01 June 2008

buying less, living more

Ok, ya got me. This is a blog about things you can buy, which seems a bit contradictory to what I'm gonna say here. Buying less stuff is really one of the best things we can do for ourselves and the planet.

A few years ago while waiting in line for the dressing room at H&M, with multiple hangers leaving impressions on my tired fingers, a little voice came into my head and asked, "do you really need this $39.99 sweater made in Sri Lanka? or this dress made of who-knows-what material in the Philippines?" Then this happened: I started putting everything back on the racks. I walked out of the store, empty handed. This was the start of something big.

This is when my consumer's conscience woke up. I first started by reading labels. If something was made in China, I put it right back. I turned over every shoe, peered under every dress, searching for its provenance. I finally figured out that most stores I enjoyed shopping in -- Anthropologie, Club Monaco, Old Navy, even higher-end shops like Barney's Co-op -- all sold apparel made in far off lands. If on the rare occasion something was made in the good ol' USA, I gave a little cheer.

I've since sworn off these stores, and as a result have cut back significantly on my consumption. No more lunch hour shopping sprees at whichever store happened to be a few blocks away from the office. No more retail therapy. And a funny thing happened. Walking away from these old habits made me feel good. Letting the urge to shop pass was actually rewarding, not just for my bank account but for my psyche.

Of course I still buy clothing, but I don't do it based on the latest trends or sale at the nearest store. I try to buy mostly vintage, mostly made in the USA, or something made with sustainable materials (like organic cotton). I've even found some cool free clothes from fun events like the Swap-o-ramarama. I've discovered so many more interesting and unique things this way. I don't really need to worry about seeing someone out in the same dress. And since I'm not worrying about things like that anymore, I have more time to think about the important things... like what to share with you in my next post.