Repealing the inheritance tax

            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.

24 responses to “Repealing the inheritance tax

  1. Commendable. Lots of commitments lately, huh? Isn’t this supposed to happen at New Years’?
    With my first, it was all new clothing. My second has been all used. It’s close to insane to buy new for kids- and I have to laugh at the places that have cashmere and silk for kids. What are they thinking??
    Good luck with the proposal. Any ideas on where you’ll be shopping?

  2. That’s great. It is easy for me because my older sister NEVER buys anything new, so I had a first-hand role model growing up.

    You may want to look for a used sewing machine after all, though. I can tell you from experience that a closet full of thrift shop clothes looks pretty dull after a few years. Maybe CA is different, in that there will be more variety/ more current fashion. I hope so. There is a special thrill in coming home with a huge bag of clothes for $30.

    Another thing to consider: it will be a challenge to shop unless you go alone because you’ve got to try everything on.

    1) it’s been laundered and lived in by a body different from yours, and 2) second hand purchases are not returnable.

  3. Bravo! It is horrifying how much STUFF many people have. I’m like you, I like really high end things–although, honestly, I’m happy with some designer jeans and a few pretty/funky things from places like Anthropologie. Since I can’t have Christian Louboutin shoes, I settle for something a little less high-end. However, like you, I can’t really afford that stuff either, so I bargain hunt at stores that sell overstocks and resale items.

    I was actually considering writing about my learned love for bargain hunting … maybe I”ll do that today. It’s like a sport!

  4. My poor Children make do with very few clothes AND don’t complain, bless ’em. Child 2 got its first pair of new jeans in a YEAR last month and will shockingly get another as it literally tore its way out of a set it’s had for over two years. They wear ’em so long I do buy new (at the discount stores – our motto: if it’s $10 it fits, if it’s $5 it fits and it looks fabulous) but I do think we get the most out of them. Ridiculously I now feel guilty as they are out of the growing phase and so wear them out to the point that most clothes are only good for the rubbish bin. One solution? Jeans pockets (back) can be cut off and make really nifty little gift bags, purses, whatevers.

  5. This is a great idea.

    I was talking with some other moms the other night about the cost of new toys. It is just CRAZY to me to buy 100$ toys for toddlers. There is nothing that they own right now (except possibly their favorite blankets)that they will still care about in three years. My motivations are more in using what I have wisely (which turns out to be good for the environment, too), but my kids own almost nothing new. Whatever they do have was a gift. Even their furniture was bought from Craigslist or flea markets (and Asher’s bed was handed down to us). They are perfectly entertained with secondhand toys.

    One way we have gotten the most out of the kids’ stuff is to rotate toys and books. Kids get more stuff at Christmas than they can really play with at once, and tend to play with the top of the pile. So we rotate them out, and also make sure what is out is accessible to them (toy boxes make chaos). Once a month or so I open the closet and start bringing out different toys. Asher may get to a point where he protests, but so far he hasn’t. And any toy that is a big hit in the moment stays available until it’s not anymore.

    As for me, I have been pregnant every winter since 2005, so I’m in this weird predicament of having almost nothing that fits well anymore. All of my warm clothes are too short. But unlike you, I am not very interested in clothes, and a little goes a long way for me. I will shop clearance and sales racks, and wear those clothes until they are embarrassingly out of style. Even then I’ll post them on freecycle or give them to charity; unless it is ruined, I never throw clothes away. So it doesn’t bother me to buy a few new things for myself, knowing how rarely I do that and how long they will be used.

    I didn’t realize I had so much to say about this. I probably should have just written a post on my own blog or sent an email.

  6. This is a great idea. I’m taking smaller steps, but I do have plans to make a better plan to reduce, recycle, reuse in 2009.

  7. I’ll be cheering you on!

    You inspire me to think about where I might shop for second hand clothing for myself. Sadly, I have to drive to get anywhere, so I can never be as green as you while I live where I live.

  8. Hooray for you! I’ll be interested to read about it.

  9. I’m buying almost all of my Christmas presents at the thrift shop this year. And making most of the rest.

    I’m disinterested in clothes, so a commitment like yours means little to me, personally. But I applaud you for doing it. Good luck!

  10. I just watched this episode of Samantha Who? last night where she breaks up with her boyfriend b/c he’s such a good person who is all about making the world a better place, she can’t deal.

    Sometimes you make me feel like that, Em. Not that I’m dumping you or anything, oh no. Just, you know, it pricks a little.

    But that’s a good thing, right?

  11. Honestly? When I read that first paragraph I had to scroll up to the header to make sure I was at the right blog.

    Of course, as I read on, it all became familiar again and, as often happens here, gave me a little nudge to change. Applauding your commitment from here and will make an effort to change a few things on my end.

  12. I went to a flea market in Southampton, Long Island… and I’ll tell you – the stuff you find at flea markets in “upscale” neighborhoods… Pretty nice. Reasonable prices, too.

  13. You can find some of the best stuff at secondhand stores. I’ve scored plenty!

  14. I’m working on reducing the amount of “stuff” I have by purchasing less and finding new homes for what I don’t need.

    To make the reduction more frustrating, when we moved into our farmhouse the previous owners had left a lot of their junk. Some of it, like old dishes, might be useful to someone, but some of it is really just junk. I’m having to throw it out and then feel guilty for hauling things to the landfill that aren’t even mine. Freecycle is useful, but we’re so far away from anyone that they won’t pick it up, leaving us to work our schedule around when we could take it to them.

    I don’t buy too many clothes and my husband is always proud of me when I actually do spend some money on them. And I choose to go for the few pairs of well-made shoes rather than a vast, but inexpensive, collection.

  15. You are right on about our total overconsumption. I wish you well on your no new clothes journey and will look forward to updates about the adventures. Meanwhile, if I just stop growing bigger–I won’t need any new clothing. In fact, I have a lovely large box of me clothing that would work just fine if I can figure out how to fit in it!

  16. My daughter thinks “shopping” is when she gets to go through a new box of hand-me-downs. I love it! Toys I am a little more picky about. I would definitely buy one nice wooden toy instead of ten plastic ones any day. We have a set of wooden blocks that have been enjoyed for 4 years now by children and adults. Can’t wait to hear more from you!

  17. I bet you can do it without buying ANY new clothes (save undies and socks) for a year. I actually did this for my 33rd birthday resolution and wound up with way more clothes than I ever would have bought. All my friends brought their thriftstore donations to me first. By the bagful! And the really cool part was that I ended up wearing all this stuff I never would have picked for myself. It broadened my fashion horizon a lot!
    Good luck.

  18. Lots of my students go to a stall on the market that sells vintage designer wear and they look fabulous. If you were going to buy any clothes then I guess high end is oddly enough the least tough on the environment, as those clothes get resold on ebay, or recycled at markets or simply kept and handed down as vintage pieces. So yup, it’s the flea market or Gucci, nothing in between! I hope you’ll post pictures of anything really cool that you buy secondhand.

  19. I love this. And, might I add, I love, love, love the Goodwill. Shhh, don’t tell anyone.

  20. Although I still buy too much for my kids, we have quite an unoffical recycling circle going on. There are about 7 of us that swap clothes as our kids grown out of them. Sometimes they come back around again as I have had clothes from my 9YO that I passed on that came back to me in a bag for my 3 YO.

  21. i do buy most of my clothes used, although I did just splurge on some jeans, since I can now actually buy some that reach PAST my ankles and have a cut that looks like they were made this decade, as opposed to the closet full of Gap jeans I bought at the thrift store in the same cut I’ve been wearing since college

  22. I’m lucky that I live in a college town and, apparently, when the students pack on the freshman 15 or they need to move to a new apartment or back home for the summer, they seem to donate all their brand name-type stuff to the local thrift shops.

    Except for underwear, shoes,* and tights (I have this thing about socks, so I never wear them), I almost never buy any new clothes for myself.

    Though I suppose at some point, I may have to break down and get myself a couple of new suits for work. I don’t have to dress up every day or even every week. But still.

    *And, given my tiny flipper-shaped feet, I’m very limited in the number of shoes that fit me anyway.

  23. My little girl gets NWT clothes once a year, on Xmas, one outfit. The rest of the time it’s thrift stores, gifts, and hand-me-downs. I have bought a few things from thrift stores but it’s very difficult to do that kind of shopping with a little kid around, since you have to look at every single item and you really ought to try things on. But I’m happy with what I’ve gotten.

    Since we are soon to move abroad, we try very hard not to acquire, and are getting rid of most things. It’s so much the opposite with how most people are living.

    We also mostly buy used toys/baby gear or use hand-me-downs. There are several advantages, like not supporting big corps, and spending less, and plus you don’t have to put things together or throw out the packaging. Yay!

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