I stumbled across this article in the Washington Post 'The Story of Stuff': Cycle of consuming and dumping creates heavy baggage.The article discusses this revolutionary idea; consuming less stuff has a positive impact on both our personal well-being and the well-being of our planet. It encourages us to look past our own noses and see the rest of the world; our cycle of stuff is not without consequences. It does even more detrimental things than just cluttering up our closets.
– in the last 30 years, 1/3 of the world’s natural resources have been consumed. Do that math.
– the US has just 5% of the world’s population and consumes 30% of the world’s resources and creates 30% of the world’s waste.
– 40% of our waterways are now so polluted that they are undrinkable.
I think we can manage with a little less stuff. I am no economist, but I am also not buying the argument that our country is doomed if we don’t flex our credit cards every weekend. Americans have been spending like maniacs since the 1980s, and look at the fine mess we’re in now.
But I’m also not saying we all need to become Amish and shun buttons; I love my iphone as much as the next girl. I’m just advocating awareness about what we are buying and where it will end up when we get bored with it. Did our stuff require far flung shipping and large amounts of fuel? Abuse of natural resources? Pollution? Oppression of workers? The Cool New Whatever you are purchasing already has a past. Think about if that is a history you want to be complicit in. (And if you missed Story of Stuff it’s worth watching.)
I used to be a mall rat. I would get that thrill from hearing the snap of the price tag coming off a cute new shirt. But now I ask myself – Do I really need it? And if I do need it – Can I buy it secondhand? For those things I actually need, it feels great to be able to repurpose something, meaning I’m not adding to the costs of manufacture and the item doesn’t end up in a landfill.
I am a huge fan of thrift stores, Goodwill, garage sales and flea markets. They have supplied me with everything from my favorite Banana Republic jeans ($5) to my 1906 upright piano ($25). Buying secondhand is easy on the wallet and I usually end up with something more quirky and interesting – saving us from the embarrassing situation of all having the same faux art from Target on our walls.
I started to really think about simplification and consumption right before I went to study in Southern Africa. I spent some time in rural village in Mozambique, where “stuff” as we know it, just doesn’t exist. That’s when I decided that life – my life – was not going to about the constant acquisition of things. Because in gathering together under a big tree in a stuffless place, I found joy, contentment and community. And I think that is the good stuff.