I love stuff. Things. Possessions. I love nick-knacks and dishes and towels. I adore Williams Sonoma and Pottery Barn and my local bookstore. But most of all, I love clothes. Expensive, well-made, unique clothing from boutiques that feature creative designers. Owning the right shoes for the perfect outfit for the precise occasion. Looking funky and individual yet completely appropriate. Oh, God, do I love clothes.
You’d never know it to see me in my Old Navy t-shirts and L.L. Bean bargain rack vest. Most people, in fact, think I don’t give two and a half shits about clothing. Since I cannot afford to shop at boutiques, I figure why spend the money for the middle ground? I get the cheap stuff or the well-made boring stuff because I cannot have what my heart desires. Which is the highest of the high end.
Most of the time, I don’t bother buying clothes at all. I mean, I buy them, but not like an American. I am cheap. I am very, very cheap. And every single purchase, I think, “Well, I don’t really need that.” It drives my husband bananas. He is the only man I have ever met who wishes his wife would occasionally spend money without thinking about it.
In fact, not only do I resist buying clothing, but I obsess about pretty much all expenditures other than food and diapers. Actually, I worry about every time we eat away from home, too, so I guess food is not exempt.
This attitude has kept me from acquiring the massive amount of crap that dominates most American households. People don’t seem to buy less stuff if they have less money – they just buy cheaper stuff. But, me? I have high-high-high class taste and not so much the budget for it. So, I buy a few cheap things and leave it at that.
But, over the last year, my attitude has started to change. Because, I have begun to look around my house and realize how almost everything is destined for a landfill some day. My kids’ Crocs, for example. Or the body pillow I used in pregnancy. And the foam letters on our floor. And dirty tissues. And stickers. And the rice cooker. And the little plastic thing that holds on the price tag. And the big wooden giraffes with our kids’ names on them. And our socks, my toothbrush, old telephones, broken fire trucks, all the stuffed animals.
It makes me gasp with horror. Go ahead, try it. I’ll wait here while you look around the room and think about how, sooner or later, all the things that you see that cannot be recycled will be in a landfill somewhere.
Then look at your kids (or someone else’s if you don’t have any). You get my point? They are inheriting our landfills.
Recycling is only part of the solution. We are over-consuming. We are filling our lives with stuff that must be produced, creating waste and pollution. It is shipped to us, creating smog and greenhouse gasses. Then we throw it away. Nice fucking world to leave our kids. Talk about an inheritance tax.
I have started trying to avoid buying new things for the kids. Toys, yeah, I buy new when I have to. But baby gear? And clothes for the children? Whatever. They can pass it down from child to child to family to family. I can buy at the children’s used clothing store around the corner. I can abase myself before the other parents at the preschool and take their hand-me-downs. Whereas once I used to just try to limit how much stuff we got them, I am taking it a step further and trying to also make sure we buy as much used as possible.
There will be things I have to buy new. I did not like the paltry winter coat selection at the consignment shop, and if I cannot find someone to give Zach a jacket in the next day or two, I’m buying it with our store credit at the Gap. I figure I have three kids who will eventually wear it.
I, however, and not growing. I have a coat. I do not need a new one. I might like one, but I do not need one. There is nothing I need right away. I can be patient and wait for the things I would like to appear in a thrift shop. I have lately found myself preferring to just buy there.
So, the time has come. The time has fucking COME. I am taking the plunge and making the commitment. For the next year. Twelve months. Three hundred and sixty-five days. I will not buy myself any new clothes. I will only shop used for my clothing. Furthermore, I will not drive a half an hour to find the clothes, but rather shop where I am.
The only exceptions are socks, bras, underwear, and shoes. The first three are for obvious reasons, and the fourth has the complicated roots of a Jewish superstition about wearing a dead person’s shoes. Don’t ask. But, I honestly have never bought many shoes (that whole cheap thing, again). Mostly running shoes and sandals. I may find I need one pair of each in the coming year.
Ironically, this may free me up to buy more of the clothes I want. I may actually discover that the cheaper price allows me to actually have funky, different shirts because they only cost $4. Or, that may start to seem expensive to me. Times are hard, after all.