About Us

We don't actually advocate going without socks! We are two sisters with a common goal: 2011 is our year to step away from cultural messages that try to force us to define ourselves as consumers. To that end, we are committed to spend this year buying only what we need, and to buying used items whenever possible.

We decided to use this forum to document our experiences, share successes and challenges, and support each other in our efforts.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

For Your Viewing Discomfort

Dear Amy,

I don't think I talked you down from buying the throw pillows. I think I just asked if you really needed them, which guilted you out of buying them. This question has worked well for us at the thrift store in recent weeks. It makes us think about things, and yes, we too have often left the store with non-buyer's remorse. But rarely do I think back more than a few days and even remember what it was I wanted so badly at the time. Even more rarely do I find myself continuing to wish I had it. Once in a while I do, but a little wanting never hurt anyone.

At your suggestion I watched "No Impact Man," which gave me some things to think about. Since I was sick and didn't feel like getting up off the couch (unrelated to movie), I followed that movie up with "WalMart: The High Cost of Low Price." This gave me even more to think about. It might seem like these two movies don't have anything to do with each other, but I think they were a perfect combination. And here are a couple of my thoughts:
  1. We have got to become more aware of what we are spending our money on. Where does it come from? What is the cost of getting it to us--in human suffering, in environmental impact, (and of least importance) in dollars and cents? We choose to turn a blind eye, and I think that will come back to bite us.
  2. We must learn to do without if it means that others will be or have been hurt in order to get us what we want--that means strawberries out of season as well as the 99 cent sweatshirt.
  3. We can take a stand, even if it won't make a measurable difference. No one cares that I don't shop at WalMart, but I plant seeds when I tell people I don't. My weekly landfill contributions aren't going to destroy the environment compared to what I saw them throwing away every single day at the hospital when Mother was there, but it's something I can do, and the fact that I'm careful about what I throw away means I also plant seeds. When I tell people I compost, they ask questions. They think, maybe only for a second, but they think, about doing something differently. That's got to be of value.
And since I'm promoting media today, if you'd prefer to read, here's an interesting article on spending from a recent Newsweek issue.


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Define "need"

Dear Leslie,

A few days ago you experienced (via phone) my first big thrift store experience with me! I was thrilled with my purchase of 6 pairs of pants and 6 shirts for the kids which totaled $27. Not only did I love that receipt, but it was so much easier than I thought it would be. But while browsing, you stopped me from buying the really cute throw pillows ($4 each) that match my living room perfectly and would replace my shabby ones that Honey has been secretly removing the stuffing from because I didn't "need" them. I have to admit that I have regretted not buying those pillows. You, after all, got a cashmere sweater! Can't I have two throw pillows?

Sunday I heard this quote by President Monson, "Avoid the philosophy and excuse that yesterday’s luxuries have become today’s necessities. They aren’t necessities unless we ourselves make them such. " I think it's interesting that 150 years ago Thoreau had a similar idea in his book, Walden (on my list to read again this year). "Simplify, simplify. Instead of three meals a day, if it be necessary eat but one; instead of a hundred dishes, five; and reduce other things in proportion." If they could reduce 150 years ago, just think how many things we have today that aren't necessities.

I've been thinking a lot about defining need and I think I'd like to have a discussion about ways to know if we need something or not. Need can be a shifty thing, so it's helpful to me if I have criteria to base my decisions on. I also think that everyone has different things that they need. Obviously someone who has a career has to have a different wardrobe than I do. People who entertain in their homes for business purposes might need to have a different set up than we do. So the question is, what is sufficient for my needs? Here's some ideas of questions to ask myself and things to do before buying something.

1. If it's for my wardrobe:
  • First, figure out what clothes are sufficient for my needs. How many pants, skirts, etc. do I need to look presentable? Get rid of the excess.
  • Am I replacing an item that is worn out and beyond use or am I just adding another piece?
  • Do I really need to replace the worn out item?
  • Can I survive (literally) without it?
  • If I do really need it, make sure I find what I love, that it fits correctly and is something I will really wear.
  • Stay away from trendy fashions.

2. If it's for the home:
  • Is the item just for aesthetics or will greatly improve the functionality of our home?
  • Do I need the item to ensure that my home doesn't structurally deteriorate?
  • Can I cook for my family without it or does feeding them rely on the item?
  • Do we need it to stay warm?
  • Can I entertain guests in a simply furnished home? (Yes)
3. Can I borrow or rent the item if I'm not going to be using it regularly?

4. Wait and think about it before lumping it into the "need" category.

5. Make a list of needs before shopping. No purchasing unless the item is on the list.

6. Remember the actual definition of need: something you have to have in order to survive, vs. want: something you would like to have, it might be good, but not necessary for survival.

I'd like to hear your ideas about this! I think it will be much easier to have firm guidelines in place.


P.S. Thanks for talking me down. I didn't need those throw pillows.