Mixed Salad of Thoughts

Saturday, April 12, 2008

My money= My ballot, continued...

So where was I? Right...I was feeling guilt over my consumerism, my consumption, my needless purchasing of things that I thought little to nothing of and of which I had never even stopped to consider all the "real" costs.

In my last post I mentioned all the time I've spent NOT shopping. Although I was surprised at how much time that actually was I have since found out that I am far FAR below average. The average American apparently spends 6 hours a week shopping. I assume this is mostly browsing time, as I think we'd be even more insanely in debt on average if we actually purchased for each occurrence of shopping that totaled that 6 hours. I'm not sure that includes time spent doing online shopping. (I'll double check Big Green Purse where I read this statistic). Anyhow... I found myself with more time on my hands.

For anyone who doesn't know I work in a furniture store and have been there almost 5 years. Over the course of this time I have brought home box upon box of discontinued fabric swatches (about 13"x16" pieces of upholstery fabric used for custom ordering.) I could never bear to throw out this fabric and always figured I'd either use it myself, donate it to an artist or art group or I'd sell it on Ebay after leaving the job. With some extra time on my hands I started organizing these fabrics a bit and made a couple of simple bags. My simple bags were lovely. Beautiful fabrics made the bags gorgeous with little effort on my part, but I have a degree in art so that wasn't enough for me. I started making more complicated bags, using different combinations of solids and prints with contrasting lining. I started making them reversible bags...way cool. But I didn't get far before I realized that handles and closures would be a problem. I didn't have any supplies on hand for handles and most of the fabrics I used were far too bulky to make a nice handle out of. I went to the craft store and looked at handles. $7-$10 for a mass produced handle? for a unique bag made for free, and out of repurposed fabric? It seemed to me like a lot of money and waste, especially since I had no real intention to go into business selling them. And so I looked for alternatives for making handles. I went thrift store shopping, I thought perhaps I could scavenge some handles from other bags or perhaps find some other alternatives.

Most of my thrift store shopping in the past few years has been for one type of item--nice wool sweaters that have some problem or are just ugly, but can be unraveled, wound into a ball, and used again as a cheap, eco-friendly knitting yarn. So when I went shopping for handles I already had a good idea where my favorite thrift stores would be and where I might find good supplies. But when I went I was disappointed. Most of the handles on purses were either already worn, or attached to purses that were far too nice to be scavenged. I came home with nothing (except more sweaters).

So while I was still trying to figure out my handle dilemma a friend told me about her favorite thrift store. I went and was amazed. I found a lovely selection of beautiful, stylish clothing sorted neatly and priced cheaply. I came home with a new winter coat and about 7 shirts, blouses and sweaters, most of which were work appropriate and half of which were brand name items (Banana Republic, Kenneth Cole, Anne Taylor, etc.)I spent around $16.

I've been stingy my whole life. I admit it. I kept quarters my parents gave my brother and I for arcade games and said I was going to put mine in the bank rather than waste it on two minutes of forgettable fun. I ration things; once a box of pop is half empty I start slowing my consumption so it will last longer. I like getting a good bargain; if you compliment some jewelry or piece of clothing I'm likely to smile and tell you how little I paid for it. So it shouldn't really be a shocker that I like thrift stores and that I've shopped at them my whole life and continue to do so even though I can afford not to now. But then again, how does one define what they "can afford"? I may not have to count every penny and worry if my limit has been exceeded if I splurge on some clothes here and there, but student loans and credit card debt still eerily lurk in the background reminding me that whatever I spend is keeping me from being able to pay off debt and start my savings. I occasionally remind my ever-broke coworker that with her complete lack-of-debt she is far richer than I am.

So I find myself in thrift store bliss... Lovely, right? Buying pre-used clothes and other items guilt free? Ah, but there's a catch...my closet is already full and I already have way too much stuff...and did I mention my roommate is moving out and I'm faced with the possibility of either having to move all of stuff (a very hefty task) or finding a new roommate willing to live with all of my belongings?

So I stare into my closet and try to see space, try to see how perhaps I might find more room in the crowded and already overstuffed area...And I fail. I imagine giving away all of the clothes I hardly wear and all of the items around my room and around my house that I don't really NEED and I feel elated, freedom sweeping over me. I imagine how I could pick-up and move to another city, just one suitcase full of belongings to my name...ah, sweet bliss it would be to be relieved of the burden of my belongings.

Then I crash. The reality of my belonging to my belongings pull me down. I OWN this stuff. I am responsible for it--like a puppy: I have accepted ownership and agreed to take care of it for the rest of its days. If I give up on the old worn jeans and the slightly outdated dresses and the acrylic paints and the bottles of household cleaners and the old computer towers and the folding chairs and the hair products and all the other countless things crowding my house I will have to choose their fate--do they end up in a landfill or is there someone I can trust to put them to use? I've seen the dumpsters at the Salvation Army, I know that a large number of items are unsold and dumped, I can find no redemption there.

....big long pause...

...So now what?...Well, I'm not sure. I'm buying a bike and am trying to cut down on my driving. I'm trying to think of ways to re-purpose all my old clothes (rugs? quilts? sculptures?). I've found the recycling drop-off point where I can recycle all plastics #1-7 except 6. I've kept up with the composting. I'm sure I'll find new stumbling points as I go though, new obstacles to trying to live my green and footprint free life.

...I'm sure there will be more to come but most of this bit has been sitting waiting to be published for far too long, keeping me from posting anything more frivolous or not on-topic (and I like frivolous and love off-topic)

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Blogger Sarah said...

I'm definitely going to have to come over and repurpose some of your belongings for quilts or some such.

8:43 AM  

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