Easier said than done for most of us. Reducing what we buy and use is the best way to effect a positive change in our lives by creating a more manageable flow of material goods. The benefits can be huge. The less we own, the simpler and more sane our lives tend to be. However, it means thinking about what our values are and what we really need as opposed to what we want.
Is it nice or is it necessary? You can prevent an overwhelming tide of stuff from flowing into your life by asking yourself that question. By focusing on the necessities, you free up resources, time, and money for what matters most to you whether it's travel, hobbies, family time, or saving for a rainy day. When you intentionally buy something because it's nice, you become aware of the pleasure of occasional frivolity. You can train yourself to recognize the difference. The emotional drivers so successfully employed by advertisers won't hold sway over your purchasing decisions. That freedom is priceless. Children can be taught from an early age the difference as well.
If an item is a necessity, purchase the best quality you can afford. Plan to keep and use it until it literally falls apart from use. Buy what you love. A pair of high-quality, classic armchairs from any period that suits you will provide years of pleasure and probably work in any setting you place them. An excellently crafted tool provides pleasure in just using it as well as longevity. Good quality costs more at the outset, but typically costs less over its lifespan than similar, lesser quality items. A high-quality, well-designed item also retains its value. If you decide after 10 years to sell the sofa, you can get more for it than you might expect.
Reducing consumption is more than what you buy; it includes the packaging that often surrounds our purchases. Consider the number of plastic bags you use at the market to contain your vegetables. One fellow attempting to send a message to the manufacturer about the amount of packaging, took his purchase out of its box and wrapping at the checkout and left it for the store to dispose of. If we all did that we might cut down on some of the wasteful packaging practices that have become epidemic. Get a market basket or canvas bag and keep it in the car. Buy bulk and avoid packaging, or buy directly from the farmer when you can. You'll benefit by improving the quality of your food and support local agriculture. You might even be inspired to make your own jam.
If an item is necessary today, will it also be necessary tomorrow or in a year? Is it something you could rent from a local company or borrow from a friend or neighbor? Borrowing and lending tools has its hazards to be sure, but it's a good way to build a durable, trust-based relationship with the family next door when respect is the foundation. And sometimes the tool comes with an extra set of helping hands.
Evaluating whether an item is worth the time it takes to make the cash to pay for it is another important point. This is particularly important if you are tempted to pay with plastic. Unless your plan is to pay your credit card off in full every month, you could end up paying the cost of the item and finance charges.
Reducing your consumeristic tendencies doesn't mean you need to live like a monk wearing a hair shirt and sleeping on a thin, cotton pallet in a stone cell. However, with more than 2.15 billion dollars of American consumer debt as of August 2005, most of us could afford to slow down and rethink our spending. Before adding to our existing pile of stuff, add that extra awareness and enjoy the freedom of deliberate action.
It's Easy Being Green: A Handbook for Earth-Friendly Living by Crissy Trask.
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