that looked good on me (I’m a Type 3 in the “Dressing Your Truth” program) . . . then I could quickly walk down an aisle and scan for those hues, then look for any styles I liked in that small area.
I must admit, we don’t thrift a lot now, simply because we’re still avoiding synthetic detergents and chemicals that we have a hunch caused a skin flare in our oldest several years ago (see Ethical Clothing: An Introduction (Part 1/5)). As we learn more about God’s world and ways, I’m even more turned off to the things He hasn’t made. A lot of the clothing in the thrift stores local to us smell strongly of man-made chemicals. I’ve even called one local children’s consignment shop to research why this is, and I found out that some places use Febreeze or wash the clothes before they hang them up. So it helps to call beforehand and see the store’s policy on this. If the store is hands-off, the clothing still might have been laundered in synthetic detergent by the previous wearer before donation. Use your nose! My mom is excellent at this – she has found a few winners for our kids at thrift stores simply by smelling the clothes before she buys them. Now if we could just start a thrift store that purchases clothing only washed in natural detergent (wink!)!
There’s totally no shame in shopping at thrift stores! It’s such a good feeling to get a steal of a deal, knowing you’re honoring your budget and the people you love, too. There are always ways around possible detergent-laden clothing. First, buy pieces that smell the most neutral. Then you can let them sit for a few months in the garage or hang them on a clothes-line in the sun to air out. My husband got an adorable one-piece toddler snowsuit from a co-worker whose kids had used it previously, but the detergent smell was pretty strong. However, we really needed snow gear for our youngest – have you seen how expensive children’s snowsuits from brands like Columbia or REI are?! So we aired it out in the garage for a few months, knowing he would still fit into it by that time, and I can’t detect an unpleasant odor anymore. My mom has also had success hanging smelly clothing over an ozone machine to take the odor out.
Along the same lines, consider garage sales in more well-to-do areas of the city you live in. Most people are selling their used clothes for a bargain or will allow you to name the price since they’re desperate to get rid of things.
2. Use hand-me-downs.
Having an older brother makes for a better wardrobe for our youngest! But we’ve also been incredibly blessed by some ladies in our church who have kids that are older than ours. One of my friends gave us several brown paper grocery bags filled with snow gear, sweaters, and mittens (if you’re a mom, you know how hard it is to keep track of these things!). Consider blessing another mom with clothing your children no longer wear, or donate it to a local women’s and children’s shelter.
3. Host a clothing exchange.
I’ve never done this before, but if you love to bless other people by opening up your home and hosting a gathering, this could be a good idea! Each friend can bring several pieces of clothing they no longer wear, then take home some new ones. A fun time to catch up, enjoy food, bless others, and bless your own wardrobe, too!
4. Recycle clothing.
Even though H&M is not perfect (see Ethical Clothing: An Introduction (Part 1/5)), I do respect the company for making a recycling program available to its customers. This is the only place I know of where you can physically deliver your clothing to a store to recycle it rather than buying clothing on the internet made from recycled materials. H&M allows you to bring any type of textile to the store to recycle: this includes not only clothing, but old drapes with holes in them, pieces of fabric leftover from a sewing project, scraps of leather, etc. And the best part: for each donation you make (not for each bag of fabric!), you get a 15% coupon off your next purchase, which can be used that day. It’s not the best, but it’s still a step forward for us. I’ve really enjoyed using these coupons to buy organic socks for baby showers (though not 100% organic, they are well made and come in a variety of colors and sizes . . . some even have grippers on the bottom!) or some 100% organic shirts for our kids.
5. Start with sleep.
If you’re able and wanting to make one small jump in your purchases, consider investing in pajamas made of organic or natural materials. During sleep, our bodies enter into parasympathetic mode – the “rest and digest” state, versus a “fight or flight” one. It’s also a time where the body is programmed to automatically detox itself.
If you’ve never seen a Meridian Organ Clock, it’s fascinating! It shows the times during the day when the body detoxes its certain systems. For example, from 1:00 – 3:00 am, the body is focusing on healing, and restoring the liver. If you look at the chart below, you’ll notice the major detox systems cleanse themselves at night. Ideally, we should be asleep by 9:00 – 10:00 pm to allow our thyroid and adrenal systems to do their work. Then the detox systems come next . . . gallbladder, liver, lungs, and large intestine.
Now think about it . . . if your body is having to deal with substances already in the environment, whether electromagnetic frequencies (EMFs), air pollution, or toxic bedding and clothing, it will have to focus on eliminating these toxins rather than expending the energy it needs to cleanse the system it’s supposed to be working on.
For children’s pajamas, we really like Hanna Andersson. Not only are they organic, but they are GOTS certified (meaning no toxic dyes or heavy metals in the fabric!) and durable. And by durable, I mean they hold up for nightly use after two active boys have worn them. That’s well made in our book! The zippers are holding up beautifully, and there aren’t any holes at the seams (there are holes, however, in the knees!).
And a brief side-note: as far as fire retardants in fitted pajamas go, we ditched them long ago and don’t worry about not having them at all. The body is far more likely to be damaged by these substances than a fire. Maybe an article on this is due in the future!
6. Focus on areas where the skin sweats.
Wanting to take a jump further after step #5? Buying organic undershirts, underwear, and socks might be a good next step! These cover places where there are more sweat glands and hence more possibility of toxins being absorbed from the fabric.
For mens’ undershirts, consider PACT; for underwear, consider H&M; for socks, consider Maggie’s Organic. There are other wonderful companies out there as well!
7. Shop for clothing on the web at discount stores.
I’ve been able to buy name-brand, well-made clothing for myself at online discount stores, including 6pm.com and CampSaver.com. 6pm.com is my favorite online place – they have a great selection and their search terms allow you to search by color, feature, etc. I love that they have fair-trade brands like Patagonia and Prana for a fraction of the original price.
Other online stores to consider include The Deal Rack, Sierra Trading Post, and Backcountry.
8. Use gift cards.
If one of our family members ask what we want for Christmas, we now tell them honestly that a gift card from Amazon would bless us. Most of the gift cards we receive are spent on our family’s wardrobe. I love Amazon because I’m able to get organic or natural clothing that I wouldn’t be able to buy at a storefront. For example, we love the childrens’ brand “Hope and Henry” on Amazon – they have really quality clothing in timeless styles. We’ve also invested in childrens’ 100% wool socks – do you know how hard it is to find 100% anything in socks (nylon is often added to organic or wool socks for stretch)?! These are pricy at around $20 per pair, but they last forever if well-cared god and will be passed down when they’re outgrown. They’re also a blessing for all seasons, as wool warms in our cold winters and wicks moisture in the Summer.
9. Sew your own clothing.
This is where I’d like to keep growing . . . baby steps!
As our lifestyle has changed, so has my style and taste in clothing. I want durable, natural fabrics . . . but I’ve noticed some of the organic clothing I’ve bought is made from thinner material. If I. can’t find what I’m looking for, then the next possible solution is to make it myself! Here comes my dream to own a sheep farm again! 🙂
When my husband and I first got married, we received some money that we invested in a sewing machine. It was a great decision! I’ve been able to make many things, including curtains, a pillow cover, toys, and now several articles of clothing for me and the boys. Although my latest project for myself, an organic baby blanket I upcycled into a shirt, took several months, I love wearing it, knowing that it costed nothing, that I love the color and fabric, and that I made it. This is a forgotten skill that I’d love to keep resurrecting as I have time for. Now, when we’re buying mine and my husbands’ clothing, we try to buy ethically when we can, knowing I can upcycle it into clothing for little ones later on.
10. Get involved.
Research known clothing company offenders, petition them, and boycott their products. Start that sheep farm. Weave your own fabric (here’s a shout out to Phoebe Williams Handwovens – they make beautiful ring slings for little ones on their own loom). There are always little steps to do.
Bonus! 11. Just own less!
Organic clothing can cost more, so one solution is just to own less. Right now I currently own two pairs of pants! Sometimes when I compare myself to other ladies I know I can struggle in this area . . . it helps to remember the reasons behind this conscious choice we’re making . . . and it also helps to remember it’s less laundry we’re doing :)! It’s a blessing to look into my wardrobe and not only see pieces that I love but that I feel good about owning, too.
Solving the clothing dilemma is not a quick-fix, and I want to be emphasize again that I firmly believe people are more important than the clothes they wear. If it comes down to buying an organic shirt for our kids or feeding them nourishing food, we’ll choose the latter. I think of some dear friends whom God has blessed with six or seven kids. Buying an all organic wardrobe might not be an option for them. But they are seeking to be intentional by buying thrifted clothing, wearing hand-me-downs, and taking care of their clothing well. If we can, and we know about the people making our clothing, God wants us to take care of those who can’t care for themselves. In essence, there is no perfection, just intention!
May your day be richly blessed!