I only have one pair of legs and one torso; there are really only so many clothes and material needs in life that can truly ‘spark joy’.
I was talking to a friend recently about shopping and how we were finding ourselves browsing online quite a bit lately. Uncharacteristically so. One of the pitfalls of the various by-products of “lockdown” is finding yourself online, which wouldn’t be so much of a pitfall if it weren’t for the fact that almost every online avenue is plagued by advertising (often very compelling). Even reading the news online requires effort in dodging Whistles adverts trying to remind me of the item of clothing I didn’t buy!
And as I have been clearing out my closet of clothes I never wear or don’t like to wear, I realised that there is little that I would miss if it went missing. The psychology of “retail therapy” being some form of enjoyment is a fallacy. In reality, none of this online shopping satiates anything meaningful within us and as I folded clothes to give away, I realised that I felt nothing but guilt for having acquired this excess in the first place.
Whilst talking about this with a friend, I pointed at my socks – I was wearing a pair of seriously boring beige shin height socks; a pair that would make anyone else think that they are my grandad’s socks. But these socks tell a story that make my heart smile and I remember it every time I put them on. Before going to Nepal in October 2018 on the Everest Base Camp trek, my mother gave me a 2-pack pair of wool-cashmere socks, they’re to keep you warm she said. These grandad socks spark far more joy than anything else material I have bought myself this year causing me to realise that “retail therapy” is a hugely false narrative that makes you accumulate unnecessary possessions that will later come to represent moments where you let your desires override your needs; surplus capital that could have been shared with those in greater need of it. These boring beige grandad socks are life’s truly joyful possessions that connect you from one human being to another. Sure there are some things we need to buy for ourselves every now and then but realistically, we do not need these things to be purchased as often as the advertisements deployed to entice us would have us believe.
Here’s a tip from me to you – when you do shop online and later come to receive alerts from those outlets whenever there’s a sale on, just click unsubscribe and you’ll never receive one again. Simple. I haven’t had those sorts of emails in years because I always click unsubscribe as soon as the first one is received. Also there is a way to reduce ads on social media – I recommend making the effort to reduce the noise of advertising on any social media platform you engage with.
I remember a profound remark from Hoda Katebi, in a talk I once attended of hers where, whilst talking about the dark side of fast fashion, she said something along the lines of “I curate pieces in my wardrobe. Just like how people curate pieces in a museum, your closet holds the fabrics that sit closest to your physical being, right next to your skin. We should be conscious therefore about what we choose to place right next to our skin, conscious that we are not wearing something that was constructed against the backdrop of someone else’s oppression (often female Muslim oppression)”.
We should curate pieces in our wardrobe – pieces that tell a story, pieces that have meaning, connect you to a happy memory, place or person, pieces that represent your identity and that don’t compromise your values and humanity.