Thursday, 16 October 2008

Why I consumed too much...

by Eilleen
Consumption Rebellion

My journey into a more frugal and simple life has involved not only the learning of practical skills but also learning a lot more about myself and my own consumption habits.

Below is an excerpt from a post I wrote in my blog in March 2008:

You know, when I first asked myself what I need, I came up with the following list:

1. Love
2. Self-worth (the feeling that I'm contributing towards the well-being of those I love, and the resolution of those issues that I care about)
3. Food
4. Shelter
5. Clothing

That I think is a good list. It reminds me what I truly need. Notice the lack of lots of STUFF on that list. So why have I ended up with so much stuff?

1. Because I believed that the stuff will give me more free time. Take for example the fact that I have two mops. One is a standard mop and the other is a mop that is supposed to be "better" (because of better fibres etc etc) ... well it isn't better. Its the same. And here's the other question, why do I need more free time? If I am not so busy trying to find free time, what would I be doing instead? Rather than finding free time, why don't I just concentrate on actually doing what I want to be doing? Surely I don't need gadgets to find that free time. Besides, the time it takes to shop for then maintain/store those gadgets takes up that precious free time I needed.

2. Because I believed that the stuff will keep me safe. This is me falling for "scary information" given out by the people who are usually selling the stuff. This I feel a bit funny about and I hope I express my feelings on this well. Information about stuff that is bad for you (eg. use of plastics for food storage) I think is a good thing. Its great for me to know this. However, just because its bad doesn't mean I need to go out and buy different (aka "safe") stuff. I think too many times, we tend to just go with what other people say. Sometimes the hype of it all makes us buy without thinking it through and we are scared.... this seems to me the very antithesis of joyful consumption. I think its more important to view the risk from our own individual experiences and habits. Eg. I use plastic for food storage. I am aware that over time that some plastics will start to leak very small amounts of chemicals into the food. Many government agencies have said that the amount leaked is not harmful. I have decide to respond to this by not changing a single thing. We rarely use plastic in our house anyway. Almost everything is stored on ceramic plates/pots or glass. We use plastic maybe 10% of the time. I have decided that our amount of exposure to the risk doesn't warrant buying new stuff to replace every plastic food storage item. Now if only I had applied this same attitude to other things around the house!! (*kick up the bum for me*)

3. Because I believed that the stuff will entertain me. I packed up 2 boxes of CDs and DVDs... of which I probably listen to about 8 CDs regularly and I very rarely re-watch DVDs (I think the last time I re-watched a DVD was back in October 07). So what are the other CDs and DVDs doing?? I suspect they're on my shelf because of the last reason....

4. Because I believed that the stuff will turn me into the sort of person I *imagine* myself to be. I like to think of myself as widely read, listens to a variety of music, etc etc. So I need symbols around me to show me this... Hence the reason for 2 boxes of CDs and DVDs... and not to mention the 8 boxes of books.... and the 8 boxes of toys for my kids.....

Reviewing the above post has been good for me. I find that (like most moments of awareness) I have to experience it a few times before I can finally move on from "getting it" to "living it". Recently I was almost tempted to buy an item produced unethically for my daughter. Reason was because, I wanted to be a "good mother" and good mothers should make their daughters happy. Yep, reason number 4 almost came out and bit me again! I almost bought the item despite knowing that buying her an item would not make her truly happy - that sort of happiness is always fleeting. So re-reading this post has been good. Its helped me strengthen my resolve in not buying that item. Instead I can now focus on what I truly want to do - finding authentic and long-lasting ways to show my daughter I love her.