LIVE IN THE HEART of Consumption Country. I live more
simply than everybody in my Los
Angeles neighborhood, but I am measuring myself against
a distorted standard. Several years ago, I went to a premiere
where there were a lot of
One said to
me, "Oh, you wore that dress the last
time I saw you!" My first reaction was to feel busted.
But then I said the truth: "I don't own a lot of
dresses, and I don't own a lot of stuff." I felt
pride instead of shame. When I go to those kinds of events,
I have five dresses I wear that I've rotated for the last
ten years. I don't go out that much, and it's just fine.
When my husband and I moved
into our house, we got used furniture instead of buying
it new. It took more effort to read the want ads than
to just go to a store and buy new furniture, but it was
much better for the environment. My father, who is in
his seventies, also gave me some things. He was downsizing
and had so much stuff we couldn't even take it all. What
was the point of having all that stuff in the first place?
Last month, I tried an experiment. I bought only necessities,
like food and soap; no dresses, magazines, or cosmetics-
nothing I simply wanted. When I first made this decision,
I panicked. "What if I need something, like a new
pair of shoes?" Then I thought, "I already have
enough," and I felt relieved. That's indicative of
the culture I live in. I have 23 pairs of shoes and if
most women looked in their closets, they would find the
same thing. It's ridiculous that I feel I need them all-different-colored
shoes to match different dress colors. I'm trying to get
out of that pattern, but it's not easy. I've noticed that
it takes more effort to keep stuff from coming in than
to keep it from going out. My husband and I don't give
material things much any more, because most people don't
need more stuff. Instead, we'll give a massage or yoga
classes, or maybe we'll dedicate a tree to someone. Rather
than having gifts at our wedding, we asked people to donate
to a charity.
I don't tell anyone else
how to live. For example, two of my friends recently bought
SUVs. I don't say to them, "You shouldn't have done
that." They have different ethics than I do. Everyone
has their own lines they draw. My brother's an environmentalist.
When he started out, he was preaching all over the place.
I got defensive and didn't want to hear it. When he became
softer and more open about it, I started listening. I
do a lot of things to protect the environment, like driving
an electric car, composting, and recycling plastic, but
I also do wasteful things. I still use those styrofoam
containers when I have frozen yogurt (though I do bring
my own spoon). I do the best I can. I've found that the
most effective way to create change is to start with yourself
and really make a change. Other people see it. It's not
about talking about how you live; it's just doing it.
-Based on an interview
with Pamela Gerloff
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