We are almost a full month into 2015. I can’t even believe that. I know I’m a few weeks late on the new year/new goals posts, but truthfully I wasn’t sure I was going to share this. And truthfully it’s something we started before the new year.My husband and I have made an official decision about 2015. It will be The Year Without As Much Stuff (yeah I’m working on a better title, currently taking submissions). The parameters of this goal are simple: anything we CAN buy used we do, and anything we CAN’T buy used we reevaluate the importance of and try to go without. The whys of this goal are less simple. Most people assume it’s about money, but that is not even remotely close to what it’s about.
Let me explain in a way most people (or at least women) I know will understand. Let’s start with Target. Now listen, I love Target. Like, deep in my bones, all the memes are true, I want to sleep there after hours love. L. O. V. E. So I’m heading to Target because the bakery there sells these really incredible shortbread cookies filled with dark chocolate. I can only get them at Target and I need almond milk anyway so I pack up the kids and head out. My three year old, Gabe, wants us to get the BIG cart but it’s a snowy yuck day and they’re all wet and I have nothing to wipe them down with so we have to settle for the regular sized cart and he is pouting as I set him in the basket end and his pouting pushes his sister, my one year old named Lula, into pouts as well. We aren’t two feet into the store when I realize this may not be worth it for the cookies. Conveniently most Targets have a Starbucks inside them and I’m pretty sure a sugary frothy warm cup of goodness is just what I need (that’s on the menu, just ask for it). As I’m standing there waiting to order my son see’s the chocolate milk and stops his pouting and angelically asks if he can have one, so I get him one because he did say please and chocolate milk is a once in a blue moon treat and I’m here for my once in a blue moon treat so why not. While we wait for my drink to be made I notice that the new line of cold cup tumblers are on display and the old new line of cold cup tumblers is on clearance for 20% off and $10 is a bargain for a cup that used to be $12 and as anyone who knows me can attest I am a sucker for a cold cup. It’s a weird obsession, I know.
Okay, now on to the cookies and the milk. And maybe just a quick peruse through the clearance clothes. I don’t need anything in particular at the moment but a bargain is a bargain and double plus bonus when a bargain is also cute! And sure enough, all their wintery delightful sweaters are somewhere between 30 and 70 percent off. I grab two. I love a good cardi.
And just for good measure I’m going to swing through the dollar spot, because, hello, everything is $1-$3! And look! Fuzzy winter socks, cute chalkboard stickers, washi tape and kids sunglasses! Man! Alright, I’m done, I swear, wait, baby clothes, NO! I’m done. Heading to the cashier now. Man, this was a really productive trip to Target, I think to myself as I pay for all my new awesomeness.
What exactly did I produce, you ask? Well, one sunny, cold, self-reflective morning I asked that too. And the answer? Waste. All kinds of it.
I want to stop here and say something really, really clearly. This post is not meant to shame anyone. I’m not interested in convincing anyone of anything. What I’m interested in is talking about how I felt after I had this epiphanous moment. So understand that anything I say from here on out is directed at me and not you, if it pricks at you, impacts you or challenges you, then truthfully I’m glad, but my intent here is to explain me, not condemn you.
There are a million reasons for me to change this behavior of buying more than I need in myself, to teach my children differently. But here my top two.
Kingdom mindedness - I crave a simple life, not small, but simple. Look at John the Baptist. The man ate bugs, he slept in the desert and wore the same clothes everyday. But his life was anything but small. Sometimes I think we mistake the number of options we have in any area of our lives for the size of the life that we’re living. The more clothes we have, the more gadgets we have, the more hip wall art or trendy accessories we gather, the more we start to see those things as some sort of announcement that we’re doing well, that we’re doing something big. I want to live a genuinely big life, a life where God is at the center of it, where my actions and thoughts and everything I do glorifies Him and contributes to His kingdom. And sometimes less options and more simplicity is more conducive to that. I never want to be blinded by how much I have and be fooled into complacency, to be deceived into thinking I’ve accomplished something. Warren Wiersbe talks about being Kingdom minded, and I don’t think it’s possible to be Kingdom minded if my life and home are cluttered with distractions of this earth. Please hear me say I am not against things. I love things. But I am against the over abundance of things. Think of it this way: if what I treasure is one earth than I am earth minded, I will over complicate my life and focus on the small facts of my temporal situation. But if what I treasure is in Heaven, then I will be Kingdom minded, I will focus on the eternal things and live a simple but big life.
19“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20“But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; 21for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. - Matthew 6:19-21
Social Responsibility - This is a big umbrella, and a lot falls under it. When I buy something I’m using my money to say that I approve of that company. When I spend money at a company I am saying I’m on board with how much or how little they monitor their supply chain, how they treat their workers, how their manufacturers and textile factories treat their workers, their company policies and their environmental impact. I’m not only supporting them I am supporting the companies they support in all of these categories as well, and so on and so on. That’s a lot of responsibility. But it doesn’t end there. After I’ve bought this something, say my hypothetical sweater from Target, and I’ve worn it a few times and it’s okay, but one day it doesn’t make it through the spring cleaning purge. Into the bag it goes to be donated to Goodwill or the Salvation Army. That’s not so bad, right? Except only 20% of the clothing donated to Goodwill makes it into stores. Annually the US exports over a billion pounds of used clothing, most of it heading to impoverished nations. Which also doesn’t sound so bad, right? Do you remember the old adage, give a man a fish and he eats for a day, teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime? The problem with flooding third world countries with cheap used clothing is the impact that it has on those local economies, and even their cultures. In her book Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion Elizabeth Cline examines the cultures of the areas where these used clothes end up and discusses the shifts in the economics and cultures there. The more affluent some of those areas become the less interested they are in our cast offs, meaning our solution to this problem is rapidly coming to a close, and the poorer some of those areas become, the bigger the problem our used clothes become for them to get out from underneath poverty. I can’t justify being part of this cycle.
17Learn to do good; Seek justice, Reprove the ruthless, Defend the orphan, Plead for the widow. - Isaiah 1:17
But are either of these better or worse than simply throwing away my used clothes, putting them in a landfill? I believe that this planet is the Lord’s, and that He has given us dominion over it, to steward it, not to destroy it. I believe that He cares deeply for this world He lovingly created and that how we treat it is a matter of honoring Him. I am not in the habit of destroying gifts that God puts in my care.
1The earth is the LORD’S, and all it contains - Psalm 24:1a
I know this has been long, and here is the end, I promise. After all this thought, and all this research, I approached my husband and shared my heart with him, and we made a commitment that for the next full year we would not buy anything new, that we would live in such a way that honored the gift of this planet, and that did not contribute to injustices visited on oppressed people. This is long road and this is first step, small and shaky, and it’s deeply, deeply personal. I am not condemning anyone or prescribing a lifestyle for anyone. I am simply sharing where my heart is, a commitment we’ve made, and the things that spurred us to that commitment.
(Image Source; image credit: Sarah Lazarovic)For more information on the book Overdressed click here.
To find out more about the companies you support click here.
If you’ve made it this far let me know in the comments and I will personally send you a little surprise as a thank you for reading my uberpost.