It struck me a few years back that living a more sustainable life involves lots of “re” words. The most obvious ones are “reduce, re-use, and recycle,” the mantra of many environmental movements, and they are very good words to live by indeed. Like many other people, I try to reduce my consumption and my trash by re-using, re-purposing and recycling as much as possible. Many of my clothes are from thrift shops, recycled clothing boutiques and yard sales, and of course my Daily Giveaway is an attempt to reduce the stuff in my life. However, it is clear to me that these “re” words alone are not enough if I want to win my battle against the compulsion to consume is so pervasive in our society. It’s all very well to recycle and give items away, but I will never be free from the burden of stuff if I can’t resist the temptation to buy things I don’t really need. Resisting is often, in fact, the hardest of all the “re” words to practice. And I have a particular problem resisting buying things when they are cheap.
So, today, I put myself to the test and dragged my husband David and son Theo to a new Goodwill Center that just opened up in our neighborhood, in part to find out more about it, but also to give away a bag of clothing. With a bag stuffed full of clothes from all three of us, we set off for the Goodwill Southern California Community Center about a mile from our house. The place was remarkable – a large campus that not only had a regular Goodwill retail store but also an outlet center that sells clothing by the pound, a career resource center, a veteran employment program and a café which supports Goodwill’s culinary training program and provides employment services for people with disabilities. It even had mural-sized paintings by a local Chicano artist on its walls. Thoroughly impressed by this new approach to charity and community service, we gave in our bag to the donation center and headed into the store.
This was my test. We had given away about 15 items. Would I be able to leave the store without messing up my giveaway? I managed to make it through the household goods section without being tempted to buy any nicknacks, and I managed to resist picking up any clothes, but at the book and DVD section I ran into trouble. At one point I was carrying around several books and some great DVDs. It wasn’t looking good. Then I realized the National Geographic animal DVDs were in Chinese so put them back right away. Then I asked myself if I really needed a Tolkein trivia book and another Japanese cookbook. Back they went too. Lightening my load to one Salman Rushdie novel and one DVD, I made my way to the checkout, only to be tempted at the last minute by a blue-and-white porcelain dish, which would look so nice with the tiles in our house. I may have only bought three items and only spent $10.48, but this is how stuff happens. This is why I need the Daily Giveaway. Still, it could have been worse; we did give away 15 items and only brought home 3. Maybe this time last year before I started this blog, I would have found it much harder to resist.