We're not digging ourselves into a hole, we're burying ourselves instead.
The Boston Globe has an article on a study by UCLA researchers who did a real time archeological study of 32 Los Angeles families, and the results were overwhelming. We are living lives of clutter and accumulation, but not much satisfaction. The scary thing is that we all see this and recognize it. But we can't stop ourselves. We buy with the idea of just in case, and pick up hundreds and hundreds of cups we won't use. We look for the latest and greatest thinking it will make us happier, so we upgrade relentlessly. We think more is better getting more of the same thing over and over, collecting every minor variation. This is our lives, owned by our stuff. It's easy to get righteous and say that we won't be like that, but being honest, I am definitely one of those people who accumulates over time and buys on impulse. So what can you do?
- Don't buy on impulse, buy on need. Often you will see something you want when shopping. Instead of picking it up if you don't need it right away. Write down what that item is and only get it if you find you keep revisiting the list.
- Buy used. This weekend I upgraded my router with a much faster version from Goodwill. I saved money, but I also didn't contribute to landfill with more packaging clutter. I also got a receiver from freecycle that allowed me to use my existing computer monitor more effectively to be my media center. Look at Craigslist and ebay for items.
- Ask your neighbors. Often neighbors will have things you can use that they don't want. I bought some used speakers, and didn't want to buy speaker wire. My neighbor had some speaker wire left over that he was storing and didn't think he would need. Because of warehouse shopping, people often have more than they need and they are willing to get rid of to get rid of their space. You can give them something in exchange or take them out to a meal.
- Gift biodegradable. Plants are excellent gifts, and who doesn't like home baked cookies.
- Practice detachment. This one is tough for me since I don't like to throw things away, since I think it's throwing it away. But if you subscribe to freecycle, follow it for things that people want, not things you want. It is amazing that you often have what others want. And the bonus is that you know that people will use what you give away, as opposed to accumulate it.