Why I Stopped Shopping at the Mall

It’s been about six months since I started wearing the skirts everyday. It was done in part so I could connect with my more bohemian self, and also so I could simplify my outfit choices. It worked wonderfully at first. And then, in one misguided trip to Macy’s I got carried away. I bought about $150 worth of clothing, on sale and all that.  I walked away with two giant bags filled with stuff.

Now that I have many more clothes, I find myself at a loss of what to wear most mornings. Without blogging, I find myself falling back into my old habits. It’s time to purge again and get rid of the junk. (And return to writing, too)

Furthermore, I haven’t had most of this stuff more than a couple of months and some of it already looks like crap.  These clothes aren’t meant to be worn frequently.  I feel like I’ve wasted my money. Many times I don’t want to wear what I have simply because it looks shoddy.  How often does that happen to you? I’m tired of it happening to me, so I have officially quit shopping at the mall.

It is  a shame that these large companies don’t take the time to put together quality clothing, but it’s not surprising.  I mean, they are paying scraps to little kids in China to put these scraps of clothes together.  Clearly, they care more about their profits than anything else.  If profits weren’t their main concern, they’d pay their manufacturers better. Why not cut corners on quality, too?

Do you know what “pilling” is?  It usually happens when a fabric has little tiny balls of fabric stuck all over it. So if a canvas tote bag you’re carrying rubs up against a synthetic, polyester t-shirt, you get pilling. Pilling is the bane of my existence.  It makes relatively new clothing look pretty shoddy. I’m starting to think clothes were only meant to be worn once.  I saw an article on Yahoo! over the weekend, “Britney Spears Explains Why She Wears the Same Outfits in Public.” We as a people in this country have serious problems if we have to explain wearing the same clothes over again. I know it doesn’t apply to me, the regular, not-famous human, but the fact that this even made the tabloids, speaks volumes about our society.  And us normal people don’t want to repeat outfits too frequently either. So of course  clothing manufactures can get away with selling this clothing of such poor quality.  Besides, this low-quality crap is the only thing that most of us can afford.

Nonetheless, I know how to pick out high-quality items on sale.  However, the time required to find the style/color/size I want coupled with the availability of superior quality items (and fair price, anyone?) makes it very difficult to find what I’m looking for, especially last minute–and that, of course, is how I do most of my shopping. It takes work. Work that I’m just not interested in doing. Malls really aren’t my favorite place, ya know?

So at one point, I thought, to save money (and time, and stress, and frustration) I should sew my own clothes.  I thought that going old-fashioned was the solution to the crap at the mall. “Old-fashioned” has been my solution to slowing everything down a bit.  It worked very well for improving my diet, but apparently not for my personal style. See, I’ve had the machine for a while now and the only thing I’ve made is a giant pillow-bed for my dog.  I’ve hemmed a couple of things, but I really don’t think I’m going to do much more sewing than that.  Sewing projects really just aren’t for me. I think it is an important skill to have, but I’m going to stick to crocheting hats and scarves for now. So lately I’ve been perusing Etsy for people who hand-sew clothing.  I bought a hand-sewn purse a good while ago (not online) and it is still in wonderful condition.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything of that quality at the mall. I paid $50 for it. A tote of that quality is worth FAR more than $50 dollars retail. 

It is clear that these big companies, really aren’t looking out for the needs of the consumer.  I need durable clothing (purses and shoes) that can stand frequent wear. I think I would save far more money if my clothing didn’t wear out as quickly as it does now. The items I buy would stay nicer, longer. The reality is, I’m just not going to be able to find that at the mall, for the amount of money I’d like to spend.

P.S. I also decided to stop shopping at the mall because I want to support black businesses.  It is very difficult to do that at the mall.  My community is suffering and the least I can do is spend my money where it’s needed. 

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Eating off the Infinite Table: Consuming without Being Consumed

This article is very insightful. Enjoy 🙂

Annamal house.

 

Every week, AT&T and Comcast conduct a direct-mail duel to see who can offer me the most channels of digital TV. I believe we are up to about 900 now. Then there’s Netflix, with more films and TV shows than I could watch in a lifetime. Even if I limited myself to just those that close friends have recommended, I would have years worth of material. There are hundreds of thousands of books I can download instantaneously to any number of devices, and millions more I can command hard copies of or borrow from a library. Then there are the millions of songs I could stream or download at the touch of a button. The billions of hours of video on YouTube. And best of all, the unceasing tide of social media: ever-replenishing tweets and status updates from nearly every person I have ever met, scattered across all corners…

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Constant Connectedness

I feel left out. I watch people filling moments in their day by staring at tiny little cellphone screens. I have a tiny little screen too, but the processor behind it is slow, so I don’t (and won’t) stare at the little screen all day.

Since I got rid of my Blackberry 9 months ago, I’ve noticed something. People are obsessed with being constantly entertained.  They couldn’t bear to have a few spare moments without something to see or do. Maybe I’m just bitter I can’t be a cellphone zombie with my prepaid cellphone plan, but it’s really annoying to watch this. It seems people prefer to “like” idiotic “memes” on Facebook than talk to the person standing next to them.

Even if I spend the money on some fancy cellphone and some fancy plan, would it be worth it? Who am I connecting with that I need to be available to them twenty-four hours a day? If I don’t have a person’s phone number, and they don’t have mine, why do we need to be able access to each other at a moment’s notice?  I’m not sure if some of my Facebook friends would even say hello if they saw me on the street.

As much of a hater as I seem to be to all you technology folks, I get it. People these days expect an instant response. If someone doesn’t respond to an email within a few hours, we start to assume the person never checks their email.  If someone doesn’t text or tweet us back within 5 minutes, we begin to think they are ignoring us:  they better have a d*mn good reason for making us wait. Please tell me you think this absurd.

Why Connectedness Drives Consumerism

As you can see, I’m not immune to this connectedness virus either. It attacks unexpectedly—although usually when I have a little extra cash. In the last few weeks or so, I’ve been feeling DISconnected and I’ve been trying to figure out a way to get a tablet. Here’s my thought process:

I could sell my old laptop, my netbook; perhaps spend a little less on food each month so I could afford a monthly data plan. But then again, tablets are complicated products for writers. While they are great for doing research, they are horrible for writing. They just aren’t efficient. And carrying around a laptop isn’t efficient either.  If only I had a tablet connected to a keyboard, I’d be in great shape. I could get one of those Windows 8 tablet computers.

And then I realized I have something like that already: A netbook. Sure, it’s not touchscreen, but it does the job.  That’s why I didn’t buy the tablet in the first place. Instead of appreciating what I have, I was going to spend MORE money on something I didn’t need.

It’s a vicious cycle, really. When we get connected, we consume entertainment, news, gossip, etc. When we consume these things, we consume advertisements. When we consume advertisements, we purchase more items that will be better and faster at getting us connected. And then the process starts all over again, except we are able to consume more information and advertisements than before, and thus consume (purchase) more items than before.

That’s why I had to say “the buck stops here!” No more consumption of technology until I have exhausted the capabilities of what I already have.  Maybe I’ll be a little behind the times in technology, but I won’t be a zombie. During the time it takes for my page to load, I can stop and look around. I keep my eyes ahead of me as a cross a street (I see students texting while walking across an intersection everyday. Their foolishness baffles me.) I can interact with the people around me. I can live in the moment.

When will we stop consuming and start living?

Simplifying Your Beauty Routine

Faced with being buried in an avalanche of beauty products, I had to make a decision.  I needed a way to simplify my beauty routine.  However, if you Google “simplify your beauty routine” you will find a bunch of useless tips that leave you with just as many products as before.

The only fool proof method  is to get rid of pretty much everything and go rogue. Unfortunately, we live in a society where image is everything, and if your hair is frizzy, and you smell because you don’t wear deodorant, you may have a bit of a problem.  I don’t plan on going rogue; I do, however, plan on going natural.

Basically, if you want to simplify your beauty routine, you have to let go of the beauty standards set by people trying to sell you something and determine your personal beauty standards.  For me that means:

Not wearing makeup.  Maybe there will be an occasion where I don a little eye liner, mascara and lip gloss, but that’s going to be it.  Cover up, blush, eye shadow and the like are getting trashed. I found a great article on Loving Your Face Without Makeup.

Revamping my hairstyling routine.  As an African-American woman, hair care is where I spend the most money and do the most work. I’m going to make a change by switching to higher quality, natural products.  Instead of buying a shea butter product where shea butter is the 4th or 5th ingredient, I could make my own shea butter leave in conditioner with the real stuff. Then, I won’t need fifty thousand additional products to make up for where one product falls short because it is filled with chemicals and other garbage. (I could do an entire post on how I’m cutting back on my hair routine)

Picking one or 2 ways to remove hair. As ladies we must pretend that we don’t grow hair anywhere but on are heads and eyebrows. The fact of the matter this isn’t true.  We are all hairy ladies.  And I use nearly every method available for removing hair: I have a razor, an electric trimmer, an epilator, a depilatory (Nair), wax strips and tweezers. This is completely unnecessary. I’m not going to stop shaving my legs or pits, but I am going to pick a limited amount of ways to do it. Maybe you’ve always wanted to stop shaving your legs. If so, here is a good place to find inspiration.

The reality is, there are so many places where you can cut back and reduce your usage of beauty products. That might mean you’ll stop trying to hide signs of aging, stop painting your nails, or stop fighting your natural hair texture. I’m not going to detail them all here because Minimalist Beauty created a whole website on how she reduced her beauty product usage. (It’s a great resource, you should check it out.) You have to decide which avenues are right for you.

What I’m going to be doing while I prepare to move is trashing pretty much everything and finding alternative care products.  I’d like to take a more natural and holistic approach to my personal care, and I believe I’ll be using far fewer products than I do now.

Just remember, you are beautiful the way you are, and you don’t need any product that tries to convince you aren’t beautiful without it.

True Cost of Vanity

Oh, what we ladies do to be beautiful. I probably have at least 1000 different items related to my beauty regimen.  While I’ve been attempting to declutter my house, it seems that the beauty items are the most difficult to pare down. My sink, shower, linen closet were so full with such items that I purchased a rolling cart to hold the rest of the crap.  Really, it is getting out of control. Then there is the weight loss side of beauty that is its own subject.   But this makes me consider the larger issue at hand.  We are so self-imaged obsessed. We spend so much money and time trying to look like someone else; I’m just not seeing the point anymore.

Remember in middle and high school where we are taught about advertisements, and the objectification of women for the sale of products?  I have to be honest. I never really understood what “objectifying women” truly meant. It means “sex sells” right? It means women are portrayed as objects, not people or individuals, right? But what does that really mean? Middle and high school students can only understand so much about “objectifying women;” at that age, we don’t have enough life experience to truly comprehend it. As of late, I think I’m starting to get it.

After watching the series the Way of Seeing, on YouTube, I’ve become hyper aware of all this vanity stuff. In the video series, the narrator addresses the fact that women are constantly being looked at, by themselves, men, and other women, and it is essentially what drives women’s vanity and obsession with appearance.  He analyzes the nude in art to illustrate his point. I absolutely agree with his interpretation. To take it a step further, knowing that we are constantly being looked at plays a role in our really messed up body image. There is an expectation of what we look like, if not met, makes us feel like crap. And this my friends, comes from advertising.

What I’m about to say is a tad cliche (at first), but hear me out. We are bombarded with advertisements that tell us what we need to do to be beautiful: what a beautiful woman wears, how she dresses, how she styles her hair, etc.  On some level, we understand that the images aren’t real, but we have internalized that message from society. We want to be that beautiful, confident woman who has maintained every inch of her hair, nails, body and skin, and nonetheless is perfect. It doesn’t matter that in school we were taught that the images in magazines are fake. The message to be perfect is so ingrained that it doesn’t matter if we know consciously that some fat nerd shaved 2 inches off the model’s waist and plumped up her boobs with a few mouse clicks. We still look for that image of ourselves every time we look at ourselves naked in the mirror.

The problem is we are looking for something that isn’t real or attainable.  I know you know this with your conscious mind, but every time you pinch a bit of fat on your belly when you are well within a healthy BMI (don’t get me started), says that you’ve been brainwashed into believing there is something wrong with you. Currently I’m 5’1 and 128 pounds and I would like to be 10 pounds lighter. Why? I don’t even look fat and a recent doctor’s appointment reveals that I’m perfectly healthy.  I’ve been brainwashed like everybody else, and only now wondering, “Why?”

I read an interesting post on The Belly Project where the author quotes a student saying that this is all a conspiracy by CEOs and the like to get us to buy crap. So we buy and we buy and we buy, just so we can look like someone else, who in that particular image, doesn’t look like themselves.  People don’t look how they look in magazines. And if they do, they have to be obsessed.  That is not a way to live.  We’ve wasted so much time and energy, some people just don’t think its worth it anymore.  It is getting ridiculous.

Think about painting your nails for a minute.  You take a bottle of colored liquid, use the little brush and paint it on your fingernails. Then you have to wait (forever if you are at a salon) for it to dry completely. And if you do manage to get it dry without ruining them by unbuttoning your jeans an hour later, you wear the color for a few days, before it starts to flake, peel and chip off the day you wash any dishes. What is the freaking point of that? It looks pretty? Is that the best you can come up with? See, and all this occurred to me right after I spent 30 dollars for an ocean blue mani/pedi.  There is no point. Sure, removing dead skin is nice, so are foot and hand massages. But the polish? An absolutely pointless endeavor.  And we have hundreds, if not thousands of similar, pointless rituals: pointless vanity rituals.

Am I saying that I am the perfect human who avoids all vanity rituals? No. Will I ever avoid all pointless vanity rituals? No. I really prefer having two eyebrows. (Then again, who says I have to). But if you need to save time, money, and energy, your vanity may just be the place to look.

Next week I’m going to be talking about how to find balance between perfection and reality… stay tuned, have a great weekend, and I’ll see you on Monday.

What I Learned in Barbados

I had a lovely time in Barbados, and when I came back, my mind was still on the island staring at the beautiful ocean. Now that it’s been a few days since I’ve been back, I’ve come down from the vacation high. Real life has settled over me and I’m longing to be back on vacation.  So what I’m wondering is how can I bring vacation back home with me.

I live in a place that is vacation for most people: Miami has beautiful beaches with great weather year-round. But Miami feels like anything but vacation for a resident.  Driving the hour from the airport, with the blaring lights of traffic, aggressive drivers, stop lights, buildings, signs, noise, and city clutter was overwhelming. Barbados is very rural. Most streets can barely accommodate 2-way traffic. Often times you see very little for miles. While navigating the island was confusing, it was wonderful.

North Point Cliff

Find a place that makes you say “WOW” and go there often.  In Barbados, there were 2 places that blew me away. We visited, only for a moment, North Point Cliff. Thanks to getting lost, we found a spot that hadn’t been developed for tourists. We could stand right at the edge and look down at the sharp rocks and out at the clear blue sea. I only spent about 10 minutes out there.  “WOW” places can really put life troubles in perspective.  Even if it is an hour away, go there once in a while, you won’t regret it.

Seek solitude in a beautiful place. The place in Barbados I visited every day for solitude was the roof of the building. We were in a beachfront hotel, so while on the roof I could look out into the vast ocean.  The winds were strong but their caress made me feel close to the earth.  I would go up there at 6:30 or 7:00am and enjoy the quiet. No other tourists were on the roof that early.  I voluntarily worked on my thesis up there. Writing ideas came to me easily there.  For you it could be a slow moving stream, northern woodlands, a local pond, or an open field. Find a quiet place to connect with nature.

Make time for yourself while at home. We do it on vacation, why not when we come back? We go on vacation to forget work, school and the stressors of daily life.  When you leave work, do the same. Work is only a part of your life. Maintain a work-life balance. Don’t mull over a work problem during dinner with your family.  If you are, you are voluntarily working overtime and not getting paid for it. Even if you love your work, you can’t work all the time. And more than likely, that solution will come when you aren’t thinking about it. (If the idea comes during family time, jot down enough so you remember, and move on: go back to your life)

Waste not, want not. For some reason I remember that being the motto in Barbados. Compared to other countries, we live so lavishly and excessively in the USA. It is so unnecessary. Even the toilets in Barbados have significantly less water.  Do your part, and save the planet! You’ll save money, time and energy if you’re thriftier and eco-conscious.

Unplug from the internet and your cell phone. My new, cheap cell phone service allows me no access while overseas. My AT&T using family was still able to connect with the world, but at a ridiculous cost. While I had internet access in the hotel, I had to completely detach if I wanted to go anywhere.  It was liberating.  I could focus entirely at the moment at handDo the same at home. The world is not in the internet.  The world is outside of your computer screen.  Turn your computer off, leave your phone at home and enjoy the world as it is

Have enthusiasm about wherever you are. We get so excited to go  on vacation, and sort of sad when we must go back home. While on vacation, we often throw caution to the wind and try new things. Vacation is about living life to the fullest. What about weekends and holidays? Sundays sometimes become the lesser of the awesome weekend days because it is the day before you have to go back to work. Enjoy Sunday! You don’t waste that last day of that out-of-town vacation do you? Stop wasting your Sundays; enjoy them to the fullest.

Hello from Barbados

Hi all. This is going to be a brief post because I’ve gone on an unexpected mini-vacation to Barbados.  It is my first trip outside of the USA, and I’m excited to be here. I’m just glad I had the opportunity to take a step back from my responsibilities.  I’m observing the Bajans’ way of life here, and it is noticeably different then our own.  They certainly don’t ascribe to the western go-go-go, speed of life.

My second night here, I noticed that dinner seemed to take an extraordinarily long time between courses, although the service was exceptional. In general, I’m having little trouble with long lines, slow elevators and traffic (typical waits that make Americans impatient). Yet, significantly longer waits seem to pose a bigger challenge for me.  My family arrived in Barbados before I did, and told me that they had to wait an hour before being able to check into their rooms. They received complementary drinks and extended welcomes, but the wait seemed uncomfortable for them. We noticed, however that the waiting seemed to be a standard procedure at the resort.

Anyway, I’m having a good time, and hope to see more of the island culture today.  Yesterday we visited Harrison’s cave, and went as much as 150 feet underground.


Barbados certainly cant be seen in a mini-vacation, and I already know that I’m going to want to come back.

I walked up like 200 steps after visiting the cave.

I’ve also realized that I’m interested in travel photography, another “to do” item to add to my bucket list… I didn’t take all of these pictures on here, my Dad took some of them.  I like capturing images of the artifacts that make the country different than the USA.

They drive on the left side of the road with the drivers on the right side of the car. Who knew?! My Dad has been doing the driving, and it certainly is an exercise in patience building.

And of course, I spent a considerable amount of time on the beach.