Mairātea Mohi writes the first in a new series that documents the journey of a shopaholic in her year without new clothes. 'Win the battle, lose the WARdrobe' reveals what it means to be a young indigenous adult in a rapidly globalising society.
I am absolutely fed up.
I can’t take it anymore. Moving has consumed my life entirely. It feels like I’m swimming in packaging tape and foam, and I fear I might just drown.
To me, moving is an infuriating time that reminds you of every single thing you’ve ever been given or bought; making you assume accountability for all the crap you’ve accumulated over time. Think: every single container, the growing pile of incoherent scribbles from old meetings and all the cords you keep because ‘they’re good for something, surely?’
Living amongst every serotonin seeking purchase I’ve ever made has made me realise… I might have a problem? I didn’t think it was until my partner and I were labouring the sixth 128L container of clothes up the stairs.
What I also failed to realise is that while getting the clothes into the apartment may be half the battle, the other half is figuring out where to put everything. The campaign against my ‘WARdrobe’ has been long, arduous and at times never-ending. But I do believe it can be won with time and compassion.
While living in the trenches of my own making, I’ve done a lot of thinking and it's culminated in a drastic decision: to give up shopping for a year.
You might be wondering, ‘how is this drastic? Why should I even care?’ Well, you don’t have to care. You don’t even have to keep reading. But isn’t that what we’ve always been doing? Ignoring?
I believe clothing to be an inherent part of our society and identity. It does a lot of the talking for us. It can tell others about our status, our culture or how we want to be perceived. So why aren’t we as a society addressing the unhealthy relationship many of us have with our clothes?
This is why I’m choosing to stop consuming them for 12 months. But there are other reasons, too…
I want to change my relationship with clothes and my body
I was raised on the internet. I was around for Myspace and there for Bebo, but I was most active on Tumblr in the early 2010s. Tumblr was a place that glorified self-hate and competed on who had it the hardest. I come from a scarred generation who bore witness to toxic thinspiration posts and romanticised depression to a point of normality. To say I have an unhealthy relationship with my body is an understatement. I can distinctly remember a time where I felt a deep embarrassment and sadness because I was built with thighs touching in the middle, from hip to calf.
And if it wasn’t the negative representation online, it was absolutely no representation in the media. I commend Disney for recognising us in Moana, but until 2016, the only representation of powerful Polynesian women was Lani from Lilo & Stitch. She was strong and graceful, and looked just like my aunties.
But she wasn’t the main character, and I needed that. I now realise I need to be that main character, not just for myself, but my cousins, nieces and any other little girl who never saw their eccentric brown self represented.
Using clothes that I know fit and look good on me, it’s time to repair the most important relationship I’ll ever have in my life: the forever connection between my body and self-worth.
It’s a good way to save money, lol
The subliminal messages telling teenagers and twenty-somethings to ‘grow up already’ has been very loud and clear. I moved out at 18, just got a degree and am now working full time. Yet, I’m still not seen as an adult in the eyes of society until I marry, buy a house and have kids. It feels like the goalpost keeps moving every time.
I feel like I am trying my very best to conform to the rules of society, but society isn’t meeting the needs of people like me.
Take home ownership. It's no longer enough to just ‘rough it' while studying, you’re expected to do it for the rest of your life too. We are constantly being told that we need to make great sacrifices to buy a home - to give up so much in the hope of having a roof over our heads. So how is it that we have more tonnes of clothes in landfill than homeowners in this country?
Well, since a millennial like me just ‘can’t’ give up my avocado toast, clothes are the next best option. While reviewing my spending I found that I’ve been using shopping as a conscious coping mechanism. I was using shopping as a way to reward, console and even comfort. Resorting to retail therapy in times of stress, because it’s always been cheaper than the real thing.
This year, I plan to change that.
Who knows, with all the money I save, I might be able to buy tissues as I watch the asking price for a house go up another 200K.
It’s my rebellion against overconsumption
As a kaitiaki to this whenua, I no longer want to contribute to the 220,800 tonnes of textiles that go to landfills every year. With aroha in my heart I no longer want to participate in fast fashion and its preservation of modern day slavery. And as a future tupuna, I no longer want to buy clothes that profit off of communities rather than empower them.
So join me as I detail my year of fighting consumerism and battling institutional norms of overbuying. Read with me as I contend against temptation and struggle with the allurement of Instagram clothes drops. I will write of the highs and address the lows. I will talk on my own experiences as a young Māori woman while soliciting other marginalised and unheard voices. This is a place to wānanga (forum) and rangahau (research) on why we as a society can’t quit our toxic shopping habits.
The chief designer of California Closets once said, “people wear 20% of their wardrobe, 80% of the time.” I guess it’s time to go ‘shopping!’
- No new clothes for a year!
- Unwanted clothes should be donated not trashed.
- Rent > buy
- If I ‘have’ to buy something it must be ‘NZ made'.
(Exceptions: Socks and underwear)
This is a Public Interest Journalism funded role through NZ On Air