“People have a preference to remain ignorant.” – Neeru Paharia
Growing up in the US, I was raised in a consumer drive culture. I was taught that you buy new clothes with the season, need a few pairs of shoes, never wear brown and black together, and to match your purse with your outfit. I remember, at a young age, wishing my parents had more money to buy me more things so that I fit in better with the rest of the girls in my grade. Once I was in high school and had a job, I spent all the money I had on things I
wanted – shoes, clothes, accessories, CDs, food, and the list goes on, and on, and on.
Luckily, I was raised in a family where materialism wasn’t the main focus. My parents weren’t rich, we were lower-middle class, and there were plenty of years I didn’t get “back to school” clothes – which, at the time, upset me. Looking back, I find it wonderful that I had those experiences. Sure, I never felt the best dressed, nor the most presentable, but deep inside, I knew that I had more than that. I was smart. I was ambitious. I would do whatever I put my mind to…so I put my mind to being financial secure and buying whatever I wanted.
Once I turned 17, I started to shop. And shop and shop and shop. I loved it. I needed 20 pairs of shoes. I NEEDED 5 different pea coats, because I had to match the different winter boots I had. I needed a few watches, because the watch I had, but never wore wasn’t enough. Nothing was enough. I remember telling my mom that I was just buying a bunch of stuff because one day, when I was married, with kids, and a mortgage, I wouldn’t be able to afford it…so I had to buy it now. I had 150 pairs of Victoria’s Secret underwear, but I never carried a balance on that card, because that would have been stupid. My closet floor was filled with bags, because I was still aware that plastic was bad for the environment and I didn’t just want to throw away these bags that had held my clothes for 20 minutes.
I justified my shopping by saying that, “I only buy things on sale”. As if buying the $5 t-shirt, made in China, was really different. It still cost the same to make it. The people who made it still lived in the same situation. Still, I wasn’t supporting the corporation as much as others were, those who paid $20 for that cheap shirt. I’d get my Macy’s card, hit the clearance rack, and spend less than $100 and have 15 things that I’d wear once… because I only wore the same outfit once.
And over time, I started to see the fallacy in my thinking. I started to shop at second-hand stores and B-corporations. I started to look for clothes that were ecologically, human rights, and community friendly. I still wanted to be fashionable, but be less consumerist and a more conscious shopper. I even started blogging – The Classy Cunt Catalogue – where I’d showcase all my awesome purchases, progressive styles, and thoughts on the world. A year or so later, I realized that I was an idiot.
I started the change my attitude. I committed to only buying things that met the following criteria:
- Thrift store/vintage OR
- B-Corporation OR
- Handmade/sustainable OR
- Organic, local, environmentally sourced
I started to buy my pants off of eBay. I subscribed to Roozt.com (click on link #3). I frequented Goodwill and Salvation Army. I found local artists who printed their own shirts. Finally, over this year, I learned that I didn’t
need any of this. I needed enough to make it through 3 days. I needed a few pairs of underwear, a few pairs of pants, a few t-shirts, a sweatshirt, wool socks, and my winter jacket. In the summer, I could survive in a bathing suit or a flowy dress. I didn’t need what I had spent all my money on. I had designer jeans with labels still attached. I had 5 pairs of winter boots and 4 of them had never even seen the snow. I had to get rid of it all…
And this is where I am today. I’m itemizing my stuff to sell it. I’ll be saving the money for an adventure out west. I want to live out of my truck for a while. I want to sleep, awake, eat, adventure, repeat, in the same clothes, for 5 days in a row. I want to journey and I don’t give a damn what I look like when I do it.
We have to change the way we think, the way we live, and the way we behave. We have to support those who are traditional – shoe cobblers, seamstresses, vintage clothing finders. We have to make our own. We have to be frugal. We have to stop consuming just to consume. We have to think about our neighbors. We have to be the global citizens that we are, whether you are blind to it or not. Don’t avoid reality. Stop being ignorant. Be empowered. Change.
“You have access, you have power, because you sit in the rich world.”