Not Evangelism

Friday, December 3, 2010

Environmentalism, Clutter and Smart Thursday

Every Thursday, I wear a suit out of choice rather than necessity, as part of my personal brand of environmentalism. Why? How? I'm glad you asked. Read on.

Environmentalism and Clutter

One of my personal environmental principles is the prevention of clutter; partly by not owning anything I don't regularly use, and also by having nothing that’s too nice to use.

This clutter-prevention principle applies at the front end of ownership, which is a fancy way of saying that I’m careful about what I buy. There's no need to purchase the unnecessary, no need to bring into my house (and life) things I simply don't need; things that will sit on a shelf or in a wardrobe, unused.

In other words, clutter.

As well as strenuously avoiding acquiring clutter (and things I will dispose of the moment I get them, or their contents home – the principle of least packaging), the clutter-prevention principle also applies to what I already have. Every so often, I spend time evaluating whether I still need what I own, and passing it on if I don't; a kind of non-perpetuation of clutter.

Whenever I find something I haven't used for a while, I ask myself why. Is it something I simply don't need any more? Is it time to pass it on? Or is it a reminder of a habit that I want to practice and have somehow slipped? If I can’t answer all those questions satisfactorily, the item in question gets moved on (I pass it on, re-purpose, re-sell, recycle it).

But I also work to find new ways to use what I do have, rather than throw it out.

Which is how Smart Thursday happened.

Smart Thursday

In the last few years, I've been exploring the whole bespoke suit concept. I love the idea of having clothes that were made specifically for me - a kind of perfectly-tailored consumption - there's no waste in producing something to order. I'm also drawn to the notion of having something unique, personal, something I can cherish and keep for years; something crafted, made to last.

During the research period, I'd bought a few suits, some of which are rather nice (and some very nice). But, due to various circumstances and job changes, they’re seldom worn, except for those exceptional occasions like weddings. I had no need to wear a suit to work so these beautiful clothes were hiding in my wardrobe. They had become clutter, or were certainly on the verge of doing so. Applying my own principles meant that - since I didn't use them - I would have to dispose of them.

And yet - I really loved those suits, felt great wearing them. I wasn't quite ready to get rid of them. So I turned the principle on its head. If I started using them, used them regularly, then by definition they were no longer clutter. And I could keep them.

So every Thursday, regardless of what I'm doing, wherever I'm working - yes, when I work from home too - I pick a suit to wear. I enjoy it. I delight in the pleasure of dressing up one day a week. Smart Thursday was born.

Why Thursday? Why not? Perhaps a reaction to the tradition of Dress-Down Friday. Perhaps because it suited (ho ho) the way I arrange my working week. Just because.

Smart Thursday has been going for a year or so. People are used to it. My wife looks forward to it. Certain colleagues navigate their week by it. When I wear a suit on another day, perhaps because I have an important meeting, I see people start and I can practically hear them thinking Is it Thursday already? When I move Smart Thursday to Friday for logistical reasons, people comment.

And you know what? On top of all the feeling good whilst wearing my suit, on top of the pleasure of "dressing up" - on top of all the nice comments I get, every week, from colleagues, about how smart or dapper I look - best of all is that other people have started joining in.

Smart Thursday has spread. Other people are wearing their own seldom-worn smarter clothes, their unused-but-still-loved suits. I'm reducing clutter in other people's lives.

Which is very cool.

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