Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Compact Challenge: A New Chance at Life

So this week I had a set back as I went to the Dollar-Tree for the first time in what seems like forever in order to pick up some poster board for a group project. Unfortunately, while my group and I were there, I was drawn away from purchasing the necessary items for the project by much more entertaining items like a butterfly catcher, which I bought along with some rhinestones which I have no need for at all! After walking out the door and getting in my car I realized what I had done in my blind shopping frenzy that seemed so innocent but really just about broke every rule in the compact challenge in less than ten minutes. I feel like a drug addict who just relapsed in that I saw a few things there I decided to wait to purchase until later, but that I really want now. Following Dr. Valverde’s advice that we need to be more conscious about the compact challenge, I decided to take drastic action and punish myself by requiring that for every unnecessary item I brought home that day that broke the rules of the compact challenge I would have to choose three times the amount of my personal possessions and give them away to charity. Needless to say this was not as easy as I imagined, considering I could not cheat and simply return the items because the Dollar Tree does not do returns, merely exchanges. I decided clothes would be a good start since I have so many I do not use. To help with my decision I involved one of my roommates who went through a few drawers in my dresser with me and parted all the clothes he had seen me wear with the ones he had not, and then further into piles of clothes I looked good wearing and clothes I did not look good in when wearing them. I found myself making excuses right and left as to why I wanted, nay needed certain articles of clothing, describing this perfect scenario in my head where a particular outfit would be perfect. Brought abruptly back to reality he reminded me that I would rarely if ever find such perfect scenarios and if I did happen to come across one much later in my life (1) what were the odds I would remember and actually wear the particular article of clothing I associated with this scenario and (2) who is to say that I would not want a new outfit or (3) that I would still be able to fit into my old outfit or that (4) it was still fashionable? I agreed and felt like I was on the show “What Not to Wear” where a poor victim is recommended by her friends and they stand there throwing her clothes away, but not before explaining to her how hideous she looked in them. The truth hurts but that is why I needed a true friend to be honest with me. So far in the Compact challenge before this little fiasco I felt confident because I have not been shopping, spending frivolously and I have definitely been re-purposing many of my already consumed items as well as others. Thus I feel that I need to be reminded of some of the things we learned in the second week of class through our readings. In our article “Toward a History of Appearances” by Philippe Perrot, he states “Clothing oneself is not a matter of freely assembling elements drawn from a wide range of possibilities but rather one of arranging components chosen from a limited pool according to certain rules. It is thus a personal act. But at the same time, there is nothing more social than clothing” (6). Although the accumulation of clothing is a simple problem most everyone has and it does not seem as important in the overall message of the compact challenge, the message my friend imparted to me was very similar to what Perrot was saying and does provide a deeper depth to an underlying lesson one can learn from the compact challenge. By getting rid of the clothes that seem to clutter up my life and consume much of my time as I need to constantly take care of them, wash, fold, organize, reorganize, pack and move from one place to another, and by keeping the clothes in which I look my best, feel my best and portray a sophisticated fashionable style, I will have more time to be social and give off a better impression to those who I meet. Before I was “freely assembling elements drawn from a wide range of possibilities” but now I have a “limited pool” (Perrot 6) which allows me to use the time I spent on preserving my burden to maybe take a friend out to lunch, maybe give someone my business card since now I feel my clothes reflect the side of me I want everyone to see. The burden consumption places on all of us is often not felt until after a portion of it has been lifted and now I feel I have a new understanding and new found respect for what the compact challenge is offering us, a chance for a new start in life.

Heather Crane
Blog #4

Perrot, Philippe. Fashioning the Bourgeosie. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994. (pg. 3-25)

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