I'm still in a daze from the end-of-semester stress. Usually I emerge into a period of lesser stress, but this year we are emerging into closing on Frugal Son's house, a major stress-event unto itself. One de-stressing event: the return home of recent grad Miss Em. Miss Em and I celebrated her arrival with a visit to the TWO Goodwills in our area. What a treat! Also, having Miss Em comb the racks with me is like having a clone.
And the frugal gods were with us. As we walked in, I said to Miss Em, "Find me something from Eileen Fisher." We didn't, but we got a few nice things. This was the seldom-visited-because-farther-away outpost that is opposite the entrance to an upscale gated community.
We were sated, but decided to stop at the lower-level shop on the way home. Miss Em came charging up after a few minutes: she had found THREE Eileen Fisher pieces. They were all together on the rack (same donor--thanks!). I investigated and found TWO more. Now we are even more sated. We divvied up the EF and decided to swap after a year. And now we have to donate even more excess to make some space. Miss Em--unlike me--is good at that.
We were feeling pretty good. I've been reading (can't remember sources--sorry) that second-hand shopping is the most virtuous--in terms of environmental impact and--post-Bengladash building collapse--in exploitation. So we were not only frugal but virtuous: can't beat that!
But how virtuous are we? After all, the fact that there were FIVE Eileen Fisher pieces donated at once--all very nice, in good shape--meant that the donor has even more. Also, we noted that many of the EF pieces were made in China of Italian yarn. Does EF supervise the factories? Are the savings in labor reflected in the prices? EF has a section on her website outlining various virtuous categories: made in USA, eco, Fair Trade, and so on. Does any item fall into all the categories? I'm not criticizing--just wondering. After all, the clothing is expensive for me, even on sale. And I wonder if my purchases make a difference or if it would better to buy something cheaper and donate the difference in cash to Doctors Without Borders.
And as for second-hand shopping: is it all that virtuous or am I just trying to justify my cheeepitude? If the item was made in China in bad conditions, does its virtue component go up as it cycles through the secondhand market? I keep thinking of an interesting moment in Paradise Lost. When Adam is thinking about falling in Book 9, he wonders if his act will be less guilty (it won't--spoiler) because the the fruit is "foretasted." He's wondering if--and hoping that--the sin will be diluted by the fact that it was already tasted. Second-hand sin, anyone?