Friday, June 19, 2009

Consumerism

There is a television commercial in which a woman roughly my age talks about her ritual of going to her favorite popular store once a week and buying just one item (often for less than $10!!!). My daughter said that she must be a millionaire and wouldn't her house be crowded?! As her mother's child, my daughter was shocked and outraged by such wastefulness and frivolity. :-)

We don't buy new things except under some tightly controlled special circumstances. Our furniture, household appliances, home decor, transportation, and toys are hand-me-downs or purchased second-hand. A few items were purchased new but we are careful to avoid items made in countries that abuse their workers. We try very hard to purchase fair trade or locally produced items on those very rare occasions when buying new is a better choice than buying used or accepting a cast-off.

Why not buy new? Well, it gets expensive and I really can't justify spending money I don't have on stuff I don't need (and it is amazing what people don't need but buy anyway). I'm also unwilling to support abusive labor practices. I would purchase more fair trade items but again, I hardly ever really *need* anything and I can hardly ever justify the expense. Finally, I'm concerned about the environmental impact of the ceaseless production of goods that no one really needs and which not only create pollution in their production but also in their disposal. I watched a woman walk out of a craft store with a basket the other day. I wonder how much she paid for her cheaply made basket (cheap because they exploited the labor force). I wondered about the environmental and economic cost of importation. I wondered if she realized that the thrift store down the way has tons of baskets they sell much less expensively because, let's face it; we're inundated by cheaply made baskets. Do we really need to keep making more? It isn't like they go bad. (Which reminds me of another pet peeve. Why do they shrink wrap non-perishable items and then encase them in big-ass boxes? I think the intent is to screw over the earth and piss me off simultaneously.)

I'm also very concerned about bringing toxins into my home. Carpets, plastic shower curtains, upholstered furniture, laminates, etc. all are full of crap I really don't want my babies inhaling. When our carpets needed to be replaced we didn't replace them. Our floors are bare and I find it much easier to keep the place clean. When and if I need rugs, I'll wait until I can afford fair-trade, natural-fabric, organic choices (I may have to wait a long time!) or I'll make them myself. (when hell freezes over?) We've had no carpets for some time now and we're just fine. Turns out that carpets are a luxury. You don't actually need them! Who knew? When my plastic shower curtain liner got scuzzy some years ago, I found that a flannel bed sheet worked just as well. Following a shower, the fabric dries quickly and we have not had the problems we had with mildew that were common when we used plastic. Periodically, I toss the sheet into the laundry and hand it on the line to dry. Easy.

Use it up. Wear it out. Make it do or do without. Seems like awfully good advice. Follow this advice and when you really want something- you can get it. You won't have blown all your money by going once a week to your local imported crap store to buy things you don't need (some for less than $10!!). You'll still have money in your account and space in your house. Now that's a sweet deal.

4 comments:

  1. Thanks for the tip on the flannel bedsheet.

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  2. Often items are necessary but used only once a week or less. Why should everybody in a neighborhood or community own the same things that they rarely use? Why not share ownership of these things with with friends and neighbors? We save lots of money, and reduce our clutter and waste this way. It's easy if you know how. We also pool our money and buy bulk goods too and get a nice discount. There are no storage issues because we are splitting up the shipment as soon as it arrives, and there is far less packaging, transportation, spoilage and waste. I just started a blog about it if anybody wants to know more.

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  4. An update on my carpets. I recently bought plastic carpets. That's kind of funny. Actually, they are Oriental style carpets made of recycled soda bottles.

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