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.