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Location: Northern California

Read all about the adventures of the Tsao Family during the summer of 2012

Sunday, March 12, 2006


Quitting the shopping habit

I've been bothered lately by this feeling I get about once or twice a week. It's a feeling of boredom accompanied by the burning desire to go shopping. When I feel this way, I think Is there anything that I need? The answer usually is no. I most often get the urge to shop for clothes, but one glance at the thirty plus pairs of pants in my closet confirms that I don't need more clothes. And yet, I seem to constantly be looking for that one really great pair of pants, that elusive pair of pants that will make my butt look both perky and small and will cause me to lose 15 pounds the minute I put them on. Ya, that pair. Elusive is right.

They call it retail therapy and at the rate I indulge in it, you'd think I was doing my therapist. So I was intrigued tonight while watching the CBS Evening News. They highlighted a group based in Northern California called The Compact. The group's name is meant to evoke the revolutionary spirit of the Mayflower Compact and their goal is to buy nothing new in 2006 except for food and certain exception items (prescription drugs, underwear, pajamas for kids.)

A quick web search brought up a bunch of information about this group. It turns out the original fifty members are in San Francisco and other cities in the Bay Area. They have a blog as well as a Yahoo Group that now has 608 members. As a group, they want to reduce clutter and simplify their lives.

The Compact was highlighted in the San Francisco Chronicle initially on February 13 of this year and again on February 17 after the press coverage put them "in the middle of an international furor over consumerism, ecology and middle-class hypocrisy." Apparently people get really pissed when you insinuate that our culture of consumerism is anything but 100% beneficial and necessary.

I am intrigued by the idea of no more buying new items. One reason why is because The Compact doesn't exclude the idea of shopping, just the idea of buying new. Therefore, you can thrift shop, trade, beg, borrow, and FreeCycle to your heart's content, you just can't go to Nordstrom and buy yet another pair of black boots or pants to line the shelves in your closet.

Amanda Kovattana: Closet Space has this take on why Americans shop 'til we drop:
" order to continue to be invited to this party of American abundance, one had to buy things continually. It was your patriotic duty as an American to uphold this dream of the good life by shopping and then admire each other's new duds at social gatherings."

I feel Amanda real hit my nail on the head with that remark. I often use the excuse of an event as a reason to buy a new outfit. Although I think I would get admiration from my peers even if I was wearing old clothes as long as they didn't have spit up on them. My crowd is easy to please; I'm the one obsessed with new jeans for every day of the week.

FiftyRX3 - Perusing the Crossroads of Style and Sustainability gives this practical advice:
"...the whole point of this exercise to raise your awareness about consumerism in general and maybe as an aside (as it is for me) its impact on the environment. Just actually thinking about your purchases is better than nothing. So maybe out of ten things, you buy one new, five reused and four environmentally or socially reponsible." has this straight up thought on The Compact and the fact that they find it okay to purchase their underwear new:
While I think what The Compact’s actions are admirable, I also think that, when it comes to the underwear thing, they’re a bunch of pussies. I have skivvies from 1999 that I wear all the time. If your ass is so delicate that you need to swap out your undies every year, then suck it up, buy some quality underwear, and be happy.

If I actually subscribed to The compact's beliefs and tried not buying anything new, the best time might be now, when my kids are little. I have a feeling that once they are old enough to realize that all of those things they see on TV are actually for purchase at Toys 'R Us, they may not feel so kindly to having to do all of their shopping at Goodwill. In the future, will pre-tween Emily be okay with no new clothes for the entire school year? I can hear the screaming and door slamming now. Perhaps I will join The Compact's Yahoo Group just to see how other families with children are coping as they approach the end of month three of their twelve-month journey.

And maybe I'll start my own little mini compact after my Mother's Weekend Away trip to Sonoma next weekend. I want to wait; I'm not sure my friends will be keen on the idea of shopping at Salvation Army instead of the outlet mall. Luckily, wine falls under the category of food (and even if it didn't, it's surely medicinal) so at least I don't have to worry about that purchase.

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