I was nineteen when I first stumbled upon Easy Street shoes. They are unquestionably made for people of an older persuasion. Their logo is just a font. Not even a particularly good font. At the time, the shoe box was aqua and had a beachy, underwater feel — despite the fact that the shoes they make wouldn’t make any sense at a beach. They were navy pumps with an extremely small heel. They were also extremely comfortable. I wore them, and felt like a businesswoman.
I found an image of the shoes I am talking about – the exact same make and model of shoes that I had over 10 years ago – on sale at JCPenney. Easy Street isn’t known for innovation.
Clothing and shoes are often a place where people begin decluttering in earnest. Beginning with clothing is also what the KonMari method recommends. This makes sense: people often have a lot of clothes, and they are usually more-or-less in the same area of the house.
I declutter and purge my closet regularly.
This actually worries me a bit – I have started to wonder if I am using this journey towards minimalism and owning less as a trumped-up excuse to shop. Get rid of everything you don’t totally love, and then you have a great excuse to buy new things! Wash, rinse, and repeat.
Part of the problem is that I often buy clothes I am not 100% sold on. I thrift a lot, and with thrifting there is no guarantee that you will see an item the next time you are back in the store — and sometimes the item is a dollar. A dollar. But this is precisely the wrong attitude to go into with minimalism in mind: eh, buy it anyway, it’s cheap. Buy it anyway, or you might not get another chance! (As if, of course, losing out on a shirt or a sweater would be a disaster.)
I have given myself rules for thrift shopping: some have worked more than others. Would I buy this if it was full price, is a good one. (The most effective rule is telling myself I have gotten some nice new things recently, and have no reason even to step into the thrift store for several months.)
It was my husband who suggested the rule of never buying shoes at thrift stores. This was as I was lamenting that some boots I had just bought at the thrift store had started to come apart, a month after realizing that the new loafers I had a bought came with a horrific stench of which nothing would rid. (What can I say? I must have had a stuffy nose when I bought them. A really stuffy nose.)
“But I sometimes find really good shoes at thrift stores,” I told him.
He looked at me skeptically. “Why would someone donate perfectly good shoes? It’s not like you grow out of them.”
And then, mysteriously, I found really good shoes at the thrift store immediately after my little black ankle booties (that I actually purchased new) fell apart.
They were Easy Street. They were even navy! And they were oxfords. I was immediately smitten. So smitten I didn’t even ask anyone if they looked too old-ladyish on me, because I knew they might just say yes. And I didn’t give a damn.
I wear them with pants to work. Well, I did, before we were all quarantined in this strange period of global history.
I hope to keep these for a long time. They’ve quickly become a staple in my wardrobe.
This is something that this journey of reassessing my possessions and decluttering has given me: confidence in what the hell I like. I’m not completely a KonMari person: I hang all my pants and struggle with the folding and usually still (gasp) declutter by room, not category. But I do try to hold items and decide whether or not they spark joy.
And, for some reason, I am the kind of person for whom old lady shoes spark joy. I was at 19, and I am now. That’s not changing.
They’re damn comfortable too.
Where does this leave me in regards to buying shoes at thrift stores? Well, I’ve learned the following rules when inspecting potential new shoes at secondhand and thrift stores: I smell them (ew), check for animal hair (ew, ew), and check to see if the sole is still firmly adhered to the upper. I also try to avoid buying anything that doesn’t look brand-new. I also have started walking around the whole store in them – for much longer than is comfortable or feels socially appropriate. These habits help tremendously.
I’ll be really irritated at myself if I end up tossing these in a few months and buying a sparkly new pair of old-lady shoes.