Our Material World
ENDING THE CYCLE OF EXCESS CONSUMERISM
By Liz Gunn || Unless you live in a cave, you probably noticed that school is back in session. For me, when I think of “back to school” I get all nostalgic. I never looked forward to the end of summer, growing up in a quaint little town just 14 miles from the ocean, but I have the fondest memories of shopping for the perfect outfit and school supplies. New teachers, new friends, new “stuff” – it was exciting!
Back then, school supplies typically meant picking up the basics – pencils, loose-leaf paper, maybe a new Trapper-Keeper and a pencil box. Once in a while a teacher might ask for necessary specifics like a protractor or a fancy calculator (TI -82 anyone?).
In today’s world children are being sent elaborate lists of very specific things they will need to start school. I have a friend who claims she spent nearly $500 on teacher requested school supplies. Her child is enrolled in public school, mind you.
How can a teacher demand that kids (or their parents, rather) buy all this stuff? And is it really necessary? With as much technology as school’s today are touting, why do kids even need supplies?
They have iPads and SMART Boards and Google at their fingertips. I cannot for the life of me understand how a 4th grader would need $500 worth of supplies in one school year.
Excess consumerism continues to spiral out of control. And now it’s being forced on us.
There is a new anti-consumerism movement called “Tiny House Life” where families live in houses that are less than 1000 square feet. These are not just single people – these are families. There are sometimes five or six people living in 800 square feet! Of course there is a documentary on this lifestyle as well as a reality show on A&E.
I am fascinated by this concept. Ever since we added to our family, our house of more than twice that size feels a little cramped. It isn’t because of a third person; she only weighs about 21 pounds and isn’t even three feet tall. We just have too much stuff!
How do you stop it? A lot of our child’s things were given to us by family and friends. It’s so nice of them, but how much of it do we really need? Less than 5 percent, probably. How can we teach our children to be happy with less if we keep giving them more?
Tiny House Life isn’t really about the size of the house. The fundamental ideology behind tiny house living is getting rid of “stuff.” Most Americans have way too much “stuff.”
A friend of mine started a journey at the beginning of the year called “The One Year Wardrobe Resolution”, where she challenged herself not to buy any clothes for an entire year. I have to be honest, I don’t think I could do it. But following her journey has been nothing short of inspiring. I have found myself really questioning purchases more. Do I really need this? Is this going to improve my life?
The problem isn’t solved, but it’s a step in the right direction. When we focus less on the material things, especially those we don’t really need, we free up time and energy to focus on the things that matter – for me it’s that 21 pound, nearly three feet tall bundle of energy that has too much “stuff.”
Liz Gunn is a wife, mom, author, businesswoman, travel enthusiast, food snob, fashionista, lover of great wine and the No. 1 Gamecock football fan … ever. A graduate of the University of South Carolina, she lives in Columbia, S.C. with her husband and daughter.