Buying stuff in America is a way of life, it is an end unto itself, it’s a sort of hobby, and it’s hard, if not impossible to acclimate to. The whole economy rests on it, and it’s an ever-present pressure to purchase. It’s the Purchasing Power Pressure, not Parity. I’ve actually started finding it difficult to buy food…just because I don’t want to shop for one more thing. And when I decided I wanted to get a tea kettle, I went on e-bay to see if I could just…get it used, and get it mailed to me. I’m winning the bid, for $2.95 at the moment, for a “top-of-the-line” (it’s ridiculous, I know, but I have a thing for tea, and tea kettles that are nice) $50 tea kettle, and I only have a few hours to go, but what I’m starting to enjoy is that I’m not buying it NEW.
A friend of a friend who is visiting told me a funny story about a group of Americans who got so tired of consumerism they decided to exit out of it. And decided not to buy anything new for one year (aside from food, underwear and hygiene products). I went online and found them: they’re based in San Francisco and are called Compact.
“We’re people for whom recycling is no longer enough,” said one of the members of the fledgling movement, John Perry, who works in marketing at a high-tech company. “We’re trying to get off the first-market consumerism grid, because consumer culture is destroying the world.” (read the article here)
Why this made sense to me, is because I’ve also been thinking of waste…slowly but surely, coming here where all the cars are new, where people buy as entertainment and dumpsters are full of heaping, quality trash, and where perfectly functioning items are orphaned on the side of residential streets, all of this gets to you eventually, and recycling isn’t doing my part enough.
So reading about Compact was inspiring. One of their main goals is to show that we’re not “powerless over our purchasing”. And I relate to their feelings of being relieved from the pressure of having to buy new things, the new gadgets, new clothes. Having started earning money less than a month ago, and being surrounded by ads and a society where you just buy to buy, my first thoughts were “what should I buy?” new clothes, new shoes, new everything, I started planning the demise of my salary. Then, as I did nothing about it, I started asking myself, “how do I want to spend my money?”
Wouldn’t I rather use it to learn something (as a friend was remarking, she prefers to spend money on classes and learning rather than on things) to see a new place…Why does the only sound investment have to be (or seem like it is) real estate?
I think that’s basically what these people are doing, along with popularizing the idea that “we need to be more gentle with our resources”, which means not buying new THINGS when there are the same things already in circulation, already bought and used on e-bay, craigslist, thrift stores. It’s interesting to empower the purchaser into making conscious decisions, do I really need this? do I need to buy it new absolutely?
Anyway. I’m not saying I’m ready for the year-long committment but I like thinking about being more gentle on my environment and questioning why I do certain things. It bends my brain in ways I like.