Bits and Bobs · Living the Good Life

Too much stuff!!

I find myself exclaiming this rather a lot lately.  It feels like we are drowning in a sea of stuff.  Junk, crap,  stuff we bought or were given and have either never or rarely used, never liked or which has now been superseded by yet more STUFF.    On those (rare) occasions when I’m in housework mode, I sometimes end up with piles of stuff in my arms trying to find a place to put it.  (What I really should do is sort it all out but y’know, time and always something more interesting to do!)

In all seriousness though, it does seem to me like we as a community, a society, certainly some of the planet, are in real danger of having so much unneeded stuff (there must a better word!) that it will bury us one day.  Why do we keep buying this crap?  I’m not a fan of shopping as a pastime and my husband and I really do try to minimise the amount of new items we buy, not always successfully.  I LOATHE Black Friday and the consumerist binge that seems to get worse every year from, oh about this time onwards, as people get all worked up over what to buy other people for Christmas.  A lot of which ends up being unwanted clutter and junk and either ends up in a charity shop, or worse, in landfill.

On that note, I was recently browsing in a second-hand shop (part of my #dontbuynew aspiration).  The amount of duplicated items was unreal – ten or fifteen copies of the same book, countless plastic toys, and ornaments.  Oh the ornaments.  Mementoes from long-forgotten holidays, commemorative plates from various royal (yes, even here in Ireland) and national events, and quite a few ornaments/plates/plaques to mark various wedding anniversaries.  I’m not talking about personalised ones with names, dates etc, just the generic ones like this –

25th wedding stuff
Dustcatcher!

Why?? Why do we buy this stuff?  All that will happen is it will sit on a dresser or shelf somewhere and some poor sod will have to take it down and dust it.  Life’s too short!

Anyway, later that same day I found myself in a branch of TK Maxx, not a shop I’d ever spent much time in as I thought they only sold clothes but I had 20 minutes to kill and discovered they sell housewares, kitchen stuff, nice stationery and best of all a small selection of books.  (If I have to spend time browsing in a shop those things suit me far better.)  Then I came across this –

stuff boxes clutter
Houston, we have a problem

Yes, a box marked Stuff in which to put stuff. Seriously, if we are now using up valuable natural resources and energy to make empty boxes just to hold more stuff, then we really have lost the run of ourselves completely.   I’m not opposed to storage boxes completely, more to the mindset whereby we’d sooner buy boxes to put ‘stuff’ in, rather than reducing the amount of stuff we have.  I’m not going all KonMari here, the day anyone catches me thanking my possessions for helping me through another day, they can have me committed.   For me, its a sign that its time to declutter more thoroughly.  I thought I was fairly good at decluttering until I found six operating manuals yesterday, three of which were for items we don’t even own anymore….

Its the volume of unnecessary, unneeded and frequently unwanted STUFF we seem determined to inflict on each other that baffles me the most.  Its like people feel obliged just to buy you something – anything – because its Christmas.  And Christmas does seem to bring out the worst elements of this.  Who really wants the gadgets that you’ll use maybe twice, the gift sets of toiletries with all that useless (and often non recyclable) packaging, and innumerable other items of tacky, poorly made TAT and CRAP  (now called novelty gifts) that will be appearing in a shop near you in the next few months weeks.  And that’s without mentioning the Christmas themed cushions, bed linen, aprons, teatowels etc that people rush out to buy, never mind the fact they have perfectly good equivalents already at home and the Christmas ones will be stored away for 11 months of the year (adding to the clutter!)

How about we all stopped mindlessly buying stuff and spent a little more time thinking about what we need and what we might really like to give as a gift?  If there is someone you feel you should buy a gift for, then what about a bottle of wine?  Or some delicious nibbles and treats?  A plant for the garden (if they are gardeners), or a gift voucher for a pampering session?  Ask yourself before you pay for that useless ornament, novelty gift or gift sets of toiletries – would I want to be given this?

Before you ask, no I’m not the Grinch, I happen to love Christmas.  But I like a simple Christmas, a simple life in fact where we are not surrounded by so much stuff we feel like we can hardly breathe.  Just stop and think before you buy more stuff.  The planet and your sanity might well thank you for it.  Not to mention your wallet.

#dontbuynew

 

 

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Living the Good Life

Second-hand or preloved? It’s all better than buying new!

I was going through some things I’d bookmarked on Twitter earlier and found this post from a blog I’ve recently discovered and love called Treading My Own Path. Its fascinating and taps into an area of my life that is somewhat neglected. Anyway, that’s not what this is about! We have a lot of second-hand furniture in our house, kitchen table & chairs, kitchen dresser, a sofa, a nest of tables, my big old desk which will be going into my new office/study soon, various shelves and storage units. Some of them have a story attached, others we just liked.

Lindsey Miles who writes Treading My Own Path used to live in the UK, as did I. I’m not sure if she’s originally from there, but like myself, she’s comfortable with the term ‘second-hand’. Her piece mentioned above got me thinking about words. When I moved to Ireland nearly fifteen years ago, it was during the boom. Property prices were insane and what seemed to me to be houses that were really nothing special were changing hands for what I considered to be frankly obscene amounts of money. We were looking for a house at the time so spent hours online, trawling estate agents auctioneers’ websites and offices looking for our forever home. (There’s an example of word difference straight away, they call them auctioneers over here, but to me they’re estate agents) We probably weren’t an auctioneer’s dream clients, we wanted an old house, with a big garden, near to but not in a town, and ideally a renovation project. We eventually found one but that’s another story again.

What amazed me though was the use of the term ‘second-hand’ to describe a house, and it was often used in a negative way. “Oh surely you’d sooner buy a new house?” “What about building your own? Much better than second-hand”. Now maybe I’m naive (ok, I’m naive) but that didn’t make any sense to me at all. If there were (and indeed still are) a number of existing houses that were perfectly habitable and which you could make your own with decorating and remodelling if necessary, why would we go to the hassle of building? I understand that people should have the choice to build if they want and I’m not advocating denying that to them, but it saddened me (and still does) to see so many houses that had once been family homes lying empty because of the obsession we seemed to have with new builds. Why does everything have to be new??

Back to the term second-hand. I shop in charity shops, I get many of my books from them, some toys for my daughter and clothes for all of us. I buy new items of clothing if I need them (and I’m learning to sew so am making some myself) and I’m very open about the fact that I shop in them. Yet I find that for some people there’s a stigma about doing so. When did we develop this attitude that second-hand somehow equals bad or undesirable? How long do people think we can keep producing goods at the rate we currently are? And don’t get me started on Black Friday and all of the bloated consumerist madness that happens each December. It increasingly disgusts me. (I know that sounds judgmental and it probably is, but you know what, this is my blog, my opinions.)

I see terms like ‘preloved’ or ‘formerly owned’ being used a lot now. Like that sanitises it in some way. I just don’t get it. Seventy or eighty years ago, most of us in the UK and Ireland did not buy everything new. Clothes were swapped, handed down, made over, furniture was repaired not just dumped when it had served its purpose. Tools and utensils were repaired as much as possible. I’m not for one minute suggesting that life seventy or eighty years ago was all rosy and perfect, but I really do feel we’ve gone way too far down the consumerist/built-in obsolescence road. I recently had a sales call from my mobile phone provider, telling me I was entitled to an upgrade and could get a new iPhone (I think a 7?) The poor wee salesperson (who sounded very young) couldn’t grasp that I am perfectly happy with the phone I have, it does everything I need and works just fine. “But do you not WANT a new phone?” she squeaked. I ended the call rather quickly as I could almost feel the steam coming out of her ears.

Charity and second-hand shops are in some cases nearly full to bursting, full of all the stuff we thought we wanted/needed/deserved. And yet we keep buying more and so the manufacturers keep producing more. Drawing on already fragile natural resources and using unfathomable amounts of energy and fuel to produce this stuff. And that’s all it is really, stuff. Stuff that sits around in our cars and houses and workplaces and clogs up our minds and lives. Whether you prefer to call it preloved or second-hand, go take a look in some of those shops. Learn to mend and repair what you have. You might find you save some money. You might even find you enjoy it.

Before anyone accuses me of being preachy, my house is quite cluttered but I’m working on it 🙂