More is Less

Consumerism, Earth Care, From Pattern to Details, Inner Permaculture, Life Choices, Make No Waste, Permaculture Ethics, Permaculture Principles, Self-Regulate and Accept Feedback / Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

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Because almost all of our non-food shopping is done at thrift stores, it is so tempting to buy more than I need.  I find that I easily fall into overconsumption because I’m privileged enough to not have to worry about price.  Perhaps to my detriment, I read once in a book about home organization that it saves you time and money to buy certain items when you see them used, and squirrel them away for a time when you need them.  I have been using this approach for buying clothing for my children and gifts for others.  This tip has been my way of life for the past several years and has created a bit of a stockpiling situation in my house.

I have a double tiered clothing rack in the basement with clothes  neatly hung in size order that are still too big for my 4 year old.  I can honestly say that when my oldest was edging into size 5 clothing, it was a relief to head to the basement and wash up what was already there for him: good quality clothes in styles I like.  The unfortunate thing is that I have more clothing in his new size than I really need.  Not only that, but some of the sizes I have already hung on the downstairs rack are ridiculous – up to an 10!  Sadly, I’m sure it will come faster than I’d like, and perhaps I’ll thank myself for my earnest preparations.  In the meantime, I am stockpiling.

I remain concerned about my participation in our culture’s urge to overbuy.  Since my son’s dresser has started to bulge with his larger sized clothing, I have been making an effort to make wiser decisions. I want to show my children that just because you can buy something, doesn’t mean you should.  Our family is frugal by choice, but I want our frugality to extend beyond how much money something costs, into how much an item really costs.  By supporting the ‘business as usual’ ideal of more is better I am causing more damage than I realize for generations to come.  There are countless reasons why more is most certainly not better!  Shall I count (some of) the ways?

  1. Unnecessary extraction and exploitation of earth’s resources
  2. Large carbon footprint – consumption creates pollution in so many ways (packaging, transportation, retail environments, etc.)
  3. Inadvertent support of societal ideals which are not sustainable (the ‘business as usual’ growth mentality)
  4. The cost to ‘simple living’ – it’s stressful to have too much stuff!
  5. Once it’s in, it’s hard to get it out again (see my previous thoughts on this)
  6. It’s procrastination, from the deep work we need to do as a species to be happy with ourselves

I recently read that 80%of what is donated to thrift stores never makes it to the sales floor.  There is just too much coming in.  The volume of clothing is unmanageable, but also the quality of the clothing coming in is not good.  As consumer demand increases for cheap throwaway products there is a relative decrease in quality. We truly are a disposable society.  DISPOSABLE.  I wonder how deeply this idea has become engrained in our culture.  Is it so deep that we will end up disposing of our species due to our addiction to overconsumption?


5 Replies to “More is Less”

  1. I have the same sort of situation. I save things and buy things that I won’t need for a few years. I saved all the bay clothes for when I maybe have another child. I buy the kids clothes and toys at thrift shops and still buy more than I need. I have myself (sometimes) convinced that it is ok because it is from thrift shops, buy I always end up with too much. That and I always accept clothes that people need to get rid of. And, yes, it is stressful to have too much stuff. I found this out when we moved. It was horrible to pack everything up even after getting rid of at least half of our stuff. I need to figure out what I really need and what I just convince myself I need. If you can figure out how to do this, let me know. I am hoping it will get better living in a tiny house, but I am already planning on storage shed building. I am so torn.

    1. I will keep you posted. I’m working through some processes of minimizing our things as well as our mental attachment to them. It’s a hard balance though, as we want to remain true to permaculture’s principle of ‘make no waste’ while still drastically reducing our intake of things. The main thing I’m attempting to change right now is my own mindset. I feel so out of touch with what a need actually is. How many pairs of pants does a four year old need?! I suppose a better question might be; how few pairs can we get away with?

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