I began this year with
6 pairs of Shoes
I’m sorry to admit that about a quarter of that was accumulated just over the last year. I got a job for the first time, a bank card with access to online shopping and a lot more free time to browse. Therefore, I ended up with a lot of things I never knew I’d needed. And, at the end of last year, I decided that it had to stop.
A few things sparked this.
Firstly, a lot less money in my bank account than I should have had for someone who had been working for a year. I had no idea what to do with my savings, and so hadn’t really been budgeting to save. Now, I realise, that was quite silly. [I have, since then, set up a budget. I have not, since then, kept to my budget. Baby steps.] I wanted a pair of running shoes because I started running, so asked for some money from my Nan. After spending the money on the shoes, I realized I could have just kept the money and bought a pair second hand from the markets or an op shop. That left me rather disappointed in myself, thinking of a hundred better uses for that money.
Secondly was realizing that, even if I went to the effort of looking up ethical clothing or trying to buy from good companies, the amount of energy and resource it takes just to create clothing is enormous. I read an article by a group I follow, 1 Million Women, about a documentary called “The True Cost”, and freaked out a bit. Even if you’re trying to do the right thing, it’s clear a lot of companies have cottoned on to the fact that a lot of people are looking for “sustainable”, “eco friendly” substitutes because Western society is being pummeled with information about a dying environment. Things with green tags have popped up- I most recently saw them at Ikea, H&M AND Bonds- advertising how they’re helping the environment by reducing the impact of the product. However, even if I buy from a company which has signed treaties and has certificates which say they’re doing their part, there is no guarantee no animal, person, worker, or child is not going to get hurt- it takes energy and people to make stuff, simple as that. Buying from these people wasn’t doing as much good as not buying from anyone.
And finally, looking at all the clothes I actually have, the question is raised- do I actually need any more? The answer is simply, no. In a society where we complain constantly that we have “nothing to wear”, I attempted to reconcile that with cultures where they do not wear clothes, or where the same dresses are passed down to generations, resewn, rehemmed, redesigned, but of the same material someone’s grandmother wore. And the amount of stuff I owned, simply because I wanted to own it, embarrassed me. It still does. The number of clothes that I began this article with is after I donated everything I didn’t want or haven’t worn in ages to charity.
I originally wanted to make a resolution not to buy any new clothes, or anything new that I didn’t need, including a laptop which I’d been considering for a while. After all, my family shares a good PC and I have a tablet to myself. But then I realized that I couldn’t rely on the loophole of going and buying second hand clothes because the mentality of MORE and the actual spending of money wouldn’t change. It’s a mentality that because I can, I should. Even if, in fact, I can’t and shouldn’t.
So, this year I’m going to try and not buy stuff. I saw an article about a woman who could fit her entire years worth of rubbish in a glass jar. In a household where I fill my bin once a month and my family fills the bin at least once a week, I figured that was a bit of a stretch. But I want to change my heart. I decided that, for the majority of gifts, I would still buy things but stick to the companies which I know are doing good. As for myself, it’s time to start wearing what I already own. There’s a Japanese theory that you should only own what makes you happy [which significantly reduces the amount of stuff in your life], regardless of sentiment and monetary value. That was also sort of an inspiration, although I own a lot of bland smart casual stuff for work I should probably keep [despite the fact that a t-shirt and jeans makes me very, very happy].
I want to wear everything I own until it’s literally falling apart-this has only happened with a few pairs of shoes, a shirt [which my mum threw out on my behalf] and a pair of pants [which I took part of and made a bag]. Apparently the average person in the U.S. throws out 86 pounds of clothes a year- that’s insane. But I realized that, if I’m going to stick to the clothes I have, I am going to have to wear them until there is so little left that I will have to throw them out and no one will recognize them. Old t-shirts will become pyjamas, and old/odd socks will go in the rag bin. I want to live a life where I get creative, not consumerist. I want to live a life which doesn’t have a lasting negative impact on the planet, or on the people making mass produced clothes. I want to live a life I can be proud of.
And so, this year, that’s going to be me not buying new stuff [and subtly implying a few things to friends for my birthday].
Feel free to join me.