The Rule- "Be as careful about what you let into your home as whom you let in."
Recently a snippet on NPR caught my ear. It was part of a bigger story on recycling falling short- how little of what can be recycled, is. The bit that interested me was that in the Western Hemisphere, the average woman buys 67 items of clothing each year. And on average, they are worn seven times before being discarded. A few days later, a story in The Economist caught my eye-“Green is the new black”. The gist of this article was that while style is supposed to last, the world of ‘fast fashion’ is giving style a run for its money. What’s on the shop rack changes almost overnight and once we’ve brought it home, it doesn’t last long in our closet either -less than half as long as it did just fifteen years ago. If you’re only wearing it seven times, it’s a guest, not a resident.
So a friend with a curious mind and a willingness to be a guinea pig took my bait. “Let’s keep track of what we buy and see if we are above or below average. April Fool’s was launch day. The sample size is small. The study is poorly designed. And neither NPR nor The Economist will be interested in our results. But that’s ok. Our interest in “stuff” is reason enough to proceed.
As to the poor design- let me count the ways. A sample size of two. Co-mingling of subject and observer- not exactly the experimental gold standard. Cognitive biases a plenty: confirmation, social desirability, superiority, and expectation. If these were not damning enough, throw in bandwagon and subject-expectancy effects and the experiment appears doomed. But not so fast! It’s true that statisticians, social scientists and behavioral economists might be unimpressed, but fortunately, we don’t care a fig about the robustness or statistical significance of our study. We’re just two inquiring minds wanting to know.
So why am I telling you about this with only two of fifty-two weeks under our belts? The simple answer-to hold our feet to the fire. Public proclamation tends to do that. Anything but Average was easy to start, but might be hard to sustain, and even harder to finish. The logging of purchases should be easy. It’s the buy/ don’t buy dilemma that may be hard. And I imagine the chicken and egg conundrum will be the hardest part. Which came first- not buying because we want to appear better than average, or the belief we are better than average and seeking proof of said belief?
The list won’t lie- proudly below average (a bonafide ‘enoughist’) or humbly above average (a chastened tail-tucker)? It all depends on what we let in. Only time will tell.