Sixteen years of Treehouse talk

Sixteen years of Treehouse talk

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Down to the Last Dollar (Last Come Unthrifting post for now)


In The Conscious Closet, Elizabeth L. Cline makes this statement: "The less we pay for something, the less we value it and the less likely we are to take care of it! If you're buying something on sale or low-priced, take a good look at it and ask yourself if you can find a way to value and care for this item anyway."

If that last sentence seems a little confusing (if you're still in the act of buying something, why would you be wondering already how you can care more about it?), Cline clarifies by giving the example of a clothing item she bought inexpensively that soon needed a repair. She might have junked it, since it didn't cost her much to start with, but she decided to mend it anyway, and then found she really liked it.

How useful or true is that idea? While I have, not infrequently, re-donated thrifted items after a very short ownership (clothes didn't fit, hated the book after one chapter, or realized I already had a copy), I do generally try to take as good care of inexpensive/thrifted clothes as I do of more expensive ones. Like washing them on Gentle and line-drying them, instead of ruining them in the dryer.

I don't think that really solves the problem of whether or not you should buy inexpensively-made new things (although that's a lot of what Cline's book is about); but it is a good way to perhaps look differently at those you already have, wherever they came from, or however much or little they cost.

Meet my extremely expensive designer infinity scarf.

It came from an exclusive boutique called Chez Dollarama.
What made me buy it in the first place? I loved the colour, and I don't currently have anything else in that openwork knit/crochet style. Would I have paid more money for it at a better store? Would I treasure it more if it came from a free-trade store? Or if I had found it at a thrift store, maybe with the store tags still on it, and it turned out to have been quite expensive?

Would I find it irritating to get more compliments on a cheap scarf than on a new one that I'd saved up for?

Does it make any difference that some of my thrifted clothes came from the full-price aisles, and some were  getting their last chance in the dollar corner? How about when something in the dollar corner turns out to have been misplaced there (you can tell by the tags), and it's really a whole five or six or ten dollars? When prices are already so low, and the money's going to a good cause, it seems ridiculous to care one way or the other; but I have seen thrifters make a fuss over items that they thought were priced a dollar or two too high.

Why did I find it upsetting to have a too-juicy takeout panzerotti leak all over my dryclean-only skirt on the drive home, even though the skirt was thrifted and I did manage to spot-clean it? Would I have cared that much if it hadn't had the fancy label inside it? (Note to self: bring a plastic bag along next trip. Or remember to wear jeans.)

Why am I still hanging on to the sequined Oleg Cassini top that didn't sell on Kijiji* and that's about as heavy to wear as a pair of gravity boots, even though I paid only three dollars for it? Maybe because I only paid three dollars for it.

These are all good questions, and I'm not sure of all the answers. I think one of them is found, though, in something else Elizabeth Cline wrote: "Clothes are not garbage." Yes, stuff is just stuff, and clothes are just clothes, and if a mountain of clothes (or a pile of toys, or a huge box of books) is weighing you down, yes, you should probably get rid of them without having to give each piece a goodbye hug. There are times we are just done with things. But on the preserving, caring end...sometimes it's worth pretending (to yourself, of course) that the dollar-store scarf came from an exclusive store, and the like-a-thousand-others chair is a mid-century treasure, and the thrifted candle bowl is a family heirloom, if it creates a larger sense of gratitude for the things we have been privileged to find in our hands.

Something to think about, anyway.

*I don't usually resell clothes (or attempt to), but I thought this disco top might have some resale value. Besides, it was close to Hallowe'en.

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