Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Suffocating under "Stuff"

I'm probably preaching to the choir here, but I'm a firm believer that we Americans are too consumed by our stuff. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not living in a tree house with just one pair of pants and a sleeping bag! But sometimes less is actually more.
This website features a cool video that sums up a lot of the problems with our consumer life:

If you have 20 minutes, watch the video. It's really not painful, I swear!

Anyway, the point is that, as a culture, we're addicted to having a lot and having it cheap. It's an addiction. I'm surrounded by neuroscientists that study addiction and see some of the classic symptoms of addiction in myself every time I run into Target and find myself bombarded by their oh-so-cleaver use of cheap chic. But you have to ask, how is that possible?

I firmly believe that many of our problems (economic, environmental, international relations) can be traced back to this obsession with stuff. Lately I've made the promise to myself that I'm going to be smarter about my stuff. How, you ask? By BUYING LESS!

Sure, I post here about the cool green things out there. And it's sooo great to now have easy options. But have you seen how quickly big business has jumped on that band wagon? Why would you buy oodles of recycled paper towels when you could use a real towel? Or spend extra on eco-window cleaner when you could make your own for pennies? Or buy a cheap T-shirt just because it's made out of bamboo? What ever happened to reuse?

Before I climb off my soapbox, I want to make one last plea for another option--buying smarter. Yes, that top is cute, but how many nights out will it take before it looks like it's been run over by a truck? Or that cheap lamp that will disintegrate when an overzealous guest bumps into it? Or the boxes and boxes of cute things that you buy simple because they are on clearance and a steal? I'm guilty of all of them, but I've found since I've been conscious of these habits I've actually had MORE money each month to spend on non-essentials. Go figure.

Similarily, the handmade movement is awesome. Both the DIYers and the artisans that make things for those of us who can't knit, paint, metalwork, build furniture or scrapbook worth a darn (that'd be me...). The majority of these artisans are making high quality items that can be used for years, not for months. Plus you get the warm and fuzzy feeling that you are helping support someone's creative vision instead of lining some random manufacturer's pockets. Just before you buy handmade, make sure that you are getting a quality item that you love and will last. Some artisans, bless their hearts, try too hard to compete with the mass retailers and end up just hurting themselves in the process. Support those who charge a fair price and soon the rest will follow. Sure it's more expensive in the short term, but think of all the money you'll save by not buying in the future!

We all have to contribute to that golden arrow (did you watch the video?) whether we like it or not. But that spending power really is powerful; use it wisely!

I'm done babbling about all this now. I promise to post something really yummy tomorrow to make up for all this lecturing! :)


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