Have you got clothes hanging in your wardrobe with the purchase tags still attached? Do you shop more than once a week? Do you often feel buyer's remorse after a shopping spree?
If you answered yes to more than one of these questions, the chances are you're probably overconsuming fashion, and feeling the negative psychological impacts.
In a world of fast fashion, social media influencers and constant marketing it's difficult to resist the latest fashion trends or microtrends. What's more, buying the latest fashion item we saw on a Tiktok haul has never been easier.
Overconsumption is the excessive use or purchasing of resources. In other words, buying or using more than what we need. Like owning ten coats or fifty pairs of shoes, only to be replaced in a year or two. And despite the toll on the environment, overconsumption is still on the increase.
With the arrival of fast fashion brands in the 1990s, our shopping habits changed dramatically. Clothes became so cheap that shopping evolved from being something we do to replace old worn-out trousers or purchase a fabulous coat to cherish for years to come- to being a regular pastime or hobby. Instead of patching up a holey heritage jumper, we now throw away cheap clothes as fast as we can buy them.
OVERCONSUMPTION OF FAST FASHION
In the 1990s in the USA, people purchased, on average, 40 garments per year; that figure went up to 70 in the 2000s. To put that into perspective, the Hot or Cool Institute suggests that in high-income, four-season countries, 85 garments in your wardrobe is sufficient for the average person.
But in a world of fast fashion and excessive advertising, the overconsumption of clothing is set to keep growing. And sadly, it will continue causing destruction to our ecosystem unless we make more sustainable choices. That means choosing slow fashion brands and fashion items that last through time, in both style and wear. It means choosing sustainable brands like Koraru, who care about the environment and actively seek out fabrics that will not only last you many summers but are made from recycled fibers and sourced from suppliers that value their workforce.
HOW OVERCONSUMPTION AFFECTS MENTAL HEALTH
Fast fashion and overconsumption aren't just having a negative impact on our ecosystem; it's having a negative impact on our mental health.
You'd think with a wardrobe full of choice, we'd be happier than ever, but it seems that the opposite is true. In fact, as our wardrobes have been growing, our well-being has been shrinking, and mental health issues are more apparent than ever.
Of course, the world has changed in many ways over the last twenty years, so we can't entirely blame the size of our wardrobes. But research reveals some clear links between lower well-being levels and materialism, excessive shopping, and overconsumption.
Psychology professor and researcher Tim Kasser suggests that prioritizing materialistic values and goals has a detrimental effect on our physical and mental well-being. That's because a materialistic orientation directly conflicts with our deeper selves, creative and compassionate selves, transcendent selves, connection with others, and personal and spiritual growth.
As you can imagine, all this adds up to low levels of well-being and adverse mental health. But we also know that materialism is linked with a penchant for fashion, clothing, and excessive shopping.
Added to this, research in 2017 by Greenpeace revealed that overconsumption causes people to behave in ways associated with addiction, such as lying about purchases, hiding purchases, feeling guilt and shame, and fearing others' judgments.
That is not to say you shouldn't own beautiful garments that make you feel good to wear and express your personality and creativity. But you should purchase with intent, keeping quality over quantity in mind.
WHY DO WE OVERCONSUME?
The problem is our motivation for shopping has changed. Today, we often shop to make ourselves feel better. From shopping to boost our confidence and get more recognition or status to relieving stress and negative emotions.
But overshopping often leads to overspending and debt, causing additional stress and anxiety. What's more, Greenpeace researchers also discovered that when excessive shoppers aren't shopping they tend to feel bored, empty, lost, restless, and dissatisfied.
To overcome these feelings, excessive shoppers keep shopping. Unfortunately, it's a vicious cycle that can become addictive. Even if shopping gives us quick highs and relief, in the long run, this cycle of overconsumption is detrimental to our well-being and affects our mental health negatively.
HOW TO BE HAPPY WITH LESS CLOTHES
IDENTIFY YOUR SHOPPING TRIGGERS
How do we break this negative cycle and be happy with less clothes? One way is to be more aware of our shopping habits by reflecting on when and why we shop. Maybe you find yourself shopping when you're lonely or when you're stressed. Identifying our triggers for shopping can help us to find new ways of coping with those triggers, like going for a coffee with a friend when we're lonely or going to the gym when we're stressed.
ASK YOURSELF: DO I REALLY NEED THIS?
Being mindful while we're shopping also helps. Asking questions like do I really love this? Or need this? Or, do I already have enough t-shirts to choose from in my closet? If I'm not 100% sure about a purchase, I'll walk out of the shop without it, but if I'm still thinking about it a few days later, I'll go back and get it. That way, I know I really wanted it and I protect myself against impulsive purchases.
Fast fashion often looks cheap, and its quality degrades quickly with a few wears and washes leaving you feeling dissatisfied and empty. Swapping out your relationship with fast fashion brands for sustainable, slow fashion brands and investing in classic, high-quality pieces that last for years means you start to appreciate and value your clothes and always feel good wearing them. Cherishing what you've got is also associated with higher well-being levels.
REPLACE IMPULSE SHOPPING HABITS WITH MEANINGFUL ONES
Finally, redirecting our attention from materialism to more meaningful activities that tap into our spiritual and transcendent selves will lead to more joy and, subsequently, being happier with fewer clothes. Any hobby or activity that prioritises connecting with nature, other people, and your deeper self bring deeper meaning to our lives. And when we have more meaning, we shop less and value the clothes we've already got.
These simple steps can reduce the negative emotions associated with overconsumption and increase the positive emotions associated with our transcendent selves, like self-esteem, confidence, and joy.
BE KIND TO THE ENVIRONMENT - BE KIND TO YOURSELF
We all know that overconsumption is bad for the environment and is not a sustainable pattern. Still, few people truly understand the negative impacts overconsumption has on our mental health. Be kind to the environment, be kind to yourself. It's time to start thinking about our own well-being as a reflection of the well-being of our ecosystem and replace our fast fashion addiction with slow and sustainable brands.