A story of shopping

Shopping is the last thing I thought I would ever write about on this blog because our obsession with consumption does not strike me as a great cause for hope in the world.  But today I am thrilled to be joining Lulastic’s…

I am a huge fan of charity shops because they provide a brilliant alternative economy when it comes to shopping.

Have you seen (or read) The Story of Stuff?  It’s an amazing and terrifying account of the world produces stuff (plastics, electronics, anything coming out of a factory really) and the effects this production has on the environment, and then the way we think we can throw things away without consequences.  They are also great at flagging up stories of hope and change (especially in their book), so it’s not all doom and gloom.  But I thought that joining in the charity shop blog hop this week would be a great way to talk about one way of opting out of the endless chain of buy-discard-buy-discard made possible by today’s super-cheap clothes shopping.

The host of this bloghop, Lulastic, is a paragon of resourcefulness and thriftiness so I am pleased to be able to talk up her alternative shopping ethos and share a little about my own charity shop journey.

I was doing a talk in a church a while ago about how, as Christians, we don’t just do things like buy fairtrade chocolate because we think our individual participation will necessarily change the world (although lots of small actions can and do) but also because it’s an issue of integrity, of trying to live in a way Jesus might.  And I talked about buying clothes, seeing as the whole sweat-shop issue is a hot topic.  I know there is a huge campaigning job to be done about employment policies, and that everyone opting out of the clothing economy might not bring about the change we want, but I can’t bring myself to believe that Jesus would buy his clothes from companies who essentially use slave labour to make them, or who employ children.  So I decided there and then, in the middle of the talk, that I’d stop.  I’d just buy from ethical companies or charity shops.

The joy for me is that I work in beautiful, leafy Teddington (it’s about half an hour out of London to the south west) and there are simply heaps of charity shops lining its streets full of beautiful, hardly worn clothes.  This is probably related to how much it costs to live in Teddington, meaning its residents are fairly well-off and regularly donate their barely-worn items to such shops.  And here is my regular little tour, and my top buys! (All shops can be found on the small stretch of Broad Street that runs between Church Rd and Stanley Rd).

If you start at Tearfund and turn left onto Broad St the first one you come to is the newly opened Barnados Children’s charity shop. Just yesterday I went in to find a present for my friend Ruth’s newborn little girl, and look what I came out with, for less than a tenner in total!:

Then there’s the traditional Oxfam which has been there forever.  Not so great for clothes, but totally brilliant for all your ethical toiletries and cleaning products:

The best place for dresses is definitely Fara, which also looks as if it may have had a Mary portas-style make-over as it’s streets ahead of the others in layout.  Just look at all those nice dresses (Note to husband: I did not buy any this week).
Further on down is the Princess Alice hospice where I have bought many a stripey top, some fab Boden stuff, and these gorgeous yellow teacups which we used for a German teacup dance in The Ruby Dolls’ first show, and which I have now approrpiated for my home:
And then finally there is Cancer Research which can be a little random, but not long ago I bought heaps of this fabric for about £2 which I have since made into all kinds of things, including this little curtain screen.  And old discarded duvet covers have also become head scarves and cushion covers.  Genius!
So there is a little taste of my shopping life and how I am joining the mini-revolution against waste and the injustices of the garment trade.