I adore fashionable items. I love buying clothes, shoes, and accessories. My walk-in closet is overflowing with things that I don’t even remember buying, some still with price tags on them. Why do I buy? Sometimes, out of boredom, sometimes out of need, sometimes, I don’t even remember why except at one point, I really wanted it.
The driving cause of my shopping addiction would have to be my youth. Everything ties back to that. I grew up poor with 3 other siblings, my mother on a low wage salary, and since they are first generation, they didn’t know much about this child support and my father never legally enforced to help pay (god forbid, his new wife would kill him if she ever found out he gave us money, which he gave once in a blue moon), so my mother was quite stingy. I used to be so annoyed as a kid and resented my youth until I became an adult and realized how my past made me strong.
I remember my first job, I saved several paychecks to pay for my prom dress. But some of my fond memories was collecting cans to get a few dollars so we could eat at McDonalds (I know…what were we thinking?! But back then, it used to be a rarity to go out to eat), or reading and writing tons of book report to get free pizza at pizza hut (part of the Reading Month campaign), or finding quarters to play skeeballs and collecting tickets to reimburse for a Mother’s Day gift (we collected enough one year to buy an electric egg beater).
Now I buy dresses without a whim as if to pay up for all my lost childhood watching girls my age touting whatever it was that was fashionable then. With Amazon, I buy with a click of finger to whoever and whenever I want. Gifts become unthoughtful as I just go to a wishlist or ask “what do you want” instead of knowing what to get for friends and families (even if it sucks).
On my last trip, my boyfriend and I went on a 15-day tour of Italy. I worked a night job to save money to go, hoping to clean my bank out but instead, I found myself being just like my mother, hoarding and pinching everything. I couldn’t say to myself whenever I wanted something, that was worth all the money I had saved to come to Italy.
In Venice, I had been very excited to get some Murano glass and Burano lace. They were all over the streets! But our host and some locals had warned us to stay away from the street as they were all fake. I couldn’t go back home with fake Italian products. Why did I purchase a $1000 plane ticket to Italy to buy stuff I can buy in the US? I wanted the real thing!
It got me thinking and hearing all the debates of the past year, everything is made in China. It’s cheap to make and cheap to buy. Are the products good? They look good enough. They work for the time being. But was the quality good enough to uphold for years to come? Probably not. But probably true. I haven’t owned anything that lasted more than 5 years while my mother has had things much longer.
I admit it, I bought several fake bags made in China. But having owned fake and real things, I started to notice not just look but quality. Made in China products are not comfortable. They look great but they feel like what they cost. Cheap. I couldn’t let my gifts from Italy be cheap. I wanted real authentic to make the memories of the trip real and authentic and worth every cent I put in.
I don’t really do experiments much. I leave that to my boyfriend with his crazy ideas of diet, exercise, and technology experiment. But since my Italy trip, I’ve been shopping around and looking at labels, Made in China, Made in Pakistan, Made in Vietnam. They feel good. They look nice. They were also cheap. When you go to TJ Maxx and Burlington Coat factory where these brand name products litter the store at 70% off from retail and see these tags, you wonder why were they so expensive to begin with? It’s the same fabric as the other non-brand names and also made in China.
It’s dismaying. I don’t think that all the products made in China are bad but as a person who shops a lot but also earning decent salary, I wanted to start thinking more conscientiously into the products I buy. Did these products come from factories with little kids slaving? Did these come from people who get low wage salary? Are the factories polluting the Earth? Are we depleting the world of its natural resource? Are we taking as much as we are giving back?
Starting this week, for a year, I will try to buy products (aside from food since I can’t buy non-Asian food to make Asian food…it just doesn’t taste the same. Believe me, I’ve tried) that are not made in China or in sweatshop factories.
Some goals out of this would be curbing my spending. If indeed, I need to spend, I will spend wiser. I would research and learn more on fair-trade. I would learn and spend time sewing my own stuff and repurposing worldly material to grow detached from that world. By abstaining from these mass produce products that I take for granted, I will learn to appreciate what I have and what my own two fingers can make.
Oh…I sense a very hard year ahead. Woe to my first world problems.