Alternative Ways to Satisfy the Shopping Itch

Good Little Consumer

The advertising of my millennial youth and my current social media feed strongly encourage me to perform my role as a Consumer and go shopping! For a long time I really did feel less-than because I couldn’t have the next best thing, and like that thing would make me feel amazing. For too long this atmosphere of consumerism contributed to my very real anxiety.

I am more than just a walking, breathing, pooping Consumer!

I have (mostly) kicked my bad Consumer habits, but… I still feel that neeeed to go shopping.

Over the past few years I’ve developed a few tricks to scratch that itch that are fun and free and could even be called ‘sustainable’ if you wanted to give them a trendy title.

Reorganise (makeup, skincare, jewelry, clothing)

I put this as number one not because it is the most effective, but because this is my absolute favourite! When I start coveting an item of clothing, an accessory, some kind of skincare, or makeup product I reorganise how I store items in that category I currently own. This helps me get reacquainted with what I own, it gets me thinking about how I can use/wear what I already have, and it reminds me of why I love and keep the things I do have.

You could also call this ‘shopping your wardrobe.’

The Marie Kondo method of seeing everything you have is the best way to do this. Feeling the pressure to Consumer-up and buy a midi skirt? Pull out all your skirts and dresses. Look for items you already own that are a similar colour and that are a similar cut to what you’re wanting, not necessarily both in one item though.

Spend time visualising a few outfits with what you find, using layers and accessories you already own. If you’ve got time actually pull the other items to create the outfits. A full-length skirt or dress could be belted to make it midi, and a dress is a skirt when you layer a t-shirt on top.

When you put the items back into your wardrobe make sure your ‘new’ clothes are the easiest to see and access. If you can, put them near the other items you used in your visual or actual outfit-building.

I find that spending time with my clothing or beauty products, touching them, finding new ways to work with them truly satisfies that shopping craving.

Try some low-risk DIY

In a very real way this post is thanks to @_fran.stevens_ and her recent post with a let-out-hem denim skirt. Seeing that post in my feed this morning gave me the idea for this blog. I saw that skirt and slouchy top and my I’ve-gotta-have-it bell started ringing. Yes, the skirt is just from Asos so it isn’t a big expense, but I am not going to let one photo affect me so much that I actually spend money.

denimskirtdiy

Then I remembered I have a dark blue denim jean skirt that I wear infrequently. I could take down the hem, my favourite detail of the skirt in the photo, and see if I like it and wear it more often. If I dislike the result, I can cut it shorter and fray the hem, and then reassess. The skirt was not expensive and it has been in and out of my giveaway bags for the last year, so this is a low-risk DIY experiment that could have a big pay-off!

Another very low-risk DIY I love is playing with a foundation or face tint that just isn’t working. I try mixing it with other foundations, lotions, primers, or serums to see what happens. There has only been one foundation so bad I couldn’t make it work with one of those things. And bonus: I’ve created several custom foundations that I love!

Research

This ‘trick’ is mostly just procrastination, as the desired result is purchasing something, but it ensures you’re spending money well. What I consider researching an item involves an overview of available products, checking reviews, doing a price/quality comparison, and settling on a few things to keep my eye on.

Even if the ‘thing’ is a simple black t-shirt I will still take some time to decide on how it should fit, oversized or fitted, v-neck or round. I will look at what is available second-hand and what is available from ethical brands. I am trying to get into the habit of not just buying something on impulse.

So, after I research, I wait.

I wait to see if my need or want for the item increases or decreases. I wait to see if I keep thinking about the thing or if I forget about it. (Most of the time I forget about it). I wait to see if the thing goes on sale, particularly if I’ve chosen to ‘watch’ an item that is over my budget.

researching shopping

This kind of research helps me make sure that when I do buy something I am spending money well, getting something that fits my current collection, that I’ll enjoy wearing. It also is a good shopping substitution when the craving hits.

Mix It Up

Similar to my first trick, but much less serious.

This is a fun activity for an evening when you have time and are tired of binging TV shows. Put on some fun music, fix yourself a nice beverage (containing alcohol if possible), and pretend you’ve never seen your own wardrobe or makeup selection.

What would 13-year-old you do with your clothing and makeup? They’d probably go bonkers if they had a cocktail and time to play with your stuff!

I know 13-year-old Rachel would not have the same tired ‘rules’ about which clothes go with each other and what makeup looks best that 33-year-old Rachel does. She is more creative and carefree and she does come up with great outfits.

Playing with makeup one night I mixed up a lovely custom rosey bronzer to gently blend for a fast and subtle glowy colour. I wear this almost every day now.

Now, I don’t want to jinx anything but lately I’m starting to feel the urge to get creative with what I own in these different ways, rather than the old urge to go shopping. I think it is because these alternatives are more creative that they’re such good replacements for trudging through a fast fashion chain. Playing with my stuff also makes me feel so much more confident when I wear it!

Do I still buy cheap things I don’t need on total impulse? Yes. But rarely. Every time I do it becomes more apparent that these things do not fit into the relationship I’ve built with my belongings.

I am no longer a Consumer. I am an adult woman who has a great time pretending to be a teenager and playing dress-up with her own clothes.

Does My Brand Fit in Amsterdam?

Personal branding is something that has eluded me for years. Years! My friend owns her own branding business and she’s given me some quality advice, but still, I have only managed to settle on a ‘brand’ in the last year. And by ‘brand’ I mean I’ve settled on a black/white/grey colour scheme and Courier New as my font.

When it comes to an online persona I have no idea how people maintain one life for Instagram and one ‘real’ life. What I consider to be my personal brand is just that, personal. As my blog categories say I write about feminism, sustainability, style, and how those intersect in society and in my own life. And that is because those three things really do impact my life. I research them and enjoy finding ways to incorporate them into my thoughts and actions.

I have also learned that I feel best in an environment where these precepts are generally held. There is no question I feel lighter, more productive, more optimistic since moving to Amsterdam and now that I’ve been here a month I wonder if that has anything to do with how well the city and my experience thus far rates against my ‘brand.’     

Feminism

+ The Netherlands generally does well in international assessments of women’s standing in society and it is encouraging that women are gaining more political power.

+ Trans and gender non-conforming fall within the scope of my feminism and there is good news regarding their social standing as well.

+ Every day (that I leave my flat) I see at least one women out running in my neighbourhood, alone and with headphones. I go through phases of really loving running outside and it is encouraging to see that these women feel comfortable doing so.

The Red Light District. I mostly have a lot of questions about this. How regulated is it in regards to human trafficking and the rights of the sex workers? Why is it so heteronormative and old-fashioned in an otherwise open and modern city?

Sustainability

+ Recycling! Tom and I have recycled in every city we’ve lived in but Amsterdam does it best, mostly because the neighbourhood bins are emptied regularly. After our first Ikea visit we had a lot of cardboard to recycle and even though there was an angry Dutch man scolding us we got it all in the underground bin and there was so much space left (we checked after the scolding).

+ Specifically plastic recycling! In the UK we had very restrictive rules about which kind of plastic could be recycled and which was considered regular waste. Now our plastic bin fills up within days we’re so gleeful about recycling. Which has prompted a personal project to try and fill the paper and plastic bins at equal speeds. And while the grocery stores I’ve visited could do a lot more in regards to plastic packaging, I rarely see shoppers asking for a plastic store bag.

+ From what I have seen Amsterdam residents are not slaves to fast fashion trends, which is both a positive for sustainability and style. There is a busy shopping street not far from our flat and there is a mix of vintage/thrift shops and boutique clothing and homeware stores. The kind of frenzied consumerism that ends up in landfills does not seem to be part of society.

+ Bicycles. Literally everywhere. We cycled out of the city and into Amsterdam Forest on dedicated cycle lanes the whole way! My absolute favourite cyclists are parents with more than one child afixed to their bike, going about their daily routine. I am still a bit uneasy on my bike, but I try and cycle at least once per day and I love it.

Style

+ So far I am loving the general level of style of Amsterdam residents and I feel great wearing my own personal style when out and about. It seems that most people, like myself, choose their clothing thoughtfully and value quality over quantity. See point three above, under Sustainability, regarding fast fashion.

+ Women cycling while wearing skirts/dresses and beautiful shoes. I’m at the strictly jeans and trainers level of city cycling.

Is Amsterdam the most perfect city ever?

No. I’m sure after some more time here I’ll have a few negative things to say. At least I hope I do because I definitely do not want my personal brand to be dogmatic positivity. But for now, it seems like the city is a very on-brand choice for me. (Did I use that phrase correctly?)

Using Social Media Sustainably

Be mindful of what you consume

Living sustainably is a necessity if we want to be able to inhabit this planet in the future. It it a serious topic that also happens to be trending on social media. My new habit is clicking on Instagram ads for items that claim ‘sustainability’ and checking their site for actual details. I wish more of them were legitimately pursuing sustainability in their supply chains and product sourcing.

It is my fervent opinion that we as consumers should only do what we can in terms of lifestyle changes like veganism, sustainability, and cruelty-free; and that the real responsibility lies with companies producing the product and packaging, making fashion a trillion dollar industry and beauty a 500 billion dollar industry.  

What we are responsible for, however, is maintaining sustainable lives outside of how we behave as consumers.

Call it self care or call it a sustainable habit, but tending to your mental health by carefully curating your social media use is a necessity.

It is not a sustainable habit to use an app that makes you feel bad about yourself. Social media promotes conformity. On Twitter it is homogeneity of opinion and on Instagram it’s uniformity of all things aesthetic: clothing, makeup, interior design, even pets. I thought I had left such social tyranny back in high school! This environment is not conducive to what should be a leisure activity for most users.

Share what you want to see

The way my husband uses Instagram amazes me. He can scroll through his feed without feeling anything negative, without comparing himself and his life to what he sees. Like everyone else he is a bit addicted to the app, but it isn’t an unhealthy habit for him.

Using it this way is not an easy undertaking, especially since no one can tell you how to do it. Social media should be a highly personalised, individual experience. You should follow and post with care and thought given to what makes you feel good about yourself and the time you’ve spent on the app.

When I am considering following a new person, page, or brand I do a cursory scroll of their feed to see how well it aligns with my personal social media guidelines. For example, I cannot follow anyone who posts photos in which they have accentuated their thigh gap because I know that will compare my thighs to theirs and end up feeling like I shouldn’t eat. This doesn’t mean I’m overly sensitive or silly, it means that I know myself well enough to set boundaries.

Another example: I don’t follow social media celebrities. These (mostly) women with millions of followers do work hard and they deserve their version of success. That version is not for me, but their content is alluring and if I follow them I’ll play the evil comparison game. I do follow people that have large followings, but I must find their content both relatable and inspiring.

Follow animals

And the best part of the usage guidelines I have set for myself is that they are no one’s business! Obviously I’ve made a few of my guidelines your business by listing them here, but my point is that you don’t ever need to justify hitting the unfollow button. Your feed is your own and it should only make you feel good.

When I was asking my husband about how he uses social media he told me he is not into photos of people, that he prefers to see nice places, and that he follows animals. I’ve had the occasion to see his feed and it is so relaxing compared to my own.

He also said, “I share what I’d like to see.” Which made me consider that how we participate in social media, as well as passively consuming the content, is part of making it a more sustainable habit. Sharing something to your stories or your feed should be fun! It shouldn’t make you anxious or make you feel bad about yourself.

My favourite posts aren’t those with the most engagement, they’re the ones where I had a good time taking the photo. Because then social media really is me, sharing my life, and what actually makes me happy.

These platforms are too ubiquitous in our lives to use them carelessly. We owe it to our sanity to make the habit of using them something positive and sustainable.


Building Your Sustainable Bathroom

This autumn the UK got a brand new budget to cover the next few years and sadly the environment was not mentioned at all. Specifically single-use plastic will not be taxed, so for now it remains up to us as consumers to wage our own personal wars on plastics. One area in your home that is ripe to be pillaged and plundered of plastic is the bathroom. Nearly every kind of goo you use comes in a single-use plastic container, and you definitely shouldn’t just throw all them out straight away. But as you use them up consider replacing them with non-plastic alternatives to make your bathing, primping, and relaxing much more sustainable!

Nota bene: this article is not intended to shame anyone into spending more money than they can on the alternatives suggested. Sustainable alternatives are not expensive, but they’re also not the cheapest. If you cannot afford these products just remember that corporations contribute to pollution far more than individual people and they have all the resources available to stop their polluting habits.

Less / Fewer

One way to make your bathroom more sustainable that doesn’t cost anything is to simply reduce the amount of products you use. Do you need more than one type of soap for your body? Sure, maybe something creamier during the winter months, but truthfully you don’t need more than one at a time. The same goes for your shampoo and conditioners.

However, the biggest waste of money and resources is probably all the different tonics and serums on the market that promise you flawless skin. Eye creams are completely unnecessary and the best products for healthy and clear skin are a good quality SPF (every day) and a retinoid at night. Face goop might be fun but it does nothing for your skin and just creates more plastic waste.

Another cost-free sustainable measure is to be mindful of your water usage. Turn off the tap while brushing your teeth. Wash your face in the sink instead of the shower (this is also better for your skin as you’re likely to use lukewarm water rather than the hot water you shower in). Shave in the sink or use the tap in the bathtub if you have one. And wash your hair less often – dry shampoo is the holy grail!

dryshampoo

Solid Alternatives

When it comes to soaps and creams, practical necessities, most just seem to need plastic housing. They’re liquids after all. But hand soap, body cleanser, facial cleanser, deodorant, and body moisturiser are all readily available as solids and often come in recyclable packaging. And, yes, even your shampoo and conditioner. While it might feel strange to consider using a bar of soap on your hair there are many different options out there for different budgets and hair types. If you are uncomfortable with using solid forms of some of those items, like moisturiser or deodorant, simply look an alternative in non-plastic packaging.

To reduce the amount of products and plastic you use look for multipurpose items. A creamy moisturiser can also serve as a shaving cream. And coconut oil is good for literally everything in the bathroom, and it comes in a glass jar. Use it as a body moisturiser, to relieve dry cuticles, as a hair serum, as a makeup remover. Bonus sustainability points if you remove your makeup without using a disposable cotton round!

Other single-use plastic items with easy alternatives:

  • Cotton rounds: use a washcloth or washable rounds.
  • Cotton buds: if you’re only finding ones with plastic look in the baby section of the drug store for a cardboard option.
  • Facial cleansing brush: use a washcloth!
  • Shaving: don’t! Or use a safety razor (not as scary as they sound).
  • Oral hygiene: bamboo toothbrush, toothpaste or tooth powder in a glass jar, and natural fibre floss.
  • Menstruation: menstrual cups, period panties, or reusable pads.
Make-up Time

Moving on in the standard getting-ready routine we arrive at hair and makeup, but finding sustainable alternatives to your preferred cosmetics and the various gels and sprays you need for your hair is much harder than swapping out the soap you use to clean yourself. This is another area that would benefit from a reduction in the number of products you use, especially if you’re unable to find what you need in non-plastic packaging. There is one company that makes good quality makeup that is either sans packaging or recyclable packaging and that is Lush.

sustainable bathroom bath bomb

Lush is in no way sponsoring this post, they are just one of the best companies when it comes to sustainable bath produces. Many of their items, including foundation and highlighter, come without any packaging at all, and what does come in plastic has been recycled (by them) and will be recycled again. The classic black Lush tub has a number on the bottom that tells you how many times it has been reused and if you bring in five empty tubs (including mascara tubes) you get a free face mask.

As mentioned before it really ought to be the responsibility of companies to handle their own plastic waste, as Lush does. But until they come to this realisation we, the humble individual consumers, can do our part to help our shared environment. Lucky for those of us who are ethically-minded sustainability is trending and making your bathroom more sustainable has never been easier!

A Charity Shop for the Lazy, Sustainable Fashionista

Or, A Rare Tale of When Instagram Was Actually Helpful


There is something taking up an inordinate amount of space in my flat. I personally took the time and care to create this objectionable object and its contents are too important to drop in a bin. Yet there it sits, mocking me every Saturday morning…

an Ikea bag full of old clothes.

an Ikea bag full of old clothes for the charity shop

These clothes have done nothing wrong they’re just not my style anymore, or they don’t fit, or I was tired of keeping in the other Ikea bag full of clothes and I’m selling on Depop. My flat is tiny and space is precious but still I move this bag back and forth at the foot of my bed on a weekly basis to make room for the clothes drying rack. These clothes are good clothes that deserve good and loving homes, they do not need to contribute to our embarrassingly full landfills.  

Thankfully a solution presented itself when I was casually scrolling through Instagram, which is quite a miracle since social media scrolling usually just makes me feel depressed and anxious. One of my favourite follows posted a photo of a pink bag that matches her pink hair and in her caption – I always read her captions – I learned the bag was full of her old clothes to be sent to a new online charity shop called Re-Fashion.

A Fresh Way to Charity Shop

Re-Fashion is a new kind of online charity shop that actually earns more money for they charities they work with than a traditional charity shop. They’re currently donating to Breast Cancer Care. To participate you simply request a bag, they send one, you fill up the bag, and post it back to them using the pre-paid postage sticker. The whole process is very effortless which is amazing for a lazy lady like myself! So, of course I ordered my bag straight away.

When I received my bag a few days later and I was quite surprised by just how big it is! I actually needed to pick out a few more items including a large sweater and a pair of jeans. Re-Fashion is a bit picky about the brands they accept as they want to keep their online shop classy and they send you a guide to the brands they most need. As their donation guidelines materials say, higher-quality brands make more money for the charity. And as a second-hand shopper myself, I really appreciate this kind of quality control.

Recently it seems like my favourite online second-hand shop is bursting with teenagers trying to sell their Primark stuff, or new “independent” shops supplying poorly made Kardash*an knock-offs. Thrifting online and off is always more time consuming that simply popping into Zara, but my hunt for a new-to-me winter coat has been plagued with nice thumbnail photos disguising terrible fabric blends and ultra-cheap brands. 

Quality Sustainability

Following along with the Re-Fashion mission of quality over quantity I turned my editing eye onto the clothing I plucked from the Ikea bag. I wasn’t simply checking the labels of the clothes, but also their worn condition to make sure I’m sending the best of what I’ve got. I could have fit about 30% more into the super-cute bag, but a project like this needs good participants to be beneficial to both the sellers and buyers.

Despite my curated efforts in filling the Re-Fashion bag my Ikea bag is still fairly full and still taking up space. And I still had to move it whilst doing laundry yesterday. But now it is much lighter and I’ll be able to walk it down to my local RSPCA without clenching my teeth and asking my husband for help. That kind of self-self-sufficieny is my favourite kind of sustainability.