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Last weekend, K and I were de-cluttering our possessions, as usual, continuing our slow, constant progress towards living a life of less. It’s amazing to discover that you can keep going on this path for so long. While I am not adding much of anything at all back into my life, I am finding hidden, forgotten about gems constantly in the backs of closets, nooks of cabinets, underneath piles of more oft used stuff. I came downstairs for a quick swig of water after lightening my closet for what feels like the thousandth time, just as K was coming up the stairs, carrying her favorite purple North Face jacket (a similar one here). I must have seen K wear this jacket multiple times as one of her go-to pieces in her closet, so I was surprised when she extended her arm and offered the jacket to me. She voiced that she was ready to let it go, and she asked if I wanted her hand-me-down. I laughed because I had just de-cluttered my own closet upstairs and just finished contemplating how in the world I end up with so much stuff. Funnily, I did want to take the hand-me-down too, because I could use a more muted fleece jacket for the everyday, instead of my bright red one (see, minimalist doesn’t mean owning nothing, or deprivation!). Really though, I was hesitant that this was yet another thing that I would have to de-clutter in the future. But then I thought about it, and decided to hold on to the jacket, and I am glad I did!
If anything, I am prolonging the life of the article of clothing. K mentioned how she did not know where to donate the stuff she is constantly decluttering, and I have also come across this problem numerous times. The amount of clothes that are being removed from homes is extremely large, mostly thanks to the fast fashion industry which is bent on creating 52 seasons in one year. Companies that used to take and re-sell lightly used clothes are becoming more and more critical, and are accepting only a small percent of what comes through their doors, because there is just not enough room. Donations to other charities are also overflowing, and most are sent to third world countries for processing, where the overflow sometimes, ultimately, end up in landfill. A lot of people who don’t want to deal with the inconveniences of finding their old clothes a home simply send them straight to the landfill anyway. So K asked me to take it and I thought to myself, “keep it out of the landfill.”
I haven’t had a hand-me-down since my sister, Dee, and I started fitting into different sizes in college. Only a year apart, the first twenty years of our lives were constantly filled with, “Can I borrow this?” or “I’ll trade you this article of clothing for that!” It used to be such a fun game, frantically looking through my closet for a piece I knew she would want, whenever I wanted to borrow or have anything she had. We were very good about striking deals and bargains, and because of our system, our closets were technically twice the size. Sometimes, we would trade back the pieces we originally had, and it was like new. I was surprised to relearn all of this with the simple act of accepting K’s gift.
I have worn K’s jacket everyday this week, since she gave it to me. The jacket has brought me so much joy and excitement. It’s been a bit cloudy in the mornings (the sun has been slow in waking up this past week) and the office is always cold, so it’s proved useful despite the fact that it’s already June in California. Yesterday, Mike and I were at the beach watching the sunset, and I commented on how I have worn the jacket every day this week, as I was zipping it up to ward off the cooling temperatures. He responded with, “You’re excited to wear it because it’s new.” Which got me thinking. Sure, it isn’t brand new, but in my life, it IS new to me.
Research shows that we are not necessarily constantly searching for newness, but rather, novelty. Advertisement companies and social media understands this human need for novelty greatly, and they use it to their advantage. They sell products as novel experiences to the general population. Buy said product, find happiness. Buy this trip, find peace. Buy this workshop, find creativity. They package novelty as something you need to buy, and time and time again, I have proven that concept wrong through slow living. The truth of the matter is, “buying happiness” is a temporary fix, leaving people feeling empty, and wallets feeling emptier. Creating novel experiences is much easier, leaving people feeling fuller, because it did not come at a cost. Hand-me-downs are a great way to create this novelty. Accepting K’s jacket reminded me of a truth that Dee and I knew as children. Newness does not necessarily mean physical newness. It only requires a sense of newness to us. One day, I will write more about ways I create novel experiences in my life, without spending a penny, and how that is contributing to the observation that I live a happier life than some of my peers. But today, I just wanted to share this story, in hopes to maybe convince more people to creating a hand-me-down system among family and friends. Share, borrow, trade, it’s all fun. See how it makes you feel. Who knows. You may unlock a secret that only kids once knew.
For those interested in finding a place for their used clothes, why not support companies that have programs dedicated to repurposing used goods? Eileen Fisher has a Renew Program which accepts used EF clothes. Depending on the condition, they resell them, refurbish them, or break them down into scraps to make a one-of-a-kind. Nisolo has a Shoe Reclamation Program that accepts used shoes, creating a market for shoemakers in less fortunate communities who can then refurbish the soles and resell the “new” shoes to their communities in need.