Realising what you value by having less stuff

Decluttering

A fresh start every now and then can only be healthy. Time to reflect, see things in a new light, explore new opportunities. It can happen when we look for a new job, when we end a relationship, when we decide to review our work-life balance. For me, it has recently happened as I decided to move back to Sweden, after 13 years in London and it meant new country, new city, new job, new life, and new living arrangements as my partner and I decided to move to a new flat together.

Although it is daunting to change your entire life around, I decided to see it as an opportunity to really consider what I wanted in life. Big things like where do I want my career to go, to, potentially, smaller things like what do I want to bring into our new flat. And it has truly given me and us a chance to reflect on what is important in life, and in our relationship.

Seeing as we were moving in to a new flat, we knew we could start afresh by bringing as little as possible into the flat from the start, with my partner selling most of his stuff and I was able to leave most things in my old flat share. What we didn’t sell, we gave to friends, donated to charity, or if it couldn’t be re-used, handed in at recycling stations. Ahead of the move, I also prohibited myself from buying new things, and instead using up things I already had. This particularly meant using up various beauty products and samples that were filling up drawers and shelves.

 

As you put your house in order and decrease your possessions, you’ll see what your true values are, what is important to you in your life.

– Marie Kondo

 

Whilst going through this process, it’s been helpful to get thoughts from others, exploring minimalism with The Minimalists and tidying with Japanese decluttering expert Marie Kondo. Although her ruthless process isn’t for everyone, her approach of asking yourself “Does this item spark joy?” when going through everything in your home, is sensible. If you end up answering YES all the time then you won’t be able to declutter, which wouldn’t be a successful outcome for Kondo, but I guess it will at least mean that everything you own means something special to you. And that is probably what’s most important here.

Knowing what you value, and valuing what you have.

But this will evidently be easier if you have less stuff as you’ll have a better overview, and it’ll be easier to remember all the things you do have, stopping you from buying unnecessary new things. I have increasingly become more aware of my wardrobe in particular, and agree with the idea that that if you have too many items, you’ll end up using the same ones anyway. Your favourite top, or your most comfortable shoes, or those jeans that can always be found on your chair close to your bed. Downsizing your wardrobe, and opening your eyes to all, loved, items you have left, will actually make you feel you have more clothes. You’ll be more aware of each item and you are more likely to explore your fashion creativity, maybe mixing items you didn’t think could be mixed.

Seeing your favourite things in a new light, by having less stuff that stops you from seeing your favourite things at all, not only makes you see a new value in them, but it gives you a chance to truly treasure them. Instead of getting forgotten about at the back of a wardrobe, they are used as well as looked after, giving you a reason to make sure they last longer, which also means you won’t necessarily need to buy new things as often. Saving money whilst saving the earth, and giving you reasons to value what you already have.

 

 

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10 tips for a life less plastic

Plastic free hair products

The fact that people who eat seafood ingest up to 11,000 tiny pieces of plastic every year means our plastic pollution has already gone too far. Our obsession with plastic and lack of recycling means our plastic products end up in the sea, eaten by fish, and then eaten by us.

Plastic pollution is not an issue we can hide from – when it ends up in our food it is an issue that is very close to home.

The issue of single-use plastic is the main one that needs addressing. Plastic bags from the super market, take-away food in plastic containers, and of course the plastic bottle. More than 480bn plastic drinking bottles were sold in 2016 and fewer than half of these were collected for recycling and only about 7% of those collected were turned into new bottles. Instead, most end up in landfill or in the ocean and campaigners are predicting an environmental crisis as serious as climate change.

There are great initiatives trying to save our planet – save us – with creative movements such as Parley for the Oceans finding innovative solutions to raise awareness, clean the oceans and recycle plastic. Like the trainer they created with Adidas made from recycled plastic bottles. And others are doing similar things. Like Rothy’s ballerina shoe. And Ecoalf’s jackets made from recycled plastic bottles and fishing nets. Finding more and more brands using recycled plastic to produce their products is both inspiring and encouraging.

But recycling efforts are currently not enough and there is too much plastic to handle. Which is why we all need to look at how to decrease our plastic use. Plastic Free July is a great initiative giving us tips and encouraging us to pledge to go plastic free for the month of July, and beyond. Once you start thinking about it you realise how much plastic is around us and used by us every day, but being conscious about it also makes us realise that there are simple changes we can make to our daily lives to decrease our plastic consumption. I’m trying to avoid bringing plastic into our new home and being more conscious about it helps when I’m out and about too. I’ve listed 10 simple tips on where to start.

Use soap bars instead of soap bottles.

Buy local and plastic-free packaging.

Avoid synthetic clothing that shed plastic microfibres.

Buy beauty products in glass rather than plastic.

Do not buy bottled water (use re-use bottles).

Use your own carrier bag.

Store leftovers in glass jars.

Bring lunch in a reusable container.

Say no to disposable plastic straws and cutlery.

Use wooden beauty tools like combs and brushes.

 

 

 

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The modern approach to second hand shopping

Being a more conscious consumer means doing more research and asking questions before buying a product to see whether it fits your criteria based on things like ethical production, eco-friendly materials, and good quality. But it also means asking whether you need it at all or whether you can find it somewhere else, without having to buy it new.

Buying second hand is the best option for sustainable shopping as you buy things that already exist, you increase their lifetime use, and you stop it from ending up in landfill. But second hand means to many just that, second hand. The next best thing. Someone else’s unwanted things. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea and many get put off when seeing old, sometimes broken items in shops that potentially keep a lower standard when selecting pieces to sell. A shame as buying second hand is such an easy way for us all to be sustainable shoppers and there is usually something for everyone. It’s had a revival though with shops calling it vintage instead, giving it a more exclusive feel, and with online resale increasing through trendy websites and easy-to-use apps. Shoppers are staying on the sofa, shopping in the evening with a glass of wine, on their mobile phones.

The fashion resale industry (online and offline) is a $18 billion industry according to a 2017 report by thredUP and its expected market size in 2021 is $33 billion so it’s definitely on the up, at the same time as traditional retail is struggling. Millennials and women 65+ are most likely to shop second hand, with millennials being the generation most likely to do so because of environmental reasons. There’s also an excitement with not knowing what you’ll find and importantly, you’ll save money when not buying something brand new.

The benefits are many and those in the industry should continue pushing them whilst also ensuring they keep a high standard of the items they sell to avoid people being put off by poor quality.

Since moving to Stockholm I’ve been exploring various sustainable places to shop and have found the brilliant second hand shop Arkivet that caters for those who are after the latest trends with pretty much unworn pieces by the trendiest brand, a great alternative to those that don’t fancy the traditional  second hand shops with older clothing. Arkivet feels like a modern approach to second hand, one that makes the most of the circular economy and stays on trend.

 

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Fashion Revolution: Know The Origin

Know The Origin

Ethical fashion movement Fashion Revolution encourages us to ask Who made my clothes? To make us think before we buy, to make us question brands, and to make us appreciate our clothes and the craft that goes into making them.

This week (24-30 April) is Fashion Revolution Week, remembering the 2013 Rana Plaza disaster where over 1,100 people lost their lives as the unsafe clothing factory they worked in collapsed. A campaign aim is for this to never happen again but for this to be a reality we need changes across both fashion production and consumption. We as consumers need to demand ethical clothing and brands need to demand fair working conditions in the factories they use.

It is promising to see brands starting to do things differently by approaching their business in an ethical and transparent way. Big brands are putting pressure on their suppliers and small ones are finding innovative ways to ensure visibility and a more personal approach to craftsmanship and production. New clothing brand Know The Origin has, as you can tell by its name, based its whole business approach around the concept of transparency with its website showing the whole journey of your item, from the farmed cotton to the finished product.

The brand is honest with a genuine passion for the trade as well as the finished product and how this should be cared for with a page on the website dedicated to how we should love our clothes by taking care of them to ensure they last.

I spoke to founder Charlotte to find out more about her approach and thoughts on the industry.

 

How did Know The Origin come about? I think it came out of necessity! I was studying at London College of Fashion when the Rana Plaza garment factory collapse in Bangladesh highlighted the profit-over-people mentality of the fashion industry. I knew I had a desire to create awesome clothing after university, but I refused to be a part of the current exploitative system. Know The Origin started as an answer to my stubbornness and desire to support the people and environment involved in garment production!

What makes Know The Origin different to other brands? We are uncompromising! We want people to have access to affordable, stylish clothing that celebrates the people and environment involved in making every garment. We love creating pretty wonderful clothing that recognises and respects the story behind it from seed to garment! Why would we want to do anything less?!

Your approach is focussed around transparency – why is this important? Transparency creates brand-customer accountability. This essentially means there is nowhere for any dark, not-so-green secrets to hide because consumers have all the information about exactly where each part of the garment is made. We love transparency because it’s just another way for us to show off how awesome our producers are!

Changing the fashion industry is a mammoth task, how can you as a small brand make a difference? It’s actually such a strength being a small brand. Big, established brands don’t have the flexibility we do so completely changing the ethical supply chains is much harder. As a small brand we get to start from the bottom up. Find incredible producers and then build our collections. This means as we grow, we already have relationships with our producers so we can ensure ethical practices as well as use our business to support the great work they do in their communities!

Where do you want Know The Origin to be in 10 years? In 10 years we would love to be a mainstream name! Know The Origin is all about bringing ethical fashion into the mainstream by being affordable, fashionable and uncompromising in our values. The dream would be to have high street stores proving other brands and consumers that fashion can be done differently.

Where do you think the fashion industry will be in 10 years? I hope ethical values will be the norm within the industry in 10 years! I think customers will be demanding a lot more from their brands in terms of minimum standards in the treatment of workers and the environment, we can see that happening already, but there will still be a lot of work to do in order to make that happen! It’s exciting to think of how different it will look though!

 

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Sustainable and ethical fashion // Springtime favourites

As it’s now April it’s high time to stop hibernating and head out to enjoy sunshine and blossoming trees. And to change the wardrobe around from being all about layering and keeping warm to embracing lighter colours and potentially even showing a bit of skin.

To celebrate that we’ve passed the Spring Equinox I’ve put together a wish-list of Spring fashion with a quartet of sustainable and ethical pieces.

Top left: I’m currently loving Fashionable’s bags and their business model that provides employment to women in Africa and the US who have overcome extraordinary circumstances, ranging from prostitution to homelessness to addiction to a lack of opportunity. This bag (Alem) is named after one of the women they work with, and it’s handcrafted in Ethiopia (and Mexico) from 100% genuine distressed leather.

Top right: This sweater from Zady is made from wool of Alpacas raised in their natural habitat in the Andes mountains of Peru. The fiber is sorted, washed, combed and spun in nearby Arequipa, Peru, where solar panels provide 80% of the energy the facilities need. The final product is then crafted in New York and is created to last.

Bottom left: In love with this pair of trousers. Made by Study NY that uses sustainable materials and produces its clothing in New York City. Handwoven, made from 100% wool in black/grey tweed.

Bottom right: Handmade in a small shoe factory outside Florence, Italy, this espadrille is made in Italian goat chevreau leather, by Blankens that combines Scandinavian style with European craftsmanship.

 

 

 

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The best sustainable shopping spots in London

The growing interest for sustainable fashion, local produce and handmade crafts has subsequently seen a growing trend of independent boutiques across London with this as their main focus. If you’re looking to avoid the high street with all its fast fashion there are loads of great markets, pop-up shops and established boutiques that offer you a more sustainable alternative.

Here’s a guide to some of my favourite shopping spots in the capital:

Broadway Market and 69b, Hackney. The market on Broadway Market by London Fields in Hackney is open on Saturdays, offering locally produced food as well as vintage clothing and crafts. On the same street, at number 69b, there’s also a shop with the same name, selling sustainable fashion from environmentally and socially conscious brands.

Here Today Here Tomorrow, Dalston. Fashion shop that sells its own brand of Fairtrade products, mainly wool clothing made by artisans in Nepal.

The Third Estate, Camden. Camden boutique selling vegan fashion from Fairtrade UK and international brands.

The Keep Boutique, Brixton. This boutique has, since opening in September 2012, been selling sustainable fashion for women and men who want fashionable clothing that has a story and that will last.

Columbia Road Flower Market, Shoreditch. On Sundays, the flower market on Columbia Road is open between 8am and 2pm – make sure you get there as early as possible as it’s crammed at lunchtime! Get there early, have a coffee in one of the small coffee shops and go for a wander down the street looking at people and beautiful flowers. There are loads of great boutiques and stalls with local arts and crafts as well as vintage bits and bobs (I always find gorgeous glasses and cups there).

Brick Lane, Shoreditch. Sundays are also good days to head to Brick Lane and the many markets around the street and Spitalfields. You’ll also find excellent vintage shops such as Absolute Vintage and Beyond Retro. On Commercial Street, parallel to Brick Lane, there’s also As Nature Intended that sells sustainable and organic groceries as well as beauty products.

Content Beauty & Wellbeing, Marylebone. If you’re in Central London, Marylebone is always a good place to go for a nice stroll, and whilst you’re there, head to Content Beauty & Wellbeing. It’s small but has got an excellent selection of organic and natural beauty products and they also offer treatments following the same principles.

Selfridges, Oxford Street. At the moment, there’s also a focus on sustainability at Selfridges on Oxford Street with their windows showing fashion labels using sustainable materials. They’re running the campaign Material World questioning the effect different materials have on the environment and have got a selection of sustainable labels across the store.

 

This piece was first published in Swedish on sustainable lifestyle site Continuation Magazine.

 

 

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Using our purchasing power to support women

True sisterhood extends past your closest friends and family. It reaches across your professional life where you’re able to support and mentor other women to gain self esteem, do well, get promoted. It should also extend across your way of living and consuming. Today, on International Women’s Day, and on all other days, we should choose to consume media/movies/music/services/products that respect women.

When looking at fashion for example, one can see that the garment industry is one of the most female-dominated industries in the world, with women making up 90% of the workforce in countries like Cambodia. But even though many of these women work for some of the world’s most profitable companies, they work under dreadful conditions for very little pay.

Employment is key to female empowerment but the exploitation of women that is often the case in the industry is not the solution. Instead, we should support brands that truly make a difference to women’s right to make a decent living.

T-shirts with feminist slogans are all the rage at the moment, but if the woman who made it wasn’t paid fairly then that defeats the purpose. Buying any t-shirt, but one that is produced ethically with the (most likely) female garment worker being paid properly for the job, is most definitely a better way to truly support the female movement. Or take a look at brands such as Lawrenson that both use feminist slogans and ethical manufacturing processes.

Here are a few other brands doing great things to support and empower women through their work:

Raven + Lily. Fashion and home accessories designed in Austin, Texas and hand made in countries like Pakistan, India, Ethiopia, Cambodia, Kenya and Peru. Over 1,500 marginalised women are employed at fair trade wages, giving them access to a safe job, sustainable income, health care, and education.

Krochet Kids. Each item is hand made by women in Uganda or Peru, with a note added to each item telling the buyer who made it and what the impact has been for the maker. The women also gets education and mentoring to ensure they can plan for a sustainable future for them and their families.

Sseko. Their slogan is ‘Wear Sseko, send a girl to college’ as they employ high potential women in Uganda to support them achieving their goal of getting a college education. All products are designed and ethically made in East Africa.

FashionABLE. An accessories brand with a strong belief in job creation rather than charity. They work with women in Africa as well as the US who have overcome extraordinary circumstances, ranging from prostitution to homelessness to addiction to a lack of opportunity.

 

 

 

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Minimalism vs Living Lagom

There are trends in all aspects of living – fashion styles; diets; types of classes to take at the gym; types of coffee; places to go for holiday; what social media app to use. Most of these often promote a rather stressful lifestyle where it’s important to always keep up with the latest. But some make us re-evaluate our lifestyles and consider how we can truly make a difference to our lives, as well as the planet and people around us. The trends of minimalism and living ‘lagom’ are two of these.

The minimalist way of living has most recently reached many through The Minimalists Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus (see their documentary Minimalism on Netflix and read their books), encouraging people to live more with less. And the idea of living ‘lagom’ is currently mainly a campaign by IKEA, with a focus on the Swedish word meaning ‘just the right amount’, not too much, not too little.

Neither of these approaches tell you to get rid of all your stuff, but to consider what you need, and what you don’t need. In general, in the Western World, we don’t need all the stuff we surround ourselves with and we don’t need to constantly be buying more stuff. The current ‘normal’ is not sustainable. But following a minimalist lifestyle may be too much hard work for some, and if you’re one of these people then living ‘lagom’ could potentially be the middle ground you’ve been looking for.

Ultimately, living with less stuff should make room for other things in life. Experiences. Love. Freedom.

English designer William Morris once said that you should “have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful”. A great way of thinking as it doesn’t encourage excessive buying but it also allows you to surround yourself with the things you love, whether that’s your book collection, the art on your wall or your favourite cushions on your sofa.

Being more conscious of what we have in our home and our life is key to both these ways of living. Asking yourself the question of whether something adds value to your life. If it does then by all means keep it, but if it doesn’t then it’s probably one you should sell on eBay or give away to someone who can make better use of it. Letting go of stuff is a process and we don’t have to answer to anyone else, only ourselves. But the likes of de-cluttering expert Marie Kondo are there to help you if you get stuck.

 

“A home does not need to be planned down to the smallest detail or contrived; it should be an amalgamation of the things that its owner loves and feels at home with.”

– Josef Frank

 

I’m about to do a big move (more on this at a later stage) and I’m seeing this as a great opportunity to start new. De-clutter. Think about what I really want and need. What is important, and importantly, what isn’t?

I’d like to aspire towards minimalism but think it’s more likely I’ll end up at ‘lagom’. But I’d like to think that as long as your own ‘lagom’ is a healthy middle ground between enjoyable and sustainable you’ve landed somewhere just right.

 

 

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Sustainable and ethical loungewear favourites

This time of the year is definitely the time to be lounging around. Christmas is long gone but it’s still ages until spring will arrive, and it’s freezing outside so you might as well just stay in with hot drinks, blankets and great movies. And of course great loungewear.

There’s so much nice stuff out there in terms of high quality loungewear that makes you feel comfy whilst looking good/stylish/sexy and even though I struggle to throw out old sweats that definitely have seen their best days, making some ethical and sustainable additions wouldn’t hurt.

So I’ve put together a conscious edit with gorgeous loungewear wish list items – hope you like them!

Top left: Gorgeous hand block printed T-shirt and shorts by Eight Hour Studio, made from 100% GOTS certified organic cotton. Their loungewear comes from traditional Indian woodblock printing methods, natural fibres and production based on fair trade labour practices.

Top right: Long ‘drape’ nightie by Noctu, made from 100& organic jersey cotton that’s GOTS and Fairtrade certified.

Bottom left: Perfect for lounging around, not too loose, not too tight. Ethically made from 100% organic cotton by Organic Crew in Melbourne, Australia.

Bottom right: Lounge/sleep shirt by Underprotection, made from bamboo satin so has got that silky feel and is stronger than cotton. It’s made in a New Dehli based factory certified by Fair Wear Foundation.

 

 

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Five steps towards clean and ethical beauty

Many of us are most often very conscious of what we put inside our bodies by eating healthily but also looking at whether our food has been grown/produced locally and whether it’s an organic product free from chemicals. But what we chose to put on our bodies, on our skin, doesn’t alway get the same attention and thought.

When looking at key things I want to change and improve in 2017, it’s definitely to be more conscious of what I put on my skin and how these products are made. I’ve never been one to excessively use beauty products and haven’t spent much time figuring out what I ought to be using. But there was a Body Shop in the town where I grew up in the north of Sweden and my mum often used to take me and my sister so I got introduced to their ethics at an early age. And it has stayed with me to the extent that I’ve never really bought any beauty products from anywhere else. Until L’Oréal bought them. They still do loads of good, but their ethos didn’t feel as genuine anymore and I’ve started looking elsewhere for smaller brands with stronger credentials.

Below are five things I try to look for to be a more conscious beauty shopper.

 

Natural ingredients. Chemicals, fillers and artificial colours can irritate the skin, and since our skin is our largest organ we really should treat it better. Toxic synthetic chemicals are included in most mainstream brands’ products and even though we often don’t know what they’ll do to us longer term or if they actually do us any harm, taking the risk seems unnecessary. Imelda Burke, founder of London natural beauty shop Content Beauty & Wellbeing, includes useful insight and helpful tips on ingredients to look for in her recent book The Nature of Beauty – definitely worth a read.

Earth-friendly. When ingredients are farmed and produced organically, we can be ensured the earth hasn’t suffered as it would from synthetic products. The chemicals from these products end up in the air and in our waters, through the manufacturing process as well as down the drain in our homes after we’ve had a shower using a synthetic shower gel for example. This is particularly a problem when it comes to products using microbeads, small pieces of plastic found in things like scrubs and toothpaste, as they enter the food chain when ending up in the ocean and get eaten by fish, but many countries, such as the UK are now banning these products. To help avoid plastics, steer clear of ingredients such as polythylene, polypropylene and polymethylmethacrylate. Instead, look for products including natural ‘scrub’ ingredients like the cobnut scrub from Mitchell and Peach in the picture above.

Less is more. Beauty ads tell us we need an abundance of products but this obviously isn’t true. What we need are some key products that keep us clean and moisturised, and perhaps a few extra for an added glow, but that’s essentially it. They don’t last forever (check the product’s label to see how many months it’ll last from you opening it) so sticking to a smaller number (of appropriate sizes) means you can finish them in time, rather than having to waste them because you had too many and haven’t had time to use them all before they expired. And, even though it may seem obvious, staying healthy by eating your 5-a-day and going for walks in the fresh air, will keep your natural beauty game on point, which subsequently means you won’t feel as though you need loads of products to stay looking fresh.

Sustainable packaging. Following on from the above point, where less products also mean less waste, when you do need to buy products, look for those in sustainable and recyclable packaging, such as glass bottles and soap wrapped up in paper. To avoid any waste you can also explore creating your own beauty products with things you’ve already got at home such as oils, honey and vinegar (a quick search online will give you loads of recipes and tutorials).

Ethical labour. Where was the product made? Who made it? Have they been paid fairly? What does the supply chain look like? Ask questions to help you make more conscious purchases – knowing where and how a product has been made makes it that much better. My current handwash favourite is from The Soap Co.* where products are produced from natural ingredients and packaged in recycled and recyclable packaging. But their ethics don’t stop there. The Soap Co. is also a social enterprise that provides training and employment for people who are visually impaired, have disabilities or are otherwise disadvantaged.

 

 

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