It was irritating, it was compelling. It was…and here’s that word again, convicting. It was a book called Serve God, Save the Planet. This book was revolutionary to me. It put into perspective so much of what I was uncomfortable with in my life as a middle-class white American Christian. One, short little sentence that has haunted me for fourteen years.
(Sidebar, please: If I wanted to be a good ladyblogger, I would run down to my basement where I stored all the books I had to rehome when The Poky Little Puppy, The Little Red Caboose and the Richard Scarry Anthology became my regular reading materials. Thereby, I would not be quoting Dr. Matthew Sleeth, MD blindly now and asking for forgiveness later.)
Here goes (all my apologies to Dr. Sleeth for butchering his prose.)
How long would your clothes last if you took care of them?Dr. Matthew Sleeth, MD, Serve God, Save the Planet
It’s a tiny little thought, isn’t it? A tiny thought to have been carrying around with me for all these years and never once actively trying to pursue until now.
It goes back to that famous virtue word, Stewardship: Taking care of what we have so that it will last as long as it can. Stewardship, and that I-Will-Buy-No-Clothes-in-2021 vow I made is why I decided to get two pairs of boots fixed this year instead of just purchasing new ones.
That is why I have learned how to darn socks instead of buying new ones (even though I had a near miss there…) These things are not glamorous.
(I wish I could quit it with the Sidebars today, but sorry, this is too good. I just had an idea of something like the Got Milk? campaign, only with gorgeous famous people darning socks. Wouldn’t that be a hoot?)
However, there are arguments against the kind of challenge I have set up for myself, and I am willing to entertain them. I may not have satisfactory answers, but I do have ideas (I always have ideas.)
Argument One: But the Economy!
If everyone stopped shopping, the global economy would collapse.
“What about the stores?” one critic said. “What about the people who work in stores? What about the people who make the clothes?”
Hey, you know what? I don’t care about the stores. I literally do not give one infinitesimal flying f#@! about the monstrosities that are Amazon or Target.
I do, however, care very much about the people work in the stores. I even love some people who work for those stores and companies. I care very very very very much about the people who make the clothes, and whose working conditions to make those clothes can approach that of slavery.
I care so very much about them.
However, I will not delude myself that my shopping habits are going to have much of an impact on them. I doubt very much that your shopping habits are going to have much of an impact on them. Sure. If there were enough of us, then maybe. But no time soon will we, middle-aged people of the world, fell the Goliath of Amazon and Target with our measly little slingshots.
But there is another, much more hoity-toity, high-minded reason, if you will bear with my snobbery: I believe that if God dresses the lilies of the fields and if he dresses me, then he’s going to take care of those people, too.
The deeper I get into my Buy-No-Clothes-in-2021 Challenge, the deeper my conviction on this point grows: I am not an anomaly. It so happens that I was willing to take up the challenge. But God wants to do what he has done for me for every. single. person. on. the. planet. I am not special. I am simply willing.
Imagine that there has been a train wreck. You happen to be the first person on the scene. In your surprise, you jump out of your car, leaving it in the middle of the narrow road that leads to the railroad crossing.
You use your limited knowledge in emergency medicine to help out…but what is really needed are the jaws of life. People from the neighboring buildings are now coming out to help. “The Fire Department is on its way….” someone shouts.
However, there is an explosion. You and the others start to move more quickly to evacuate victims. There are sirens. Lots and lots of sirens. But no help arrives.
Do you know why? Your car, the one you left in the middle of the narrow street is blocking the fire trucks and ambulances from getting through and you didn’t even realize it.
Sometimes, we think we are helping, when what we are doing is just plugging up a hole, if not making the problem worse.
Such is our adamant stubbornness to continue shopping when we need nothing, yet people in India and Malaysia and Vietnam are working in dreadful conditions to make things that we end up just discarding after one wear.
There is no way to know if things could ever change if we keep our car parked in the middle of the proverbial road.
Argument Two: Skillz
I don’t know how to sew or tailor or darn! I don’t have a sewing machine!
Everything can be learned. Everything. I learned how to braid my hair based on YouTube videos. My FIL fixed a grandfather clock based on a YouTube video.
We may not have been raised embroidering and hemming our own skirts, but between social media Sewing and Refashioning groups (like this one I belong to, where I met Jo of the infamous tin foil crotch sausage debacle) and the older ladies in your entourage, you will find people to help you improve your skills. What it takes is determination, fearlessness and ruthlessness, not skill.
Just to prove it to you. My sewing machine has some tension issues (we appear to be hormonally linked) and has decided to no longer function normally. (Yep. Like I said.)
Problematically, when I get an idea, the idea cannot wait for my sewing machine to get over itself. So I decided to refashion a skirt into a top by hand.
I loved the color. I loved the lacy teal hem, but it was a layer skirt and just didn’t suit me. Plus, that color is one I like to wear on top, because it matches my eyes. (Sidebar: Self-obsessed, much?)
So I thought about it, thought about it, thought about it. Then I got out one of my most unusually well-cut dresses that makes me feel like a raging glamor girl every time I wear it, for inspiration. Here is the process:
And here it is. Hand sewn, replete with dangling threads to prove it.
May I tell you the satisfaction I feel in my heart when I accomplish something like this? I feel literally like I have just made magic. But it wasn’t magic. It all started with an idea.
It was a few random tools: Thread. Needle. Straight pins (even safety pins would work for a novice.) Scissors. One little gesture: poke the needle in, poke the needle out.
You already have a sewing kit from a hotel somewhere. If you don’t, then I would say “What do you do with your shirts when the buttons fall off, you savage?” Give it a whirl. You have nothing to lose.
The reward is unbelievably great. Please try doing this. For me. And SEND ME PHOTOS!
Argument Three: I don’t have the time
I just don’t have the time to think about my wardrobe in the way you are asking me to, Lil. I don’t have the time to darn and mend and sew and have ideas.
I’ll grant you that. However, since I gave up shopping, I have found I have more time in my day. I don’t “drop in” to see what is on the sale rack at the thrift store anymore (challenge oblige). This saves me time and streamlines my errands.
Look, I have two young children out of school right now due to a new pandemic lockdown in France, am recording a podcast next to a purring cat, am trying to get a novel published, editing a second one and writing odes to sewing here on LFC. I do have some empathy about what it feels like to be busy.
Yes, I get up at four AM. I do that because I am wired that way. I do not sew at four AM, though. I slip in sewing and mending projects into the random pause moments of my day.
By stopping your shopping habit, you can have more time too (bonus points if you set your alarm for four AM.)
You should really stop shopping. Not because I tell you to, but because it will have an impact on you, and I dare dream, on the world, that neither of us can today imagine. An impact that goes beyond your goal…whether that goal is to save money or stop accumulating. It will do that, too.
But if you develop a plan, if you find yourself an accountability partner, if you reward yourself according to a dream you have, if you pick up a few new skills with materials you probably already have on hand, you will start filling your heart with something that will satisfy.
That’s what I want for you. I want you to find contentment. That will be your greatest gain.
In case you would like to read the whole “You should really stop shopping!” series, parts 1-6, here they are:
The Complete You should really stop shopping! Series from LFC
Part One: Living off the Land
Part Two: Why do you shop?
Part Three: Challenge and motivation
Part Four: Partners in crime, at least for a time
Part Five: Pain that feels good
Part Six: But I can’t sew and other objections. (You are here.)