Yesterday I went to a department store. I won’t say which one, but I was shocked at how crowded it was. It was crowded with stuff, not people. I couldn’t walk between the rounders and the tiered shelves were a mess with clothes piled so high they were falling off. It was overwhelming. Overwhelmingly depressing.
I remember shopping at Bullock’s once a year with my mother right before school would start. It was a special day. Being in the store felt like being a guest in a very wealthy home. The salespeople were well-dressed and well-mannered, the store was elegant and indulgent with it’s vast open spaces and clearly modern architecture. I felt privileged to try on the clothes and we took our time selecting merchandise. Everything was crisp and impossibly cared for.
I wonder if this new and sloppy retail environment has affected people’s homes. I wonder if creating such cluttered stores makes people think their houses are less stuffed than they really are. Maybe it lowers our standards.
Those standards were obviously influenced by early T.V. show sponsorships. Housewives were convinced that they absolutely needed each new product. Now they make entire channels devoted to this marketing mayhem. It’s all a part of the same mad engine driving our economy.
In stark contrast to this buy-as-much-as-cheaply-as-possible philosophy, Karen and I have been discussing the cost of handmade products. She’s been sharing some absolutely astounding functional and entirely handmade works of art from Maine. One company, Swan’s Island Blankets, harvests wool from free roaming island sheep, clean, card, spin and then weave the wool into truly beautiful blankets.
I haven’t looked at everything on their site but the bed sized blankets appear to cost somewhere between $700-$1500. This makes them out of reach to the average American. Unfortunately it’s the average American who would benefit most from the blanket. Owning a blanket that cost that much would translate the value of the animal, the land, and the human energy employed to produce it. The $19.99 acrylic blanket from Target warrants little-to-no afterthought or care. There’s no responsibility towards its impact on the environment or the human being behind it. The consumer doesn’t have the same joy or respect for it either. Imagine you paid for and owned a Swan’s Island wool blanket. Would you leave it on the floor unmade? Or would you treat it with care and value each morning after a night’s rest? When it warmed you at night, would you have a glimmer of a thought towards its origins? Do you think anything of your blankets now?
What if everything we owned had a stable and enduring value ingrained in it from the day you obtained it? Imagine how lovely our homes would be and how pleasant the care and maintenance required would feel? I’m sure we have lost a sense of satisfaction in our personal space, just as we have in the world as a whole. We are so far removed from both the natural sources and the human energy invested in our everyday living. This detachment creates a sense of helplessness and isolation. Many of us see what’s happening but we feel like it’s out of our control. I wonder if seizing the opportunity to make changes in our own simple daily choices would be just the ticket to reconnecting with the incredible gifts bestowed upon us each day.