For me going vegan has been a long process. For almost ten years now I've been vegan (with 8 years of being vegetarian before that). Every year I learn something new about the way in which we live, and the commodities and lives we, as the American people take for granted. I am, and have always been a realistic and practical person. I knew from a young age that to Do The Right Thing, I would have to set goals for myself that were reasonable, and easy for me to accomplish.
Like my food transitions, I went from being a vegetarian who gave up milk, then cheese, then ice cream, onto transforming my beauty products into cruelty-free vegan items, along with my housewares and wardrobe... There are many aspects of our lives that can be changed to create an impact on how we treat our planet, and the animals who live here. All of these life transformations are a lot to take on all at once (though it can be done), and it can be somewhat overwhelming. For me, just remember its a process, and every little step helps impact the larger picture.
As a vegetarian I still wore leather because I was a kid, and no one in my household seemed to question the origins of leather shoes, wallets, belts, jackets, photo albums, car interiors, gloves, necklace ropes, and journals. Not growing up with tons of money these items that I had assimilated into my closet, and wardrobe stayed with me through my teens and past my 18th birthday (I had transitioned to being vegan at 17).
There was one day, when I was living out on my own as a college student and though I wasn't buying any new leather items I came to the conclusion that I no longer wanted to have leather in my life. I gathered up all my old belts and shoes (the only leather items I owned at that point) and took them to the Salvation Army.
There are so many alternatives to leather that I haven't once regretted my choice to eliminate animal skin from my fashion and daily life. I felt the most appropriate choice would be to recycle these items though, and donate them rather than destroy them. Many of the leather-alternatives are much more affordable, but there are also a wide variety of higher-quality products that last just as long in durability as animal skin.
It took me a while longer to give away my wool and silk clothing pieces, and though I still do not consume new wool, silk or leather products (or buy vintage ones for that matter) there are a few silk scarves and wool blankets that I've held onto after my grandmother passed away and left them for me.
To me, being a vegan is not adhering to peer-pressure, or an unrealistic set of rules that you feel obligated to follow out of fear of contradiction. Vegan living to me is living out of compassion, and thoughtfulness, with respect to all life forms. Its about living conscientiously, and making your best effort to live without inflicting harm or pain on other beings.
I think that to throw out several sweaters, and pairs of shoes that someone without as much money could use once you chose not to use them is wasteful. It doesn't mean that I don't wish everyone was vegan like I was- but I think that since you can't change the past, all you can do is move forward. By this I mean, NO LONGER consuming animal products, and passing on the non-vegan items that are still within your possession if they make you uncomfortable.