Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Excessive consumerism and waste of space

I used to buy much more stuff than I needed (mainly clothes), and I think I didn’t even realize just how “too much” it was, until I was married and we moved to where we live now – a tiny place where pretty much the only shopping venue is the grocery store. After a little while, I realized that not only I don’t miss buying stuff, I’m happier with less shopping opportunities and save money, time and (very important in our little home) storage space this way. 

When there is a chance (and it doesn’t happen very often), I still like to go and look at shops, but I have no urge to buy everything I see. In most cases, I know what is really missing and I’ll buy it if I see it at a good price, or I won’t buy anything at all.

I saw a sure sign of reduced consumerism in our home when I went through the closets recently, and didn’t find nearly as many things to give away as I did in previous years. It made me very pleased.

Here are a few questions you and I might ask ourselves before making a purchase:

* Does it save work or create more work? By this I mean all the kitchen gadgets which are supposed to save manual work, but take so much time to put together, take apart and clean, that they end up unused and fruitlessly take up storage space.

* Does it have a place in my home? I don’t know about you, but I’m fighting a constant battle to free up space and get some more air to breathe. I don’t want things that will clutter my home, even if I can get them for free.

* If you buy something on clearance, were you planning to buy this product anyway, or did you decide to buy it just because the price was so temptingly low? Because if it is the latter, it means we end up paying money we didn’t intend to spend.

* Do you pay for brands, and for what reason? Is it because the quality is genuinely better, or just because you are used to it? In most (not all, but most) cases generic products work just as well.

In our last meeting at the home ec classes group, we had a discussion about buying where it is cheapest vs. buying at local stores and supporting people you know and care about. We didn’t come with a clear-cut answer, and I’m not sure there is one. Theoretically I’m all for supporting local economy, but when I walk into the local store and see ridiculously high prices, I don’t think it would be fair to pay so much for something I can get so much cheaper elsewhere. Also, I have no way to know whether the products are priced so high because otherwise a small local store can’t afford to keep them, or simply because the store owner wants to earn more and expects people to pay because his store is the only one in the area.

Overall, I believe excessive shopping comes to fill in certain social and emotional gaps (buying presents to “make up” for not spending enough time with people you care about, buying treats for yourself because you are tired, frustrated and “deserve it”). A full, busy and peaceful life does not encourage a surplus of unneeded purchases. 


Rose said...

Some excellent points here Anna, I also find a price book such as Rhonda mentions useful to stop those impulse purchases.

The Stay at Home Wifey said...

We have found since moving to a smaller home that we are buying less groceries too, even though we follow the same 8 week meal plan. We just are not buying as much bulk and definitely not buying on impulse as storage space is premium. We have simplified most of our shopping needs to just 3 stores, and try to go as little as possible, and combine the grocery shopping with something else (ie stopping at the store on the way back rather than making a special trip.) It saves us time and money as there is less temptation to spend money when we stay out of the stores.

Caroline said...

Wonderful post!

I have always been such a fan of keeping things simple and as a result, never had much stuff around me. When I was in college (and a fashion merchandising major) I was given an assignment in one of my classes to do a window display, but we weren't given any resources or materials to use in order to make the window. So, I asked the professor where she suggested I obtain the "stuff" to fill up the window. She told me she was sure I had more than enough things at home to make a window display. I didn't. It was a fairly embarrassing conversation and she made me feel like there was something wrong with me, "What do you live like a monk?" Um, no...just simply, thank you very much.

Anyway, I put in a request to use a small window (1 foot wide x 2 feet tall) and bought some fabric which I draped around nearly the entire unit and gracefully mounted a vintage teacup and saucer in the center and hung some silver tea spoons from the top/ceiling.

I thought it was a beautiful window. My teacher said, "I could have included more." Well sure, but is *more* always better?

I might have just over-shared. :)

Take Care,

Bonnie said...

great post!! :D a good reminder

Vintage Mom said...

Nice post and so very true!! Less is more. I always try to decide if I NEED something before I buy it and 9 times out of 10...I dont!

Analytical Adam said...

A few comments I wanted to make.

At least here in the US some generic items are made in gulags in China and that is why it is so cheap.

Second of all actually if a person if focused on a "peaceful" life 7 days a week I think they can't live a full life because there are real problems out there affecting other people in their country. Jewish people want to be a sect but Judaism requires much more then that. Many people would love to live "peaceful" lives but because of the corruption and abuse or religious leaders they can't.

Kimberly said...

Shopping absolutely can be used to fill emotional and social gaps. That is how my mom uses it. So many useless presents at Christmas because she feels guilty about all the hours she puts into her job.

When I was a teenager shopping was the only way we ever connected positively, and it was mostly so I could get what I wanted from her. Not a good situation for either of us. It was quite a shock to my system getting married and suddenly losing my shopping privileges with my mom, the adjustment took a long time and I was quite angry about it for awhile. I wish shopping hadn't been such an important factor in my social/emotional life as a teenager.

Anonymous said...

I have contact with a woman on-line who cannot understand how our family of six can exist in a fairly compact space (we have about 800 square feet, but a large, fenced yard). She doesn't seem to understand that we CHOOSE what we own, and we find it better to streamline and focus than to just have lots of stuff.

Though, I'm willing to admit we could really use a music room. Right now we have a piano, a bass drum, snare drum, two tenor drums, one set of bongos, two trumpets, one bugle, one violin, one pennywhistle, and one set of bagpipes. I did not marry a quiet man. :)

Lady Anne said...

Adam, we can have peace in our own homes no matter what is going on in the outside world. Anna is proof enough of that, and an inspiration to the rest of us.

Michelle Therese said...

Hello, Anna! Are you doing well? We are watching, with mounting fear, the events in Egypt, as well as several other countires that are falling into Islamic revolution, the same countries that are hell-bent on destroying Israel.

Meanwhile the Liberal Left here in the West has turned against Israel and the hatred of Jews has become acceptable to them.

This is very frightening.

Do you have anywhere to go if it gets dangerous?

Your dear friend Michelle in Scotland...

Michelle Therese said...

This is private, for you:

My personal email is

Anonymous said...

Why American men should boycott American women

I am an American man, and I have decided to boycott American women. In a nutshell, American women are the most likely to cheat on you, to divorce you, to get fat, to steal half of your money in the divorce courts, don’t know how to cook or clean, don’t want to have children, etc. Therefore, what intelligent man would want to get involved with American women?

American women are generally immature, selfish, extremely arrogant and self-centered, mentally unstable, irresponsible, and highly unchaste. The behavior of most American women is utterly disgusting, to say the least.

This blog is my attempt to explain why I feel American women are inferior to foreign women (non-American women), and why American men should boycott American women, and date/marry only foreign (non-American) women.


SBCE said...

The relatives are absolutely nuts when it comes to buying toys for my children. I have a basement room of full toys which are not being used, and there are toys in every room in the house.

My daughter plays with the same toys over and over again, and ignores the rest. Besides, she likes playing outside or going to playgroup.

Ugh. I would love more simplicity but this group loves clutter, and equates spending money with showing love. And there is very little I can do about it.

Awesome American Woman said...

Anna, the post about boycotting American women is beyond offensive, and I recommend that you remove it. I know a lot of your readers and you yourself aren't American, but I am and this is ridiculous!
Thank you for your attention to this.

Anonymous said...

Hello Mrs. T!!
Thank you for these wise words that I NEEDED to hear. I am suffering from 'excess stuff syndrome' and am in the process of eliminating it and making my home a haven of rest and peace once more. The tips you posted are ones I will have to keep in mind everyday!
~Mrs. R