Right now my entire closet, including workout clothes, pajamas, etc. can fit into two large suitcases, but this has not always been the case. Growing up I had a large closet packed full of clothes. When I was in college, I had two closets in my dorm room and both were exploding with clothing new and old. I loved fashion and was known as the “fashionista” of the group, but I can look back now and say that my relationship with it was unhealthy. I would justify going to stores like Forever 21 for some “retail therapy” after class. Or I wouldn’t want to be seen in the same outfit more than once so I always had a reason to need something new. I was definitely a fast fashion offender.

After getting involved in the anti-trafficking movement, I started to learn about the dark side of the fashion industry - there are evil hidden costs to the cheap clothes we so carelessly enjoy. I began to change my thinking and shopping habits as terms like “fair trade” and “ethical fashion” became a part of my vocabulary. Over the last eight years, I’ve slowly ended my unhealthy relationship with consumerism and opted for what I like to call holistic consumerism instead. This gradual change also meant that I stopped looking for clothing that had a little better ethics behind it to fill the trends of the season and started being really mindful of the clothing I put in my closet.

Do I really need something because it’s cute and makes me feel good or is it something that’s practical and will serve me well? When I started asking myself this question, the way I viewed my wardrobe changed.

Minimalism wasn’t even trendy when I started gravitating toward1 it. For me, it has always been about practicality. I want to invest in pieces that will last me for years to come, that were created with integrity, and that take the environment in mind as well. Most companies that create clothing fairly and ethically, create pieces that can be “staples” in your wardrobe. They are not trying to keep up with the trends from the runway. Instead, they are typically neutral colors and timeless shapes. The more I started investing in pieces like this, the more I liked it. Over time, my wardrobe has taken on the minimalist vibe. Nothing super colorful - only black, white, gray, olive, navy and denim - so that it can all be easily mixed and matched.

Because I travel so much for work, I quickly noticed and fell in love with the benefits of this type of closet. I can literally pack in a matter of minutes. Everything in my closet coordinates so there’s very little room for a wardrobe malfunction when on the road. I only have a couple pairs of shoes for each season too so there’s not much thought required.

Another benefit is that so much of what I own can be worn year-round. I re-evaluate my closet at the beginning of each season, see what needs to be added or refreshed, and purchase a few new pieces for that specific season. I don’t go overboard, I stick to what’s actually needed! It can be hard sometimes and takes some serious self-control, but there’s also a lot of freedom in it for me.

What started out as an act of justice has also released me from the chains of materialism. We don’t need as much as we think we do. When we start to be intentional with the things we buy and bring into our home, it changes the way we think about consumerism as a whole. I am content with less knowing that I’m doing everything I can to fight for the dignity of others, and myself, in the process.