My guilt in regards to the sheer amount of clothing I own is staggering. Though ‘staggering’ still carries a negative connotation within its use, I think it really transforms into much more of a positive when in comparison to descriptions of the amount of clothing I owned in high school.
I went through a fashionista phase between the ages of 16-20 where I would needlessly suffer in front of a mirror for hours the night before school, consumed over whether or not my red ballet pointes matched the exact shade of the red accent on my fake Hermès scarf, bought for fifty cents at a yard sale. Like I owned anything real like that!
I owned mountains and valleys of dresses and skirts in a rainbow of color options, and if I found one that fit and looked fabulous, I bought one of that particular thing in every color. One is never enough.
I had hundred of eye shadow palettes, and sometimes, when an outfit used colors that were difficult to pick an eye shadow for (for some reason, I always struggle with red clothing and eye shadow combinations), I consulted a professional color wheel to see what the corresponding color would be. Science never lies.
Excessive? Yes. But note the most important thing out of all of this: you never caught me in yoga pants.
Regardless, now that I’m slightly older but probably a great deal less mature than I once was in high school, I am easily overwhelmed by the pure amount of shit I have accumulated in my room. It’s not that I don’t buy clothing anymore or care about how I look; I just care a lot less about dressing as nicely and care more about important activities like sleeping and choosing Hot Pocket flavors in the grocery store.
I recently did an overhaul of my closet and donated or gave away a majority of the unused pieces, so it’s better than it once was maybe a year or so ago. My attention turned more towards the cultivation of my library and less on the cultivation of my earring garden. But I still don’t like the amount of clothing I have in my closet; it’s still too many options.
Apparently, neither did Sarah Lazarovic, Canadian author of the adorably illustrated saga of her quest to rid herself of stuff entitled A Bunch of Pretty Things I Did Not Buy, which, for my own sanity and brevity, I will abbreviate ABOPTIDNB. It’s a pretty word right?
I honestly felt a little guilty reviewing this book because it falls more on the spectrum of children’s picture book than novel. The Moomins are more of a challenge to read than ABOPTIDNB. But I found it a pleasant, quick read, and the illustrations make me very jealous that I only have the ability to draw stick figures.
Essentially, Lazarovic describes through a series of illustrations her hitting the rock bottom of materialism and how minimalism saved her. She swore off shopping for clothing (maybe other things, but this is not totally clear in her text) for an entire year. She utilizes watercolors and drawings of images of clothing she adored but did not buy. This acted as her poor man’s version of therapy in order to prevent herself from accumulating more and more.
Lazarovic is also delightfully witty and funny. There were several moments throughout the book where I mentally high-fived her because of her witty responses. ABOPTIDNB is light and humorous, but it does bring to the table a very serious issue facing society today. How much is too much? At what point are we materially satisfied, especially when the scientific evidence leads us to believe the earth will likely implode on itself any day now? Do we really need these things to make us happy? After all, as Lazarovic said so perfectly:
A scarf can do so much…but it can only do so much (94).
One of the elements that I really did not enjoy about ABOPTIDNB is its ill-structuring. The focus is scattered, constantly shifting and morphing in different directions every few pages. The focus begins with Lazarovic’s history of clothing for probably the first half of the text, then it moves to her not buying any clothes for maybe the next quarter of the book. Suddenly, we are sent down a Home Goods guilt trip for the last half of the text, a place where Lazarovic focuses on how, like buying too many clothes, we also buy too much shit for our house; pillows and rugs and pictures and dog accessories… but then we’re sent immediately to an annotated bibliography of her sources and some how-to-tell-if-clothing-is-quality instructions? It’s a bit all over the place.
It’s not unlike riding Space Mountain in Disney World. If you’re not careful and watching where the tiny rocket ship is momentuming, thanks in part to your two giant brothers sitting in front of you, pushing you forward way faster than the ride is actually supposed to be pushing you, you’re going to break your neck, or in my case, throw up after the ride.
At first, I really disliked the fact that Lazarovic’s text gives off an air of non-authority about the subject she has chosen. But now, after allowing it to settle for a week, it bothers me much less. She has clearly done her homework on the issue of owning too much of anything, and I sort of like that she comes off as a normal human being who attempted to change her life and her closet and has successfully achieved both of these.
The only other issue I had with the text was the selected typestyles sometimes; it could be difficult to read at times. If you were never taught how to read cursive, you may as well skip this book because you will struggle desperately with the script. It’s pretty cursivey.
I’m not sure that any woman will totally be convinced by Lazarovic’s argument. It’s perhaps too difficult to craft a solid argument when limited to the format she has chosen (brief amount of text on one page, illustration on the corresponding page). But it makes you think. She doesn’t totally convince you to stop shopping all together, but she has a pretty convincing argument for slowing down, making you more aware of how the “continuum of desire” can go on forever if you’re not careful.
Besides, not shopping would leave so much room for productive activities anyway, like being on the Internet and making fun of stupid stuff on the Internet. Clearly, my priorities are in check.