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.

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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.