Why do we buy stuff and how much is enough? Well I guess you could say that we buy stuff because we need it. And ‘enough’ is enough to satisfy those needs. But everyone seems to have a fridge or freezer these days that’s stuffed with food, cupboards heaving with supplies and even a drinks cabinet, but who hasn’t stood in front of them and thought “I need to go to the shops”? Our wardrobes are heaving with clothes that are seldom worn (requiring frequent de-cluttering and trips to the charity shops). And our houses are packed with things that have little utility and end up joining our unloved clothes at the dump.
We buy to make us feel better: to heal a hurt, to salve ourselves on a bad day, or reward us on a good day. Another new outfit for a ‘special’ night out, or because the dress you love has been ‘seen’ too many times. We buy the latest ‘thing’ so we can feel a wee bit superior to our our neighbours or, shamefully, our friends, or because someone suggested that hanging on to the the tech we’ve grown used to, makes us dinosaurs.
Your nana probably had a tiny wardrobe that she shared with the family – and she probably still had room for all the winter coats. She might have had just enough knickers for a few days between laundering, with a few skirts and cardigans in heavy rotation. And she made them, and repaired them and turned them into rags for the kitchen when – eventually – they were done. She would’ve had draws full of paper bags, margarine tubs and she used soap until it was worn to a sliver. Socks were darned, as were sweater elbows. Trousers were patched. Shoes were soled and heeled, polished regularly and were a major expense.
So we have clearly gained a wealth of choices, prosperity and home comforts, but I’m beginning to suspect that somewhere along the way, we have lost something too. Respect for the things we own possibly, the ability to take care and repair the stuff we have, and maybe occasionally a sense that buying something else won’t make us feel better….maybe it even contributes to the feeling that something is awry.
Now I don’t want to go back to the world where my Nana lived: there was poverty, the fear of unemployment, cold houses and dreary meals, but I feel that our consumption is getting out of control and we buy things as a substitute for something that has gone AWOL from our lives. I don’t know what that thing is, but by giving up buying for a year, I hope to find out. Will you join me?
#nobuyzone Nov 2017/Nov 2018.