Saturday, April 13, 2013

A New Pair of Shoes

I finally bought myself a new pair of shoes, since I've needed to for quite some time (years, even?). I've been disappointed by the cheap shoes I've bought the last couple of summers--loosing their shape after just a few weeks and falling apart shortly thereafter.  But even though I found a great quality shoe that I liked, and knew would last a long time, it was still difficult to swallow the $90 price tag.  I had birthday money from my mother-in-law, however, and decided to "splurge".

However, over spring break I gained a bit of a perspective change.   

For spring break we visited Historic Nauvoo, and learned all about life in 1840.  An interesting fact we learned was that a pair of shoes cost a person about one day's worth of earnings.

I've heard facts like that before, but for some reason it made me actually stop this time and literally compare it to my own situation with the "expensive" pair of shoes I'd just bought.  Jeremy isn't employed full time right now, but if he was employed full time, at his current rate of compensation, a $90 pair of shoes is a completely reasonable purchase according to the standards of the 1840's.

I've been learning a lot more the last few years about cheap clothing--how we have way too much of it as a nation, and how the price of clothing has actually dropped over the decades encouraging people to buy more and more, and how this has brought with it personal dissatisfaction, and other social, economic and environmental problems.

My friend Aleatha sews new clothes from "old" clothes she picks out at thrift stores-- she was the first one to introduce me to the fact that our country ships bales of all our old donated clothes off to "charity" to other countries where they often are turned away, because the poor countries already are swimming in an excess of American hand-me-downs!

It's hard to not buy cheap clothes when you feel like you don't have much of a budget for this basic necessity of life!  But I've been realizing that I definitely feel the burden of cheap clothes in my life, and that maybe my life would be better with fewer, better clothes.  It's frustrating to waste a limited budget buying things that fall apart or stretch out quickly and need to then be replaced.  I also have plenty of things in my closet I bought because it was a great deal--but it wasn't really what I wanted, or doesn't fit right.  I hang on to these things guiltily because I recognize the lack of social responsibility in throwing out something I've only worn once or twice, but of course hanging on to them makes no sense at all.

I have a major problem with clothes for my little boys too.  We live off of hand-me-downs for them.   We've received hand-me-downs sometimes from multiple sources at once.  I was never selective--I'd put it all in the drawer, because "beggar's can't be choosers" --right?  And, yes, there are 3 pairs of khaki corduroys, but one pair might wear out and we'll need a back up. . . and a back up for the back-up--right?.  At one point a few years ago I literally gave away half of our 2T clothes to a friend with a baby boy, and when Wyatt worked his way through the 2Ts last year, I couldn't tell that anything was missing. 

Our problem is that all these clothes take up space.  We have a big family and live in a small house.  We really don't have enough room for our closets and drawers to be filled with clothes we don't wear while the handful of things that we love go through the short cycle of body, to washing machine, to folding table, back to body, without ever even making it to the drawers!

If we only wear a few favorite pieces of clothing, then that's all we need in our house.  If they are well-made, they should last a long time, and when we need a replacement we can acquire it at that time.  I'm psyching myself up (see me?)  because it's time to purge.  I need to make room for the new baby, and there's no reason for me to hold on to things just because they are already here.

My goal would be to let these feelings of stress over getting rid of things make me think harder in the future about what new things we bring into our home.  And really, I hope that I can keep the perspective I've been developing (really in a lot of areas in my life) about not insisting that the cheapest option is, by default, the best.  I want things that are high-quality and last, that I don't have to replace after one season.

And based on those principles and the lesson I learned over spring break--I will now wear my shoes without any false sense of over-indulgence, but a sense of respect for quality, and responsibility to take the proper care of my shoes so that they will last me a good long while. 


Jen said...

Amen, amen, and amen.
(See also: just because something has a use, it doesn't mean you have to keep it. Too many useful things are sometimes still too many things.)

Jeanne said...

Jeanette - Have you read the book Overdressed: The High Cost of Fashion by Elizabeth Cline? It's at the Manhattan library. Anyway it has made me think a LOT about my extensive wardrobe and "stuff" in my house. BTW, those shoes are very cute and will serve you well!

Thora said...

Funny you write about this - I've been thinking about the exact same things. I've been borrowing a friend's pair of chaco sandals, trying them out, to see if I want to buy a pair (which she always gets on ebay used, but they still cost about $70.) I have a foot problem, so I have to wear well supporting shoes, and in the last couple of years this has changed my shoe philosophy to tons of cheap ones (27 pairs - all from thrift stores) to a few well made ones, because I can only wear certain shoes that I can use my prescription shoe insert in, or that are so well supported that I can wear without it. I've been having a hard time wanting to swallow the price tag of the Chaco sandals, but knowing that I'll probably never find another sandal that will support my foot properly, and that I'll have to spend another summer only wearing my keds, makes me almost ready to move forward. Plus Chaco has a lifetime guarantee of repairs - with no receipt required.
Also, with my husband in grad school, like yours, we get a lot of hand me downs, and although I've learned to do some discerning sorting, because otherwise it's out of control how much clothes my girls have, we still end up with too much, and all the extra makes extra mess and bother. I've been telling myself that not having money doesn't mean I need to hoard clothing for the "what ifs" of the future. (Also, it doesn't hurt that Aleatha is my sister-in-law, so she can inspire me too, in person :))
One positive thing about the hand-me-downs is that I'm amazed by how much better quality some clothing really is, that comes from nice brands. Like Hanna Anderson. Or some of the shoes that my kids get, that are still going strong when the cheap sandals I got them fell apart almost immediately. It reinforces that high quality really can make a difference in usage - as long as we do actually then use what we buy that's nice, of course :)

(By the way, partly in memory of your blog post about sausage stuffing, I was inspired, and my husband and I stuffed our first sausages today.) Anyway, sorry about the novel of a comment - you just touched on the exact thing I've been thinking about this week.

Jeanette said...

Thora, go for it! Get yourself the sandals--you won't regret it. But yes, it's really hard to look at the longer picture rather than the immediate price tag.

I hope your sausage turned out well, was delicious, and free of unnecessary additives:-)It's definitely a fun thing to try.


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