Thursday, September 9, 2010


Round 1 of cleansing took place last night. In my sweep of one closet, I identified 20 items to give away (in addition to several items of an old boyfriend's, and 1 mysterious shirt that has been passed around in our family for the last 3 or 4 years, that nobody will claim.... But I'm not counting those).

As I was purging, I couldn't help but think of the countless articles I have read in fashion, home, and general interest magazines that advise getting rid of the old to make room for the new. This really began to bother me as I couldn't help but notice my thoughts evolving from "let it go, M-E. If you haven't worn it for the last three years, you're not going to start wearing it now," to "I know you love this color, but this top only looks okay on you, and if you give it away then you'll have room to find something similar that looks great!" (notice the hopeful lilt at the end there. I know; some of you think I'm nuts. But some of you know exactly what I'm talking about.) Anyway, about making room for the new: why, exactly, do we need the new? What's wrong with just making room for space itself? Space to breathe, to get out from under the clutter of our possessions, from the weight of what we buy.

Perhaps the students in this program, by nature, are a little less near-sighted, but I think that in general our society tends to overlook, or flat-out forget, how consumer-driven we are. Where we put our dollars says a lot about what our values are, and what we will and will not support. We tend to forget the power that comes with that (or we misuse it). Even with an understanding of that power, however, there are still conflicts. As an example: my sister is fiercely protective of animal rights, and refuses to buy any products from companies that, at any stage in the development or manufacture of any of their products, or by any parent/subsidiary companies, tests on animals. She protests their practices by withholding all support from any ventures. I am also against animal testing, and do my best to buy products that do not test on animals. However, if a company has one line of products that tests on animals, and another that doesn't, I don't boycott the company entirely. Instead, I buy only those products made in a way I support, and won't buy the others. I choose to show that I support what they are doing right, with the hope of encouraging that to spread to the rest of their line.

While my sister and I argue over this repeatedly, I don't believe that either of us is wrong. We each have a choice in how we will use our consumer power to drive manufacturer's decisions. The point is that we are aware of that power and choose to exercise it in deliberate and thoughtful ways. If every person in every shopping decision were taking the time to do the same, imagine the change we could affect in our world. I guess I'll just have to start here.

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