A question from choire:
I've been thinking about your project for days now, and about "experiences" versus "consumables," which is an interesting distinction, and also about self-care. Because I'm a privileged person, I buy decent food, when and where I want, and, similarly, I pay for experiences and self-care sometimes. (Massage, for instance, when I throw out my back.) And somewhere in the middle: MANI-PEDI. The thing is: yeah, I can cut my own nails, sure. But I can't do what they do. What's your verdict?
Hmmm…this is interesting because “consumables” sits between “experiences” and “material stuff” in my mind. Or does it? Maybe there is no distinction. A mani-pedi is a consumable, but it’s also an experience. Going out to dinner is a consumable, but also an experience. Now you’ve confused me, Choire!
Let’s make it clear: weekly indulgent grooming behaviors are definitely not permitted. (That’s easy for me to say because I don’t ever do that kind of thing.) My gut says once in a while, a mani-pedi is acceptable. And bimonthly waxing is absolutely OK. This is not the year of turning into a hairy cavewoman. Thanks for asking.
Upon hearing about this project, my friend @finn sent me a link to Bruce Sterling’s The Last Viridian Note. There’s a lot in there that resonates, especially his definition of sustainability: “So basically, the sustainable is about time – time and space. You need to re-think your relationship to material possessions in terms of things that occupy your time.” One thing I’ve found freeing already is how much extra time I seem to have because I’m not shopping, or needing to shop. Granted I also haven’t bought groceries in a month because my husband’s been doing that!
Since we moved into our current home nearly three years ago, I’ve been a fairly disciplined purger, going through our belongings and giving away what we no longer need or use. Sterling’s observation of stuff inspires me further:
[O]bjects can damage you personally. The hours you waste stumbling over your piled debris, picking, washing, storing, re-storing, those are hours and spaces that you will never get back in a mortal lifetime. Basically, you have to curate these goods: heat them, cool them, protect them from humidity and vermin. Every moment you devote to them is lost to your children, your friends, your society, yourself.
It’s not bad to own fine things that you like. What you need are things that you GENUINELY like. Things that you cherish, that enhance your existence in the world. The rest is dross.
Do not “economize.” Please. That is not the point. The economy is clearly insane…So “economization” is not your friend. Cheapness can be value-less. Voluntary simplicity is, furthermore, boring. Less can become too much work.
I’m sensing a process of curating my goods lies somewhere in this project. The challenge is keeping stuff I genuinely like and use while acknowledging the fear of needing something unbuyable in the future. How to balance a kind of “hoarding so I can make do” — I kept three sweaters I don’t wear, rather than donate, because I think I may patch/mend/craft with them — with the probable reality that I still have enough.
Part of this project involves removing temptations, or as I’m beginning to think of it, putting on the horse blinders. I stupidly walked through Anthropologie on my way to get some groceries (windy and it’s a shortcut habit…) this morning. So many cute shirts and dresses! Now resolved: No more walking through stores. Also I’m unsubscribing from emails that arrive with siren songs of beautiful art and products (sorry 20x200, Kaufmann Mercantile).
And a big one for me: I’m unsubscribing from Martha Stewart Living. I’ve subscribed since 1996 but over the years, the magazine has changed from lots of great craft and DIY ideas to “this is what you should buy,” with most recommended products coming from the Martha Stewart Collection.
January 2012 pushed me over the edge, with an article about Martha’s new homekeeping room that, “makes everyday tasks easier.” She has more packing materials than the Mailboxes Etc. around the corner from my house, and more cleaning supplies than most delis in my neighborhood. The constant celebration of excess by the magazine — must we all aspire to twelve kinds of twine? — is more than I can stand. Goodbye Martha. And goodbye to your collection of late-19th-century yellowware mixing bowls.
Hi and welcome, if you’re coming for the first time to find out what this crazy project is all about. Most of your questions can be answered by the information to your right. Read the few posts I’ve made. Poke around and see what’s behind this idea. Come back again and again and watch as I sew clothes from curtains and patch jeans and who knows what else throughout the year. Just please don’t tell me this is impossible. That’s not a word I like to hear.
Back in New York City, walking around, I’m more aware than ever of the amount of stuff in my face. Ads for handbags, for clothes, for lipsticks. Windows of stores filled with every kind of possible thing, every where I look. It’s easier to not want things when you’re not exposed to them daily, as I wasn’t in Vermont or Idaho. But I’m realizing this pernicious advertising that permeates my environment will make this project all the more challenging. That which I don’t buy makes me stronger, right?
As mentioned, I spent the last couple of weeks on the west slope of the Teton Range, backcountry skiing and camping. I had an amazing time but…it turns out that my theory of having everything I need, or being able to make do, doesn’t account for any future backcountry expeditions. I kind of hate to break my rules so soon into this project, but the fact is: I love being in the backcountry and I want to do everything in my power to get back out there, as soon as possible.
So I bought a few things already (that I’ve put on my spreadsheet that I created to track everything bought in 2012) to keep my backcountry dream alive. I didn’t buy a -30°F rated sleeping bag, or an avalanche probe or shovel or transceiver, or a stove (yet!) but if I get the chance to go back out into the woods for a few days, I’m reserving the right to buy some things to do so.
On one hand I’m kind of bummed I’ve “failed” already. On the other it’s hard to give up the ability to do something I love simply because I didn’t already own the stuff to do it. I consider this my “NOLS Backcountry Exception Rule”. I’m pretty sure I won’t have to come up with any more exceptions. I guess we’ll see.
Time is running out for buying things in 2011. On Tuesday evening I head to Idaho for nearly two weeks in the woods, backcountry skiing and camping. I don’t anticipate much shopping during that time. None actually. Four days to go. I haven’t been thinking about it too much, and nothing I really need has come to mind, so I’m foolishly going to say I’m all set and ready for 2012. The real question is: how long before I realize what I should have bought when I had the chance!
I always thought this was an old Yankee saying, but I found this World War II propaganda poster. Seems to have been a common Depression-era philosophy all over the United States. That said, I doubt I’ll patch my trousers while mowing the lawn, since I’m the mower and the mender in the family! And isn’t that a bit awkward?!
When you make your own clothes, including socks, it’s much easier to mend something rather than make a new one. When you own cheap H&M socks like I do, I’m not so sure. But I’ll find out, because inevitably this year my socks will wear out and I’ll need some new ones. Or I’ll have to fix the ones I have. Sure I could call “wear it out” and buy some more, but I like the idea of learning how to darn a sock. I doubt my darning will be this lovely, but it’s nice to keep in mind.
A question from hello:
What about computers? When is a laptop really "worn out"?
When it stops working? Hard drive fails? Screen breaks? I think I can “make do” with my current laptop (MacBook Pro, late ‘09) and my iPad 1/wireless keyboard, and iPhone 4S. That seems sufficient!