I am an organization junkie. I don’t have all of the acrylic containers, expensive food storage, or wicker baskets to prove it but believe me when I tell you that I research this stuff constantly. I follow well known organizers on social media. I buy their books. I participate in their online challenges. I use the hashtags.
There’s this vague ideal I have in my head… This endpoint that I can just start to envision when everything has a place in my home and the excess has sloughed away. It’s calm. It’s easy to maintain. It restores.
But no matter how often I declutter, I continue to find more and more stuff. It accumulates. It makes friends. Those friends get married and have babies and the babies have babies and I am sitting around my kitchen table wondering where all of this stuff keeps coming from!
Pinterest took note of my obsession and started suggesting organizational pins. Those pins led to minimalist pins and the minimalist pins led to fair trade pins. That’s where I stumbled across the suggestion to watch The True Cost on Netflix.
Listen carefully: I need you to watch it. But I need you to know that it broke me.
The True Cost is a documentary on the fashion industry and the consequence of fast fashion on business, people, and the environment. While it only talks about fashion, I see it as a single-industry focus on a much larger issue of goods that we once saved and now see as disposable.
I wept multiple times watching this documentary. I wept over horrible working conditions. I wept over illness and pollution. Over family dynamics and corporate wealth. Over silenced cries for better and my part in it all.
That stuff that keeps accumulating? It’s there because it’s cheap or it’s free and I am a consumer and I consume it. And while I’m busy consuming and decluttering and consuming and decluttering, I am reinforcing the drive for cheap labor, cheap manufacturing and for turning a blind eye to the people producing it.
I’m caught in the declutter frenzy and I’ve been missing the people stuck beneath the turning wheel.
The solution identified in the frenzy isn’t a solution at all. The true solution has to come before and during consumption. I’m not a minimalist. But I am recognizing that being a good steward of my resources can’t stop at managing my finances, giving to charity, and paying for the recycling bin every month.
Financially, a $5 shirt is a bargain until you see The True Cost of that $5 shirt.
It’s a burden to change habits, I know. When I started buying cruelty free products, it took time to research brands. Once I identified brands, it took trial and error to find which products worked for my family. Sometimes I pay more.
I expect an even greater disruption overhauling my habits when it comes to fast fashion. It’s going to require research. It will require trial and error. I will pay more. It’s possible that I will need to wait longer between identifying a desire and satisfying it. I will need to be aware and intentional when Emma grows two feet in a night and no longer has pants that fit her. I will have to stop and ask myself if it’s really necessary to run out and pick up something today to remedy the want/need.
I also know that being overwhelmed by change isn’t a good enough excuse to avoid it. And I know that starting, even starting small, is always better than not starting at all.
Watch The True Cost. Let me know your thoughts. And if you’re already buying fair trade, let me know which brands you love.