Does this scenario sound familiar to you? You work to make money, then you come home and watch television to relax. The ads on TV say that you could be better if you had the right product. So you start to feel less worthy, you go shopping and buy that product, and the cycle begins again. You are working many hours for all that STUFF! And chances are, that stuff doesn’t make you happy. In fact, our national happiness peaked in the 1950s, just as this ‘work, watch, spend’ pattern started.
And now we are nearing the season of stuff. How many of you are gearing up for “Black Friday”, just waiting to go out and buy more stuff? Before you do, I’d like you to take a few minutes to think about all the stuff we have. And chances are, we ALL have too much stuff.
Do we ever stop and think about our stuff? Where does our stuff come from? What is the impact on the planet? Why do we keep buying more and more? Are we happier now that we have so much stuff? The answers may surprise you.
We have more stuff, but less time for the things that make us happy. ~Annie Leonard
Great Video: The Story of Stuff
Here is a great video about the Story of Stuff, by the same people that did The Story of Bottled Water I mentioned earlier this year. Hosted by Annie Leonard, the video is well done, very interesting, easy to follow, and highlights the BIG impact that stuff we buy has, not only on our planet but on our lives. Even though it’s about 20 minutes long, it’s WELL worth watching. If you can’t watch it now, come back and watch it as soon as you can.
(If you can see the video, click here.)
Another Great Video: The Story of Electronics
They just came out with another video called The Story of Electronics. This 7 minute video is equally interesting and really highlights the problems we may not even know or think about regarding electronics. It explains how electronics are created with ‘planned obsolescence’ (they are designed for the dump), how it started, and what we can do about it.
(If you can’t see the video, click here.)
Life With Less Stuff: Achieving the Work Life Balance
I hear all the time about ‘work life balance’. People want a better balance between working (which maybe they don’t love) and enjoying life (play). Now that you’ve watched the videos, do you see how buying less stuff fits in with achieving a better work life balance? If you had a smaller car, smaller house, less clothes, toys, and gadgets, you could work fewer hours (or work at a job you love that may not pay as much). And you could have more time for what makes you happy, whether that’s spending more time with your kids, parents, friends, working on a hobby, or traveling. Doesn’t life with less stuff sound better?
What Can We Do?
After watching the videos, you may be wondering what you can do. I’ve compiled a few quick thoughts below. If you have any more ideas, please leave a comment and share!
Buy less stuff! Before making a purchase, stop to think how long you might own that item. Is it really something you need? (Or just want?) Learn to RETHINK your purchases.
- Kids: Kids don’t need as much stuff as we may think. Think about how many toys or clothes they have and how much they really need. The holidays are coming up; this might be a good chance to practice buying less stuff. If you exchange gifts, consider giving them fewer items. Or instead of gifts, perhaps purchase a family membership for the zoo, children’s museum, or other family activity that you can all enjoy together, like going to a play or musical.
- Adults: We have too many clothes, shoes, gadgets, and toys also. Many people get new cars and gadgets quite often, well before the old ones have quit working. Do we really need 10 different purses? Or the latest phone as soon as it’s released? How about REDUCING the size of vehicle you drive or house you live in? The next time you want to buy something, RETHINK.
Buying gently-used clothing and toys saves natural resources in creating the material, processing it, and transporting it. If you regularly use disposable items during your day, find a way to provide a reusable option instead.
- Kids: Many of my son’s toys and clothes were given as hand-me-downs, borrowed from friends, or purchased used (from a garage sale, Craigslist, eBay, or a resale store like Kid to Kid or Once Upon a Child). There are even many used sports equipment stores out there, like Play it Again Sports.
- Adults: There are many things that can be purchased used on Craigslist or eBay. Some resale clothing stores are Plato’s Closet, Clothes Mentor, and many others. Avoid disposable items as much as possible; invest in some cloth napkins to use again and again, reusable coffee cups, etc. Use the library, borrow books from friends, or visit used book stores (like Half Price Books) instead of always buying new.
When you are done with your gently-used clothing, donate it to a charity, give or loan to friends who can use it, sell at a garage sale, or sell to a resale or consignment store.
While it may seem like the easiest step, many of us under-recycle and some people don’t recycle at all. Even if it is a bit more inconvenient for you, I encourage you to seek out your local resources for recycling and DO IT!
- Kids: Start early teaching kids the importance of recycling.
- Adults: Don’t forget to buy products made from recycled materials. Paper towels, toilet paper, printer paper are just a few of the many items made from recycled materials.
Benefits of Living With Less Stuff
In case you need more reasons to buy less stuff, here is a list of seven benefits of living with less stuff, as seen on Zen Family Habits. (My favorites from the list are less time cleaning and more open space.)
- The Story of Stuff: How Our Obsession with Stuff Is Trashing the Planet, Our Communities, and Our Health-and a Vision for Change by Annie Leonard
- Ecological Intelligence: How Knowing the Hidden Impacts of What We Buy Can Change Everything by Daniel Goleman
Wendy – ParentingTips365.com
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