Sunday, June 21, 2009

Disposable Clothing

One of the main things people use a "home" for is storage and maintenance of clothing. Most people have an inventory of clothes for various purposes: for warm weather, cold weather, sports, formal affairs, beach, etc. They also have a hamper of used clothes waiting to be washed and often their own washer and dryer to run them through. The whole thing gets very complicated and expensive.

If you don't have a stable residence, you've got to cut that process down drastically. You can't haul around the huge inventory of clean and soiled clothes, only a modest amount of each.

One solution: disposable clothing! Imagine if you could afford to buy clothes, use them once or twice, then throw them away. There would be no storage problems at either end. It sounds wasteful, but if you add up the costs of storing and washing a fixed wardrobe, it might not be unreasonable.

Thanks to Chinese slave labor, prices for basic clothes in the U.S. are low enough that single-use is an option. At the Evil Mega Mart™, I can get socks for 75 cents a pair (in packs of 10) and underwear for a little more than a dollar each in bulk. Colored T-shirts can be found at Walgreens™ for 5 for $10. Shirts and pants at EMM™ are as little as $10—and far less if you shop thrift stores and garage sales. Voilá — a disposable wardrobe!

I have conducted scientific longevity studies on my clothing by wearing it until it turns rank. Socks have the shortest lifespan, lasting only a day before needing a wash. I can get two days out of underwear and perhaps three from a shirt. Pants can be usually be worn for several weeks before becoming visibly or aromatically distressed. At the prices given above, that's less than $5 a day for disposable clothing.

I could rent a storage unit in every city I commonly visit just to keep my clothes in but it would end up costing far more than just buying clothes as I need them. (EMM is my storage unit!)

In practice, when I have laundry facilities at my disposal, I will use them, but knowing that I can throw away my clothes is very useful. It allows me to travel very light. I can arrive in a new city with nothing, and as long as an EMM (or similar European hypermarket) is present, I can reconstruct a wardrobe very quickly. I can also ditch my inventory at a moment's notice, since my investment in it is minimal.

For footwear, I have been buying the same product for years: Silver Series™ athletic shoes from EMM. They are your basic sneaker with Velcro™ straps instead of laces. The price used to be $9 a pair but has recently rocketed to $11. I buy a new pair whenever I want to look respectable and usually wear them for a month. Of course, you can also buy shoes for $50 to $100 a pair, but you aren't getting 5 or 10 times the use out of them, since expensive shoes get soiled just as fast as cheap ones.

In my Silver Series, I not afraid to wade through swamps or sand, because it was probably time to get new ones anyway. If I had $100 shoes, I wouldn't dare soil them, which can be a crimp on all sorts of adventures.

If you think that $11 shoes can't do the job of $100 ones, I can report that I climbed Mt. Whitney, the tallest mountain in the lower 48 states, requiring a marathon 22 hour death march, in my standard-issue Silver Series. The hike was no piece of cake, but my feet were fine. It was the guys in the expensive hiking boots who got the blisters, because they were hiking in shoes their feet weren't used to.

(This says something important about the investments people make in their possessions. When people spend $100 on hiking boots, they feel compelled to wear them, even if their feet don't like it. Everyone says you should wear hiking boots to climb mountains (not the least, the manufacturers and vendors of hiking boots and all the hiking "experts" who need to demonstrate their expertise), but your feet may have different ideas. Just spending a lot of money on something doesn't necessarily make it the best, and the huge investment is inevitably going to change your behavior. You are now "owned" by those $100 hiking boots, instead of you owning them.)

Since I don't have multiple sets of clothing for different purposes, I make do with what I have. When my $10 jeans reach their expiration date, I take a pair of scissors to them, and they become shorts! This also serves as my bathing suit. (I imagine, on the female side, that a bathing suit top can also serve as a bra, but not the other way around.) If a shirt gets a little rank, I might wash it in the sink with whatever soap I have available, thus extending its life by a couple of days. I am always coming up with new tricks.

Outerwear, like jackets and sweaters, tends to be more expensive and less disposable. It's also very bulky to haul around. Whenever possible, I try to avoid this inconvenience by STAYING AWAY FROM COLD PLACES. Slush and snow? Not my cup-o-tea!

When I have to go to chilly places, I tend to dress in layers. A couple of cheap sweatshirts or sweaters are easier to manage than a single heavy overcoat. I tend to get these items at thrift shops for disposable prices, so if I find I don't need them, I simply jettison them.

What about dress-up occasions where I have to make a good impression? Well, one of the reasons I got into this lifestyle is that I hate dealing with formal social circumstances. Any situation where appearance is critical is not one I care to be involved in. Interview on national TV? They'll have to take me as I am!

But to make a reasonably good impression in social circumstances, I might buy a brand new pair of $10 pants and $11 sneakers especially for the occasion. And I usually carry some kind of colorful Hawaiian shirt with me that I think looks nice. I you happen to die, don't expect me to show up at your funeral in anything fancier than that.

Since I shower at a health club or hostel almost every day, I think I can reasonably pass for a normal person. My clothes and their condition doesn't set me apart from anyone else, which is all I expect of them. I'm certainly no fashion plate and have no interest being one. I just want to pass through life easily, without my clothing or its maintenance getting in the way.

©2009, Glenn Campbell, PO Box 30303, Las Vegas, NV 89173.
Released from Athens, Greece.
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