Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Changing Conspicuous Consumption

Conspicuous consumption of valuable goods is a means of reputability to the gentleman of leisure... In  order to be reputable it must be wasteful.
- Thorstein Veblen, The Theory of the Leisure Class (1902)

I finally started unpacking today.  I brought home not quite half of everything I owned in London; the rest of my belongings were either put in storage, donated to charity, or given to Jon.  I was proud of how I economized what I was able to ship or pack to take to DC with me.  "See," I thought, "I don't need all of these things that I've accumulated.  Life is about more than things."

And then I got to my childhood home and moved back into my old bedroom.  And, today, I started trying to unpack - but quickly realized I had a problem.  There was nowhere to put everything I brought back with me.  Even though I haven't lived in this house for two years, my closet and dresser were close to full with things that, clearly, I once thought I needed but that, equally clearly, I have survived without since 2010.

For the first hour of "unpacking," I tried to take stock.  I threw old shoes out of my closet into a pile on the floor.  I tossed old t-shirts out of my dresser onto another pile.  I dragged out jeans that haven't fit since college and I took dresses off hangers that are no longer appropriate for any situation I might find myself in.  I crumpled up bikinis that long ago lost their elastic and sweaters that have pilled from years of overwearing.  After an hour, I had to stop because I couldn't navigate around my room anymore - there was too much stuff covering the floor.

So then I threw a small and quiet tantrum, cursing my own materialistic greed and the culture that teaches us that more is good and new is better.  And then I decided to make a change.

First, I'm going to go through every piece of clothing I own and enforce a cull.  If it doesn't fit, it's being donated.  If it does fit but hasn't been worn in the past year, it's being donated.  If it's on its last legs, it's being trashed.  There is no reason for someone to have so many things that she doesn't actually use.

Second, I'm committing myself to not buying any new clothes, shoes, or jewelry until after Labor Day weekend.  If I want to shake things up sartorially, I should get creative with what I already have.  It'll be good for me to experiment with fresh combinations.

I'll still indulge in virtual window shopping, which means you'll still get your Frock Fridays, dear readers.  And I promise that I won't think any less of anyone who snags a cute new piece.  But I know that I need to make a change.  I need to think about what I'm buying and what I'm keeping and why, and I need to focus on the fact that it isn't all these things that will make me feel at home.  It's going to be hard at the start, but you know what?  I think it's going to be incredibly rewarding.  Because life is, really, about more than things.


  1. Awesome! I used to shop a lot but since I've been traveling (for nearly 3 years) I have really cut back incredibly and sometimes it's stressful because I want things so bad but in the end, not shopping suits my lifestyle a lot better. It's easier to pack up and move on to the next adventure. My weakness is kitchen things though which kind of are needed to help cook...this year I modified so many recipes so that I wouldn't need to go out and buy more kitchen things!

  2. What a good idea! I wish I could do that, but right now I hardly fit into anything I own. I really need to go through and evaluate what I have and what I actually need. Maybe I'll do that this weekend!

  3. I clean out often but always seem to accumulate more in its place. Student life has enforced a slow down but I fear it could return quiet easily.


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