last-minute sustainable gift ideas

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If you celebrate Christmas and are like me, this last week before the holiday is a bit of a scramble to finish up all the preparations, including finding the perfect gifts for my loved ones. I do some of my gift selections earlier, but I also wait to make my final purchases to make sure I’m really choosing the right thing for each person. Ok, some of it is procrastination, but since many of my choices are sustainable, I don’t have to worry about the hot new thing being sold out.

Choosing gifts that are sustainable is easier on the environment, and can be easier on the budget as well. I don’t subscribe to the idea that something must be new to be a gift nor that it must be something that can be unwrapped. There are so many ways to show your love for someone while showing love for the earth at the same time.

Below are some sustainable gift ideas for you to explore for the important people in your life.

homemade

baked goods

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Who doesn’t love something scrumptious?

crafty fun

Instead of fighting crowds at the mall, get your maker hat on to create something big or small! Some of my most precious gifts are things made by my family members. Ornaments for the tree, coasters, book marks, knitted and crocheted hats, decorative pillows – the options are endless!

new-to-you

Consignment shops have so many amazing items that make wonderful gifts. Elite Repeat Consignment and Boutique (women’s clothing and accessories and giftables), Fashion Avenue (designer women and men’s clothing, accessories and jewelry), and Nu Look Consignment (women and men’s clothing and accessories) are all independent consignment shops that carry very high quality pieces. Look for:

cashmere

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At a fraction of the cost of retail, you can wrap your loved one in coziness without breaking the bank.

high-end jewelry and accessories

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Find luxury brand jewelry, scarves, ties, and more – again at 1/3 retail pricing.

items with tags still on

I frequently find gorgeous clothing with the retail tags still on them – meaning they are brand new! A client recently purchased something with the tags on it as a Christmas gift for her partner during a personal shopping session at a consignment store.

gift card for a new-to-you shop

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Not sure exactly what your loved one will like? Consignment shops sell gift cards, just like retail shops!

experiences

Experiences are one of the most sustainable gifts ever – less stuff AND creating time for your loved one to take a break to do something fun!

spa services – massage, facial, manicure, etc.

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I’ve mentioned how much I love my hair stylist Bee at Urban Village SalonSpa in previous blog posts. This fall my mother-in-law gave me a gift card (sustainable birthday gift!) to enjoy some of the other services there. LOVED. IT. I chose a massage with Sarah and a session with esthetician Whitney. Both were simply amazing. I would happily receive a gift card to Urban Village at every gift-giving opportunity! HINT.

plans for a date night with a gift card to a favorite or new restaurant

Simply making time to do something together can be the greatest gift. And the Twin Cities have so many fabulous restaurants!

cocktails and hors d’oeuvres at a fancy hotel or bar

The craft cocktail scene has exploded in the past few years. Two of my favorites are The Commodore in St. Paul, a gorgeously restored Art Deco venue, and Marvel Bar under The Bachelor Farmer in Minneapolis, which feels like a speakeasy.

wacky fun

Mini-golf and arcade games accompanied by adult milkshakes? Axe-throwing? Yep. Check out Can Can Wonderland for fun for all ages and FlannelJax’s for your favorite lumberjack wannabe.

gift card to a movie theater with enough for two tickets and treats

Classic fun!

tickets to the theater

We have such great theater in the Twin Cities! Get tickets to a play at The Guthrie or a touring Broadway show at one of the Hennepin Theater Trust venues.

gift certificate to NDWC – pair it with a consignment shop gift card!

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that I offer gift certificates for any service or dollar amount. Give the gift of living your life without your wardrobe bringing you down and feeling great about how you look. So. much. fun.

I hope you enjoy the holiday season with the people who are important to you. The gift of time to reflect and share gratitude is the greatest gift of all.

happy holidays!

how to: laundry tips redux

There often seem to be themes to client questions – several clients I’ve worked with in the past few weeks have asked for laundry and clothing care advice, and several others have asked about the best ways to organize your wardrobe. I figure if several people are asking me outright, others would like to know as well. Here’s the lowdown of my current laundry and clothing care practices. Watch for how to organize your wardrobe in my next post!

Pigpen

Stains, wrinkles, and damaged or worn clothing don’t help you feel your best.

laundry 101

Taking care of your wardrobe helps it to last longer and increases its functionality, essential elements of practicing sustainable consumerism.

I have pretty good success in preserving the quality of my clothing with the products and techniques I use. Note: this is not sponsored content, nor is it an official endorsement of any particular product – just sharing what works for me!

Read on for ways to avoid the iron without looking like you just rolled out of bed and other tips for keeping your wardrobe in top shape. Because face it, stains, wrinkles, and damaged or worn clothing don’t help you feel your best.

laundry products

washing

Wash items in as cold water as possible to reduce wear and shrinkage as well as energy use. I wash whites (underwear, undershirts, and socks) in warm and lights and darks in cold.

I use Whole Foods 365 2x Concentrated Unscented Powdered Laundry Detergent for whites and Seventh Generation Natural Free & Clear Laundry Detergent for lights and darks.

Both work well for me, but sometimes the powder does not dissolve completely in cold water –  especially in winter when the water is really cold – leaving residue marks on dark items. Both are environmentally friendly and scent-free as well as concentrated, so require very little product to be effective.

PRO TIP: Reduce fading and wear by turning clothes inside out, especially blacks, navys, and reds, before washing and drying. It significantly increases the life of the garment.

stain removal

True story: I was having a lunch meeting with a potential client and ordered a cheese plate with baguette drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette – YUM, right?

The server delivered our meal, and turned just a little sharply to set down my plate. Six slices of baguette drizzled generously with vinaigrette literally went flying and tumbled down my front and into my lap. I (politely) had my hands in my lap, so I had a pile of bread sitting on my arms. The moment I moved my arms, the bread continued its journey down my legs. At that point, the only item I was wearing that didn’t have dark vinaigrette all over it was my underwear. My linen scarf, sweater, shirt, and pants all were stained. Remarkably, I maintained my composure and shared laundry tips with my client. (And I got a free meal!)

PRO TIP: I wear many items more than once before washing (less washing = less wear on clothes and less energy used to wash and dry them). Important: check your clothes for spills and stains before putting them away. The sooner you treat a stain, the better luck you will have. If you can’t wash the item right away, treating the stain before you put the garment in the hamper will increase your chances of removing it because the stain won’t be able to set as well.

I was able to remove all of the vinaigrette from my clothes with Dawn Ultra Dishwashing Liquid. Dawn is the best product for removing oil and grease stains (including vinaigrette). I have a bottle of it in my laundry area.

Rub it generously into the stain and throw it into the wash with everything else. It can even remove a stain you missed and has already gone through the wash.

If it is a really tough oil or grease stain: apply Dawn, rub it in, rinse it thoroughly with warm water, and then apply it again. Do several times if needed.

PRO TIP: To remove oil stains from leather, apply baking soda to the spot, let it sit overnight, then brush off. Repeat if needed.

For other stains (food, grass, blood, deodorant/sweat, all things baby) I swear by OxiClean Multi-Purpose Versatile Stain Remover Free powder. I don’t use it in regular loads as a laundry booster, but as a highly effective stain remover. I have a laundry bucket in which I dissolve a scoop of OxiClean in really hot water and soak items for several hours – usually overnight. Rinse the items briefly and wash with the regular load.

It is important to rinse the soaked items a little before washing because sensitive skin can react to the concentrated OxiClean if it is not fully removed from the fabric in the wash.

bras and other delicate items

I wash my bras, other lingerie, and some sweaters and blouses (turned inside out) in mesh washing bags in the regular load. They reduce wear, stretching of straps, and shrinkage.

I use the Handwash setting on my washer for most sweaters and other delicate items that call for that. Again, I turn them inside out to reduce wear.

PRO TIP: Never put your bras in the dryer. It will wear out the fabric much more quickly, making them ill-fitting and useless. It is best to air dry all of your delicates to reduce shrinkage and wear. If they come out of the washer wrinkled, toss them in the dryer on Air/Fluff (no heat) for 5 minutes before hanging them to dry.

put down the iron!

I hate to iron. Really hate it. Just thinking about it makes me irritable. But I do want to look tidy. With these simple tricks I iron about two times a year – for real.

Disclaimer: My personal style is more relaxed – my clothes are wrinkle-free, but my shirts are not crisp. If you want a really crisp shirt, you will have to use starch and an iron, or invest in no-iron dress shirts like this one.

PRO TIP: Dry everything on LOW. Always. Less wrinkles, less shrinkage, less wear.

If you can’t remove the load from the dryer immediately, toss the load again for 10 minutes to remove wrinkles before taking it out.

Fold and hang everything right after you take it out of the dryer – saving several loads to fold at once will re-wrinkle your clothes.

for items that wrinkle easily (or might shrink) – cotton shirts, polyester blouses, 100% cotton knit tees, dress pants, cotton dresses and skirts, cotton or denim jackets, linen

Put the whole load in the dryer and turn it on LOW for five minutes, counting the items you want to remove as you put them in. I have to repeat the number to myself several times so I don’t forget!

Tossing them with the whole load actually removes wrinkles more effectively than just putting a few items in the dryer – more balanced rotation and friction, I guess? 

Pull out the counted items after five minutes and hang them on hangers or a drying rack. The European-style drying rack is my favorite – it holds a lot of clothes and is great for drying items outside as well.

Smooth the collars, button plackets, pockets, cuffs, and hems of relevant items. Allow them to dry fully. Give each item a shake/fluff when taking it off the rack or hanger, and you’re good to go!

Energy-saving Tip: Toss the whole load on low for 5 minutes in the dryer to remove wrinkles and then hang all of it on the drying rack to dry the rest of the way. Your clothing will last longer with less drying as well.

tailoring and repairs

Even if clothes are clean and unwrinkled, holes and tears, missing buttons, frayed hems, and pilled or worn fabric only drag you down and can look unprofessional. So does clothing that is ill-fitting. Addressing these issues right away with repair or tailoring not only increases the life of your clothing – the longer you leave damage, the worse it will become – but also helps you feel polished. Feeling polished leads to confidence, which leads to showing your best self. All good things! Because that’s what it’s all about – feeling great.

Feeling polished leads to confidence, which leads to showing your best self. All good things! Because that’s what it’s all about – feeling great.

What laundry tips are your tried-and-trues? Share in the comments below your favorite techniques and products.

 

a functional wardrobe: fewer items, more outfits

If you follow my Out the Door series on my Facebook page, you’ll know that I wear many of my clothes frequently, especially basics like jeans, tees, and jackets. This is intentional. When shopping (at least 90% of the time new-to-me), I choose pieces that are classic in design and well constructed, so they go with many things and are long-lasting in terms of both style and wear.

more with less

As a wardrobe consultant whose niche is to practice sustainable consumerism, I follow three steps with my own wardrobe and model them when working with clients:

  1. Make your existing wardrobe as functional as it can be
  2. Shop new-to-you whenever possible
  3. Shop ethically when shopping new

It’s a personal choice whether your wardrobe is large or small, although studies show that most people wear only 20% of the clothing in their closets. Often the other 80% languishes because the clothes either don’t work anymore (don’t fit well, outdated, damaged/worn out) or you don’t know how to wear them. Making your wardrobe more functional by purging the ones that don’t work and creating multiple outfits with what does allows you to have more choices with less clothing.

define your personal style

I have a classic personal style with preppy and French-influenced overtones. Think gingham, plaids, loafers, and tailored fitted cuts. My signature style is a polished jeans outfit – you’ll find me in that most days of the year. It works really well for my personal style, my body type, and my life/work style. In the hot summer months I switch to dresses, shorts, cropped pants and jeans, and some skirts.

Having a defined personal style helps you to be intentional both in shopping and in putting together outfits, which ultimately makes daily dressing easier. When you are clear about the clothes that suit you – both physically and in reflecting your authentic self – you inherently become more selective. This eliminates those impulse purchases that end up as unworn regrets hanging in your closet. The clothes that you are holding onto for whatever reason but aren’t wearing can be purged without guilt. Knowing your personal style frees you.

feeling current

I choose trends carefully. It’s important to feel contemporary – wearing something that’s on trend can help you feel current and confident – but choose only trends that resonate with you and your personal style. Wearing something you don’t really like won’t bring you joy, even if it is trendy!

Trends that are more enduring, like colors of the season (they really are all just variations on a theme), classic prints like polka dots and plaids, and timeless pieces like trench coats and silk scarves, are worth the investment. They won’t be “out” next year and end up a regret in the long run. Not only will they last, they also help you feel like you are being intentional (that word again – can you tell how important I think it is?) with how you dress. And that makes all the difference.

capsule wardrobe

Many people are embracing the idea of a minimalist wardrobe, like Courtney Carver’s Project 333 (wear only 33 pieces of clothing for 3 months), to have a smaller wardrobe and less stress. The idea is to put together a wardrobe where everything goes together, so that you can mix and match to create multiple outfits with fewer clothes. One caveat is that wearing the same items so frequently will cause them to wear out faster and you may tire of them more quickly.

I have more than 33 pieces per season, but there is value in thinking about the capsule approach. Determining that you can make at least 3 outfits with an item before you purchase it, with the added commitment that you will wear it at least 30 times before discarding it will lessen those impulse buys and the guilt that often comes with them. It also is easier on the environment, reduces the demand for poor-quality fast fashion that relies on unethical labor practices, and is more economically sound for you in the long run.

function fosters confidence

Having a wardrobe that meets the needs of your life and that represents who you are helps you to feel good about yourself. And feeling good about yourself conveys confidence, which not only impacts how others see you, but also impacts how you move through the world. It’s a cycle – what you are wearing impacts how you feel, and how you feel impacts how you live.

A functional wardrobe allows you to dress intentionally,  which makes that cycle positive rather than negative. You don’t need a lot of clothes to achieve that – only clothes that serve you well.

 

 

consign, donate, or RECYCLE?

 

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What to do with clothing that is outdated, worn out, or no longer fits can be daunting. As a result, textiles are a significant contributor to solid waste issues around the world.

Sally at Already Pretty invited me to discuss the ins and outs of determining the best methods of disposal for unwanted clothing. Check out my guest post to learn more!

Image: Eureka Recycling

summer clearance season has begun!

Consignment stores everywhere have begun their summer clearance sales – now is the time to find amazing new-to-you pieces at astonishing prices. Summer items are marked 50-75% off, meaning that many high quality top-brand and designer pieces are available for less than $10. Sometimes even less than $5. 

This sale season is a great way to explore new-to-you shopping as well as new brands and styles. You will be pleasantly surprised at what you find!

in the twin cities

Check out my resource guide, Earth Day Everyday: A Resource Guide to Shopping New-To-You in the Twin Cities, for the lowdown on the incredible selection of consignment stores here.

Sale highlights:

Clothes Mentor (multiple locations): 50-70% off
Elite Repeat (St. Paul): Official sale begins August 6, but many items are already 50% off
Nu Look (Minneapolis): 50% off
Second Debut (St. Louis Park; sadly, the St. Paul location closed recently!): 30% off
Turn Style (multiple locations): 50%-75% off

an interview with Courtney Carver

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Courtney Carver of Be More with Less and Project 333 is an internationally recognized expert in practicing simplicity in your life. Courtney currently is travelling with her Tiny Wardrobe Tour to discuss the ins and outs of Project 333, her minimalist fashion challenge that has been featured in O, The Oprah Magazine, on the Today Show website, and elsewhere around the world. Courtney and her new Tiny Wardrobe Tour are coming to Minneapolis on June 29.

Last week I had the pleasure of talking with Courtney in a phone interview about her “Be More with Less” philosophy and Project 333. She is truly delightful – down to earth and passionate about her work. The Tiny Wardrobe Tour promises to be an informative, engaging, and inspiring event!

Read on for our conversation and details for attending the Tiny Wardrobe Tour.

ndwc: What led you to the Be More with Less philosophy and Project 333?

It really all started for me in 2006 when I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. It was this big wakeup call for me – I was working all the time, always very busy, in a lot of debt – my life was very stressful. And I realized that while all of that stress didn’t cause my MS, it definitely exacerbated the symptoms and made me feel bad – I didn’t feel well a lot. I think a lot of us can relate to that – where we’re overworked, overcommitted and just really burning the candle at both ends and not feeling well as a result.

So I really set out to eliminate stress from my life. While that started with something as simple as changing the food in my diet, the next change had to do with debt and stuff, and then busyness, and then work. And I realized there was this common thread throughout all of the changes, and that was simplicity. That’s really where my Be More with Less philosophy developed.

ndwc: Tell us about Project 333.

In 2010, in the midst of decluttering and letting go, I realized that one source of stress I had been ignoring for a long time was my closet, and it was always just full of clothes, a place where I was constantly shopping – I was just adding, adding, adding and never subtracting. I had no idea what I really enjoyed wearing, because I was always just shopping for events and emotions – I wasn’t really shopping for what I needed.

Again, it just builds up, and I realized every time I opened my closet, which was often several times a day, I was faced with the reality of my debt and discontent, my bad purchase decisions, and clothes that didn’t fit me – things that didn’t support a good day, let alone a good life. So I decided to challenge myself to dress with 33 items or less for three months to see if I could define what “enough” really meant. I didn’t know what to expect – I just knew there was something to be learned there, and the way things were going in my closet right now, it wasn’t working.

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ndwc: One of the things I uphold in my work in wardrobe consulting is being “true to you” – specifically, expressing your authentic self with the clothes you wear. How does Project 333 help you feel true to yourself?

Interestingly enough, it allowed me to begin to figure out who I was so that I could be true to myself. I went through this period of time where I was just accumulating, accumulating – whether it be clothes, or stuff, or obligations, and I was just on auto-pilot, taking things in. And especially in my closet – I was wearing things that didn’t represent who I was at all, but it was because I didn’t really know who I was.

It wasn’t, “Gee, I know I’m lost.” I didn’t know. I was doing work that I didn’t really enjoy, but dressing to fit the part. I was caught up in a very stressful, busy lifestyle, and again, dressing to fit that part and to fit my role in all of these different things in my life, but they weren’t things I had purposely chosen. They were things I just let happen by default. So by beginning to dress in clothes that actually fit my body and my lifestyle – not the life that I aspired to have, or I thought people wanted me to have, or that I should have, or the life I thought I was supposed to live – but the life I really wanted to live. I was so much happier.

I’m not really a fashionista in the sense that I make good decisions for other people in terms of style – that’s not my specialty – but I started choosing clothes that fit where I was, right now, instead of this made-up version of myself.

ndwc: Practicing sustainable consumerism and the Be More With Less philosophy share commonalities. With clothing in particular, making your existing wardrobe more functional addresses both of these ideals. How does Project 333 make your wardrobe more functional?

For starters, I’m wearing my favorite things everyday. In any given season, I only have 33 items including clothes, shoes, jewelry, and accessories. So they are items that I have hand-selected that go well with each other – most everything you can mix and match.

In the beginning, because I was working with what I had, that was a little messier, to be honest, than it is now. It took some time – years actually – to distill down to a wardrobe that worked really well together. But I didn’t want to go out and buy a whole new wardrobe or buy a capsule collection for each season, because that really defeated the purpose of both being more with less and making sustainable fashion choices.

I didn’t want to become even more consumeristic in my fashion choices, so I let it evolve over time and now, many years into this project, I don’t have to give a lot thought to what I’m wearing when I pick something out in the morning, and I get ready in a lot less time. I have more mental bandwidth to make decisions all day long because I’m not stressing out over what to wear every day.

“I have more mental bandwidth to make decisions all day long because I’m not stressing out over what to wear every day.”
ndwc: You alluded to it feeling a little messy when first starting this project. Have you ever felt confined by practicing Project 333? What advice do you give others if they do?

I haven’t felt confined. In fact, the more boundaries that I’ve set, whether they be in my closet, my kitchen, relationships, or work, I find that my energy levels and interest and capacity for learning and growing and thriving become boundless. It’s creating boundaries around the things that have been holding you back to make room for the places that you want to move forward. That has been my experience and the general feedback from other people.

It’s typically the fear that it will feel confining, or the fear that it won’t be enough, or the fear that people will get bored. For the people who genuinely do get bored within the challenge because they’re bored with their wardrobe, in many cases it’s because people are so used to being hyper-focused on having the right accessories and the right jewelry and the right clothing that they’ve been dedicating a lot of time and energy to that. You take that away and they’ve now got this newfound time and space, and they don’t know how to direct that energy.

So I always encourage people, for at least those three months that they’re challenging themselves, to shift focus to something else – something new, something that you’re curious about, something that may benefit other people. Get your focus off the clothes for those three months to give yourself the time to discover what you may enjoy more than shopping and fashion and clothes.

“The more boundaries that I’ve set, whether they be in my closet, my kitchen, relationships, or work, I find that my energy levels and interest and capacity for learning and growing and thriving become boundless.”
ndwc: What are the three most surprising things you’ve learned from Project 333?

I knew I would save money, and I knew I would save time. I think it was surprising to me that no one noticed that I was doing the challenge. I started it while I was working full-time in advertising sales so I was meeting with clients and colleagues and going to business lunches and community events. And for three months, I was wearing 33 items – which with shoes, clothing and accessories resulted in about 20 pieces of actual clothing including outerwear/coats – so from October through December in 2010, nobody noticed I was wearing the same items.

It was surprising to me because I really thought people cared more about what I was wearing! But it turns out they just don’t – people care more about what they’re wearing or doing than what you’re wearing or doing. That was a great lesson to learn.

Another surprising benefit would be that I really did develop a personal style. It happened organically as I let things go that didn’t really resonate with me and that I didn’t want, and that I had only purchased because it looked good on someone else in a magazine or because I was feeling down and went shopping. So when I was really choosing items that fit me – and I don’t just mean my body – but fit ME, I found a personal style that works well for me. I didn’t expect that to happen.

“When I was really choosing items that fit me – and I don’t just mean my body – but fit ME, I found a personal style that works well for me.”

Another surprising benefit is that it contributed to improving my health and relationships, as did my entire decluttering and simplicity process. I was able to let go of more stress so that it impacted my body in a healthy way and my relationships in a very loving way. I had more time to really pay attention to conversations instead of always thinking about something else, always trying to be five steps ahead. Instead I could really be present.

Of course those surprising lessons unfolded over time. There were many more immediate benefits that I could pinpoint within a couple of weeks, but now that I’ve had many years to reflect on it I can see that it really was and continues to be a powerful experiment for me.

ndwc: It’s a significant shift in your approach to life – obviously that is the Be More with Less philosophy. But it’s really cool to see these small actions that you take – as you do that it becomes easier and easier to do them, and the snowball effect that it has is really amazing.

And interestingly enough, the biggest surprise was in hearing from other people that the challenge isn’t that challenging. Most people thought about it for a year before jumping in because it sounded so scary, and then once they started, most people say, “I can’t believe I didn’t start earlier – this isn’t as hard as I thought it would be. This is actually making my life easier!”

ndwc: Tell us about the Tiny Wardrobe Tour.

The Tiny Wardrobe Tour started this year. I’m visiting 33 cities to share my tiny wardrobe and the lessons that I’ve learned along the way. And to answer questions from people who are either considering the project or want to simplify their lives in some way, or are in that place where they know things are overwhelming and not working, but they don’t know what the next step is.

It’s been really exciting – we’ve been to New York and London – and Salt Lake City, where I live. Next up is the Midwest Tour – Kansas City, St. Louis, and Minneapolis. I’m trying to do 2-3 cities a month, so it’s not a non-stop 33-city tour. I find that if I’m away for more than a week, I start to miss my husband, my routine, and my work. So this has been really a great way to do it for me.

ndwc: Can you give a taste of what the workshop will be like?

It’s about 90 minutes. I chat for about a half-hour, and then we open it up for Q&A, so then we get into the really good stuff and have a great conversation around simplicity, capsule collections, and whatever everybody wants to talk about.

ndwc: Thank you so much for talking with me today! Please share any final thoughts with us about your passion for this work.

Simplicity has completely transformed my life. There’s no other way to say that, and that is what makes me crazy to talk about it. I get so excited to have conversations with people who have either simplified their lives or are considering simplicity as an option to improve their health, their relationships, their work. Because, as I’ll mention at the event, we don’t simplify the closet or declutter our homes or reject stress and busyness to have a simple life – we do it to have a life. That’s what really makes me excited for this.

“We don’t simplify the closet or declutter our homes or reject stress and busyness to have a simple life – we do it to have a life.”

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Courtney Carver’s Tiny Wardrobe Tour

514 Studios – 514 North 3rd Street #101, Minneapolis, MN 55401
Wednesday, June 29, 2016
6:00-8:00 PM
Tickets and Info

 

Images courtesy of Courtney Carver

how to: avoid ironing at all costs and other fun laundry tips

laundry_loads of fun

Taking care of your wardrobe helps it to last longer and increases its functionality, essential elements of practicing sustainable consumerism. My clients often ask for advice on how to care for their clothing, so I thought I’d share how I care for my clothes here.

I will share the products I use as well. This is not sponsored content, nor is it an endorsement of any particular product – just sharing what works for me!

Read on for ways to avoid the iron without looking like you just rolled out of bed and other tips for keeping your wardrobe in top shape. Because face it, stains, wrinkles, and worn clothing don’t help you feel your best.

Stains, wrinkles, and worn clothing don’t help you feel your best.

washing

Wash items in as cold water as possible to reduce wear and shrinkage as well as energy use. I wash whites (underwear, undershirts, and socks) in warm and lights and darks in cold.

I use Whole Foods 365 2x Concentrated Unscented Powdered Laundry Detergent for whites and lights and Seventh Generation Natural Free & Clear Laundry Detergent for darks.

I think the powder cleans better overall, but sometimes does not dissolve completely in cold water –  especially in winter when the water is really cold – leaving residue marks on dark items. Both are environmentally friendly and scent-free as well as concentrated, so require very little product to be effective.

Reduce fading and wear by turning dark items, especially blacks and reds, inside out before washing and drying.

laundry products

i’ll have the flying baguette with a splash of vinaigrette – or – stain removal

Let me tell you a little story. I was having a lunch meeting with a potential client and ordered a cheese plate with baguette drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette – YUM, right?

The server delivered our meal, and turned just a little sharply to set down my plate. Six slices of baguette drizzled generously with vinaigrette literally went flying and tumbled down my front and into my lap. I (politely) had my hands in my lap, so I had a pile of bread sitting on my arms. The moment I moved my arms, the bread continued its journey down my legs. At that point, the only item I was wearing that didn’t have dark vinaigrette all over it was my underwear. My linen scarf, sweater, shirt, and pants all were stained.

Remarkably, I maintained my composure and shared laundry tips with my client. (And I got a free meal!) Here’s what I told her:

The sooner you treat a stain, the better luck you will have. If you can’t wash it right away, treating it before you put the garment in the hamper will increase your chances of removing it because the stain won’t be able to set as well.

I was able to remove all of the vinaigrette from my clothes with Dawn Ultra Dishwashing Liquid. Dawn is the best product for removing oil and grease stains (including vinaigrette). I have a bottle of it in my laundry area.

Rub it generously into the stain and throw it into the wash with everything else. It can even remove a stain you missed and has already gone through the wash.

If it is a really tough oil or grease stain: apply Dawn, rub it in, rinse it thoroughly with warm water, and then apply it again. Do several times if needed.

Bonus: to remove oil stains from leather, apply baking soda to the spot, let it sit overnight, then brush off. Repeat if needed.

For other stains (food, grass, blood, deodorant/sweat, all things baby) I swear by OxiClean Multi-Purpose Versatile Stain Remover Free. I don’t use it in regular loads as a laundry booster, but as a highly effective stain remover. I have a laundry bucket in which I dissolve a scoop of OxiClean in really hot water and soak items for several hours – usually overnight. Rinse the items briefly and wash with the regular load.

It is important to rinse the soaked items a little before washing because sensitive skin can react to the concentrated OxiClean if it is not fully removed from the fabric in the wash.

put down the iron!

I hate to iron. Really hate it. Just thinking about it makes me irritable. But I do want to look tidy. With these simple, and really quite basic, tricks I iron about two times a year – for real.

Disclaimer: My personal style is more relaxed – my clothes are wrinkle-free, but my shirts are not crisp. If you want a really crisp shirt, you will have to use starch and an iron, or invest in no-iron dress shirts like this one.

Dry everything on LOW. Always. Less wrinkles, less shrinkage, less wear.

If you can’t remove the load from the dryer immediately, toss the load again for 10 minutes to remove wrinkles before taking it out.

Fold and hang everything right after you take it out of the dryer – saving several loads to fold at once will re-wrinkle your clothes.

for items that wrinkle easily (or might shrink) – cotton shirts, polyester blouses, 100% cotton knit tees, dress pants, cotton dresses and skirts, cotton or denim jackets, linen

Put the whole load in the dryer and turn it on LOW for five minutes, counting the items you want to remove as you put them in. I have to repeat the number to myself several times so I don’t forget!

Tossing them with the whole load actually removes wrinkles more effectively than just putting a few items in the dryer – more balanced rotation and friction, I guess? 

Pull out the counted items after five minutes and hang them on hangers or a drying rack. The European-style drying rack is my favorite – it holds a lot of clothes and is great for drying items outside as well.

Smooth the collars, button plackets, pockets, cuffs, and hems of relevant items. Allow them to dry fully. Give each item a shake/fluff when taking it off the rack or hanger, and you’re good to go!

Energy-saving tip: toss the whole load on low for 5 minutes in the dryer to remove wrinkles and then hang all of it on the drying rack to dry the rest of the way. Your clothing will last longer with less drying as well.

bras and other delicate items

I wash my bras, other lingerie, and some sweaters and blouses (turned inside out) in mesh washing bags in the regular load. They reduce wear, stretching of straps, and shrinkage.

I use the Handwash setting on my washer for most sweaters and other delicate items that call for that. Again, I turn them inside out to reduce wear.

Never put your bras in the dryer. It will wear out the fabric much more quickly, making them ill-fitting and useless. It is best to air dry all of your delicates to reduce shrinkage and wear. If they come out of the washer wrinkled, toss them in the dryer on Air/Fluff (no heat) for 5 minutes before hanging them to dry.

tailoring and repairs

Even if clothes are clean and unwrinkled, holes and tears, missing buttons, frayed hems, and pilled or worn fabric only drag you down. So does clothing that is ill-fitting. Addressing these issues right away with repair or tailoring not only increases the life of your clothing (the longer you leave damage, the worse it will become), but also helps you feel polished. Feeling polished leads to confidence, which leads to showing your best self. All good things! Because that’s what it’s all about – feeling great.

Feeling polished leads to confidence, which leads to showing your best self. All good things! Because that’s what it’s all about – feeling great.

Coincidentally, my friend Sally at Already Pretty just published Save the World: Do Less Laundry, a perfect companion post to this piece! Read it to find out why doing laundry less often is easier on your clothes and the environment.

What laundry tips are your tried-and-trues? Share in the comments below your favorite techniques and products.

 

 

why do new-to-you?

the true cost graphic

join me

On Thursday, February 18, the documentary The True Cost will be screened at O’Shaughnessy Auditorium at St. Catherine University. A panel discussion, including the film’s director Andrew Morgan participating via videoconferencing, will follow the screening. And I am thrilled to be a part of the live panel!

This powerful film embodies why I am passionate about new-to-you clothing and why I want to share that passion with my clients at ndwc, readers, and anyone else who will listen.

here’s why

The “cradle to grave” cycle of a garment illustrates the impacts, environmental and otherwise, of that garment – beginning with its manufacture, its transport and use throughout its lifespan, and then in the waste stream. In each step of this cycle, a single garment – just one of the billions of garments created every year – has impact. Even when we throw a garment away, it continues to have lasting impact. Out of sight is not really out of mind.

The True Cost takes an eyes-wide-open look at the implications of “fast fashion” in particular, and the human rights and environmental impacts that result. I won’t spoil the film with too many details, but it is a compelling call for change in how the fashion industry operates, and how we as consumers participate.

That’s where I get up on my ndwc soapbox and shout it out to the people!

Feeling good about how you look is important. Really important. Remember, my tagline is style for everyday: new to you, true to you. The true-to-you part is all about feeling good (more on that). And feeling contemporary and polished contributes to feeling good. Which means that you do need to replace clothes that are worn out, don’t fit well, or are outdated.

So how do you do that, and be a sustainable consumer at the same time?

Shopping new-to-you.

New-to-you clothing at consignment stores = gorgeous, high-quality clothing. Clothing that is not fast fashion, meaning it is made to last. It is being kept out of the waste stream, prolonging its useful life and, at the same time, reducing demand for the manufacture of new garments.

The power of numbers! The more consumers shop new-to-you, the less demand there will be.

Join me in watching The True Cost. You will be inspired.

details

The True Cost, a film by Andrew Morgan

Thursday, February 18, 7 PM

O’Shaughnessy Auditorium, St. Catherine University, St. Paul

Order tickets

Presented with St. Catherine University’s Social Events and Experiences for Katies (SEEK), Fashion Association, Alumnae Relations, Biology Club, and Dept. of Apparel, Merchandising, and Design

Read more about The True Cost in my guest post, Nancy Dilts on Sustainable Style, on Already Pretty last summer.

nancy dilts on sustainable style

Last week I had the opportunity to guest post on Already Pretty, Sally McGraw’s amazing blog that explores style and body image. Sally not only is an all around delightful person, but also is an extremely talented and sensitive writer. It’s an honor to collaborate with her.

Check out my guest post, Nancy Dilts on Sustainable Style, to read about the passions that guide my work and also The True Cost, a new documentary about the impacts of “fast fashion.” And be sure to subscribe to Already Pretty while you’re there!

 the true cost graphic