Blogger, Instagrammer, and ethical fashion influencer, Olivia Youngs answers a few questions about minimizing and adapting to a zero-waste lifestyle.
Blogger, Instagrammer, and Ethical Fashion Influencer
What inspired you to adopt a minimalist lifestyle?
To me, minimalism was a conduit for control and identity during a season when my life felt very out of control. I jumped into motherhood at the age of 20 and, of course, had no idea what I was doing or who I was in this new role of “mom.” Minimalism, creating capsule wardrobes specifically, gave me a sense of calm and individuality and, as strange as it sounds, made me a better mom over the years since I’ve let go of the pressure to be and do it all and learned what serves my family and what doesn’t.
How has your relationship with fashion changed over the years?
Drastically. With capsule wardrobing came intentionality and a knowledge about where and how my clothes were being made. I committed to only buying from ethical brands around the same time and so armed with the knowledge of the injustices of the fast fashion industry and a love of the “fewer but better” mindset, I’ve be able to better define my own personal style and share that style and ethical brands with my readers and friends and family. Fashion, oddly enough, has become my weapon for opening my own eyes and the eyes of my community to the realities of our individual power to make change. In supporting better brands, you can “vote with your dollar” and change the face of the fashion industry, including working conditions for millions of women around the world.
What advice do you give to those looking to invest in a sustainable wardrobe?
Take it slow. When you’re paying for clothes that are made with sustainably grown fibers and are ethically sewn by people being paid fairly in safe working conditions, the pieces are going to cost more. Adopt that mindset and don’t expect to “overhaul” your fast fashion wardrobe overnight. Shop with intention as opposed to impulse buying, and in so doing, you’ll slowly learn more about your personality, what clothes make you feel like “you,” and what brands you love and feel good about supporting.
What tools have you relied on to adapt to zero-waste living? What goals should people set for themselves today?
I’m a firm believer that everyone already has exactly what they need to reduce waste in their day-to-day life. In our society, it’s about getting creative with what you own instead of buying new “Instagram-able” zero-waste things. Bring your own jar or coffee mug to cafes, keep your reusable canvas bags (or sew your own) in your car so you don’t forget them, switch to a renewable energy provider, get a compost system for your backyard or under the counter.
For homeowners who are looking to downsize their possessions or streamline their wardrobe or home goods, be conscious of how you get rid of things. Americans throw away an estimated 25 billion tons of clothing that just sits in landfills, even if it’s a natural fiber. There are tons of resources for recycling textiles, or if the pieces have plenty of life left, consider hosting a clothing swap or donate them to a second-hand shop that’s actively seeking donations. Slow, sustainable living is all about making each decision with intention.
What are your top three tips for someone looking to downsize?
- When it comes to clothing, ask yourself if you’ve worn a piece in the past year. If the answer is no or just one or two wears, you probably don’t need it. A minimal wardrobe is one that is packed with “wardrobe powerhouses” that you’ll be wearing (and loving) often.
- For home goods, the Marie Kondo trick is famous for a reason. Asking yourself if an item “sparks joy” is a great way to get started downsizing. You really only need practical items and those that spark joy because of their appearance or sentimental memories tied to them. Don’t feel like you have to downsize your belongings overnight but give yourself time to process those that you really love and those that you’re able to let go of.
- It’s worth it! My family of five and I have lived in a 2,400 square foot Victorian home and a 300 square foot remodeled trailer and, I promise you, the seasons we’ve lived with less things and more intentionality were undoubtedly the sweetest and healthiest for us all. With fewer things comes more energy to focus on the moments that really matter.