3 Simple Ways to Inspire Mindful Consumption.

Via on Dec 11, 2013

Photo Credit: Kenyon Manchego on Wikimedia Commons

Here in America, we shop for entertainment.

We shop on vacations, during holidays, and in our precious free time.

We’re are addicted to spending money on things we don’t need. Why?

Since founding my own sustainable clothing company, I’ve been curious about the addiction of shopping. I notice how I feel when I shop. I listen to my friends talk about it. I am border-line obsessed with understanding our psychological need for stuff.

For me, and probably you, too, it comes down to one thing: connection.

During a recent Walk the Talk episode with Waylon, I described how I feel when I shop. There’s an overwhelming sense of promise when I walk into a store and scan the racks, looking for something that will make me feel better, cooler, more interesting. I imagine where I’ll go, what I’ll do, who I’ll impress, and how confident I’ll be.

That’s why they call it retail therapy. For a brief moment, we get to feel the promise of connection in our otherwise stressed-out, busy, sometimes lonely lives.

But strangely, this connection we’re feeling isn’t about the actual clothes. We hardly even notice the fabric, the stitches, the origin, or the story of the things we’re buying.

Even our conversations around our clothes are story-less:

“I love that shirt!”

“OMG, thank you! It was only $4.50!”

(End of conversation.)

Since I’m knee-deep into sustainability and manufacturing, I think a lot about connection and stories and the shopping experience. I think it’s time to change the way we relate to, and talk about, our clothing.

Here are some things I’ve been trying out lately:

  • If I don’t have a good story, I’ll notice something on about the shirt—the stitching, the fabric—and talk about that instead. The goal is to connect over the garment, not the price (as I have been guilty of so many times).
  • Another common question is “Where did you get that?” I usually respond with the store it came from. But now I’m adding, “but it was made in Vietnam (or Pakistan, or the USA). It’s a pretty sure-fire way to change a conversation and just put the story out there, whatever it is.

Since testing out these approaches, I’ve made a few new friends and enjoyed some crazy conversations. But mostly, I feel like I’m re-connecting to the things I wear every day, and gently encouraging others to do the same.

I’d love to know how others are using language and stories to connect with their clothing. Let’s swap!

Leave your thoughts below, and share this post if you’d like to expand the conversation on mindfulness and consumption this holiday season.


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Editor: Bryonie Wise

Photo: Kenyon Manchego on Wikimedia Common

About Kristin Glenn

Kristin Glenn is the founder of Seamly.co, a clothing company using domestically-knitted fabric to produce women's apparel in Colorado. She hates waste, loves American-made, and is out to change the fashion industry. You can follow her journey here, via weekly newsletter, to see her design process, factory visits, new launches, and get community discounts on responsibly-made apparel.


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4 Responses to “3 Simple Ways to Inspire Mindful Consumption.”

  1. Gabriela says:

    Yeah…I just checked the tag on my sweater…made in Bangladesh…I wonder if it was made in one of those factories that collapsed…I bought it a few years ago, when I wasn't a very conscious consumer. But now I think about these things more and more…whenever I buy something, I think about where that product was made; has anyone suffered for this product to be made? have the workers been paid fair wages? has the animal ( I eat meat) been raised ethically, has it been let to roam and grass fed? I also try to buy locally as much as I can , buy second hand, and reuse what I can. The problem is, I can't stop thinking when I see other people buying, too. I want to ask them: "Do you really need to buy this?", "Do you know that this is the product of child-labor??", "Do you know that rabbits have been experimented on in order for you to have this lipstick???" My eyes have been open and I am very upset at how things work in this world and how easily people are being manipulated. I need to learn to reframe my conversation in a sensitive way that will help others become conscious consumers.

    • Kristin Glenn Kristin says:

      Gabriela, I feel the same way. It's been hard to figure out how to share what I've learned about sustainability, while presenting it in an empowering way (without guilting or shaming people for their decisions). It's tough to have these conversations, so I hope these few tips above help in your journey! And share anything you learn along the way, please!

    • Rodger says:

      I know this well, I feel that most do not want to loose their illusion of freedom. This being the "freedom" to buy without care. If a person has a conscience knowledge of what they consume then it may bring guilt and even shame. It is easier to accept what they are exposed to than dig a bit and find truth, this could bring on a change in the way they have been taught. Buy-and throw away. Most do not want change in personal habits, they just want to feel safe, change is painful for many.

  2. Alison says:

    Great post Kristin. I think it's connection but it's also wrapped up in aspiration & identity – a result of constantly being force-fed media about how great we could be. (Like the "you suck!" part in the excellent Story of Stuff video.) I think it could be traced to when when advertising shifted from selling products, to selling values & dreams. I read The 100 Thing Challenge a few years back and it had a huge impact, but clothing is definitely an area where I could be a more conscious consumer. Thanks!

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