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We’re all aware of the recent popularity of the Konmari Method and of concerns about the damaging effect of consumerism on the environment and our budgets. So I’m sure I’m not the only one whose desire for an exciting pinup wardrobe is at war with my guilt over owning so much STUFF. As someone who struggles with the “more is more” collector mindset, I always want to have the perfect outfit and colour options for any occasion. Rockabilly Garage themed car show? 1940s war planes display? 1950s housewife pageant? I can’t bear the idea of not being able to come up with the perfect theme-appropriate look. And at a time when reproduction companies are offering us the ability to fill our wardrobes with all the must have designs and patterns in whatever modern size we fit – well, it’s no wonder we can start to feel overwhelmed by expenses and the sheer amount of belongings in our homes.
So many brands, so many repro and vintage options. It's easy to overwhelm your space and your budget.
The thing I’ve had to realise is this: I want to enjoy my retro look, not feel guilt and regret when I look in the cupboard. And that has meant answering some questions about what is important to me. So, some questions you might ask yourself when deciding how to shed the guilt and the excessive stuff include:
Is there an environmental or social issue that really matters to me when it comes to material goods?
For me, I’m most interested in supporting Australian companies and I look for brands that provide safe and appropriate pay and conditions for workers. If there’s not an Aussie company providing what I want, I’ll look to reputable brands overseas. As part of this, I’ll support local, regional, and Indigenous makers where possible – often for accessories like jewellery and scarves. I also choose natural fibres where possible as I find the items generally last a lot longer and allow me to reduce my contribution to unrecyclable landfill.
Maybe your key issue is avoiding petrochemical plastics or buying primarily second-hand. Maybe you like to support women-owned businesses or social enterprises from developing nations. Whatever it is, identify it and use it as a guideline when you shop.
Am I holding onto things that aren’t really me?
This is difficult if you’re sentimental like I am. I’ve recently done my best ever closet clean out, simply by finally being open with myself about whether I’m holding onto things because they mattered to me in the past. Maybe I wore it or bought it on holidays or at a time I felt happy. Maybe it cost a lot so I feel I need to justify keeping it. Or maybe it’s something that fits an idealised version of myself but which the real, living me never wears. This isn’t to say you can’t keep things that are for special occasions or sentimental, but if your wardrobe is full of things that you continually try on, only to feel “wrong” in it and throw it back in the cupboard, there’s a good chance it doesn’t need to be taking up space in your life. For me, I recently received two stunning wiggle dresses that I’d lusted after for months, only to face the disappointment that when I put them on, I felt like I was playing dress-ups as somebody else. Accepting that the version of me who looks and feels glamourous and daring in wiggle dresses is mostly a fantasy is finally helping me stop buying them to hang unworn in my closet.
Beautiful dresses, but why do I buy them when I know it's only a fantasy version of myself who will really wear them?
Is holding onto this item truly making somebody happier? Or is it time to let it go?
Holding on to boxes of moth-eaten, crushed, faded vintage hats because they were your grandma’s and you feel duty bound to keep owning and caring for them might feel like something you’re expected to do, both by yourself and by family members. Often it comes as a real surprise (and a relief) to realise that getting rid of them isn’t actually going to upset anyone, including yourself. Don’t let the false belief that you have to be a guardian of all things end up overwhelming you, emotionally and physically. Be kind to yourself as you work out which things, if any, really deserve to be kept and which things can leave your hands. Your love for people is not diminished by a decision not to keep everything they ever gave or left you.
Allow yourself to reassess the reason you've kept something that belonged to a loved one. You might find that it's ok to let it go.
Work out an “exit plan” for the excess things you already own.
Once you’ve figure out your plan for limiting or guiding your future purchases, you might also find plenty of things you already own that you’re now willing to part with. I’m guilty of heaping these sorts of things in untidy heaps in a little used room, to “go through and sort out later”. Meanwhile, I continue to feel unhappy with the mess of stuff that is sitting there, in my space, waiting to be dealt with.
A tub of clean items individually listed for online sale: with a deadline so I can get my floor back!
Be honest with yourself about your ability to deal with the things you are letting go. Do you have the space, time and patience to list each item for sale online, and follow up on all comments and questions? Or maybe you need to feel the relief of getting things out of the house as soon as possible, so you need to load the car and take them straight to the op shop (or bin or recycle them, if they’re more hinderance than help to local charities). For me, I’ve got a large flexi-tub of pinup clothes and accessories that I’ve listed for online sale. The things that weren’t worth my time and efforts have already been donated, allowing me to focus on what’s left. And I’ve firmly decided that anything unsold after the next month will also be donated, because my peace of mind and uncluttered space is worth more than the potential sale price.
Finally, try to create and use storage in a way that allows you to easily see and choose from what you now own.
This will help you to avoid falling back into the habit of buying things you have decided don’t fit your purchasing plan. It will also help you to really get to enjoy the things you’ve chosen to keep or purchase. Three months down the track, you might even find yourself reassessing your rarely worn items with a critical eye once again, more at ease with the process of saying no to things that leave you feeling guilty, overwhelmed, or stressed.
A spare cupboard houses out of season and "just a little small" items where they can't be forgotten or ignored.
Like me, you may never be a minimalist. I still own loads of clothes, bags and accessories. But you may welcome a change in your attitude and emotions towards the things you own, so you can be happy in the knowledge that your belongings consist of things that mattered enough to keep.
Miss Vera Vamp