If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know about my goal of using Amazon less (because of their unethical business practices) and local, fair-trade vendors more. Sure, the products are more expensive (often by a factor of 3 or more,) but that’s okay because Mr. December and I would rather have a small number of high-quality things than tons of cheap stuff.
But what happens when our values collide with necessity?
When I got the summer camp packing list, my first thought was, “My kids don’t have that much clothing!” We do laundry either once or twice a week, which means that in any given season we need maximum eight of anything—shirts, pants, socks, underwear, whatever. When we travel, we aim for just four days’ worth of clothes, and we do laundry every three or four days. We just don’t need that much stuff. Besides, as I once read somewhere, “Wearing different clothes everyday is an American obsession.” If the clothes aren’t stinky or visibly dirty, they can be worn again.
Mr. December would go farther with that and say that it doesn’t matter if they wear dirty clothes at camp. And they don’t need four sweaters, he’d argue, because the kid can wear all of their t-shirts at once to keep warm. Also, if their shoes get wet they can just wear wet shoes for a while. Problem solved.
I agree with him, to a degree. It’s camp. You’re in the woods. It doesn’t matter if there’s a stain on your sweatshirt from yesterday’s dinner. Just wear it.
(We used to wear the same clothes for a full week on our canoe trips, only changing our underwear and occasionally washing our t-shirts in the lake. Yes, we stank. No, none of us cared. And now my Mum is reading this and cringing. Sorry, Mum!)
I also tend to agree that kids don’t always need doubles of everything. It’s good for them to learn that no great misfortune will befall them if they have to wear sandals while their running shoes dry out. A little stoicism wouldn’t hurt these kids, I assure you.
Alas, the way laundry is done at camp my kids will only have about half their clothes with them at a time, so they do need at least twice as much as I would have thought reasonable. And since the kids just don’t own that much clothing, there’s lots of shopping to be done.
Ideally I would like to steer clear of fast fashion and things that were made in sweatshops, and instead invest in responsibly-made clothes. But first, things that go to camp might get ruined by the industrial laundry service or might not come back at all. That’s not the place for clothes that could be described as an “investment in a few good pieces.” Not to mention the fact that since I’m not willing to stand in line to get into a thrift shop, the cost of outfitting three kids with fifteen days’ worth of ethically-made clothes would be staggering.
I think you already know that reality steamrolled my lofty sartorial-ethical goals completely. It grates on me a bit every time I go back to my old, cheap standbys… but obviously not enough to make me want to spend ninety dollars on a single bathing suit that might not come back home. I’m trying not to sweat it; once all the camp purchases are finished I can go back to choosing quality over quantity.