Upcycled clothing: read sustainable fashion, second hand rose, re-used, or ‘thrifted’ clothes – are you a fan? I am, and one of the main reasons for that is my health. (Another reason is this.) Usually upcycled clothes have ‘broken’ the dyes, pesticides and other chemicals used in the manufacturing process. But when the garment has odours from the previous owner, the gain isn’t huge.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m talking about ‘clean’ smells. Sometimes there is perfume on the garment, but often that scent is coming from laundry detergent and fabric softener. They can be difficult to remove even after multiple washing in fragrance-free laundry products.
Ways of getting rid of fragrance residue in upcycled clothing
Depending on the fiber content and how scent-saturated your upcycled clothing is, you may have to try a few of the following suggestions on your upcycled treasures. Keep in mind that if you are dealing with a delicate fabric, none of these options may be suitable and I’d take it to a specialist cleaner. I would also ‘escalate’ as needed, i.e. if sun and fresh air didn’t work, I’d try the soaks.
The scent of clothing hung outside to dry is wonderful, and it can remove odours! The first thing I always try is hanging the garment outside. About as low tech as you can get, UV rays break down the chemicals that coat the fibers. This also works on new clothes that have a strong dye scent. There is a possibility that there may be some sun fading so it is a judgment call.
Soak the garment in vinegar overnight, (or use a mixture of vinegar and borax). Rinse and dry, repeat if needed.
*In a sealed container add charcoal briquettes (plain – not ‘easy-start’ which contain lighter fluid!) and the contents of a box of baking soda. Add the clothing and let it sit for at least a week.
Wash with an additive
*Use a peroxide based laundry detergent to oxidize fragrance residues in the fabric. Or, some people recommend adding about a cup of vinegar in the washing machine along with your regular detergent. However, it appears that vinegar causes rubber hoses in the washing machine to wear out more quickly so I just thought I’d mention this warning.
* I have not tried these so I can’t say how well it works but I really like the dry baking soda and charcoal idea.
* Some people recommend a baking soda soak (I have used about a 1/2 cup baking soda in my washing water) but it could ruin the fabric. Baking soda doesn’t fully dissolve, which you know if you’ve ever cleaned your sink with baking soda paste – and it is abrasive.
The way I see it, perfume-stinky upcycled clothing is unwearable for me. If I ruin it getting the scent out, so be it: it is usually a low investment I am talking about.
But if your upcycle find is something precious or delicate, it might be a good idea to contact a company that removes odours professionally. There is a time for DIY and a time for calling in the experts!
When I was a kid my mother did a big grocery shop once a week. She made a plan of what we were going to eat for the week, and except for stocking up on milk, that was about it – she didn’t usually go back to the store for more. (Of course there were a lot of reasons for that.) When I started my own household, I thought this was the right way to shop – the most efficient, ‘proper’ way to shop – so that’s what I did, except it never really worked.
My husband comes from England where, growing up, his mother and grandmothers went to the green grocers for fruits and vegetables, the butcher shop for meat, the fish mongers for fish, and so on, getting what they needed daily from small specialty shops. Food was bought to be consumed on the same day – or within a few days. Although this changed when they moved to Canada, I think what you learn when you are young stays with you and he still likes doing the shopping like this – even more so now that we live in an urban environment where there are shops close by.
For decades we did the big weekly shopping because there wasn’t an alternative to walk to a store: we lived way out in the country. Walking to the store would have taken the whole day and we wouldn’t have been able to carry enough to make it work. Yet even when we moved into the city and had the opportunity to walk to the store, we still drove because it was our mind-set by then: a big weekly shop was just more efficient, we believed.
What changed was two things: not being self-employed anymore and having shops close enough to walk to. I soon found that working in an office Monday to Friday job left me with a lot of chores to do on the weekend, and doing a big weekly shop that left me tired and cranky wasn’t the way I wanted to spend my time. We’ve shifted gradually to picking up things as we need them: not daily because we don’t really need that, but several times a week. We also make shopping part of our weekend excursions by stopping at a market on our way somewhere else.
Getting Exercise while doing your Shopping
Here’s how daily shopping gives you more nutritious movement.
- First of all you get the extra walking just going to the store, whether you are making a separate trip from home or adding it onto your daily routine. If it is a separate trip, you of course get the extra walking to and from the store, but even if you are stopping into the supermarket on the way home from work, don’t discount those extra steps. I usually shop the outside aisles for raw ingredients, but often there will be one thing that takes me up and down the inner aisles. I’m covering a lot of the same ground a few times a week that I would have done weekly and it is extra!
- Secondly, I am only buying what I can carry (hopefully) but walking home with not only the weight of the groceries, but the size and shape of the items (the load) makes me use my body in a different way than I normally do. I use different muscles with more variation as I shift hands, carry with both arms, tuck things under my arms – just to get them home. Even more fun is carrying things without a bag! a(For more on this read It’s the Great Load Lesson, Charlie Brown, by Katy Bowman.)
- Compare the amount of work it is for your little shop to your big shop: with your little shop you probably have a hand cart or carry your items to the checkout, then you carrying your items home. In the big shop the wheeled shopping cart does the work, the items are bagged and wheeled to your car. There might be a bit more work to unload them and get them to your kitchen, but nowhere near the same movement nutrients as carrying things in your arms for a walk home.
- You can combine picking up food with entertainment. I realized how far we’d come on the weekend when we walked to Granville Island and picked up some things in the market. It is about a 45 minute walk and a short ferry ride away, but we walked at least an extra hour around the market and shops, and we came home with a bag of bagels, a block of butter, some corn tortillas, salsa verde and smoked salt – without bags. Granville Island has gone plastic shopping bag free and we didn’t have any bags with us, so we carried it. (We did get a small bag for the butter – apparently they are 100% plastic free yet.) That’s a pretty different movement experience than buying a weeks’ (or more) worth of groceries and loading them into the car.
I suspect there will always be times when we drive to pick up things – because we have the option if we need or want it – but I am now firmly of the mindset that shopping more frequently is the way to go and if you can manage it, you will be doing your body a big favour.
Devices for turning your desk into a standing workstation are popular right now; I have one myself and it is so good to have the variation. But here is something you should know about standing work stations: your body might not be strong enough to stand and work all day. People who have to stand for work know what I’m talking about. About 7 years ago I got a job in a coffee shop and it was the most physically taxing thing I’ve done. It was much more demanding than teaching dance aerobics classes. That summer I had pain just about everywhere, but especially in my feet and calves.
Standing workstation on top of a bookcase.
Prolonged standing in a relatively small range of motion can give you pain in the knees, hips, lower back, shoulders and neck. Look at it another way: if you’ve trained your body to sit for a long time, starting from a young age, your body adapts to that position. If you don’t agree just consider that graduating from high school trains you to sit relatively still for 12-13 years. If you want to increase your range of motion, you will need to undo some of that adaptation without ‘challenging’ your adaption, which is what can happen when you try to work at a standing desk completely (or suddenly start working in a coffee shop) before your body is ready. In other words, to be able to use a standing workstation without pain, you need to train your body for it.
How to Become a Stand-to-Work Pro
Like with any other training, your gear is important. To become a standing-to-work winner critically examine what you are wearing on your feet. Consider these 3 points in your shoe choices: heel height, toe box, and flexibility.
# 1 Heel height ‘zero-rise’.
Ideally, zero rise (totally flat) shoes, but if you are used to wearing a heel and have heard about the benefits of going flat, it is better to transition into them gradually. Going to a totally flat shoe while moving to a standing workstation may be too drastic a move (but you can alternate between what you usually wear and a lower heel.)
# 2. A roomy toe box with no toe spring.
Ideally your shoe should have a toe box that is wide enough for you to spread your toes sideways and wiggle them up and down. You also want to look at how much toe spring the shoe has, because that can keep your toes flexed upwards. Both a narrow toe box and toe spring in your shoe may even be a cause of plantar faciitis. You will never see a toe spring in a pair of flip flops but you see them on some ballet flats. Does your shoe look like a banana? It has toe spring.
# 3 Flexible Sole.
Most shoes really act like a cast to keep your foot from moving around in your shoe but there are about a hundred muscles in your feet that do not get to move at all if your shoes are so rigid that they prevent natural movement. Do the flexibility test: can you twist your shoe from side to side? Can you bend your shoe at the ball of the foot?
Again, I want to stress that going directly to a ‘barefoot shoe’ may be too much, too soon. You may need more padding under your foot. I don’t own a pair of Lems shoes but I have heard they are very good for transitioning to a minimal shoe. You could also consider using an anti-fatigue mat under your workstation.
# 4. If you currently wear an orthotic device continue to use it as you adapt.
# 5. Don’t just stand there, at your standing workstation. Move around a bit, unlock your knees, stretch your calves, unclench and untuck. I keep a tennis ball close by and I roll it under my foot and use it to stretch my calves.
# 6. Finally, start out by standing for short periods of time, working up to 60 minutes of an 8 hour day. Gradually transition to longer periods of time standing.
Muscle lengthening and strengthening Exercises
You will probably need to undo your adaptation habits in order to stand to work (for longer periods) without pain. One result of sitting for long periods (either in a long session, or over your lifetime) is that the muscles on the back of the legs get shorter which requires the body to compensate in particular ways such as flattening the lumbar curve and tucking the tailbone.
Here are two Alignment Snacks from Nutritious Movement to take you through this series: Stretching the Standing Muscles and Walk This Way, Stand This Way. They can be purchased by clicking on the links below.
The Calf Stretch lengthens the calf muscles.
Stretching The Standing Muscles
Focus on stretching the standing muscles first. Props you need for this exercise series which targets the gastrocnemius, soleus and hamstrings, are a rolled up towel or yoga mat, a dome or even a book.
The Pelvic List strengthens the lateral hip muscles.
Walk This Way, Stand This Way
Your lateral hip muscles need strengthening (they are weak for most people.) In this series you will learn more about balance and strengthening your lateral hip muscles. You will also need a rolled up towel or yoga mat, dome or book for these exercises.
When it comes to living a more minimal life, it is not about always about the physical ‘stuff’. Often the ‘weight’ of buying and owning is emotional, and that can live entirely unseen. Here is what I mean.
You probably have an inner voice that is all about practicality, need and value. Those are good qualities but they are capable of robbing joy from your life. For example when you see something for sale that you like your inner voice says: “you can make that yourself.” Or, “you’ll never wear that/use that.” And how about this one: “don’t buy the first thing you see. Shop around and find the best deal”. Even, even if the “best deal” is not what your heart really desires.
Shopping used to be really painful for me because of my inner voice. It used to take hours for me to make a decision to buy, which was, in itself, emotionally draining. I remember a particular time I wanted to buy something as a reminder of a special weekend.
Turquoise Earrings from Mexico
By the time I found a little shop that sold the type of things I like, it was near closing time and, as usual, my inner voice was in full force so any personal purchase was going to be met with resistance. I often buy a pair of earrings to mark an occasion or trip and on this day my inner voice reminded me that I tend to wear the same two or three pairs of earrings all the time despite having many pairs.
(To silence that voice I can remind myself that even if I do not wear the earrings, I enjoy looking at them because they instantly connect me to the occasion. It reminds me of the people, the place and the feeling, and that is a sweet and tender feeling.) But back to my story.
I left the store without buying. I told the clerk I was having trouble making up my mind and would return the next day. But as it turned out, that was THE shopping opportunity of the trip. The next day was filled and we left early the following morning. I felt a small sense of loss which wasn’t about having the ‘thing’. It was about dampening my child-like delight, joy and enthusiasm.
It happens to me less these days but when it does, It makes me feel sad, and the memory of those times lingers. This is emotional clutter. It is blaming thoughts, continual internal commentary, being judgmental about yourself. It can also be having regrets, not releasing events and holding on to the past. It is the feeling of being emotionally beaten up.
I am sure you will be able to relate to my story: it is very common and I believe we all have similar patterns around our different issues. Personally I learned something I hadn’t quite seen before. Although I have played out this same scenario many times in my life, something clicked this time and I was able to see it clearly as clutter.
Physical clutter might seem to be easier to handle but I find it is the emotional clutter that drags me down.
My solution to this is to decide before setting out on a trip that I will get something for myself and to make time for it. It would not have to be something bought in a store. It could be a photograph I take, a few quiet moments writing in my journal, time spent searching for a special stone or shell. But if shopping is part of the occasion I could plan a budget in advance and have a ‘no questions allowed’ policy.
What will you do to release a pattern of emotional clutter?
“When you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it’s your world for the moment. I want to give that world to someone else. Most people in the city rush around so, they have no time to look at a flower. I want them to see it whether they want to or not.” ~ Georgia O’Keefe.
The memories of my recent trip to Maui will last far longer than the tan marks on my feet, gained from walking the beach for hours while breathing in the fragrant and moist air. There is no deep meaning in this post, except that sharing beauty is deep in and of itself. When I travel, I mostly take photographs of the plants, trees, water and sky, and the creatures I happen upon – pretty much the same thing I take when I am at home.
The last few times I traveled (both week long trips) I took only a small backpack with me in addition to my purse. The big question my friends asked when I arrived was, “how do you travel so light?”
I have two secrets for packing light but the backpack isn’t one of them. Some people may prefer a weekend bag or a small rolling suitcase. I have tried both and only went with a backpack on my last two trips. This is my backpack by Mountain Equipment Coop (It’s the ‘Cascade’.) I like it because it looks sophisticated and actually holds a lot more than it looks like it will hold.
My two secrets: I use packing cubes and a capsule wardrobe.
Use Packing Cubes
I’m not sure who invented packing cubes but I first heard about them a dozen years ago from a fellow traveler. This is what they look like. I bought my first set in a sale bin at Canadian Tire, and later found some more (again in a sale bin) at an airport. They are so useful and not only for packing!
My Packing Cube
For years I was a two-cube packer which means that I could fit two packed cubes on one side of my suitcase with room on the other side for shoes and accessories. The great thing about the cubes is that they keep your clothing contained in your suitcase and when you get to your destination you can just take the whole cube out and put it in your drawer.
I decided to pare down to a ‘one-cube trip’ partly to see if I could do it and partly because I was getting a ride with someone and was being considerate of the trunk space.
What you Need for a Week Long Trip
This pile of clothes fits into one packing cube.
Well, I can’t tell you exactly what you need because it depends on where you are going and what you’ll be doing.
A really good general rule is to pack for only half of the number of days of your trip. (If you are an adult, do you really need a clean outfit every day?) Plan to wear each item more than once. For your ‘delicates’ also pack for only half your trip and rinse out your socks and underwear in the bathroom sink. You can take a little vial of liquid laundry detergent, but to be honest I use the free shampoo that is almost always available.
For my trip to Maui in December (a yoga retreat) I took 3 pairs of workout pants, 3 workout tops, 3 casual tops, 1 skirt, 1 pair of shorts (the bottom of my swimsuit), my swimsuit top, a dress (also doubled as a swimsuit cover), 2 scarves big enough to cover a swimsuit, a light-weight cardigan, my Sunveil shirt and hat, a dressier straw hat that folds flat, and my Unshoes (flip flop alternatives). And with this, I still over packed.
I wore my yoga pants only once and the 2 pairs of capri leggings almost every day; I didn’t wear one of the tops or the dress at all – not even as a swimsuit coverup. If you are going to a place you’ve never been before it is hard to know exactly what the circumstances will be.
Most women like to shop when they travel and I am no exception. Last summer at my Restorative Exercise Intensive I had to buy an additional long sleeve top because even though it was August it wasn’t warm and the studio had a garage door that was open most of the time. The year before that (also an RE event) it was hot outside but the studio was over-air conditioned. Now when I travel I always include warmer layers even if it is ‘supposed’ to be warm. I shopped in Maui but not because I needed to: I shopped because it was Maui(!) and even though I almost never succumb to souvenir t-shirts and the like, I bought a souvenir Hawaii t-shirt. At least it is subtle enough to wear again and I wore it at least 3 times while I was there!
I did need some specialized clothes for this trip because it was a winter vacation to a hot spot: I wore my heavier clothes on the plane: jeans, a lightweight long sleeve top, a hooded merino wool jacket and a pair of walking sandals (with socks!) and except for the jacket, I wore everything again. It was still cool in the evenings in Hawaii.
Start with a Capsule Wardrobe
Starting out with a capsule wardrobe really helps with packing. A capsule wardrobe is a minimalist approach to getting dressed – so that basically – figuring out what to wear will be a thing of the past. I recently signed up for this micro-course Capsule Wardrobes which is not what you would think it would be (this course is much deeper than finding the season’s pivotal pieces in the right colours.)
It is more about a minimalist approach to dressing. It is a really good course to take if you are feeling overwhelmed by your wardrobe decisions.
I have always thought packing for a trip is very revealing. The old me, before I started paring down, could pull out my 4 or 5 favourite outfits – the ones I always feel good in and have been time tested – and put them in my suitcase. But you could barely notice that I had taken anything out of my closet. I’ve learned that those outfits are my wardrobe staples and that with those 4-5 top, 4-5 sweaters/jackets, and a few different pants/skirts, I have a couple of weeks worth of combinations.
Note: If you find you are over-packing it may mean you have quite a large capsule wardrobe! I have under 50 items (including shoes and accessories) but I have separate capsule wardrobes for summer and winter – with overlap. Depending on where you live you may also need separate spring and fall wardrobes. (I keep my off-season clothes in my spare packing cubes.)
Now when I pack for a trip, my closet is pretty empty. I don’t take everything I own but I choose things that suit the trip and that will give me the maximum mileage. Usually that will mean solid (black, grey or navy) with one or two splashes of colour.
Here are a few additional tips that makes sorting out travel clothing easier:
- I wear merino wool which doesn’t suffer from being in a suitcase, doesn’t absorb odours and dries quickly. If you sweat a lot this will be an life-saver when you are traveling.
- Most of my solo trips are for yoga or restorative exercise workshops and my workout tops have built in bras. Although they are bulkier than a tank top, I find they don’t take up much extra room and I feel more comfortable throughout the day.
- I limit my colour scheme: Usually that will mean a solid colour (black, grey or navy) with one or two splashes of colour.
- I take things that can be worn more than one way:
- My swimming suit consists of board shorts and a bikini top. I can wear the bottoms as shorts.
- I will always take a top and skirt of the same colour that worn together is dressy enough for dinner but can be worn separately for more casual occasions.
- My scarf will be big enough to keep me warm, give me coverage, protect me from the sun and act as a pillow on the plane.
- Be very minimalist when it comes to your wash/cosmetic bag. I assume that except for my personal things and what I need for the plane, everything will be at my destination and if they aren’t they are just a front-desk or a drug store away. I take moisturizer and a hair product (sample or travel sizes) but no shampoo, soap, etc. I always keep my lip balm (etc.) in my purse anyway, so there is no need to add extra to my wash bag.
If your trip requires special clothes like formal wear, you will probably find you will need to pack differently. I am going on a two week trip in May where I will have to dress for dinner every night. I will use the same rules for my casual trips, but I will need to bring a few more things that are not in my daily wardrobe like dresses, shoes, evening bags and jewellery. Actually I think I could probably pull it off with my ‘one-cube’ trip, but there really isn’t a need. This isn’t about depriving yourself but about making life simpler.