Everything is frugal in my life. I’m not and never have been rich – as in money rich. It’s a good thing, seeing what most rich and wealthy people eventually become. I barely remember knowing wealth and humility in one person alone. And let’s face it: these days, it’s no longer about being rich and famous
Being a not-so-rich person has blessings in disguise: not having a surplus of things makes you more appreciative of what you have; you do not end up taking things for granted; you appreciate the value of things that you have gained by working hard. Your perception of waste is also affected. Wasting feels like a capital sin, and the guilt that accompanies it, if you slip back into it, no matter how little, it’s quite heavy. It’s an interesting learning curve, and an ongoing process – once you get into it, there’s no turning back. There can only be improvements.
One of the best things about leading a frugal life is recycling and upcycling – also cycling, but that’s for another article. What gives me much satisfaction is knowing that anything I no longer need and still in good condition, can go to a new home where someone else might need it, and vice versa. Prior to the pandemic, the best recycling practice I used to do religiously was buying in charity shops – anything I needed, from clothing, to homeware and gifts. I call it vintage shopping: anything that can be found is modern, retro, or ancient!
The buzz I get is indescribable: I go out with one or two specific items in mind, and trawl every single charity shop in a particular town of choice, including book shops [even if the object(s) I’m after might not be a book!] It’s the anticipation of the surprise that awaits me. What will I find? Will it be the same I have imagined, or even better? Almost every time, it’s actually better. In fact, needless to say, I always end up buying more than what I had in mind before setting off. I also choose the town well: places like Leamington Spa or Berkhamsted, for example, where not only there is a large number of charity shops, but also an equal amount of high street shops and people who can afford buying in them!
If it’s clothing, the excitement of finding something that can be matched to what’s already in my wardrobe is one of the best approaches to vintage shopping. Colours, shapes, styles – it’s a unique creative process.
Two years ago, at the beginning of autumn, I realised I had no boots, so I went out and, sure enough, I found two pairs, looking exactly how I pictured them in my mind while planning my most-wanted items. The best thing? I’m still using them to this day; because that’s the thing: depending on where you’re buying, charity shops are full of great quality designer clothes, shoes, and fashion accessories that still have plenty of life in them, at a fraction of what you’d pay if they were brand new. By alternating these two pairs, their life span is extended.
There has been a time in my life when I was hit by hardship. Some of the people in my life could never understand how I’d still buy designer clothes while earning very little. The secret was always charity shops, and no one could ever tell! Then I came to realise a very simple truth: it’s not only important where you buy it, but it’s also important how you wear it! Then the second truth hit me: the real beauty of it is the feeling that I didn’t buy anything brand new, therefore not contributing to the exploitation of those behind the production of such item. Of course, it does matter where you buy it! Today, we are more aware of these issues like never before. We know enough. We know that labour is cheaper in poorer countries. And that cheap labour means low pay and poor working conditions. We know what modern slavery is all about. And closing our eyes means becoming accomplices for it. It means agreeing to what’s going on behind the scenes. It means witnessing without taking action. Today, we have a choice. If you want to know more, refer to Lisa Gibson’s article on Slow and Fast Fashion.
Vintage shopping for me is one of the ways to gradually discontinue my indirect participation in any form of abuse, whether perpetrated against humans or animals. In the era of free communication, we can access off-stream media and research about these topics freely and find that we no longer need certain practices.
On the contrary, we can opt-out consciously and find new ways of living more sustainably, even in a frugal way. No one has ever died for having the bare necessities. I’m old enough to know that. After all, I subscribe to a different kind of richness, the one that dwells in all of us. The one which cannot be traded. The wealth that is intrinsic in human nature and that cannot be bought anywhere – not even in a charity shop. The creativity with which we come into this world will move us to change it, if only we allow it; and so finding creative ways of living is the challenge for today.
The more people will start recycling and upcycling, the less big brands will need to produce new stuff, and the less stuff will end up in landfill. I do believe this consumerism process can be slowed down and brought to a halt in the near future, if only we could all play our parts.
Age UK, one of my favourite charity shops, is working online during the pandemic, where items are divided into categories, and can be purchased on a click-and-collect way. For furniture, there are delivery and collection options, too. Other sites like Freegle and Facebook Marketplace are also doing an incredible job, the former recycling and upcycling for free, the latter allowing to trade good items at a cheaper price. All within COVID regulations, of course. These are times for us to contribute to a better future, for the planet, for ourselves and for the coming generations.
“Above all, remember that the most important thing you can take anywhere is not a Gucci bag or French-cut jeans; it’s an open mind.” Gail Rubin Bereny (1949-) American author, cultural anthropologist, sex and gender politics activist and theorist