Saturday, April 12, 2008

103/366 - Waste not, want not


I've been reading Serve God, Save the Planet by J. Matthew Sleeth and I feel like I've been kicked in the stomach. But that discussion is for another day, another post.

One of the things he suggests is that Americans have entirely too much stuff, and that we are wasteful with it. How many times have you lost something you know you have multiple versions of (scissors, pens, etc.). He suggests that we lose things because we have too much stuff for it to get lost in. And often, if we can't find it, we just go buy another one to replace it. Which adds up quickly.

How much stuff do we have? Do you know how many items you have in your home? Anyone taken a count inventory lately? Me neither. The task is daunting. So what about a smaller space, the garage, maybe, or the attic? Still too big? What about your closet? Ok, ok, the silverware drawer?

Suffice it to say, I have a lot of things in my house, way too many to count. And I'm thinking of the permanent objects (like books, dvds, clothes, shoes, etc.), not stuff like toilet paper or trash bags, jars, cartons, packaging - things that are meant to be thrown away. My daughter in her short life has already accrued enough toys to outfit 3 children well, not to mention the stacks and stacks of clothes she'll never get a chance to wear unless I change her outfit 2-3 times a day.

I recently came across this 20 minute video called the Story of Stuff. You should take the time to watch it. Not only do we have ridiculous amounts of stuff, but we're less happy, and incredibly wasteful with it, not to mention the damage that we are doing to the planet and our fellow human beings.

Books like Not Buying It and Affluenza address this topic as well. We frankly have too much stuff, and its taking us into debt and making us miserable. And Christians are just as susceptible to this illness as everyone else. One of our elders at church has talked about talking a long, hard look at our things and asking God if we should really have them (honestly) and being willing to give it away if we shouldn't.

I could do that with some things, especially things that aren't mine (specifically), like my husband's clothes, Little Bit's toys, etc. But ask me whether I need all the yarn and knitting needles I've acquired over the last 1.5 years and I'll protest loudly - but I might NEED those! What about those philosophy text books collecting dust on my bookshelf? Someone else might need it for class, or want to read it, or... Do I really think I'm saving it for my daughter to read? What am I supposed to do with it for the next 20 years while she grows up? And what if she thinks philosophy is a load of &*^%.

Sleeth says we ought to continually be lending and borrowing instead of buying. If you need a lawn mower, borrow a neighbor's (or her goat). Not Buying It tells the story of how you really can survive without buying things (unnecessary things), it certainly wasn't the end of the world for them. How about waiting a month before you buy something? Set the money aside for it instead of going into debt? If you have to make the sacrifice now (and it's optional instead of forced - by having to pay the credit card bill), is it really worth it? Do you really need it?

What I'm getting at is I am seriously considering putting myself on a stuff fast. I'm not going to force my husband to do it, but he just might join me in it if I do it first. I didn't do a lenten fast this year because it came up too fast and it was already over by the time I'd figured out what I should be giving up. But here are a few areas where I can take action right now:
1. I can go through my books and seriously cull out the ones that I'll never read again and donate/sell the rest (by the end of May).
2. I will wait at least a month before making any knitting purchases. I will only buy yarn that has a specific project in mind that I will be casting on for within the next month (right now). I will also donate/sell yarn that is currently in my stash that I has no project in mind. This will help me be more intentional with my yarn acquisitions as well as productive with the finished objects. By the end of the year, I want to have donated at least 1/10th of my finished objects to charity.
3. It's time to clean out my closet and donate/repurpose my clothes. (June)

I'm asking you, readers/community, to hold me accountable to this. Please join me if you feel so called. This is just a beginning, but I feel the need to start doing something about it now. Stay tuned for more.


Sarah said...

I am so with you on this! I have been taking a hard look at a lot of my stuff lately, and have been slowly purging things from my house. But I know I still have WAY more stuff than I need. It sure is hard to let it all go. Especially those things that you are sure you will need sometime in the next few years. But, I have also found that once I get rid of something I almost never miss it or wish I would have kept it. Good luck on your journey, and know that I am doing something similar here!

dogyarnfun said...

I too have way too much stuff. So I joined an online yahoo group called freecyle and have been trying to "fulfill the wishes" of those who ask for things (blowup pools, juicer, etc). Matt and I also rent DVD's and books from the library (we don't have cable tv). We also give away most of the toys Ginger gets for Christmas and birthdays because she really only needs her frisbee and a ball (her favorite toys anyway).
Of course I'm a bit of a hypocrite because I can't give up my 40+ shoes or purses...don't get me started on the clothes or the yarn, but I have vowed not to bring anything in unless some things goes. I might not be doing a lot, but maybe a little will help in the long run.

Mary Ann said...

I can so associate with this!! My dh sells at flea markets. When we first moved to Florida, we had nothing. Then he slowly started buying stuff because he got a good job. But he was buying stuff to resell. I'm ok with that, he makes good money doing it. Then all of a sudden last year (about 14 yrs later), I realized that even though he was making good money, we didn't have money to do anything. He handles the money. After investigation on my part, I discovered that he now had 11 storage units that he paid rent on every month!! They were so full of stuff, that he wasn't even sure what he had. He couldn't even find our personal things, like precious family photos, because he had so much stuff! Needless to say, I started giving him a hard time on a regular basis. His defence was that it was our retirement!! That didn't fly with me, and I'm happy to say that we are now storage unit free! He still has tons of stuff to sell at the market, and we can find our Christmas decorations again!!

Theresa said...

For books, try and I've gotten rid of lots of books I was never going to read again, and gotten a few wonderful books in return.

Laura B said...

Getting rid of books is so hard, isn't it? Actually, I have a hard time getting rid of anything. I really think your approach should work, though. A little bit at a time. Are you getting rid of baby clothes yet or do you think you'll try to save them for future kid(s)?

Nano said...

Thanks for posting The Story of Stuff website. Though I've been aware of a lot of this for some time, it's always shocking and disgusting to see it explained so clearly. Everything in my house, as in books, magazines, clothes, shoes, candles, the list goes on, are given to Goodwill or the local mission if they haven't been touched in a year. (Except my yarn :-( I'm working on that)

This website should be circulated and reach as many people as possible to attempt at making people aware of this reality.