Is anyone else tired of having things?

I don’t know about you, but I’ve been doing some thinking.

I’m tired of having things.

It’s so easy to think about minimizing and purging when feeling overwhelmed with the sheer quantity of things we’ve been accumulating, but it never seems that one can actually “win,” even while taking the minimalist approach to material things.

It costs a lot of money to have anything at all, really, no matter what it is.

You have to pay the initial sticker price

You have to maintain the thing. This can include a number of other things.

  • Buying a steamer or an iron to ward off unsightly wrinkles and folds.
  • Buying waxes or protective sprays, to keep your whites white, to keep your colors colorful, to keep your shoes waterproof, to repel dirt, etc.
  • Buying sweater shavers or sweater stones to remove fuzz and keep the thing looking generally unfuzzy, like when you first purchased the thing.
  • Buying and exhausting lint roller supplies and using them when you get dressed, before you leave the house, after you take a drive, etc. Especially if you are harboring any sort of furry creature in your home.
  • Taking it to the dry cleaners and make time to drive in your car to the cleaners, consuming fuel, and then paying to have it dropped off and then making the time to get into your car again and pick it up later.
  • Getting things zip-soled so that the things last longer, so you don’t have to buy the thing again so soon.
  • Buying things to ward off things that want to eat your things, like cedar blocks or moth balls… for moths.
  • Buying hangers, boxes, holders, display-ers, bags, furniture, etc. to house and hold your things.
  • Detergents to clean your things. Machines to clean the things. Machines to dry the things.  Which also costs energy.
  • Cases to protect your things (i.e. mobile-device things)

Okay, not everything on that list was a physical thing, but you get the point. It costs a lot of time and effort into keeping your things.

Because if you don’t, you’d have to buy new things to replace your old things.

When you have to buy things for your things, you know you have too many things.

I’m starting to feel that perhaps my home is not actually for me, but instead for my things.

Cambodian garment workers die while demanding higher wages

So many things that can be said, but all I can come up with is, sad.

This is why I don’t want to shop “mainstream” anymore and want to be able to dress myself with things I’ve created by my own hands.

Image

[ photo by Thomas Cristofoletti / Ruom ]

To read more about this in an article on Vice.com, click here.

“One buyer has taken some responsibility. H&M have chosen two factories in Bangladesh and one in Cambodia to pilot a scheme where they interview the management and staff to discover what is a living wage and supply the extra funds from their own profits. They have pledged to pay a living wage, but not until 2018.

What’s taking so long?

Swedish retail company, H&M, suggests raising prices to benefit factory workers

Considering seven whole months have passed by since the tragic Bangladesh factory collapse in April, I find it pretty disappointing that now that only just recently has a public statement been made by H&M, a major fashion vendor, “expecting” to increase prices of their products in order to increase the livable wages of the employed factory workers – meaning that they’re not even sure if they’re going to do this.  It merely seems that they are toying with the idea of this, and thus the dependent factory workers’ futures.

More disappointing is the fact that many companies are only meddling with the ideas of human rights, fair wages, and other buzz words such as “sustainability” simply because a tragic event put the issue on the table and made everyone aware.  Because, you know, it wasn’t really the norm to pay people livable wages and to not trash the environment in your capitalistic pursuits until hundreds of people die, making some people feel bad about where the cloth on their back comes from.  It seems almost trendy now, to be a fair, “good” company that pays respect to social and environmental responsibility.

While I am slightly impressed that H&M has even considered the option of raising prices to allow their factory workers a more decent wage, I have doubts that the quality of their clothing will improve very much.  I predict that the clothing will become slightly more expensive rags that will continue to look cheap and fall apart within a season, or even last one whole season, causing you to spend more money in the long run… that is, if you decide to shop at H&M.

If you’re interested in reading more about the Bandladesh factory incident or learning more about the H&M thoughts on fair living wages, check out these articles:

What are your thoughts on the matter?

What you probably didn’t know about Etsy.com

When I first discovered the wonderful world of Etsy years ago, I thought it was the best thing ever.  To me, it was basically a search engine for all things handmade or handcrafted, with some vintage things thrown into the mix.  This wonderful bubble burst when I realized that not everything is truly, independently and lovingly handmade by some caring individual in their home.  Sure, you get that on Etsy, but there are also the greedy, lying individuals (I didn’t even bother to disguise my distaste here, did I?) who masquerade as independent crafters of handmade goodness, “working” in collaboration with factories overseas to create a multitude of products to sell for the masses, labeled as “handmade.”

So, nowadays, when I browse Etsy in search of something for my home, for a gift, or for myself, I try to investigate and determine whether or not what I am considering purchasing is truly, independently handmade or not.  Although Etsy’s new policy cites that sellers will have to disclose whether or not they’ve partnered up with a manufacturer in 2014, which will hopefully make this process a lot more transparent, you may be wondering how to do that now – seeing as how there’s still a month and a half to go until that happens.

Here are a few ways you can determine the independent credibility of a seller:

Check the opening date of the shop, and compare this to the number of sales that have occurred since that date.  Let’s say, for example, a clothing shop on Etsy opened up about a year ago from the date you’re now browsing their items for sale; if they’ve got about 400 sales or some ridiculous number like that since then, they’re most likely using a manufacturer and not using their own hands and personal time to handcraft these items.

Look at how many duplicate listings they have.  Generally, the more duplicate listings of the exact same items, the more likely it is that they weren’t lovingly handmade.  A truly independent seller, particularly if they care about the quality of their piece, would not necessarily have time to create several copies of one particular style of item, even if it is their full-time job.  In some cases, they’re getting help from partners, friends, or family, but sometimes, you have to compare and scrutinize the amount of listings to the amount of transactions to determine this for yourself.

Determine where the items are coming from.  Listings of items for sale will typically disclose where the item ships from.  This is not to say that if something is from China, you automatically must rule them out, as this is unfair to sellers who may actually be honest, independent workers, but if you consider the item’s location of creation along with the shop’s opening and the amount of listings, it should be pretty easy to determine if the item is truly handcrafted by an independent seller.

These aren’t hard or fast rules, but merely tips on what one ought to look out for if they’re interested in purchasing an item they can feel good about.  If you have any doubts or concerns, contact the seller and ask.

If you’re interested in reading more about Etsy and their changes in policy, try these articles:

No, donating your heaps of old clothes doesn’t make you a minimalist or a hero.

Reading an Op-Ed at the Business of Fashion website, “The Trouble with Second-Hand Clothes,” and NPR’s “The Global Afterlife of Your Donated Clothes” confirms a few recent thoughts I was having about donations and second-hand clothing.  If you haven’t read those articles yet, I highly recommend that you do so if you’re in any way curious about what happens with second-hand or donated clothing.

Many of us have probably donated at least one large hefty-sized bag of clothing, shoes, and accessories at one point in our lives or another.  It may feel like you’re doing a great thing at the time, and it certainly is a lot better than simply throwing away your perfectly good, usable things into the dumpster, but there’s a reality many of us choose to ignore or are not even aware of.  I feel that people often think that they can purchase whatever they want without thinking too much about it due to the wide availability of cheaply produced goods in stores and on-line.  However, one must remember that you ought to still strongly consider the next items you’re going to buy, especially clothing-wise.

Do you “need” it?  Sometimes, the need for possession is often disguised simply as desire.  You want it, but you don’t need it.  You may think you “need” something because some commercial, article, magazine, blogger, or Youtube “guru” told you that this was a “must-have” for any closet or individual, but obviously, you can live without it.  This is something I personally struggle with, as I’m sure most people do.  It would do you well to at least “sleep on” the idea, or wait a few days, before actually purchasing something; this will give you time to mull it over and to see if that initial lust fades.

Are you buying it as a replacement?  If you are, I sincerely hope that the item you’re replacing was not something that you purchased last season or within an otherwise recent time frame and that instead, you were replacing something you bought that was such high quality that it lasted you quite a while before you even had to think of replacing it.  I urge that if you’re buying something to replace something, such as a basic or “essential” in your wardrobe, please opt for high quality, well-made pieces that are versatile and practical for your lifestyle.  Even if the price of the piece is high, you are justified in that you won’t have to continually purchase replacements over and over again, thus wasting more money, consuming more, and creating more waste.  There’s a wise saying, “Poor people can’t afford to buy cheap things.”  It’s absolutely true.

Do you even have room in your allocated wardrobe space for this?  If you’re big on consuming, you most likely have already accumulated quite the collection of clothing, shoes, or accessories.  This implies that you already have something in your wardrobe that is similar and that you may not “need” what you’re wanting to add.

The last question circles back to the ideas of overconsumption, minimalism, and donations.  I feel that most people feel justified in continuing their habits of overconsumption – purchasing several pieces of fast fashion or other low-quality goods – simply because they know charity shops, thrift stores, or consignment shops will most likely accept their rejected goods.  Even though people who donate clothing are not throwing their items away into the trash, they are still effectively using charity or thrift shops as their personal dumpster – something that they think will absorb the excess of their consuming habits.  As stated in the two aforementioned articles, charity organizations often have trouble dealing with the mountains of donations they receive on a regular basis, and these unwanted pieces are often sent overseas or recycled as rags or other things.  It’s an expensive problem on its own, and it’s a cycle that doesn’t seem to have an end in sight – at least, not until the world realizes they need to buy a lot, lot less.

“Conscious consumerism” is still consumerism.

One of the reasons why I started this blog was because I decided I wanted to commit to a lifestyle change for the better – not just for myself, but also for the wellbeing of the environment and the people with whom I share this world.  When I was about five years younger, I explored the realm of sustainably-created, environmentally-friendly goods, but I quickly forgot about this as I became more and more absorbed with the materialistic culture that society has cultivated over decades.  It almost seemed ingrained in my brain – and everyone else’s mind in my generation – that we should spend money and accumulate goods.  With the vast majority of companies opting to take their production of goods overseas, where they typically pay people lower wages, we as a society are becoming quite comfortable with our consumerism habits.  It’s even easier now to experience instant gratification when you’ve got online vendors at your fingertips, with overnight or two-day shipping options available so that you can have what you want as quickly as possible.  Or, you can make it even more instant by personally visiting one of the billions of brick-and-mortar stores that offer a selection of cheaply made goods that you can pick up and take home.

This summer, I moved into a studio.  My boyfriend, who was helping me, commented, “You sure have a lot of stuff for one person!”  It was absolutely true.  Some things, I felt were necessary, such as the sofa, chairs, bed, and lamps, but I felt like the bulk of it was comprised of my closet.  Over the years, I’d dig into my closet every now and then and sort out all the things I no longer wanted or things that I haven’t worn in a long time.  I would make a huge pile, stuff them into one or two (or even three) large bags, and I would donate them.  Then, more recently, I remarked to my boyfriend, after opening my walk-in closet door and revealing the unorganized mess inside, “I can’t seem to make a dent in this closet!  Every time I donate something, I always seem to have the same amount of clothes!”  He said something that was very obvious and made a lot of sense, “You do make a dent.  But you also buy things to replace what you got rid of, so it seems like you didn’t.”  I realized then that I needed to make strict changes with my consuming habits.  Even though I believed I was being more of a conscious consumer because I was choosing to buy goods that were secondhand, vintage, produced by independent sellers, or produced by companies that touted fair trade/fair wages/sustainable/ethical/etc., I was still consuming and accumulating too much.

The bottom line:  Consumerism is consumerism.  Don’t buy too much.  If you’re going to buy something, consider where it came from, who made it, and how long it’s going to last you.