Two steps back, two steps forward…

Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious and adding the meaningful. ~John Maeda, The Laws of Simplicity: Design, Technology, Business, Life

I bought my mom a pair of Toms for her birthday, right after Christmas. I had sent an email out to the family before the holidays, saying that I would be donating to charity in lieu of gifts (except for the kids…I am not yet willing to be the evil aunt just to maintain my minimalist “cred”). But these were perfect for her – fuzzy, soft, and red, with small white polka-dots. They were fun, just like she is, and too perfect to pass up.

Naturally, I’ve been admiring them every time I see her. I would never buy anything for my mom that I wouldn’t wear myself, and I remembered how comfy they were when I tried them on in the store. I began to have the familiar feeling of rationalizing the purchase of a pair for myself.

My office is in Boston’s Financial District, just steps away from Downtown Crossing – a shopper’s paradise. On my lunch break, I escaped to one of my favorite stores, City Sports. They have a good selection of Toms, and I found a nice Army-green pair that I knew I could wear with almost everything in my closet. I tried them on, and they were exactly as cozy as I had remembered. Toms donates a pair of shoes to a needy child for every pair they sell, which further justified my purchase.

I walked toward the register with my Toms, and ran right into a display of Reef shoes. Hanging next to the flip-flops were a gorgeous pair of flats, covered in a beautiful, rainbow-striped cotton canvas. I stopped to inspect the tag attached to the heel, and was intrigued by what I read. The shoes were made through a collaboration with Nest, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to work with master artisans around the globe, “alleviating poverty, empowering women, and promoting peace.” The fabric was woven by a women’s cooperative in Guatemala that was formed as a result of the civil war in the 1980s, when many of the men were killed, and their widows had to find a way to earn a living.

Long story short, I now have two new pairs of shoes. One might call this a “relapse”, and I do feel a significant amount of guilt for having spent money that I had intended to use for other purposes. But I am determined to continue decreasing my total number of possessions, and so I immediately parted with two pairs of shoes to make up the difference. I also filled a large box with decor and other items that will be heading to our nearby charity thrift shop.

This has made me think a bit more about being a “conscious consumer”…if I do feel the need to go out and buy something, I should at least be seeking out sustainable, earth-friendly, and charitable options like these. Being a bit of a compulsive shopper, I know that I am going to have setbacks like this occasionally, but at least I can be more mindful about where my money is going.

Imelda’s revenge…

The secret of happiness, you see, is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less. ~Socrates

I promised myself last week that I would take a day this weekend to assess my shoe collection, and get rid of as many pairs as possible, no matter how long it took. I can’t remember when my dad started calling me “Imelda” (after Imelda Marcos, the notorious shoe hoarder), but it was a well-deserved jab. Shoes have always been a weakness of mine, and I knew this would be quite the task.

So, I spent a good 4-5 hours of my Saturday with 50 of my oldest, dearest friends, and managed to give about 15 pairs their walking papers. I should mention that I donated at least a dozen pairs prior to moving into the new place a couple weeks ago, so cutting even deeper into the collection was a painful process.

Ducks in a row

Breaking up is hard to do…

I lined them all up so I could see every pair at once, and tried to put similar pairs together to make any “overlap” more obvious, figuring this would make faster work of the initial rejections. I saw right away that I had two pairs of red patent-leather flats with bows, so I plucked the less-loved pair out immediately. I was able to part with another 6 pairs rather quickly, simply because they had been worn into the ground or had been used as a scratching post by my leather-loving kitty, Pixie (my favorite cowboy boots – noooo!).

The rest of the task was painfully slow-going. I decided that it made sense to try every pair on to make sure they fit well, and also to ensure I owned something that I could wear them with. This resulted in an unintended purge of a number of pants, as I had to try all of those on as well and realized that quite a few of them no longer fit me. I even discarded a few tops, since I ended up putting together entire outfits to be certain I didn’t have any items in my closet that had survived this long only because they looked good on the hanger.

It was the best kind of ripple effect, and by the time I was finished, I’d filled a few large shopping bags full of clothes and shoes. I can now fit all of my shoes on a rack on the floor of my closet, and I placed my boots in a row behind it. Being able to see them all simultaneously when I open my closet will make my daily outfit selection process much smoother. I have some shoes that are practically brand-new that I’d nearly forgotten about – it was almost as good as going out and buying new ones!

My project for the next few days will be to attack all of the random containers – plastic totes, bags, and an assortment of boxes – that I have been stashing junk in for years without giving it a second thought. While I now have plenty of room for these things, I am fairly certain that I will be able to dispose of a vast majority of the contents of these containers, and will have that much less junk in my life. Hooray!