Air-conditioned, music piped in. Mall parking lot full of cars. Everybody trying to keep up with the Joneses by buying what the Joneses already bought. There are more clothes in this world than are needed to dress everyone– and the nice easy way to allow yourself a guilt-free romp at the mall is to bag it all up, and drop it off, especially in the time of emergency.
You have dutifully emptied out your closet of last years style, of things that look awful on you, that are too small, that don’t “bring you joy” in the current KonMari vernacular, into plastic bags you drop off at the donation center of your choice, for the “Disaster Du Jour” drive.
It’s all about making YOU feel good. Honorable. Virtuous. What you’ve bagged and dropped off after a disaster shows no bearing on real need and use… (Winter jackets? Sent to South Carolina or South Africa? Almost expired cans and boxes of food that you bought a year ago and NEVER found a day where it seemed like a good addition to your dinner menu?) AND you get to go shopping again for yourself, to replace those goods you dropped off!! Win/win! Capitalism will continue to thrive!
Donating commodities, or hand-made pillowcases; that makes you feel good while you get to do what you want and shop again! Buy more yarn! New jeans for everyone! Why do you do it that way, rather than just ponying up 20 bucks to slip into the Red Cross box? Is it the same superiority of virtue that you feel when you see a beggar on the street? YOU know better than they do about what they require? You know HOW they should live? You take away free agency from them by handing them what you THINK they need/deserve– (a paper bag from McDonalds?) Giving them 10 bucks means in your mind they’re going to drink it away, but you feel so superior giving them a hamburger– that you are more evolved, more correct? How can you make determinations as to what they actually need? They may use the 10 bucks so they could go buy some object or experience they know they need (I don’t want to assume what they want– maybe a toothbrush, maybe a can of cat food for their furry companion, maybe a new shopping bag… Who are you to decide they can’t buy a new pair of socks? How many $1 menu burgers should a homeless person accept a day?)
Paying it forward in a local restaurant near where they hang out would be a better deal. They can come in out of the cold, use the restroom like a paying patron and have a meal they choose, served to them like a human.
“Do-good-ism” and superiority go hand-in-hand. You feel that Red Cross, for example, uses too much of its money in a non-correct (to you) fashion and so therefore you’re going to send them your old sheets and towels instead of money– or you are going to really show them by sending that all to Salvation Army instead. You don’t want to shop at Goodwill because they don’t pay some staff “properly” . However, you are willing to shop at Walmart for clothing that is made in Bangladesh (by people who are not paid properly either), whose CEO’s make the Goodwill issues look quaint, and whose store employees are paid so little they are a large drain on your own local, state and federal government social programs. Hey, you gotta save a buck when you can, right?
You won’t eat at X or buy from Y and boycott Z because of this or that and the other, and yet…..You don’t shop at Salvation Army because of their religious bent, but you spend hours roaming Hobby Lobby. You do have to suffer through Christian revival music in ReGenisis thrift stores, but have you LISTENED to some of the lyrics coming out of the speakers at your local XYZ?? We make these decisions of where to shop on determinations of what is “correct” and what should be boycotted based on our own very narrow view of “what is right”. Pete Buttigieg said of Chik-Fil-A, “I do not approve of their politics, but I kind of approve of their chicken,” If EVERYONE is boycotting SOMETHING, it’s somewhat a wash, right?
Why are you willing, even EAGER to fork over your old belongings and yet so stingy with cash? Are you intimating that these folks are incapable of making good choices on their own? Do you feel ownership over their behavior because you gave them cash? You can continue to look down on them because of your superior circumstance? You give them your clothes, not your standards of living. You are silently saying you know better than them. Or do you simply want an excuse to go shop? (Hail, Capitalism!)
Quilters or knitters busily make pillowcase and quilts and afghans-NOT because the newly homeless due to disaster or as yet “unsaved” in some foreign country need or don’t need such things, but because it makes them feel good and virtuous. They give away that $30 of fabric (bought it 5 years ago and never could figure out what to make) They spend three to thirty hours of “effort”, doing something they enjoy doing anyway. (please, I don’t mean EVERYONE. I am using the “Royal You”… ) and ship it off overseas….
I do enjoy thrifting.. the odd aisles, the lack of rubber-stamp corporate decor and layout, the non-organized hangers, the digging about on shelves, and the excitement of locating something unique, something old–something that is a memory trigger. Ask me and I will most likely inform you that 75% of any outfit (NEVER shoes or undergarments) I am wearing is from a thrift store. I like that I choose what I like, that I am not looking like every other person every day. I don’t aim for far-out or vintage vibes, although I do admire those who pull it off. I just can’t think of anything better than letting someone else take a stiff new pair of jeans and turn them into something relaxed and comfortable. for me to wear. I enjoy the hunt, the search for that elusive something that others set free. It’s not as easy as breezing through Target and finding all my sizes right there. It isn’t the place to go if you KNOW you NEED a purple short sleeve sweater and nothing else will do… (but if purple short sleeve sweaters aren’t the style this year, you may be out of luck at Macy’s, too.)
I read once that every piece of clothing uses on average 7 gallons of water to be made. That is a pretty shocking thought. The clothes I am purchasing second-hand are obviously not stopping that, but it doesn’t hurt to do my small part to save the planet, either. If you shopped even some of the time at a local thrift store, their back rooms wouldn’t look like this… and yet if you stop shopping at your Kohls or Target or or or… then the local economy falters and the person who has a part time job at Walmart loses their precarious foothold in the work world…
We really HAVE jacked things up, haven’t we??
We spend our weekends hunting through yard sales and flea markets and estate sales while our homes are FULL. (and our credit cards fuller) We are looking for what? That item that makes it to Antique Roadshow and brings in the big bucks? That unicorn of an item we didn’t know we couldn’t do without until we saw it sitting there, shoved to the back of the shelf, our hunter-gatherer DNA popping to the surface.
We buy another coffee mug with a cute saying (guilty as charged over here) while we know we have more mugs than ever make it into rotation, and STILL use the big green one every morning.
My pots and pans are copper-bottom Revere Ware from my grandmothers home. over 50 years old. I love them and will never willingly get rid of them. Yet still, Kohls puts up the shiny display that I stop to admire. I know my cabinets can’t accommodate another item, AND yet. (I do resist the temptation here!) If I were to spot a piece at thrift store, it would probably come home with me.
We are not a nation that is willing to do without…But we are also not a nation that feels we should be cognizant of any type of “WHAT ARE WE DOING?” either.
Just some thoughts on a hot summers day.
Two very interesting articles. IN KIND DONATIONS