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A Green Closet for Earth Day

Happy Earth Day, peeps. Let’s celebrate it by starting with your closet.

FACT: The average woman’s closet is a cesspool of material waste.

Recall the inspiration for the first installment of Wardrobe Bitchslap, if you will. The Pareto Principle is its technical moniker; the Closeto Principle is its lame-in-hindsight Cheap JAP designation; cut all the bull, and it’s the 80-by-20 theory.

80-by-20 theory in world of business —–> 80% of sales come from 20% of clients.

80-by-20 theory in world of wardrobe —–> 80% of outfits come from 20% of clothes.

We’ve been through this. We know only twenty percent of everything we own gets worn on a regular basis. We know we should probably reassess our YAYs, NAYs and OY VEYs, figure out what works, toss what doesn’t, and shop according to the results of our respective Wardrobe Bitchslaps in the future to ensure that we actually use what we buy.

Fast forward one year, and we’re back at square one.

There’s nothing royal about the “we” repeated above. I can’t speak to the aftermath of your Wardrobe Bitchslaps – maybe you managed to disprove the 80-20 theory, maybe you really do wear what’s in your closet often enough to have zero regrets about buying it – I can only speak from personal experience.

Here’s a snapshot of MY closet post-Bitchslap, circa one year later:

What the eff happened? I initially made a valiant effort to assess what I wanted in relation to my YAYs pre-purchase. Why couldn’t I keep it up? Because in a stuff-saturated culture, buying only things you’ll actually use is a tall order. The Thing Buzz is a ticking time bomb set to derail your good intentions.

Said Thing Buzz looks something like this: You go shopping for something you need, you can’t find it, you grow irritated, and the bust pisses you off to the point of relapse. You just want to buy SOMETHING, ANYTHING, it doesn’t effing matter WHAT it is. The prospect of going home without a material treat – without the Buzz – is simply too disheartening to bear. So you make an exception.

I don’t really wear necklaces, but this one’s soooo cute; I’m not a skirt person, but it’s only $5; the last time I wore heels this high I broke my ankle, but these are too hot to refuse… and BAM! Stuff you don’t need and won’t wear slowly creeps into your closet.

This leaves us with two options. We can cut ourselves off from media, internet, television, blackberries, iPads and everything else bound to influence our buying behavior, and go all Walden Pond and shit. Or we can keep trying.

You’re probs wondering if this tangential diatribe has anything to do with environmental consciousness a la Earth Day, so let’s connect the dots. Say you buy a top at H&M that proves an impulse purchase – a top that sits in your closet barely-worn until it gets donated to charity or whatevs. H&M doesn’t know that you bought it and didn’t wear it – it just knows X amount of customers bought Y top in Z week, and re-stocks accordingly.

One shopper’s erroneous top purchase doesn’t tip the scales, but think about how many other shoppers make the same mistake. I know I have. Put us all together – all of us who shop at H&M and buy tops we never wear – and the numbers are enough to cause a significant increase in the production of H&M tops, and an unnecessary one at that. The result isn’t just more tops – it’s all the environmental no-nos the manufacturing of those tops creates.

One shopper’s Thing Buzz resistance doesn’t tip the scales either, but what if most of us managed to abstain from an H&M impulse buy? X amount of customers wouldn’t have bought Y top in Z week; H&M wouldn’t have needed to re-stock accordingly; a decrease in production means a decrease in environmental no-nos; etc.

There’s a margin for Thing Buzz error in secondhand shopping too. An impulse buy shopped resale might have zero carbon footprint, but if it’s a thing you end up not wearing, it’s a karmic no-no. You’ve robbed someone else of a thriftastic score! Tsk, Tsk.

Bottom line? What you buy isn’t inconsequential, regardless of how you shop it. Be brutally honest with yourself about whether or not you’ll wear it, and you’ll buy less by default. You’ll be more likely to wear what you do buy, and your closet will be greener for it…and not because you stock it with $180 organic hemp cotton bamboo tee-shirts either. A closet of things you wear regularly, things purchased not in the spirit of excess but in the spirit of conservation, is a small step toward making every day earth day (at least where fashion’s concerned).

Oh, riiiiight. All this warmth and fuzziness almost made me forget about the part where my closet is a total shitshow. It’s not easy to shop according to what you wear in lieu of what you want in a given moment, but eff it – I’m giving it a whirl anyway. Earth Day is a day for resolutions. Today, I resolve to reassess what I wear (and donate what I don’t) so I can shop smarter in the future.

Today, I resolve to not buy overpriced shoes made from soda cans on the grounds that they’re green.

Today, I bitchslap my wardrobe. Again.



Zing! Unbelievably and sadly true.

“There’s a margin for Thing Buzz error in secondhand shopping too. An impulse buy shopped resale might have zero carbon footprint, but if it’s a thing you end up not wearing, it’s a karmic no-no. You’ve robbed someone else of a thriftastic score! Tsk, Tsk.”


Alex E

I read your initial post (a while back)advising readers to use this technique REGULARLY. I started cleaning out my closet to a neurotic degree but I couldnt be happier with the items I’ve pared down to. They’re mostly reliable, quality and versatile pieces and now I look for those qualities while shopping for new stuff. All thanks to you! YAY!


By their very nature, some clothes in any closet will be worn only occasionally. I don’t have too much call for sharp suits or evening gowns in my day-to-day wardrobe, but I’m not getting rid of the ones I do have – they’re pricey pieces and not ones I want to replace in a hurry if I need one on short notice.

I have, however, started deliberately avoiding impulse-buy type stores, like H&M and F21, because it’s far too easy to get lured by the ooh-pretty-shiny and low prices into stuffing my closet with dreck I don’t need that will fall apart after two washings. Thrift stores are harder: it’s sometimes difficult to gauge what will be an unexpected closet workhorse and what will malinger in the depths of a drawer, taunting me with its unwearability. I’ve had purchases go both ways.

Good luck with your wardrobe revamp!


I’m glad you’re addressing this issue! I feel like I’ve figured out how to pare down and only buy what will work for my body type and lifestyle, but seem to let the random H&M impulse purchases slip in there. I think I’m overdue for a closet clean.


No matter how smart or savvy I think I’m being when I shop for clothes, I always end up throwing half of it out after a year goes by! Yes, a cesspool of waste, indeed!

Champagne Taste With a Beer Budget

good luck with the bitchslapping. i admire your motivation. the only thing keeping me in check is the fact that my closet does NOT want to hold much at all. it throws up my entire wardrobe about once a week.

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