I Don't Want it

After twenty years on a retail floor, I don't want any more stuff

I Don't Want it

Consumerism is wild to watch up close.

Growing up in the ’80s, I loved shopping. I loved fashion and malls and buying stuff. Studying merchandising and eventually running retail stores was a natural fit.

I ran retail stores for two decades and lived in a kind of existential crisis for the last half of my career. 

I got to see rampant consumerism up close every day. It's ferocious.

Fast fashion was fun at first. Cheap, stylish pieces that you could buy without thinking about it. Wear them a few times and then donate them or throw them in the trash.

On to the next!

But we’re paying a hefty price for fast fashion, and it’s not only the landfills taking the hit.

Here are some numbers, thanks to the Foundation for Shared Impact:

  • 2,700 liters: The amount of water it takes to produce the cotton needed to make one T-shirt is enough for a person to drink for 2.5 years.
  • 200: The number of years that mostly non-biodegradable textile waste will remain in landfills.
  • 21 billion pounds: The amount of textiles sent to US landfills every year.


The Waste Piles Up

Every day in retail, we unboxed massive amounts of apparel that would be merchandised, sold, and eventually make its way to a landfill.

We threw away massive amounts of plastic. We wasted so much paper. We recycled none of it.

I thought about it a lot.

I thought about it daily.

The trouble was, I liked my career. I enjoyed leading teams and merchandising, and talking to people. But I also saw massive waste.

The Perfect Thing Does Not Exist

Waste not only in the garbage sense — I saw time and effort being wasted.

I watched moms come in day after day, trying to get the sizing right for their kids who refused to come shopping.

I saw customers stress about gift-giving. They’d hem and haw about a sweatshirt with a logo on it. They’d spend so much time, and then I’d see the item returned days later. Turns out the kid wanted cash instead.

Families exert immense energy, ensuring they have matching pajamas for the holidays, the right ornament, or the perfect THING.

But there is no perfect thing.

Things get used and then thrown in the trash. It’s novel for a day, and then it’s not anymore. It’s never enough. None of it. Not the video game, not the new e-bike, not the new hoodie or Hyrdoflask. 

Diamonds, watches, iPads — add it to the pile of stuff. 

What Are We Doing?

The week after Christmas is the most challenging week to work in retail.

You have an influx of customers: kids out of school, adults off work, and shoppers with newly acquired gift cards.

And you have an ungodly amount of returns.

The return dollars eat up all your sales dollars. Your sales dollars equal payroll — it’s how you get staff on your floor. So, with no sales dollars, you get no staff.

In my store, the registers sat below the cash wrap counter. There was a tiny well that housed each register. After Christmas, every well was stuffed full of returns. I’d work on nothing but returns for eight hours a day, and it still wasn’t enough. There was always more to process. 

You do that enough times and begin to think that society is totally bonkers. Why are we doing this to ourselves? This misery is self-inflicted.

Give Me Time With People

My husband and I quit exchanging gifts many years ago. We made travel a priority. We made time together at the top of our list.

We keep our cars for a decade or more.

We cook at home most days.

Now, the thought of consuming is exhausting. I do it when I have to, but I don’t want to shop online, go to a store, or try stuff on. I own the same pair of jeans in four colors and ten of the same black tank top.

I wear the same thing every day.

Our microwave has been broken for two weeks because I can’t get myself to the store to buy a new one. We tried fixing it but we made the problem worse. I looked online for five minutes and then gave up. 

I’ll use the oven.

These days, I make a point of spending time with the people I love. My family is in another state, so I go back often. Nothing can ever match the feeling of sitting on the back porch with someone I love, staring out at the Sonoran Desert, and having a laugh.

Nothing in the world.

Give me time with people. I don’t want the things anymore.

Based in Southern California, Kit Campoy is a former retail leader turned freelance writer. She covers Retail, Leadership, and Business. 
Join her weekly resistance, The Voice of the Frontline.

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