When I moved into this apartment, I was a 28-year old, about-to-be-graduate student. I came with a free-to-me mattress and boxspring that lived on the floor, and “night tables” that were actually cardboard boxes draped in colorful scarves.
The coffee table (dubbed the “Earthquake Table” for its seismic gyrations everytime you knock into it), the pull-out sofa (from craigslist with cat scratches down to the wood), and the kitchen table (with one sloping leaf) came with me. Each piece was free. They were “from the Universe,” they were “manifested”! And they were junk.
Over the 8 years I’ve lived here, I’ve traded up a bit, but on the whole, much of the broken and battered that came with me is still here.
At one point while still in my SF apartment, a man/boy/living-on-the-floor-in-a-basement-literal-dumpster-diver (don’t ask) reflected as we ate dinner off my curb-find, chipped dishes: “I love how everything you own is in a state of decay.”
Good lord. What am I doing with my life!?
The man/boy and the dishes had to go.
For a very long time, I’d identified with “Second-Hand Rose.” I thrived on and cherished the idea that I was “getting away” with not spending money on what I could get for free! (“The Universe is totally listening!”) Or extremely cheap at a thrift store. My thrift store plunges were always post-scripted with a breakdown to friends about how many pieces I got for such little cost! I even made specific trips into San Francisco just to go to my favorite Good Will.
Now, believe me when I say that I still find nothing wrong with thrift, as an adjective or noun. However, when a few years ago I was at my women’s new year’s retreat sharing about what my just-glued vision board meant to me, I began to well up at describing how I didn’t want to be Second-Hand Rose in Second-Hand Clothes anymore. That yes, a core value of mine is still not to add more consumption to the machine, but did everything I own have to be in a state of decay??
It didn’t make me feel powerful or high on thrift anymore. It made me feel less-than. It made me feel like I didn’t value myself. I wasn’t taking pride in the 5 dollar shirt anymore (with just one hole that no one could see). I was feeling shame. I was feeling like hiding.
While I am absolutely still a reusable item junkie (I just purchased organic cotton coffee filters that I can rinse & reuse when I’m in Amherst … as there will be NO COFFEE MAKER! Cue song from How to Succeed.), I do not have to make a sacrifice for everything that I own, consume, or purchase.
Self-deprivation isn’t hot. And I’m allowing the pendulum to swing a little closer to center, a little closer to balanced. I can buy something that I’ll use for a long time. I can buy at the trendier consignment (not thrift) shop. I can sleep on a bed frame. I can even continue to grab up street finds, though I am much more judicious in what comes into my home.
Every day I choose to make a purchase that aligns with my values — about the earth and about myself — I feel closer to who I truly am: Not. A. Hider.