5 Ways To Fight Retail Therapy

I laugh at the phrase “retail therapy”.

But... I also buy into it.

Did I justify buying another white dress (during wedding season no less!) just because I had a rough day?
Of course not.
Ok, fine. I did.

Yes, I may have made a poor life choice, and I’m embarrassed. But also kind of delighted by the way the dress hangs in my closet (and I better be, since it might eternally stay hanging in that closet).

This being the case, I’ve decided there's got to be a proactive way to solve this problem. Instead of purchasing useless clothing to cover rough days, why not meet those rough days with different, more fulfilling, activities?

Five Simple Alternatives To The Tragic Cheap Dress (or Fill In The Blank)

     1. Buy a succulent.

No, I’m not actually kidding. Buy something living for your home, that you can take care of and see everyday as a lasting reminder of the day that didn’t beat you. 

     2. Make a meal for family or friends

Food brings people together in emotional and physical ways that we can’t imagine. Since ancient times, shared meals have communicated hospitality and love. Try it.

     3. Take a friend out for coffee.

Try reaching out to a friend and hearing about what’s going on in their lives. You never know what her or his day looks like.

     4. Call a family member that’s been on your call list for a while.

Family lasts longer than that H&M shirt you just bought. Just think about that priceless investment.

     5. Go for a walk.

Walk, run, bike, go outside and read! Give yourself time to think. Find a space to enjoy the world around you.

These are just a few alternatives to retail therapy. And five out of five of them sound better than that terrible white dress in my closet. And five out of five of them will last way longer. So, make a list for yourself to pull out in moments of distress. Don’t be unprepared. That way, when the siren call of the useless white dress comes, you can instead do something lasting, worthwhile and that doesn’t haunt you with guilt every time you open your closet doors. You've got this!

What My Dad Taught Me About Fashion (Dad Jeans Not Included).

My dad chuckled when I explained to him the idea of a capsule wardrobe. He responded by saying, “Do you think I could make a million dollars if I sold Cladwell my patented fashion idea? 'In on the right, out on the left.'”

My entire family is more than aware of my dad’s fashion strategy. When his clothing is worn out (and I truly mean worn out, broken zippers and thread-worn shirts), he lets my mom know—who then subsequently replaces his slacks and dress shirts as Christmas and Father’s Day gifts. You see, every morning he picks a shirt from the right side of his closet and then at the end of the day simply places it back on the left; his outfit choices for the day take all of thirty seconds.

After my dad and I had a good laugh about what his so-called fashion strategy could contribute to this generation, I sat down and really thought about what my dad has decided to invest his time into—seeing that it’s definitely not fashion.

Holding a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering, my dad works for one of the top medical device companies in the world. He holds a senior position and travels internationally, developing cutting edge standards. While his time and energy are daily invested into this position, when he comes home, he’s all about us, the family—seeing his greatest work in life to be a husband and father. And let me tell you, he does this job well.

I don’t think my dad consciously thinks about how his fashion philosophy frees him to be an excellent employee, husband, and father. In fact, 90% of this philosophy comes from the fact that he can’t tell the difference between two plaid shirts. (Sorry, dad). But the reality is that—even in the world of fashion—we can all learn something from my dad, and it’s not how to put a great outfit together.

Instead, it’s to keep the main things, the main things. And perhaps a simple philosophy like ‘In on the right, out on the left’ can help us do just that. Because at the end of the day, we don’t want our lives to be about clothes, but about being excellent at what we do, about building beautiful lives where we live, and about being loving and intentional towards the people in our lives. And perhaps by putting our clothing in the right place, we can do just that.

How I Went From Maternity Clothes To Loving Every Piece In My Closet.

I am a stay-at-home mom of three kids under 5. Most days start early and don’t ever actually end. (Who really has their newborns sleep-trained at 6 weeks?! We’re still working on our almost-5-year-old). Our days are filled with lots of dirty diapers, nature walks, trips to the library, tantrums at nap time, and discussions about the acceptable number of bites of pasta before dessert. (Is 6 bites really too much to ask? Please, child, please). I spend most of my time and energy serving the always thankful little humans around me. My life wonderful and exhausting, with afternoons that never end and years that seem to just evaporate.


So, here’s the deal — I want to look good, but I don’t have the time or energy to put effort into my style every day. I hardly have time to shower, let alone put together a cute outfit. By the end of the breakfast rush there isn’t much time for me. “Self-care” is some strange phrase I’ve heard of, but can’t really comprehend. My waistline has also yo-yo’d back and forth for the last 5 years, and trying on clothes is a painful, disheartening experience. My wardrobe is a strange mix of clothes from college, professional attire, maternity, and things stolen from my husband’s closet. (Sorry, babe). My pants range from size 2–12, and even though I know I’ve birthed 3 humans my self- esteem still seems tied to those trivial sizes.


Even though I don’t have time to shop or style my wardrobe, that doesn’t mean I want to be a frumpy mom. (You know — the mom who is always wearing jeans, their high school tennis t-shirt, and flip flops. Yes, you. This is a safe place). I know what I put on my body communicates who I am and how I view myself. It communicates respect for the people I see during the day. Even if they’re just little people. People are people. It communicates that I take care of myself and my body. It communicates that I am valuable and worthy of their respect.


So, here’s how I made a change. Small in theory, but as it turns out this change has had a huge life-altering impact. I started working toward a minimal closet just like many of these other women you read about. It seemed like if I could devote a little time upfront it would benefit me in the long run. To be honest, it worked.


I spent an evening, sans kids, and took all the junk out of my wardrobe. I held up each item of clothing I owned and asked, “Do you fit me now? Are you damaged? Do you work with my coloring and complexion? Have I worn you in the last 6 months? Do I feel pretty with you on?” If any item got a “no”, it was gone. (So long, my dear friend. You have served me well. Or at least cluttered my closet for too long).


When I finished my purge, only my favorites were left. I loved every item in my wardrobe. I bought a few pieces to tie things together. (“Hmm…if I had a denim jacket I could wear these 4 shirts in a totally different way.” Or, “Wow, I don’t have any jeans that fit me right now! Put that puppy on the list.”) At the end of my project, I had an open closet filled with only my favorites — interchangeable pieces that reflected my personal style and preferences.


Fast forward to today. I can wake up and grab anything out of my closet — and I know I will look good. I don’t have to spend precious time thinking about what to wear. I love everything in my wardrobe and — as long as I have time to change a shirt that’s been spit up on — I know I look good.


I’m free to spend my time on the things that I do care about; time with my family, friends, and maybe even a book. (Woah, woah, woah, let’s not get too ambitious). I can focus on the things that breath life into my spirit, instead of the things that leave me insecure and defeated.

I call that a win.

Why We Decided To Do This Thing Called Cladwell.

Cladwell's beginnings.

I’m Blake, and I thought I'd share our story. 

Cladwell was born out of my friend Tim and my frustration with the perpetual treadmill of fashion. It felt like as soon as we started to feel ok about our clothes, there was something new we “had to own”. There was no finish line - and that was frustrating. So I reached out to my fashion-guru friend, Chris.

Chris showed us that if we bought the right clothes - timeless and high quality - that we could actually cross the finish line. He was so helpful, and kind, that we pitched him on starting a business together.

So the three of us quit our jobs with nothing more than a Powerpoint presentation and started on the hardest journey that we’d ever traveled. Come to find out, there were a lot of people who were also frustrated with perpetual shopping, and we found our way to an audience of over a quarter million people.

A huge mistake.

But then, we made a huge mistake. We read a book: Overdressed: The High Cost of Fast Fashion by Elizabeth Cline. Ms. Cline painted a horrifying picture of an industrial fashion system called “fast fashion.” Fast fashion is the trend of making low-quality clothing for cheap - then encouraging people to buy new trends every week. The problem? It is horrible for the environment (#2 most polluting industry on earth), workers (1 in 6 people on earth work in the Garment Industry - typically in unsafe working conditions, forced conditions, and sometimes as children), and it is even bad for us (shopping therapy is a new term - using clothing to medicate our pain.)

A new challenge for Cladwell.

We looked at our service and realized that we were only half-way there. Although we promoted intentionality, we didn’t care about who made the clothes. As we talked with Ms. Cline and other thought leaders, we found out that there was a new opportunity: Guiding people to a simpler and better wardrobe - from manufacturing to Goodwill. So we embraced the challenge:

  • No more shadows - Your clothes can be 100% sustainable and slave free.
  • No more trends - You can have your own unique, authentic and timeless style.
  • No more consumerism - You can buy a small number of quality pieces.

Will we succeed and change the fashion industry forever? Freeing people to live intentional lives out from the thumb of the oppressive fashion regime?

…Or will we fold up as another startup with big ideals but not enough traction? Only time will tell, but one thing we know:

The cause is worthy of our highest effort.


What's All The Clutter Really About?

There is one surefire way to tell whether or not my life is in order. All you have to do is simply take a stroll through my house to observe the state of my well-being. If my clothes are all over the place, on the bed, on the floor, in the hallway... I can guarantee the external clutter is a giant reflection of how I am feeling on the inside. 

When you force yourself to intentionally slow down and take a look at the tornado that has plowed through your apartment or house, it's not hard to realize just how fast you’ve been living. Is all the clutter a result of having too much stuff? Or is too much stuff a result of all the clutter? Maybe this is a little deep for a Thursday afternoon, but hey, why we're here let's talk about it.

How much of what you own (the t-shirts, the endless amounts of shoes) is absolutely vital to your life, and how much of it was an impulse to fulfill something else? This is where I think we tend to get "it" wrong. Often the best place to start is not with our material things, but instead within.