the small things = the big things (= less things)


I always get stuck on the small things, and maybe it’s because I am a woman and women are micro-focused and the outside world is too harsh for them and they do best in the home, where they can focus on sewing and child rearing.


It’s actually because I made this choice a while ago to make my life my activism. It’s not the most effective way to change the world, but it gives me deep pleasure, even when I’m failing. I continually see people making compromises, and it pleases me to push myself to stay as pure as possible. It’s good to have lines in the sand. It’s pleasurable to tighten them every once in a while. I tightened mine a lot in January, when I made a New Year’s Resolution to try not to buy things made in China and other countries known for sweatshoppy conditions.

I thought it would be hard but I also figured that I am not really a shopper, so how hard could it be?

Really, really hard.

If I wanted a sweet book deal, I should have done like that quasi-poseur couple who are trying to have a no-impact year and are keeping a blog about it. (Update!)

(I call them quasi-poseurs because they reek of yuppie selfishness even though they are doing a rad thing — the guy admitted in a NYT article I can’t find that he started doing it for a book deal. Um, dude? A fucking book is a consumer item, yo. All your non-consumerism is going to be totally undone when your book [he does say it will be published in “some sustainable way”] comes out and you’re jetting all around the fucking planet to promote it. Also, the woman bragged about how she wouldn’t be able to live if she hadn’t bought some $400 calfskin boots right before it began or something – AND they allow gifts! I mean, I admire them for trying, but while society pays attention to media-savvy examples of a trend like them, I’m proud to be part of the real underground, the one that quietly keeps working at building a truly sustainable world. I’m glad they are doing what they are doing. I just have problems with our current media culture.)

So, the only loophole in my China resolution – and I am a firm believer in loopholes, if it helps you stick to something difficult – is that I can buy cookware and things I truly need for my business. But that hasn’t been the hard part. I really wanted 30 Oxo scoops for my dry goods, but that need passed. I would like new measuring spoons, and am holding out hope I’ll find some. My veg peelers are about to die, so I might have to bend the rules on that one, since I use them all the time. But those are fairly small purchases. Most of my big-ticket cooking stuff (like my pots and pans, swoon) is actually really high quality and made in Europe or the USA. The only thing I really use that loophole for are my containers, of which I do own hundreds.

I don’t usually buy new clothes, so that hasn’t been a big problem. I’ve been doing a barter for really lovely (handmade!) safe clothes lately, very fun. Gorgeous!

Not buying new clothes isn’t really a problem for me – even though I admit to spending a lot of time deciding what to wear and, yes, I keep a private “outfit diary” of photos of my greatest hits (super helpful!! I adore it!). I like clothes, but new clothes are just ugly to me. (Ok, ok, since I’m being so honest here I should, in the interest of full disclosure, admit that a cornerstone of my wardrobe are 6 precious pairs of Diesel jeans [estimated retail value: $1,200] I acquired for free as a benefit of Jacob working in the music business. Without my Diesels I would be rather bereft.)

I wear American Apparel underwear, and, as previously stated, am currently in the market for a new brand because of feministy, not sweatshoppy, concerns. I had a little H&M accident a few months ago resulting in two (insanely cute!) sweaters, but they were made in Romania. I know, that’s probably cheating, but the resolution was mostly about China, ok?

What has been so difficult are the little incidental things that everyone needs to buy now and then. It turns out that 100% of them are made in China. While it’s fun to buy handmade clothes because you can’t buy off-the-rack ones, or really expensive cookware because you know the people who made it are treated well, it’s both boring and annoying to spend half your life looking for non-sweatshop hardware supplies, pens, ziploc bags, hair dye, etc.

I recently decided to buy a clothesline, and completely forgot to check where it was made until I got home – China. But it, along with the infamous bike-powered washing machine, puts my laundry completely off the grid, so I didn’t feel so bad about it. But I do need clothespins. And so the search began. For 2 weeks I’ve been looking for clothespins not made in China, and today I finally looked “clothespins” up on wikipedia – the search is over. The search is fruitless. I had a feeling that a category title of “The Rise and Fall of the American Clothespin” wasn’t the best sign:

“…In December 2002, Richard Penley turned off the machines at the Penley Corp. clothespin plant in West Paris, laying off 39 of the company’s 54 employees. Penley now imports and distributes clothespins – the very ones the company used to compete against – as well as wooden matches, toothpicks, plastic straws and cutlery…

In 2007, National Clothes Pin Company Inc. of Montpelier, VT, closes its doors, as well. This is the last American manufacturer of wooden clothespins in existence.

China now has a corner on the clothespin market.”

Since I refuse to learn how to whittle, I’m off to the hardware store to buy Chinese clothespins.

If you Google “clothespin” you will get a craft pattern for little making dolls of Chinese girls out of clothespins that just might have been made by Chinese girls.

* * *

Further reading:

A good article on freegans.

Adbusters’ Buy Nothing Day

26 Responses to “the small things = the big things (= less things)”

  1. mary, your friend

    i am having fun catching up on your blog. secretly, lagusta, i am dying to view the outfit diary. and i’m real proud we’re pals.

  2. JenZ.

    thank you, thank you, thank you for having not just one of the top, but THE top Google hit when, last weekend, I searched “clothespins not made in fucking China.” Perfect too that I landed on a blog in my old stomping grounds – thanks for the great blog and pictures that make me nostalgic for upstate NY.
    P.S. I just received delivery of my first of two wins on ebay of antique clothespins – and there are a lot more waiting to be snatched up!

  3. lagusta

    Ah, I wasn’t looking online – I was looking in my local stores. It seemed to me like a waste of a plane trip to order clothespins online, but in the future I will buy those, thanks!

  4. Stephanie

    I came upon this blog post while doing my own search for US made wooden clothespins. It seems there truly aren’t any to be found. The ones in that link by Evan, above, aren’t US made – that company, Penley, closed their mills in 2003 and has resorted to importing them too.

    Good post, though.

  5. Stephanie

    oops, I noticed you already mentioned the information on Penley in your post.

    (Do your research, Evan!)

  6. Jim

    Damnit! Can’t even get US made clothespins anymore – that sux! The imported ones just aren’t as good. Maybe with the looming lack of energy, Penley or someone will start making them here again. I hate crap from China – only buy it if I have absolutely no other options.

    Thanks to Jen – didn’t even think to try ebay.

  7. Kathleen

    Found this blog entry while doing my own search for US made clothespins. I, too, try fervently not to my goods made in China. It’s getting exceptionally difficult to do! I just bought some really crappy Chinese made clothespins in Mexico and am determined to find at least better quality ones even if they are made in China!

    • Colin

      Hi couldnt resist the temptation to reply.

      I have two excellent pins which I wish to have manufactured in USA.

      I would be grateful for any directions.

      If you wish I coukld send you a couple pins which would prove just how great they are.

  8. Martha S. George

    this is a really old blog post so bear with me… I found used clothes pins on ebay, so I was thinking you could check garage sales and estate sales etc. if you didn’t want to order them from far away. I too am bothered by the little things!!!! (plus the old pins made in USA are nicer!) maybe the renewed interest in drying outside / hanging to dry will get someone to start manufacturing again…it’s not the company’s fault it’s us dumb consumers!!!!
    I can’t stand those people who didn’t buy anything for a year either!!!! BUT they want us to buy their BOOK! DUH!

  9. Martha S. George

    oh, I forgot Vermont just passed a “right to dry” law in June, you can see a video about it on the Vermont Country Store web site. It seems so absurd! It’s true though, something my Mom took for granted everyday has been banned because it is an assault to some crazy people’s sensibilities, the White House better put up a clothes line!!!! The “right to dry” people have an old picture from the 1920’s of clothes drying ouside the White House…awesome!

  10. greennii

    i too am looking for clothespins, but not only ones made in the US, but ones made with something, anything, sustainable or recycled. i’m determined something is out there and i’ll let you know if i find it. on another note, i work for a green vetting company and if you tell me what kinds of cookware and containers you need, i’ll be happy to help you look for them, as they’d be a great addition to our database. feel free to check out our site and you might find something you need there!


  11. GoodOleBoy

    Found your blog looking for some good American made clothes pins. Went all over the place and nothing but Chinese crap. Close cock wobbly and are thin crappy wood.

    In 5-10 years or maybe even sooner we are going to be at war with China, they are already planning on it with several Chinese generals writing books on how they will conduct the war. What will Americans buy if we cant buy their garbage? I have American made clothes 20 years old and still in good shape,Try that with the imported stuff available now.

    You beat me to the punch on writing a blog about this fools errand I have made looking for clothes pins.

  12. Robin

    Well, Penley got an email from me this weekend. My email is about how poorly crafted their clothespins were. But they are not the only manufacturer to hear from me about the crap coming out of China. When I go looking for the “small” things I find that they are all out of China and not worth my hard to come by dollars. Same for small appliances, all are out of China. They hear from me too.

    Its time to take our country back before China kills it slowly with their poisoned consumables kill us and their defective electricals burn us out.

  13. Diane Tuorila

    My 2011 resolution was to not buy anything made in China. I just spent 2 hours running from store to store in my hometown (medium size, in Minnesota) looking for 2 items. A clothespin bag and clothespins. Made anywhere BUT China. No such luck. So, turn to the internet. You should be able to find ANYTHING here. And with some serious hunting I found the Vermont Country store. Their clothespins are assembled in the US with material from China. Okay, so it is cheating a little bit. I am almost temped to try to make my own using popsicle sticks and duct tape. (Google homemade clothespins) That, at least made me smile. (can you find popsicle sticks made in the US? Duct tape?) Damn – another search!
    The clothespin bag??? I will be crocheting my own from those damn plastic bags the store keeps sending home with me.

  14. Julie

    I am doing clothespin research and your blog came up so I thought I would respond. I own Our goal is to have all of our products being Made in the USA. We have a great clothes drying rack, an awesome umbrella clothesline and even a great hand washing clothes kit. But I have not been able to find any clothespins either. I thought we might stretch and buy some European ones if worse came to worse. I can’t find any of those either.

    So our plan is to have a Made in America Clothespin Challenge. If anyone will make them we will sell them on our web site.

    Glad to know that there are others out there that are trying to buy American. Hopefully in the future we will have some made in the USA clothespins.

  15. Emily Thayer

    I found a suitable made-in-USA substitute in my local store yesterday. Merrick makes “multi-purpose clips” that snap onto plastic hangers to turn them into pants hangers. The same clips can be used on a clothes line, and even left on the line in between uses. They are all plastic, no metal, so they won’t ever rust or leave stains on your clothes. They are very strong and sturdy. I hung a pair of wet jean shorts with just two clips, and they stayed up overnight, long enough for the shorts to dry completely. It might take three clips for a full length pair of jeans. Merrick is at 1-800-634-3886, with factories in Corona CA, Waco TX and Clarksburg WV. Offices are at 1275 Quarry St, Corona CA 92879, and they have a website listed at merrickintl . com.

  16. Thomas Mefford

    I realize that I am over a year after this last post and several years after the original post, BUT I have great news! There is a movement in clothespins…There are at least 3 craftsmen here in America making clothespins by hand in their own woodworking shops using stainless steel American made springs and local Hardwoods! I happen to be one of them! The whole family pitches in! my oldest daugter is usually in the workshop with me, My son helps with running the portable sawmill ( yes we even cut down the tree!) My littlest, my mother and my wife assemble them by hand one at a time! It gets no more local than that! If you need further convincing, My woodworking tools are all hand me downs from my grandparents! Most of my equipment is older than I am!


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