Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Living the Good Life on My Own Terms

Part of living the good life to me is about financial empowerment. We are trained by marketers to believe we are 'treating ourselves' if we spend a high sum of money on an article of clothing or shoes, or even a haircut.

I once thought like that too. I've thankfully evolved to a point where I'd rather 'treat myself' to a sense of financial security, which includes saving to invest in a home and for children I hope to have one day, and having a sense of contentment of paying my bills in full without having to panic about what day exactly is payday.

Living with less has proven satisfying. It's fun and creative to find ways I can extend pieces in my closet throughout the year, such as wearing a long-sleeved shirt in the fall under a cute top I might wear in the summer. I am no longer impressed by women in my office who wear a different outfit almost every day of the month, and envy the women who can reinvent one dress into several different looks.

"We don't have to have more in order to be more," wisely observes Debra Ollivier in Entre Nous: A Woman's Guide to Finding Her Inner French Girl. Well-put!

Moreover, she tells us the French girl "does not confuse commerce with culture and the narrative in her life does not come from what she buys or sees on TV." We are inundated with images of a high-priced version of the vegan good life on many eco-sites hawking various products. But aren't $200 vegan shoes, $500 vegan coats, and $150 bamboo dresses a bit out of touch in a recession? This is just inaccessible to the masses. And how eco-friendly are some of these fabrics being touted anyway? There's some debate about how green bamboo fabric is.

What's wrong with using something you already own, even if it's non-vegan? I did donate some non-vegan items in my wardrobe when I first made the switch to veganism, but still have a few things I still use. And why not? If someone called me on it, I'd tell them the truth. I abhor waste, both environmental and financial, and will make more informed decisions next time. My life is not a glossy ad campaign.

I once spent $55 on haircuts at a local salon. I now spend $15 at Supercuts (skipping the shampoo and styling to save money). Goodbye $500-a-year gym membership. I now walk on the sidewalk or local high school track and use my pilates mat and lightweights, all for free. Thrift store shopping is now my primary source when I do shop for something, but even more frugal: clothing swaps.

Even the head of my company is a swapper! They have such a large extended family, that the kids exchange clothes, and he's barely had to buy anything. As Rachael Ray would say, "how cool is that!?"

I, along with two budget-savvy, waste-hating friends and co-workers held another clothing swap. We offered treats from budget-friendly Trader Joe's, including strawberry lemonade, olive hummus with pita crackers, and maple cookies. Thank you, reception desk flowers!

Among other items, I donated my adorable vintage-inspired pink Betsy Johnson dress, which no longer fits (darn you, soy ice cream!) It found a very grateful new owner.

Lace-trimmed, stylish H&M top: $0. Purple cotton Limited shirt, perfect for the office: $0. The satisfaction of acquiring clothes for no money, giving my unwanted items a second life, and using things already-produced instead of buying high priced 'eco-fashion': priceless. No bill will arrive in 2-4 weeks, either.

No it wasn't all vegan, but many of these items, sitting in people's closets unused, got a new home, including a very pricey Coach bag.

Most of the leftovers went to the This-N-That Thrift Shop, on 309 Broadway, Hillsdale, NJ. This shop donates to various charities, and we chose to have our items marked to benefit Shelter Our Sisters, an organization that services victims of domestic abuse.

The shop is holding a bag sale in late August (fill an entire brown shopping bag for just $8). When it's time to switch seasons, they'll donate what is unsold to a church in Paterson. Those unemployed (far too many in this economy) can go in a get an outfit for free with proof of unemployment. I believe shops like this, that provide such a wonderful service to the community, should be in every town.

Fashionistas everywhere are going green, and saving green, by swapping clothes, shoes and bags. Take a look...


Check out the full story.

1 comment:

Chessbuff said...

Thoreau's Walden Pond comes to mind. His two-year experiment in frugal and virtuous living is a testament in how much less we can have and still have a good life.