My daughter and I have a small side business up-scaling thrift store clothing into folksy accessories and toys. In order to shop for supplies, we’ve learned a lot about the thrift store industry. If you’ve ever stepped inside Goodwill, you’ve witnessed the racks of castoff clothing. There are plenty of gems in there (and brand new unused fabric, I might add), but at the end of the day, not all of it sells. With the change of seasons, these stores pack up their leftovers into 1000-pound bales. You can literally buy 1000 pounds of clothing (no, we’ve never done this). Some of it is bought by large-scale up-cyclers. Some of it is shredded and used in industry. Some is shipped to developing countries. This is how those children scavenging garbage dumps outside of far-away cities come to be wearing t-shirts from Hard Rock Café.
There are times we need new things and times we just want to look pretty. I’m not advocating pure asceticism. In fact, I rely on consumers to purchase my products. I am advocating thoughtfulness, however. I am pondering what we’re really searching for in all our trips to Target and the mall. Even those who clothe their families primarily from thrift stores can often be seen filling their shopping carts with much more than they need.
A movement on the west coast (of course!) challenges people not to buy anything new for a year. “Use it up. Wear it out. Make it do. Or do without.” That’s their motto. (One that originated during the Great Depression.)
Abundance. Americans have it in 1000-pound bundles. I suspect every one of us has more than enough.