I Haven’t Bought New Clothes in a Year

A few years ago, my mother introduced me to a consignment store with an incredible Black Friday sale: everything was half off for the entire weekend.

Mom and I made it a yearly tradition of shopping there. I’d buy several name brand, high-end outfits worth hundreds, while only spending around 40 dollars total. I’d buy my work wardrobe for the entire year. The clothes were always clean, fresh, tidy and neat. Friends and co-workers were constantly commenting on my new clothing – asking me where I purchased it, and where did I find such a great deal.

Many were pleasantly surprised when I confided my sharp new look was actually used clothing from a consignment shop.

This lead me to an idea: Go one year without purchasing any new clothing.

For this experiment, I set some basic rules:
– I could not purchase any new clothing for exactly one year beginning Black Friday, 2013 and ending Black Friday, 2014.
– Shoes were excluded (I had to have a new pair for work)
– Underwear, including socks and tights, was excluded (obviously)

It was going to be hard. I live 10 minutes from Target, Kohls, TJMaxx, Rue21, and so many other places I’d normally frequent for clothes. It was hard to stop the temptation of “just stopping in” when passing by one of the stores.

During this year, I had to find alternative places for clothing. This lead me to really research what we wear, where it’s made, and what really goes into the production and sale of a clothing item. I immersed myself in the research of Chinese sweatshops, which is where much of our clothing is made. Children as young as five work in sweatshops, earning pennies a day sewing out oversized sweaters with chevron stripes. It repulsed me.

The things I learned during this year completely changed my life. I became a conscientious consumer in everything I purchased – learning the origin of my products. I dove headfirst into vintage living; replacing new “trendy” items in my home with vintage items made in the USA. By the summer, I wasn’t just buying consignment clothes, I was only buying clothing that I knew the origin of. Weather it be a vintage dress at an estate sale, or an all-American company creating an manufacturing goods ethically. (Note: I still only purchased used; just to keep with the yearlong experiment).

Did I make it? I’m still making it. We can work to change sweatshop labor every single day. Small changes, like being informed consumers, add up to big differences.

Summer Escapades: 12 North Alabama Adventures for Couples

Life = experiences, not possessions. This means, summertime, traveling, hanging out with best friends, and soaking up every single gamma ray of sunshine on a warm, humid Alabama day that’s charmfully southern and filled with escapades.

A quintessential suburban couple, my husband and I are always on the hunt for the next adventure. Here’s a few pursuits in (and around) the north Alabama area that have allured us in and held us captive.

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1) Start the summer with Brewfest

- Held in early May, this weekend event features tastings of the best craft beers available in Alabama. Buy passes early, as the prices increases as the the date nears.

2) In June, head up to Manchester, Tennessee for Bonnaroo.

- One of the largest music festivals in the world is only an hour and a half from many parts of north Alabama. It’s a four day camping festival that’s called the likes of Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and Elton John.

3) Go camping at Joe Wheeler State Park

- Located in Rogersville, Alabama, this quaint state park offers 116 modern campsites, in addition to primitive camping. Tenting or RVing too rugged? A lodge hotel and cabins are also available for rent.

4) Hit up Point Mallard Water Park’s 1/2 Price Days after work

- On Tuesday’s and Thursday’s, the water park remains open until 8:00 P.M., and offers half-price admission. Go on a hot sunny day after a long day in the office.

5) Take a hike on Rainbow Mountain

- This greenspace features beautiful rock formations along several miles of hiking and walking trails. Take a breather at the “balance rock” and enjoy breathtaking views.

6) Spend a Saturday afternoon at Lowe Mill

- With over 100 artists, businesses, and restaurants, this cultural center thrives in a historic textile mill located on Seminole Drive in Huntsville. Saturdays opens up the Flying Monkey Artist’s Market, where local artisans set up booths and sell wares.

7) Jump in the Madison Pool at Dublin Park

- This outdoor pool features two diving boards, including a high-dive. Admission is only $3; the staff is friendly, and crowding is generally not an issue. Go on a hot, sticky, Sunday afternoon.

8) Pick up a craft brew at Wish You Were Beer.

- North Alabama’s first craft-only beer store offers a wide selection of both domestic and import craft beers. Buy beers to take home, or have one in the store. They also offer samples and tastings on select days.

9) Kayak the Elk River

- Located in north Alabama and south Tennessee, the Elk River has many areas for kayaking and canoeing. The area as a whole offers many river tributaries and creeks that perfect for a lazy or fast-paced day on the water.

10) Host a Cookout for Friends

- Plan the party around non-holiday times, as many people have family obligations for holidays. Make it a casual, potluck-style event.

11) Catch a show at Vertical House Records

- Opened in 2007, this shop features new and used LPs, CDs, VHS, turntables, and stereo equipment. The bonus is the live shows of amazing local and regional bands, held throughout the year.

12) Take a road trip to see the Atlanta Braves

- A four hour drive from most Huntsville locations, Atlanta is a great city for a weekend getaway or an easy day trip. Have a pet? Take the furry friend for Bark in the Park, generally held twice a year.