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The Politics of Thrift

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Sometimes after being stuck in a jumper that smells of jumble all day because the initial wash failed to plumb the depths of the ancient fibres I like to climb up onto my moral mountain and let my mind rest upon the bigger picture of thrift.

Of course, I am addicted to charity shopping and car boot sales, I find huuuuuge joy in discovering unsung teacups going for a song and finding tossed out fabrics fit for a king. I take pleasure in finding a new purpose for my odd ends, or sewing a bit to a bob to meet a need.  It isn’t a chore, I don’t do it for The World or to fit in our budget.

But there is more going on, an activist undercurrent to all these thrifty antics.

Thrifting flips new The Bird.
I used to live in Oxford Circus in a big old house with a bunch of people, it was fun, I loved it. But when I moved to Camberwell, just a few miles south, we felt a huge relief from aggressive advertising campaigns. Everywhere you turn up in central London there is a monster poster revealing the latest new thing we require. Shiny things to boost our low self esteem, to show our individuality, to highlight our status (just the men)/beauty (the ladies, of course), because we deserve it.

When we get thrifty we reject the myth that NEW makes us. We hold on to our innate precious sense of identity, remain confident in choices, revel in relationship and community, understand that we exist to love and be loved, not to consume. (Or it is at least an attempt to hold on/ remain/revel/understand.)

People not corporations
Thrift places power into the hands of the homemaker, the discoverer, the determined. Thrifters make decisions that follow their gut or needs, not to benefit the profit margins of manipulative corporations. The pennies we have dished out for our magical junk will go in to pockets of enterprising parents at the car boot, or excellent charities (even better.) We are consciously stepping out of the consumption rat race, throwing a gloriously rusty spanner in the works- jarring the demand for unethically made goods and the tyrants that build empires from them.

Thrifty gets you crafting and there is power in making
In my stubbornness not to buy new things I do end up with some bizarre  mashups – slippers out of armpits, a book for a shelf. Thriftiness fuels creativity, it lends itself to making. I have written about the power of making before. I am certain that making puts you in touch with your soul, it is like scratching an itch, or filling a hole. When we Make do and Mend we feel like a million bucks, able to take on those big bad corporations, to survive and thrive without their help, thanks very much.


Have you seen the Story of Stuff? No???? Oh. My. Days. It is completely brilliant, you will not even notice 20 minutes of your life have just whizzed by. It pulls together all the strands of, like, stuff and things.



PS- I think there are other nuances that I haven’t gone into – like thriftiness and class, or how being thrifty can almost be a luxury as it kind of requires you to be time rich? These are maybe to explore another day…

PPS- As ever, would love to know your thoughts. Do you see your thrifty self as an Op Shop activist? Would you like to be thriftier?