I noticed a while ago a swell of opinion which seems to have become a wave that a lot of people are riding on. I’m going to call it the ‘living simply’ movement.
I like the ideal of living simply and as someone who has moved house way too many times in the last five years alone I pretty much do out of necessity. We constantly evaluate the things we have and reduce those that aren’t used or we don’t love. New things aren’t purchased without a lot of consideration, partly for monetary reasons but also due to lack of space. We still have a whole lot of junk, some of it we can’t get rid of because we can’t afford a nicer replacement, some are gifts that I keep because I feel obligated. We fight the junk by making regular trips to the op shop bins to donate (seriously at least once a month and often a car boot full), most of it comes from well intentioned family giving us things without actually thinking it through.
I do know that if you looked around our house you wouldn’t believe me, because there is crap spilling out all over the place. I have high hopes that adding storage to our house will help.
But this isn’t really what I want to talk about right now, while living simply is great and not purchasing unnecessary items or repairing existing ones is a laudable goal it is not what I see happening amongst most of the people that promote simple living.
It seems to me that a lot of people are saying they aim to live simply and then immediately talk about the newest item they have purchased or been gifted. It frustrates me endlessly. Probably as much as the whole sponsored content/gifted items debate does others, let’s face it the two are closely related. Just because something is free doesn’t mean it’s excluded from the list of items you own and will still contribute to pulling you away from your simple living goal.
We have lived simply, without a kitchen for over a month and I can tell you I hope never to do that again, but it also made me truly pare down what we do own before things were allowed back in to the kitchen. It also made me aware that being able to live that bare bones is a task the majority of people are not up to, because when you tell people you have been cooking in your bedroom they give you the you are effing crazy face.
But for all my paring down I’m going to make this pretty clear I like stuff, I am materialistic. I don’t like a false veneer of simple earthy living being presented when that’s just not true. Own your likes, your wants and your desires, material or otherwise. I don’t think there’s shame in wanting beautiful things in your life and home and I’m tired of people inferring that there is.
Right this moment, I want
A Canon EOS M to replace my broken Leica
A new laptop to replace my dead iPad and long broken Vaio (preferably a MacBook because I really want to try one)
This cookie jar from Anthropologie
Lighting for my kitchen (one of these and two of these)
And so on and so on.
Will I get all these things? Hell no, probably I dare to say I’ll get none of them, but it’s okay to aspire to them. It is not evil to enjoy the products that are made for our pleasure, it’s bad if you constantly purchase (or otherwise acquire) and then throw away but that’s not what I’m talking about. It keeps people in jobs, something people seem to forget when cursing out big brands is that they employ people and if you don’t buy things people don’t get employed, and funnily enough it’s important for people to have jobs. The Labour government seems to think that jobs are created by shunting single parents on to Newstart but (though economist I am not) I’m pretty sure that consumer demand is a bigger part of what creates them.
Yes there are millions of people that need basic things, like safety, health and food. My wanting nice things is not harming them. Ignoring their plight would harm them, but I don’t do that, I do what I can to help. I think we all should, especially those of us fortunate enough to be born in stable countries, we should not be greedy with our good fortune. My 2nd* favorite Christmas gift that I received this year was the donation my cousin made to World Vision, what could be better than getting that?
But I can do both, I can be a good person and still like nice even frivolous things. It doesn’t make me vapid or selfish, and at least while practicing thoughtful consumerism I am not being underhanded about how much I am consuming.
So maybe people can stop the competitive self deprication and start enjoying the things they like?
*My favourite was the swing my husband made, seriously how could it not be.
disclaimer: it’s been 40+ degrees here since Thursday it’s highly likely the heat has fried my brain and I’m being reactionary and judgmental.