Friday, May 30, 2008

Why Do I Buy?

After reading my post from yesterday, I wonder if I made myself sound like I have been some kind of huge consumer all of my life. Someone, who in an attempt to keep up with cultural expectations, has been purchasing all of the latest stuff featured in magazines. That everything in my house is basically brand new and up to date.
The reality is that I have never really gotten caught up in having the latest of everything, especially when it comes to appliances, electronics, or cars. Both my washer and dryer are almost 20 years old, purchased in '89 when my husband and I bought our first home. My car has 115,000 miles on it and was manufactured in 1999. Our television, which receives analog signals, is 8 years old and I don't plan on getting rid of it when the FCC switches to digital.
While it is easy for me to not have the newest thing that needs fuel or electricity to run, it is much harder to not buy the latest clothing, or shoes or books. Clothing is such a direct personal reflection of who I am and it can be very easy to convince myself that I need a particular item. I am also very good at looking into my closet and looking for gaps and deciding that I don't have enough summer shirts or winter sweaters. As a result, my closet is brimming with many things I really don't need or wear. The same thing happens with shoes and books.
So what's the problem? The problem is that I try and justify my actions by telling myself that because I don't buy new cars or dryers or televisions that I am doing a better job taking care of the environment. That big hulking metal things like cars or dryers take a huge toll on what they take from the world, while clothing is only cotton and books are just a bit of wood from a tree. I try and convince myself that the things I buy serve a useful purpose for me and that "just this one purchase this time" won't make much of a difference. But I need to remind myself that all things impact the environment in one way or another. Even my purchases, no matter how small. This process will involve trying to break a long standing grip that has been on me ever since I heard my first advertisement for clothing. Ever since someone told me I looked nice in a particular outfit or that they liked my shoes.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Voluntary Simplicity

Hello and welcome to the first post of my new blog! I just finished an eight week discussion course through the Northwest Earth Institute called "Voluntary Simplicity" which I took with six other woman from my homeschooling group. We met at a coffee shop each week, our kids in tow, to discuss the weekly readings. The kids would play Monopoly while us moms would wrangle with the idea of bringing simplicity into our lives. Trying to determine what needed to be rooted out of ourselves to bring this change about.

What I discovered during this course is what has brought me to this blog, and to the idea of saying "Goodbye to Goods!!!" I determined that anything I purchased in my daily life would be considered a good - be it a car or shoes or food. Of course I need food to live and it can not be done away with, but how and where I buy my food can be done in a more intentional way. I can get my vegetables from the farmer who runs my CSA, someone I can develop a relationship with, rather than at the corporate run Jewel grocery store. This discussion group made me aware of how much time I waste working to acquire goods, shopping to find the perfect goods, and then tending to all of my goods after they enter my life. It also made me think about what factors in our culture motivate me to shop.

I have found these goods that I work so hard to bring into my life never bring the joy that I hope they will. Instead, I am left feeling empty, kinda like how I feel after eating a bowl of Ben & Jerry's Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream. The taste is initially wonderfully delicious but short lived and certainly not filling. Soon after purchasing a factory assembled sweater from J.Jill, the thrill for me will begin to fade in much the same way. Maybe the color isn't right after all or the fit isn't as expected, and before long, the hunt for a new sweater will begin again. I'm finding that this whole cycle of buy buy buy can be interrupted if I simply stop and think before considering the need to shop. Ignoring the rush to buy will keep money in my pocket, gas in my car, and allow me to free up the time I would have been shopping to tend to other much more rewarding activities in my life.

Less time spent in the stores has brought great changes for me. It has made me start to slow down and take stock of how I want to spend my time. I have noticed that I now have more time to spend with my friends and family, more time with my dog, or digging in the garden. This time with family, pets and plants develops and builds relationships with them. Something that feels meaningful, a connection, very unlike the feelings I would feel toward a sweater, no matter how beautiful.

I really am at the beginning of this journey of saying goodbye to goods and I look forward to the challenges and rewards that it will bring to my life. Any suggestions you have for me about what works for you in your life would be greatly appreciated.