[Tweet “Buy less. Choose well. Make it last.”]
The trend towards hyper consumerism is almost inescapable. Things are just so darn cheap nowadays. Wal-Mart is everywhere, and dollar stores are so common that books and websites for crafting with stuff that you buy at the dollar store exist. Our town didn’t get its first Wal-Mart until the late 90s, and within a few years there were two more like 5 minutes away from my house. There are currently 22 Wal-Mart stores within a 30 mile radius in San Diego county. I’m picking on Wal-Mart, but they’re not the only guilty party. Cheap stuff is everywhere.
Have you heard of “retail therapy”? It’s kind of a joke to describe that feeling you get when you buy stuff, but in reality, it’s more sad than funny. When that first Wal-Mart opened in my neighborhood I fell under its spell of super cheap crap. Saturday mornings, I’d head over to see what was new and get a little alone time. I could literally spend two hours in there wandering the aisles and filling my cart with housewares, gadgets, trinkets. We were running out of room to put it all, and even though it was cheap, it wasn’t like it was free. I’m not sure what broke the spell. Maybe Greg questioning whether we really needed another red plastic mixing bowl, or maybe I’d just had enough. Like too much fast food, it wasn’t truly satisfying no matter how much I consumed, and eventually I got sick of it. Even though I love fast food, I don’t want to eat it every day.
And I started to question the statement I was making, because how you spend your hard-earned money is one of the most powerful statements you can make. Not to bum you out too much, but super cheap stuff has a cost that someone, somewhere is somehow paying. Maybe it’s horrible working conditions, maybe it’s gross environmental practices. Sometimes it’s slavery.
Our family made a decision to choose better when handing over our money in exchange for goods and services, starting with buying less. There’s pretty much always going to be a tiny place in my life for discount stores because sometimes you do need that plastic bowl, but we really try hard to support local small businesses. This means, when we buy gifts, we try to choose local handmade whenever possible, or at least a local “mom and pop” retailer. When we eat out, we usually go to a locally owned restaurant vs a chain restaurant. And when we the only choice is a big corporate shop, we do our best to choose one that takes care of its workers and gives back to the community.
I totally get how capitalism works, but I also know that I feel better when the person who is making the stuff I buy can take care of their family. Not everyone can afford to make a statement every time they shop, but if we could all just try to see the bigger picture and spend our money a little more meaningfully, it would make an impact. And understand that you don’t have to cave to the pressure to “buy buy buy”.
And so dear friends, that is the story of my great big why. I hope I’ve made my case that more isn’t always better, but mindful is better; Meaningful is better. And I think that you will see that better stuff is better.