Clothing, the Drug of Choice

Clothing is a brain-numbing, mind-inducing drug. And I am hooked.

I am thrilled by the styles. Hippie, Bohemian, cowgirl. Relaxed, formal. Intoxicated by the colors, an artist’s palette, a dizzying array of washes and tints swirling around my feet.

I enter a store, and my mind goes blank, and I can no longer think, and I forget what I own. I sometimes even forget what I like.

In a trance, I try clothes on, buy them and bring them home. Place in a closet over-flowing with items I don’t need.
I am an addict.

Like an addict, when my head is clear, I regret the decisions I made. I know I didn’t need my recent purchases, and yet I can’t stop.

But clothing defines me, or so they say. It says I am good or bad, rich or poor, that I have a certain style, and a particular personality. Clothing is my label. I must buy more.

Recently, I threw six shirts away, and still have plenty to get through a summer, with shirts that will never see the sun, which makes me think I have too many, though I don’t know what that number is. I don’t want to count. I am afraid. Afraid of the truth.

I wish I could be like others with small closets. I wish I could own less clothing. I wondered if it was possible. Recently, I found out it was.

I was at my son and daughter-in-law’s house, and stepped into their bedroom. In the corner was a closet, a normal five-foot long closet (approximately), every piece of clothing neatly hung-up. I was shocked, amazed, impressed. I wanted a closet like that. In another corner sat their dresser.

I asked my daughter-in-law about their closet, and how many pieces of clothing they owned. This is what she told me:

They each have twelve bottoms, including work and casual pants, shorts, and work-out pants.

They each own twenty tops, including sweaters.

She has two skirts and seven dresses (my son has none – thankfully), plus she has a few scarves.

She has six pair of shoes, he has ten. (He may have received the shoe-gene from me.)

She said, “It feels like we have a lot sometimes because we both still have things we never wear, and sometimes it feels like we don’t have much because we have things we never wear.” I love that.

It’s amazing how I’ve never noticed them wearing the same thing twice, which just goes to show how unimportant clothing really is. It really doesn’t define us.

They are my inspiration, what I aspire to be. They don’t shop unless necessary, wear an item until its life is over, and don’t feel a need to fill their closet.

We have this illusion that closets must be full, and once they get there, they need to stay that way. We are told to stuff our lives, our homes, our closets, with shoes and boots, skirts and shirts, jeans, capris, shorts. And even when we have too much, we shop some more.

I’ve known people whose tags never come off the clothes they purchase. They hang in their closets like idols, rubbed like genies as they wish for more.

It’s an obsession. A drug.

Clothing hasn’t always been a big priority in our lives.

In 1930, the average woman owned nine outfits. Today, she owns thirty.

In 1950, there were four fashion seasons a year. In some stores, only two: Spring/Summer, Fall/Winter. Today, fast fashion gives us 52 seasons, one for every week of the year.

The U.S. fashion industry has become a 12-billion-dollar business, with eight billion new garments produced in a single year. It is a crazy, over-done, addictive habit, one we have to give-up. One I have to give-up.

There is a simple solution to this problem. We simply need to shop less. Buy only what we need. Use what we have. Mend and repair. Stop going to stores that tempt us, that pull us in and drug us, that captivate us with lies, telling us to buy more, that we need it, even though we don’t.

The truth is, clothes are merely pieces of cloth that serve a purpose. They are for function, to cover and protect. Maybe if we see them for what they are, we can stop this drug, before it stops us.

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Shopping Stats

As a society, we love to shop. I know I’ve done my fair share. Because I have a curious mind, I decided to do a little research on how much we, as Americans, spend on shopping, in both time and money.

Here are some shopping stats that will blow you away:

On average, a single adult spends approximately $65 per week on food. (choosingvoluntarysimplicity.com)

25% of our grocery dollars are spent on processed foods and sweets. (creditdonkey.com)

The average American spends $454 dollars per year on alcohol. Upper income (over $150,000 per year) spends nearly three times as much. (bevrage.com)

Clothing was difficult. It seems there are those who spend a lot, and those who spend very little. Some people prefer purchasing many items, while others would rather buy one quality piece. But this is what I found (from August 2011): In a survey by corporette.com, over 40% of people spent between $500 and $1000 in the first half of the year, 27% spent less than $500, and 22% between $1000 and $2500. According to Forbes, Americans spend $1700 per family per year. The answers seem to be all over the place. I think what it really comes down to is this, we spend a lot of money on clothing.

How long do people spend shopping? Women spend the most time in a physical store, 399 hours per year to be exact. To be fair, those hours include shopping for the family – for clothing, food, and toiletries. (nydailynews.com)

Men and women both spend five hours each week shopping online, with men spending 28% more money than women. (bigcommerce.com)

We spend:

$1600 per household per year on electronics. (gorave.com)

$1100 on coffee. (2012 business.time.com)

$2482 per household on entertainment. (bls.gov)

$1641 per year on a dog, and $1125 caring for a cat. (fortune.com)

$371 per child per year is spent on toys. (worldatlas.com)

$1500 per year is spent by the average American smoker. (aol.com, June 20111) For those who smoke one pack per day, the cost is $9200 per year. (smokefree.org)

$608 is spent on personal care. (valuepenguin.com)

$1345 on manicures. (wisebread.com)

$2041 are spent on vacations each year. (latinpost.com)

We have an expensive society, no doubt. Looking at these numbers makes me seriously ill. I often wonder if we don’t overspend on things that don’t matter, like junk food that doesn’t nourish us, clothing that sits idle in our closets, coffee we could make at home, and toys our children don’t play with.

We overspend, and overspend, and wonder where our money went. And then we look around our homes, and there it sits, inside magazine subscriptions we never read, and in chairs that never get used.

My home, my life, they are far from perfect. I am far from perfect. I still make purchasing mistakes, and spend my money on things I don’t need (like the three bottles of nail polish I recently bought). But I am trying. Trying to spend less, to be a conscious consumer, and purchase only what I need. Trying to live a simpler life, with less focus on stuff, and more on what matters.

Like vacations with my husband, events with family, and a solid retirement plan.

Which brings me to this: 26% of adults have zero savings. Nothing to fall back on in case of an emergency. 36% haven’t begun to save for retirement. (creditdonkey.com)

What does this have to do with minimalism? Everything. We are a consumeristic society, fed commercials since birth. Told to buy and buy and buy. We aren’t taught to save, aren’t told that we really don’t need toys and extra clothes or three bottles of polish to survive.

It takes much less to live on than we think. Click To Tweet

Maybe it’s time to rethink where we spend our money and time. Maybe it’s time to place it in what matters.

It’s simple, when you think about it. Give up coffee at the shop, even once a week. Stop needless subscriptions, and extra trips to the grocery store. Put the dollars away, in the bank, or a retirement account. Watch your money grow.

What do you spend your money on that you could be saving? Where will you put it? I’d love to hear your thoughts. As for me, I’m putting an end to nail polish.

Have a simply beautiful day.

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A Black Friday Challenge

Black Friday will soon be here, the season of cooking and cleaning, decorating and shopping. While I love the holidays, I am not a fan of Black Friday. Black Friday is the day that leads to the holiday season, but to me, Black Friday is the least Christmas-y day of the year.

Years ago, I thought Black Friday was kind of fun, a day of shopping with family, eating out, just being together. But back then, stores didn’t open at three a.m., or on Thanksgiving Day. Back then, it was just a regular shopping day with built-in deals.

Today, it seems Black Friday has turned into more commercialism than I ever could have imagined. People climb over one another to buy the hottest new movie, and fight one another to get the latest toy.

I bet I’m not the only one who feels this way about Black Friday, like the clerks in the stores who have been up all night, the people who missed family time to stock merchandise, and even the shoppers who attend this crazy event – they don’t always appear to be in the best of moods.

Kind of like the men I saw a few years ago.

***

It was four in the morning. I stood in one of two long lines leading into an electronic store, shivering as I held tight to a cup of coffee. At the head of each line was a young man, glaring intently at one another. Finally, one spoke up.

“I was here first.”

“No, I was,” said the other. Like two little kids fighting over a swing, both determined to be the first in the store.

They began to yell and curse, and soon, fists were flying. Even when the large glass doors swung open, the men continued to fight. It was the craziest scene I’d ever seen.

Inside, it wasn’t much better. People pushed, grabbed, and yelled for others to get out of their way. As I stood to the side of one of the quieter aisles, the hand of an elderly woman hit my back, sending me into a large stack of boxes.

It was shocking, and dare I say, disappointing as well. If it hadn’t been for two kind strangers who took time to lend a hand, offer a smile, and say a few kind words, I would have lost my faith in humanity that day.

Those two people changed me, not just my view on Black Friday, but my view on society. I discovered how simple it is to change a life, how easy it is to affect another’s world.

It’s easy to lend a hand, if we dare to take the time. It takes seconds to offer a smile. One kind word can change a life.

I’m not against Black Friday, and who knows, I may still go out this year (though it will be long after the crowds die down). But this year, I’m challenging myself. I’m going to be a better shopper, not just Black Friday, but every day.

I’ll smile, say a few kind words, offer a hand when someone needs it.

I can’t change the world. But maybe, just maybe, I can change the world of one person.

Will you join me in my challenge?

Feel free to share this with others! Let’s change as many worlds as we can.

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Consumerism – An Age-Old Problem

Consumerism has been around for many years, from the first department store that opened in London in 1796, to the eight-floor department store built on a full city block in New York in 1862, to the mega malls we have today.

In the early 1900s, advertising stepped in, and in the 1920s, we were offered our first credit cards.

During World War II, we were taught, briefly, to be frugal. And when that was over, we were told to buy and consume. Since then, we haven’t stopped.

People that lived before us warned about a society of over-consumption, but we have failed to listen.

Confucius once said, “The Master said, ‘A true gentleman is one who has set his heart upon the Way. A fellow who is ashamed merely of shabby clothing or modest meals is not even worth conversing with.’ ”

Ghandi told us, “Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not every man’s greed.”

And E.B. White stated, “To perceive Christmas through its wrappings becomes more difficult with every year.”

My favorite quote is the following, “I think the enemy is here before us…I think the enemy is simple selfishness and compulsive greed… I think he stole our earth from us, destroyed our wealth, and ravaged and despoiled our land.” –Thomas Wolfe, You Can’t go Home Again, 1949

I think Wolfe is right, the enemy lives among us. He has destroyed our planet, taken our money, turned us into green-eyed monsters. He is sucking the life out of every creature.

Maybe it’s time we listen to the wise words of those who walked before us. Maybe it’s time for a change.

Consumerism won’t go away, after all, we need certain things to survive. But this excessive, compulsive shopping is getting out of hand. It’s time to stop, let go of what we don’t need, and cling to what we do. When we stop the insane spending, the constant consuming, we will find benefits we never knew existed. We will find benefits of a life with less. Like these:

1. Time with family.
2. Time for ourselves.
3. Time to volunteer.
4. Less time cleaning.
5. Less time organizing.
6. Less money spent.
7. More money for vacation.
8. More money for retirement.

Let’s use consumerism for what it was intended – to meet our needs. Let’s cut the shopping, and stop the enemy, before he stops us.

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