First-World Contemplations – Don’t Buy the T-shirt

This is purely an opinion piece, exactly like all my other posts, and I want you to feel free to agree with me. Let’s talk t-shirts and how buying t-shirts can’t change our lives. In fact, I think buying a t-shirt can be a grave mistake. For example, one sad purchase would be the dated t-shirt. Another one is the t-shirt for an obscure event, especially if that event never happens again. If that event is a once-in-a-lifetime deal that no one’s really heard of, then take a picture of yourself experiencing that moment. No t-shirt necessary. A dated t-shirt is a little different. There might be sentimental value involved, and in such a case, you might consider how you can reclaim the material at the end of the year—and it should be in a way you will truly use. Like, a t-shirt bag is great and all, but we have reusable bags being handed out for free at every function. Is it worth the time and effort to remake a t-shirt into a bag?

We have all fallen for the myth that we are going to wear those t-shirts again. This is only true for a select few that get the honor of being worn to shreds by our brothers, sons, and husbands. As both a thrift store shopper and a donation sorter, I can assure you most households toss stacks and stacks of those custom-made, event t-shirts every year. The thrift stores, in turn, redirect those t-shirts and find other uses for them because they are donated in droves, and they do not sell. Nobody wants to sport the baby blue shirt with the “Haversham’s All-Stars 2013” on the front, and “Go HAS!” on the back.

What happens to these lonely, unwanted t-shirts? Maybe the story should be told by a movie, “T-shirt Story,” where a t-shirt with a cowboy hat and lasso gets jealous of a spaceman t-shirt. Cowboy t-shirt gets spaceman t-shirt thrown out of the house when the owners aren’t looking. Then, in an exciting twist of events, cowboy t-shirt decides to rescue spaceman t-shirt from a horrible t-shirt torturer. Maybe there could be a couple of sequels. Nyah. This story’s going to end up making me cry; I can feel it.

Seriously, lonely t-shirts are sent to nursing homes, where they are used to cover nicer shirts or they are cut up into bibs. They are also made into fat quarters for the quilters who don’t mind working with knit. Some people cut t-shirts into strips and make rag rugs. Those people are not me; but if you have the skill, I think you should go for it. For those of you into “family cloth,” have you considered the potential of these one-day event t-shirts, languishing and forgotten in your child’s drawer? Please think about that. I won’t. It makes me gag, but that’s just me.

How do I reuse old t-shirts? I use them to clean wood and as paint cloths. I also annoy toddlers with them by telling them they can’t paint unless they put a huge, man-size one over their clothes, and they hate me for it. Just so you know I’ve tried, I’ve made the t-shirt bags, too. My daughter made one that came out halfway decent. It was very small, so I stole it to hold my hairdryer. Her hairdryer is now naked and self-conscious. No worries; my daughter is still talking to me.

It isn’t that one-day-event t-shirts aren’t great, it’s that we are buying and donating an abundance of them. I’ve contemplated tallying up how much is spent on t-shirts by the average four-person family. How many sports team, club, work, church, and camp t-shirts do we consume in a year… and can t-shirts be cooked in a way that will make them nutritional? After thinking about the expense of t-shirts, I think it would be fun for budget-savvy families to start a “no-buy t-shirt” savings account. For every t-shirt they probably would have bought, they should put that money in savings. If every member of the family usually bought two t-shirts a year per person at an average price of $12.99 each, a four-person family would save… Wait. I’m not good at math. They would save money. And if families decided to use that money to help someone, they could tell people who were pressuring them to buy the t-shirt that they had committed the money they usually use to pay for t-shirts to a cause that is personally important to them.

What about the free t-shirts at events? Well, someone is paying for them, even if you get them for free. And I can’t help but wonder what would happen if event organizers considered that money as a donation for a cause instead of buying t-shirts with it. Like, instead of including a t-shirt in the registration fee, why not charge the same registration fee, figure out how much it would have cost to print those t-shirts, and advertise that “in lieu of t-shirts this year, a portion of your registration goes to such-and-such charity”? It’s trendy for birthdays, right? Basically, you get to not bring home another t-shirt for the same price that you get to help both a charity and help the overrun-with-t-shirts thrift store.

Together, I think we just might save the world… one less t-shirt at a time.

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