let there be stuff (but not too much!)

“Our enormously productive economy… demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and using of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfaction, our ego satisfaction, in consumption… we need things consumed, burned up, replaced and discarded at an ever-accelerating rate…” (Victor Lebow)

On that note, I decided to attempt one week without buying any new stuff. I wanted to get a better sense of what my true needs are, and how often I’m tempted to buy something just for the sake of buying. I wanted to understand just how true Lebow’s words are to my own life.

The week was, for the most part, a success. In seven days, I purchased only two things: a plastic bag and a serving dish to transport my thanksgiving goodies in. Both of these items could have been altogether avoided with better planning, but they were the more convenient option at the time. I spent under $5 on new stuff, a tiny fraction of what I usually do. My bank account is a lot healthier than it usually is at this point in the month (we get paid monthly so it’s easy to compare months). My house is a little less cluttered. All good things, except that I definitely struggled this week. It turns that I don’t really need anything more than I already have, but I want a whole lot more! This week was an exercise in will power and in convincing myself that I didn’t really need that miscellaneous item, regardless of how deprived I feel without it.

On my most deprived days, I made a point of thinking up strategies for enjoying “new” stuff and at the same time, reducing my carbon footprint. Here are my top three ways to reducing the amount of stuff we’re drowning in:

  1. Invest. Think quality, not quantity. Buy pieces that outlive their perceived and planned obsolescence, and buy fewer of them.
  2. Share. Borrow library books instead of buying new ones. Give away old clothes to secondhand stores where others can convert your junk into their treasures.
  3. Technologize. Read the paper online. Purchase electronic magazine subscriptions. Read e-books (if you can; I’m still learning).

While I can’t promise I’ll be so thoughtful every week for the remainder of this happy, healthy year, I will commit to thinking a little more before I purchase. I will assess my “wants” for new stuff through these three filters first to see what I can actually do without. Somewhere between buying too much and nothing at all, there is buying just enough so you that you can enjoy the finer things in life without contributing too much to the 2,000 trees that are cleared every minute in the amazon.

Etc, etc.


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