Commie Clothes

Our most ambitious sharing endeavor is that we share clothes. Before you get to excited, it is a full functioning dual system, in which you can have private clothes and you are not required to use community clothes. And everything which is in commie clothes you can privatize and make yours if you want to (i will get to the problems this creates shortly).

a cramped space - it is hard to take pictures of commie clothes

So the first problem is that to have any reasonable level of service for the entire area of clothing you need a bunch of clothes. We have about 100 people potentially drawing from this library. And we cover a huge array of items: Shoes, dress suits, underwear, socks, pants, shirts, skirts, dresses, hats, sheets, quilts, coats, towels, t-shirts, lingerie, sweat pants, foul weather gear, swim suits and costumes. But of course over 44 years we have amassed a huge supply and clothes and persistent myths keep them coming.  In fact we cull tremendous quantities of clothes and send them to local charities.

When designing dual systems (shared public and private goods) you need to pay attention to the control points. For commie clothes it is laundry.  If you want to add something to commie clothes, you throw it into the commie clothes laundry, where it is washed, dried, mended (if need be) and put on one of the many racks in the right place.  If you have personal clothes, the way you maintain control of them is thru doing your own laundry.  Now we have the same washing machines and driers so there is a labeling scheme which keeps all these items separate.  Now for lazy users (like me) this system is a dream come true.  I wear it til i am tired of it, or it is too dirty to keep wearing, i throw the item into the commie laundry and i forget about it.  Someone else (who is getting labor credits) does all the work of cleaning and fixing them and making sure i can find them in the sorted stacks of commie clothes.  Our system rewards cooperators by giving labor credits to people who do collective laundry, but if you are washing your own clothes the community does not compensate your labor.

a completely renewable energy powered clothes drying system

The danger with any free lending library, especially ones without check-outs or librarians, is hording.  If users come thru and cull all the desirable stuff and privatize it, the system collapses.  This is impossible to avoid completely, but we have some structural advantages and we have some culture adjustments we do.  The technique employed is to actively try to adjust the expectation and experience of the member using commie clothes.  We do this by sending or commie clothes workers out into the world with a mission to bring back free or inexpensive nice used things and not simply hide them in the racks – but display the nicest of them prominently.  This changes peoples experience.  They come up to commie clothes and say “oh that is nice, oh that is nice, oh there are always nice things in commie, i dont have to bring them back to my room [where they will sit idle almost all the time]  i can just stock out of here.  The structural advantage that we have is that peoples personal space is limited, so they are looking for library like storage solutions to give them more space for truly personal things.

shoes, boots, sandals, flip flops, clogs and other assorted footwear

So how does this export to Babylon? Well, my best guess is thru some type of groovy laundromat/clothes lending library.  Ideally, it would be a subscriber based system, where if you had lots of clothes you could pay in in clothes, if you had money you could buy a subscription and if you had time you could volunteer to run the store front, sort and clean incoming clothes donations and explain the system to potential new clients.  The advantage of this type of system is that people of different income levels can participate as peer partners.  As with all collectives there is a danger of free loading, but there is great value in trying.