Buying is not a Skill
We live in a world where everything can be bought, anytime, from anywhere. This is both amazing as well as unnerving. I can sit on my couch in my underwear and order my groceries, furnish my entire house, purchase a new wardrobe, or even buy a car. You just click a button and BAM! It is on it’s way to you. Every day there are emails about the latest and greatest sales from your favourite stores. They show up on your internet browser, inbox, and specially curated for you on your social media. Consumerism is absolutely everywhere. Buy! Buy! Buy! But what is the price to pay for this convenience?
Growing up, the closest thing to convenience in my small town was the Sears catalogue. You could find what you wanted, send them money, and it would be delivered to your closest Sears depot. This was obviously before the internet, and you would be waiting 2 weeks to a month for your items. There was no Ebay. No Amazon Prime. If you wanted something you went out to a store to buy it, made it yourself, or made due with what you have. What an uncanny thought. Make it yourself? Make due with what you have? Think about it. If you had to make your shoes by hand, would you really have 3 pairs in different colours? Would you really just toss them away after the smallest scrape or scuff? What about furniture? If you had spent several hours planning, measuring, cutting, gluing, nailing, routering, sanding, staining, sanding again, and finally sealing a table, would you just toss it to the curb because you don’t like it anymore? Because it’s not “trendy?” Items used to have a story with them. A memory. Now everything is so easily obtainable, not many people make their own items. Why build when you can buy? It is so much easier! Why would I spend time to fix that old table, when I could just buy a brand new one? *Click* Done!
Because items no longer have a story or a memory, they are easily disposable. If your grandma had sewn an apron for you with her bare hands, you would probably hold onto it right? But when you purchase it from Homesense and it was made by a machine in China, you wouldn’t think twice about tossing it after the first stain. Herein lies the problem. The huge issue. A global issue. A worldwide crisis. Pollution. That’s right. The oceans are not just full of plastic straws or plastic bags. They are filled with garbage. Things that people just threw away. Tonnes of fabric from used clothing enters landfills each year. So people can remain trendy. Not just single use plastic, and clothing. Furniture, home finishings, flooring, cars, electronics, toys, and equipment. All of which had no story. Purchased from a faceless manufacturer and disposable as soon as the newest model or trend emerges. Disposable as soon as that email hits your inbox with this weeks “door crashers,” or “Black Friday Sale.” Not only does this effect our planet, but more personally, it effects each individual person greatly. Most people can not actually afford to keep up with the latest and greatest. But they will go into debt to do so. It is so easy to buy, that we don’t even see our money anymore. Just numbers on a screen that come and go. Even that money doesn’t have a story anymore. If you had one hundred dollars in your hand, that you had to work an extra five hours overtime and missed your kids soccer game for, would you blow it? Or would you put it towards something meaningful? Maybe an experience with your child to make up for missing the game. But it is just a number on a screen. It is so easy to spend a hundred dollars online in an instant. *Click* Done! Not only is our hard earned money disappearing, but so is our skill set. We spend all our time working so that we can afford the latest item and never have time to do the things we want to do. Or we keep buying new and never learn how to fix anything. Humans are losing the ability to FIX things. Who still sews on buttons? Who would refinish a table? Who would rewire a lamp? Simple things, now not so simple. Basic skills becoming a rarity.
But what is the solution to this buy and spend issue? Here are a few changes I have come up with that anyone can make to have a big impact on the waste crisis.
Do you need it?
There it is. That long awaited sale at your favourite store. You have to go right? It’s your favourite store! But what do you NEED? Sure a new item of clothing, new pair of boots, new craft supplies, new tv would be nice. Of course it would be. But do you NEED it? If you already have an item like it, can you survive with just that item? Could you save some money by repairing the item you currently have. You can live without it. I promise.
If you do need to buy something, can you purchase it locally? Is there perhaps a local craftsperson who can make it for you? Can you Purchase local, in season veggies, rather than purchasing items that have been shipped across the country in plastic containers using tonnes of gas to get here? Can you purchase from a local store and help that person bring in income that will further help your community? Buying local helps everyone. It is gives a huge middle finger to big box stores. Who doesn’t love to do that? There is a surge or stores that retail items handcrafted by local artisans. Purchasing from store like this provides not only an amazing assortment of funky, original items, but also it helps keep the arts alive. It keeps crafters crafting!
Repair your broken items.
If you have an item that is damaged, repair it! Try and do it yourself if possible. Learn a new skill! The internet is teeming with videos on how to do stuff! There is nothing you can’t learn to do on the internet. If you’re not able to DIY your repair, someone in your local community will likely be able to. Again you are helping someone in your community make a living, as well as keeping one more thing out of the landfill! Win Win Win! For example, we bought a couch from a big box store (a mistake I know). We paid for the extra fancy warranty. Less than a year after we purchased our couch, the wood in the arm snapped. It was definitely broken. But the rest of the couch was in pristine condition. So we called the warranty company. They sent a man out to see it. He said “its broken.” Yeah thanks Captain Obvious. We were then called by the company that they no longer make that style couch and they were going to give us a credit to go towards purchasing a new one. Yep. They wanted us to toss our less-than-one-year-old couch and just get a new one. We went to the store a few times to look at the couches, but one thing really bothered me. I liked my couch. There was nothing wrong with it. Why would we throw it away? So after many phone calls and arguments with the warranty company and the big box store, they agreed to give us a credit to get our couch fixed by an outside person (as they refused to send one of their own people to fix it). So I called around and found someone who would come to my house and fix my couch, for $125!!! That is all! He came and was very professional and sweet. Watching him work, he was truly a skilled craftsman. He did a flawless job. I asked him why the big box store doesn’t send people out to do this for warranties? He explained that he had been doing this for 30 years. When he first started, there were over a dozen people who did furniture repair in our area. Now there was only him and one other person. Why? Because it’s easier to buy a new one.
Reuse your items.
Since the beginning of time there have been people who turn trash into treasure. Taking a broken item and reusing even just a single piece of it, puts less things in the landfills. People weave mats for others to sleep on out of used milk bags. You can make countless things out of old t-shirts. Vintage items are making a huge comeback as well. I love the saying “Grandma made it cool, mom threw it away, and I’m bringing it back.” So accurate. I bet if you went to Grandmas house, there would be all sorts of amazing goodies! Those ceramic Christmas trees are everywhere now! Don’t let someone throw those things away on grandma! Flea Markets, Garage sales, and Antique Markets are also great places to find these fabulous items (incase Grandma doesn’t want to share). Buying a vintage item is still reusing it! Sometimes you can find vintage items and make them into something new. Take an old ugly picture frame, give it a quick coat of paint and it is new again! If you have something old that you no longer want or need, don’t just toss it. Post it on Facebook market place or Kijiji. Or if you are feeling especially generous, you can give it away to someone who needs it. Donate to a shelter. Just watch who you send it to so it doesn’t end up in the landfill after you donate it. People are now reusing their single use water bottles by filling them with garbage and making building blocks out of them! Recycling to your local waste station is not the best option anymore. Many things do not get recycled, and end up in the landfills. Even when you try to do good, it can backfire it seems. The best option is to take care of that waste yourself.
Tell Consumerism to shove it.
David Orr said it perfectly “We are now products of $500 billion of advertising a year.” Stores spend billions of dollars to create the perfect advertisement for consumers. They convince us that we NEED that new phone. They convince us that we should look like their models and NEED buy their make up and clothes. They convince us that we NEED to spoil our kids senseless with every single toy available at Christmas. They convince us that we NEED to have sculpting clothing to tuck away our hard earned lumps and bumps and look like Beyonce even though we have had kids and just love to eat some damn pizza. Tell them to SHOVE IT. You can not be bought! Don’t stuff their pockets with your hard earned money! I watched a movie called “The 11th Hour.” There was a quote in that movie by Nathan Gardels that stuck with me and blew my mind. “Understand that things are the thieves of time.” Think about that. Let it percolate. You spend all your time at work for what? To buy things. Things you probably don’t need. If you stopped buying those things, you wouldn’t need so much money, and you wouldn’t need to spend all your time at work. Mind Blown. It is such a simple idea, but I had never thought of it that way. I have all this stuff that cost ten or twenty dollars, and well guess what? That is an hour of work! Don’t spend = don’t work! Yay! Eat that capitalism!
We have become so obsessed with buying stuff that it has become a culture. Our kids are learning from what we do. It is time that it stops here. Teach them how to save money. Teach them how to be innovative and fix things, or create something out of nothing. Teach them that the planet matters and that we shouldn’t just throw stuff away. All of us need to make this a priority. Then hopefully our children can thrive in a creative future. We can do this! One item at a time.