What Do You Already Have?

“Buy what you don’t have yet, or what you really want, which can be mixed with what you already own. Buy only because something excites you, not just for the simple act of shopping.”
― Karl Lagerfeld

This weekend and next week I am going to do a wardrobe review of my closest with an aim of putting together that lookbook project I have for myself. Why? Because–not to brag–I have great clothes and I want to use them better than I do. It’s taken me years to do it, but I’ve put together a wardrobe with which I know I am happy and that serves almost all of my needs. It was a purposeful project too, I didn’t sling money around willy nilly. Over time I found the styles that I liked and suppliers who provided clothing I found attractive in ethical ways. I put together lists of gaps in my wardrobe and filled them a piece at a time. I bought from second hand or consignment shops, eschewed fast fashion, invested in quality brands and well made products.

I am on record as being content with my wardrobe where it’s at for right now. I am not looking to buy the next furniture pieces for our apartment for months. I don’t want any household goods at the moment. I’ve cut myself off from frivolous spending for months.

So, why am I still subscribed to a seeming infinite amount of mailing lists?

Since Christmas I’ve been unsubscribing left and right from suppliers who seem to bombard my inbox daily with discount codes, offers of gifts with purchase and, in more than one sneaky emotional attempt at my wallet. “We miss you! Come back and check out our store.”

Consumerism, you are not subtle!

 photo StockSnap_GKVKU140ID_zpshrqa4uza.jpg
image via StockSnap

It got me thinking though, about all the ways we are surrounded by messages telling us to spend to buy more. It’s constant. From window displays to pop up ads, even arrangements of goods and signage at grocery stores, it is everywhere and a lot of it is subliminal or emotionally based. Trust me, I work in marketing! There are companies spending huge amount of time and resources to get us to spend our time and resources on consuming their products and come back regularly for more.

And I know I’ve been suckered by these kinds of messages more than once. I’ve bought the 2 for 1 deal on groceries and ended up throwing out food that I didn’t manage to cook fast enough. At this moment, I have multiple bottles of the same spice in my cupboard because at some point another I was either too busy (or more likely lazy) to double check if I already had it before putting it on a shopping list. I’ve been lured by the siren song of discounts. Hence my desire to eliminate as much advertising as possible from my life, as part of this conscious attempt to shift in my money mindset and exert a bit more effort in planning out my spending in advance.

Not only that but these days it’s frighteningly easy to spend money. I’ve mentioned in the comments section before that one of the inspirations for this project was a day where between a trip the dentist, dry cleaning, and groceries, I dropped over £100 in a single afternoon. I didn’t even have to leave my neighborhood to accomplish this. Almost everything in Western consumerist culture is built around the idea of eliminating a customer’s reason to say “no.” As a result, products are cheaper and more quickly to hand than ever before. In some cases this is great–I for one like regular and affordable dental care! But in many, many others, it’s bad for us.

If you are buying fast fashion, especially as a woman, you are buying crap. That stuff is practically designed to fall apart the first time you wash it, requiring you to make another trip to the shop and drop some more coin on a replacement that was probably produced by low wage labor at tremendous environmental cost. If you are buying cheap and processed food, you are again buying crap. It’s enjoyable as hell, yes, but it’s not providing you a quarter of the nutrition you need and very likely contributing to any of the vitamin deficiencies and physical ills that affect our society. 9 times out of 10, if you are buying a branded product for your home, a chunk of your spend is for the name of the item rather than any intrinsic material value.

Now, I’m wholly not opposed to some of these as tradeoffs. We might have bought our sofa on sale, but we still bought it from West Elm. I’m just as guilty as anybody of being susceptible to style or brand cache.

But in my day to day life? I know intellectually that in many areas I have all I need for right now. Hence my decisions to be aggressive about monitoring and clamping down on my less-conscious money decisions. Eliminating emails beckoning me to buy things I don’t need was one step. Putting together a lookbook documenting my wardrobe is another, and I’m also in the midst of a kitchen audit to keep a better stock of my food basics so I can use ingredients I already have to hand in cooking. It’s small potatoes, maybe, but I want to be very conscious and more intentional about knowing and using what I already have.

How about you guys? What do you already have that you could use better, more often or more intelligently? Have you ever tried specifically to reduce your waste or consumption? Are you susceptible to any particular temptations and, if so, how have you staved them off? And have you ever gone on a massive unsubscribe spree? 

5 thoughts on “What Do You Already Have?”

  1. Waves fist in solidarity! 🙂

    All of this.

    The primary rule is to buy very little but always the very best quality imaginable — that means going into places that are less familiar and that never advertise, like…flea markets, antique shops, consignment shops, thrift shops and, yes, even auctions. Take a loupe and a measuring tape. Know exactly what you need and its dimensions and colors (hello, keep photos on your phone!)

    Our home looks like a million bucks and very little of what we own was bought full-price (a sofa, now a decade + old and still looking great from Pottery Barn), 2 armoires and 2 chests of drawers. One of the chests of drawers was $650 at a regional auction house; delivered to our home, it was still less $$$ than something new, made in China. One of the armoires, delivered from the same auction house (I saw a thumbnail photo and bid by phone) was about $1,500 — still cheaper than a name brand on sale — and it’s gorgeous and possibly 18th century. 🙂 Our living room rug was $100, bought in Toronto in the mid 1980s (but a great quality kilim.)

    If you are unwilling to devote some time and energy to studying your habits and learning what well-made clothing and products really feel and look like, you’re screwed and will be forever a broke sucker. One of the best things I ever did was to study antiques seriously and attend a lot of auctions. I know immediately the difference between 20th c junk — and 19th or 18th century OMG!!!! the real thing, often priced too low because no one else in the room knows or wants it.

    I’m also a dab hand with a can of paint, which can transform many drab items — like my current bedside lamp (which was — ugh — pink and green as found) and now creamy white with a very good new cream silk shade. Done!

  2. Yes! I’m so tired of throwing out my clothes so often. One place I’ve found that I love to buy clothes from is Next. They are much better quality than somewhere like H&M, and a little more grown-up. They also have online sales a few times a year and I get amazing deals on good quality, pretty clothes.

  3. I absolutely agree with your post. I am currently moving out of my apartment and that’s when I really see how much unnecessary stuff I really have, specially unused clothes and barely used cosmetics. I don’t want to be one of those people who owns all these things. I would actually love to be a minimalist. However I love fashion and doing fashion shoots so it’s hard to find combine these two passions

    1. I hear you on the conflict, style and beauty are my favorite vices! But I like the challenge of trying to do different looks with what I already own. Sometimes I’m better than others 😉

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