The Clothes of Our Lives

Happy Valentine’s Day to all the lovers out there, myself and my husband included. This year for Valentine’s Day, I treated myself to an hour of cleaning out my clothes closet, deciding on things I could let go. There was a lot. When I was in my 20’s and living on the East Side of Providence, I would go to people’s yard sales up on Benefit street, and women would be selling their practically new Liz Claiborne blazers for $1, and I used to be amazed. I went to a lot of sidewalk sales in New York in the preceding years, and it seemed in Providence the sales were much better.

After I’d come home with my booty and try it on, I remember pondering about who these women were who could afford to give away their clothes for nothing. Well, now I know who they are: I’m one of them.

My father (bless his heart and soul), who could be rather cynical in his world views, used to say that we are a throw-away economy — our economy depends on us throwing stuff away. He even extended the metaphor to our nation’s people at times, saying our working economy functioned as well as it did because we could afford to “throw away” a certain number of people by having a large available pool of low-wage workers in the poor.

I’d like to think he was over the top with his cynicism, but I know there is an element of what he was trying to convey that was true. I’d also like to think we’re evolving away from a throw away economy and more toward a renew and reuse economy. In the best-case scenario, that is what the economic recovery package that has just passed in Congress could bring — a different understanding of why we consume and what we can do to consume wisely and with an eye toward the future of this planet that our children will inherit.


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