We’ve become an increasingly disposable culture these days, lightning-quick to throw away perfectly good everythings because of the tiniest of flaws, holes, scuffs, snags, pills, pulls, and generalized wear. And shopping, a decidedly American pastime, has risen to take the place of those throwaways.
But here's a fresh idea for a new year: Don't spend. Mend. Here's why spending a little time with a needle — tedious though it may sound — will ultimately bring you joy.
The Problem: Consume, Trash; Consume, Trash … Ugh.
The problem with this approach is many-fold. For starters, it feeds a broken and thoroughly unsustainable offshore manufacturing model wherein gross amounts of product are made with cheap labor, and oftentimes cheaper supplies, on an entirely different continent, which then requires enormous amounts of fossil fuels to transport across oceans to the giant corporate stores who shill them at considerable mark-ups to a growing number of consumers who mindlessly shop, shop, shop, without ever pausing to consider the effects of their actions.
This sort of unconscious consumption takes its toll on our time, as well as our bank credit union accounts, to say nothing of our planet, who could really use a break from our incessant taking and using.
The great new is, we have options. We don’t have to brave long lines and spendy price tags to replace our holey socks. We can mend ‘em. (Illustration by Dani Katz)
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Don’t Spend. Mend.
Even though I don’t actually know how to sew, I’ve been mending my clothes since I was a kid. Ever since I busted a hole in my favorite rainbow knee socks, and couldn’t bear the thought of parting with them – ever – I snagged a needle and thread from my mother’s rarely touched sewing kit, and transformed that hole into a jagged scar forged of navy blue thread, and some wobbly, though thoroughly functional, stitches, and was absolutely tickled to have saved them from a Nevada landfill, or a gig as a googly-eyed, bric-a-brac tipped puppet. Thus mended, the knee highs became even more special and beloved. We were bound by battle, by a near-death brush, and the eleventh hour surgery I wasn’t sure I could actually pull off. We bonded, in a deep, meaningful inanimate object + sentimental/precocious child sort of way.
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There is no time to cultivate these sorts of affections and appreciations when things are cast aside so quickly and so easily. We don’t go deep with our clothes. In fact, we might even take extra pains to keep it light, and casual, and slightly disengaged, lest one of us get too attached, and resist the trashing/replacing that’s become our default pattern. Alas, I’m not one for casual sex, or shallow dalliances. I like to go deep in my relationships, and my engagements with my clothes are no exception. In fact, it’s not even relegated to only clothes. I once made a patch out of a shibori tapestry, and hand-stitched it to the back of my sofa to cover a stain. Plus, having opted for hot pink thread, on a white canvas couch – well, that was one heck of a lovely patch, let me tell you.
And when moths reeked unchecked havoc on a beloved cashmere sweater, I spent an entire evening listening to Terence McKenna lectures while stitching tiny six-pointed starbursts through every single hole with the most beautiful rainbow ombre yarn. Not only did I love the sweater all the more, what with the explosion of stars dappling it’s otherwise minimalist heather grey body, but I was pretty much inundated with compliments every time I wore it.
Yeah, mending equals winning. On so many fronts. (Illustration by Dani Katz)
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But, What About The Busy Thing?
Who has the time to mend socks? I can already hear you mutter, rolling your eyes and snorting.
No one! We’re all hustling and multitasking and sprinting through an endless array of to-do lists that are getting infinitely harder to keep up with by the ever-shrinking second. Which is why it feels extra, very amazing to take seven minutes out of an otherwise über jam-packed day to curl up in a cozy chair – away from any screens - to offer up a little analog love and attention to something you care about – be it replacing a button, patching a pair of jeans or shaving a pilling sweater.
Plus, sometimes I outsource – locally, of course. My very most favorite brown leather combat boots have been resoled multiple times, by the same Silver Lake cobbler who repairs my purse straps, and duplicates all my keys.
“You know,” my writing partner says, dubiously eyeing my ankles. “You’re allowed to have more than one pair of boots.”
Of course I’m allowed. I even have other pairs. But, when it comes time to get dolled up, I generally end up opting for ye ol’ combats because I know them so well, and have grown so familiar and fond of their embrace, to say nothing of the allure of their well-aged patina, and their snazzy new soles.
I truly enjoy taking the time and the effort to mend my existing things; and I feel extra very wonderful knowing that I am in integrity with my earthling status, and that I am respecting my planet, and my fellow humans by not over-consuming. Mending reminds me that I have enough, and that I don’t actually “need” a new anything because I’m resourceful enough to make what I have work just fine. It feels humble. It feels respectful – of my abundance and all the blessings and comforts it brings me. Plus, I don’t have to get in the car. And brave a mall, fluorescent overheads, or long lines, to say nothing of the money I’m saving, which I get to spend on other, way more fun things, like the world’s raddest coloring book. (Illustration by Dani Katz)
To this end: mend. Really. You can thank me later.