I am a consumer. Stuff fills up my life and I enjoy shopping. I can’t deny it.
Living in a cargo crate or a 500 square foot “Tiny House” intrigues me though. There is a part of me that believes I could rid my life of clutter and live simply, and then I remember I have two toddlers and shirts from the eighth grade. Perhaps we could attach multiple cargo crates together and one could be designated entirely for baby stuff, and another could be a walk in closet. Gut feeling tells me that misses the point though.
Local. Home. Hand. These are the three words I have decided to consciously incorporate into my life this year. Please don’t mistake this for a New Year’s resolution. New Year’s resolutions are not really for me, although I’ve definitely thrown that phrase around. They seem weak and easily forgotten. If they were effective, then gym memberships wouldn’t surge in January and drop off by March. A new year isn’t a good enough reason for me to decide to do something better. Health, efficiency, and enjoyment are good reasons. I enjoy feeling healthy, therefore I will do whatever needs to be done to feel healthy. That doesn’t mean I have to join a gym. Maybe I’ll juice, or take a yoga class. Maybe I’ll add taking walks with my girls more. Maybe I will do 25 kegels every time someone talks about starting a new diet. That should keep everything in place, till March at least.
It seems that if I want to de-clutter my life, and be more thoughtful about what I use, wear, and eat, I may spend more money on objects, clothing, and food. Sometimes.
Shopping locally, making homemade, or buying handmade connects me to people, not objects. I realize that I am much more invested in an article of clothing that was created by hand than I am in one that cost me $9 shipped from China. I am not only more likely to hand wash that handmade item and probably handle it more delicately (there are multiple setting on a washing machine?!) but I will tell others about it, take an interest in how it was made and who created it. The people selling these items tend to be more concerned about quality and customer satisfaction too, since their business absolutely depends on it. This creates closer relationships with not just the materials or food being exchanged, but the people making them. That is important to me.
There was a great thought from the post On the Kindness of Things, by John Tuite over on Kindness Blog. Tuite writes:
“Things speak to us of their own history. Particularly if they are made by us, they speak of the quality of care that went into their own making. The faulty and imperfect asymmetry of a hand-made pendant, or a repaired pot, can breath more balance into our system than the perfect symmetry of a factory product. The smoothest pebble weighted in the hand can be more interesting to the touch than the curves and sophisticated ridges of mass produced plastic. When we surround ourselves with such ill-made products we create a muted environment, that leaves us numb and seeking satisfaction somewhere else. Always somewhere else.”
You can read the full post here: http://kindnessblog.com/2014/12/11/on-the-kindness-of-things-by-john-tuite/
Similarly, buying locally grown produce, or growing or making my own food or other items creates that same connection for me. When a friend hand delivered eggs from their own chickens, each omelet we made that week felt like a gift. I contemplated the work that goes into transforming a yard into a happy chicken home and thought for a second hubs and I might try it. It never happened, but I became more thoughtful about where my food comes from. My mother frequently (ok, almost always) purchases produce for my family on her daily runs to the supermarket. When H & G started eating solids I was insistent on our produce being organic. My mother couldn’t understand how we were willing to spend so much money on organic groceries, when she could round-up the same list of non-organic items for half the cost. I pointed out that although I recognize the issues this poses for many people on a budget trying to eat organically, in my mind, it is one of the most worthwhile expenses. What is more important than the quality of nourishment that I feed to my family?
Just last week I put together a care package for my brother and his girlfriend. For about two hours I went through photographs, clothing, my pantry… collecting items thoughtfully, and writing notes and creating labels. What a thrill! Can that be a job? Professional care-package creator? If so, I want that job. Nothing excites me more than giving gifts or surprising people. (Hubs almost always knows his birthday present before his actual birthday because I can’t contain MY excitement at the thought of watching him open it.) Anyway, I shared my project with a family member, to which they snarked, “Oh, are you cleaning out your stuff?” I replied with a deflated, “no.” This was a thoughtful collection of objects! “Well did you buy the things you put in there?” At one time I did-but you’re missing the point! I spent my TIME on this gift, I tried to be creative, witty, and thoughtful. I can’t wait for them to get it. Maybe I’m making a bigger deal of it in my head than it is. They might open the box and chuckle and move on to drinking coffee and eating tacos and never mention it to anyone else. But I hope they know there is a lot of love in that box. It is purely coincidental and convenient that I now have a little extra room in my closet for those hand-dyed, matching crocheted sweaters for the family from a local knitter. 😉