What I’ve Learned in Quarantine: Less Really Is More

Read Time: 8 minutes

The last few weeks I have been in a major slump.

I have had no gumption to post on Instagram, I take longer to respond to comments from other users and my beloved practice of writing for one hour a day to create content for this site has gone by the wayside.

I have been feeling frumpy and i’m honestly surprised it took 5 months in quarantine for me to feel this way – I was expecting it to happen sooner. The repeated loop of athleisure wear, grubby ponytails and the daily commute from my bed to my kitchen table and back again is really starting to wear on me. I recognize that there are much worse situations I could be in – I could have lost my job, had to give up my apartment because I couldn’t pay rent, or not be able to afford groceries (all of which I can still do). But at the core of it all, I have been told to stay home, as many others have, and it’s starting to feel a bit like the film Groundhog Day.

Credit – Giphy

Amidst the slump, I have been cleaning my apartment – a lot of cleaning in fact. I take pride in a tidy home. Despite living in a seventies three story apartment building in which the hallways look like a crack-house, I firmly believe that it doesn’t matter how old your home may be. If you keep it looking clean, beautiful and loved, it can be made to look brand new.

This cleaning includes dusting bookshelves, wiping down my blinds and vacuuming, among a plethora of other standard household duties. However, one cleaning activity which I recently completed was a closet, shoe and makeup clean-out.

Truthfully, I love closet clean-outs. Organization in general makes my heart happy. Frankly, I get anxious if there’s clutter. Not so much with other people, but especially within my own space – even a small pile of clothes on the floor or a small stack of dishes.

I’ve seen a lot of posts recently about lessons people have learned in quarantine. Most are fairly standard – peace within myself, rediscovering old hobbies, making time for balance and making time for play and remembering that there are more important things in life than work (although work is fairly important, but you get my point).

If there’s anything that I’ve learned in quarantine, it’s that I really don’t need that much stuff.
Says the girl who has been waking up and putting on the same pair of yoga pants and t-shirt for the past 5 months.
Credit – Giphy

No, really though.

I tend to do a closet clean-out twice a year – once in the Spring and once in the Fall. During these periods is when I will typically swap out my winter clothes for summer clothes and vice-versa. It also allows me to step back, objectively view my closet and shoes and ask myself certain questions: What have I not worn in a year? What do I continue to keep because I LOVE it, but never wear it? Why am I keeping that in my closet? In addition to – could this be up-cycled and made into something new?

As I get older, I have become more aware of the detrimental impacts surrounding fast fashion on the environment. As the fashion industry continues to crank out new trends every season, subsequent clothing retailers produce clothes to keep up with the demand of staying on trend and fit the consumer’s needs. In turn, there is an enormous amount of clothing produced yearly, that is incredibly wasteful and only serves to meet the demands of the trends in that moment, despite the fact that the trend will have come and gone in a matter of four months. Stores guilty of the practice of fast fashion include retail giants such as H&M and Zara.

Don’t get me wrong, i’m no clothing saint. As a consumer I am guilty of buying into the practice of fast fashion. Pre-COVID, I would go for my annual (sometimes bi-annual) cross border shopping trip with a girlfriend to Target, and stock up on cheap, cute clothing for the upcoming season. All of these items of clothing primarily have tags listing “Made in Guatemala” or “Made in Venezuela” – another point of concern within the fashion industry.

That being said, i’m starting to do and be better to become a more mindful, responsible consumer.

Despite my Target shop, I would say that the majority of my clothes are pieces that I have had in my closet for quite some time (we’re talking years).

One extreme case of clothing in my closet, is a sunflower dress that once belonged to my mother. While still in amazing condition, we estimate it to be approximately 21 years old. There’s a Christmas photo in my parents’ house of my mum, brother and I (roughly at age 6 or 7), in which my mum is wearing the sunflower dress.

I don’t buy clothes at a rapid rate anymore. If anything, my rate of purchasing clothes could best be described as glacial. Furthermore, during COVID, I haven’t gone online shopping once for clothes.

Pretty much every bout of a closet clean-out, I find something that I can get rid of. As I get older, I am also becoming more responsible about where my recycled or donated clothes go. I used to simply drop-off my clothes at Value Village (similar to Savers’ in the United States, if you are American). However in recent years, I have heard this is not the best place for donated or recycled clothes (within the fact they are a for-profit company, and very little of the money they claim goes to charities, actually goes to charities, which I think is shady) so I try to avoid it if I can.

Despite having a track record of fast fashion, H&M has a reputable textile recycling program, which I have taken advantage of. More recently though, I have been taking my clothing to my local recycling depot, where I’ve since learned that they recycle textiles, in addition to standard recyclable items such as cardboard, paper, plastic, cans and bottles. Through the recycling depot, the clothes are distributed to reuse organizations and companies. Any returned textiles that cannot be resold are recycled and reused to make different materials like rags, paper, yarn, carpet padding, or insulation. This helps divert used and unwanted clothing from ending up in the landfill.

There’s enough garbage in the landfill as is. My old pajama t-shirt from a past breast cancer run/walk, doesn’t need to end up there either.

As silly as it sounds, the gradual shrinkage of my closet in size and in clothing I don’t wear, brings me a sense of peace. It makes me less anxious in terms of making decisions (something which I have enough trouble with already), when there’s less to choose from. It also makes me feel better knowing that I have been more selective in choosing where my recycled clothes will go. Knowing that pieces of clothing which once sat stagnant in my closet, not being worn, are going to somebody who will wear them instead, or will be reused and created to serve an alternate purpose, brings me peace of mind. As ridiculously easy as it is to get rid things we no longer wear, I personally want to do so in a way so that my old materials, when going out into the world, will create as little waste as possible.

Mindful with Make-Up

This same sense of peace also comes from getting rid of old make-up. Despite that, some anxious tendencies still grip me when it comes to throwing out old make-up:What if I don’t find this color of eyeliner again? This cost me so much money, I can’t bear to throw it out even if it is expired.

I used to be the type of girl who would go through all steps in a makeup process according to beauty gurus on YouTube – moisturizer, primer, foundation, concealer, powder, bronzer, blush, highlight, eyebrows, eyeliner, mascara. Hey, if you are one of these girls, all the more power to you.

Credit – Giphy

While I still have all of these products in my possession, I find that in quarantine, I have really come to appreciate my natural face (It’s also not like I have a busy social life where I see people every day, these days). Rather than focusing on caking my face like when I was younger, I now focus on taking care of my skin. Keeping my natural face looking as natural as possible, serves as the basis for when I now purchase make-up. I also find with this approach I use less products, both in the number of products I buy, but also the amount of a product. This simplifies my routine significantly.

I purchased a CC cream that eliminates at least 3 of the steps above (primer, concealer, foundation). CC creams are magical elixirs which do a bang-up job of making your skin look natural but beautiful, while having a ton of extra benefits. In the instance of the one I purchased, it’s color-correcting, SPF 50 (Hiss – the sun! Out, damned spot!), anti-aging and hydrating. It’s also not tested on animals – another benefit which I find myself paying more attention to, in addition to vegan products. The current moisturizer and anti-aging serum I have are vegan.

The powder I use typically eliminates the other 4 steps concerning my face (powder, bronzer, blush, highlight). While I love the process of putting on makeup (I find it therapeutic), I find that my time in quarantine has taught me, if anything, that less really is more.

Simply put, I’ve learned in quarantine that I value having less clothes in my closet because it reduces my time spent on what I choose to wear and allows me to appreciate the clothes I do have. I also appreciate that this process allows me to be more mindful when it comes to assessing what I need to purchase and where I will purchase it from. I value not buying into a wasteful industry such as fast fashion, because I am trying in my own life to be more environmentally conscious – buying into an industry such as fast fashion would be counter intuitive to that. I appreciate my natural face and natural skin as I get older, reducing the steps in my beauty routine and spending money on fewer, high quality products.

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