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…


liz gunnBy 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.

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Poor you September 2, 2014 at 2:05 pm

White people problems. Yawn.

willblogformoney September 2, 2014 at 4:42 pm

I have a chapped lips and Wham! broke up.!

TontoBubbaGoldstein September 2, 2014 at 6:35 pm

…and Wham! broke up.!


Not Exaggerating September 2, 2014 at 2:08 pm

Why don’t you publish the $500 list of items? Seems your friend would cooperate in the interest of public awareness.

Unoriginal Article, too September 2, 2014 at 2:15 pm

Because it’s bullshit. These women just want to whine about something. Safe it for Facebook…the place for young Mom’s to bitch about being a Mom.

Spot On September 2, 2014 at 3:24 pm

You’re ignorant or childless or both.

E Norma Scok September 2, 2014 at 3:32 pm

Another whiner.

Unoriginal article, too September 3, 2014 at 4:11 pm

Childless and loving it. Only thing I have to bitch about is pissy ass parents who think the world owes them something. Ignorant is having children and then bitching about it being expensive.

E Norma Scok September 2, 2014 at 3:31 pm

It does seem to be take as much energy complaining about it as it does actually being one.

Its as if noone knew what having kids was going to be like.

Smirks September 2, 2014 at 2:36 pm

Notebook paper can be a few cents or several dollars depending on where you buy it, same with pencils, pens, notebooks, etc.

So, yeah, let’s see a receipt.

The Colonel September 2, 2014 at 3:07 pm

My older son’s required calculator was $130+- (he’s in a STEM program) but they issue them Chrome Books so no notebooks etc. (however, his last science project cost about $500…. )

Youngest son had about $150 worth of junk on the “school list” (another magnet program) – we didn’t buy any of it until after school had started and the teachers had indicated what they really needed – wound up being about $35.

Part of the problem is that committees make up these “one over the world lists” for the school and that list gets sent out to every student when individual teachers have different (generally smaller) requirements. Often they include things like wipes, white board markers, binders and assorted “community stuff” that the teach confiscates and provides to kids that don’t have resources. Some of the supplies they request (white board markers comes to mind) should be a school provided resource. I usually donated a case of copier/printer paper to the younger son’s teachers when he was in elementary school and told them to call me when they ran out – never had that call.

Steve September 2, 2014 at 9:08 pm

Another part of the problem is idiot parents who enroll their kids in optional magnet programs and then bitch about the cost.

The Colonel September 2, 2014 at 9:21 pm

You’ll not hear me complain, that $500 science fair project helped the oldest earn a free ride for an engineering degree.

Jdaddy September 2, 2014 at 9:41 pm

I am dying laughing at these morons who either don’t have kids, spent most of their high school in woodshop, or work a job that doesn’t require any type of post high school education because you don’t get a higher education today using paper and fukn pencils! It has become very costly and time consuming for the parents and yes $500 is well within range today! I hate it but the truth!

Is this for real? September 2, 2014 at 2:16 pm

Quit buying crap, moron.

snickering September 2, 2014 at 2:29 pm

Hey Will, this is not a real story unless you’re sleeping with her. Then it’s real only to you. Bezinga

????????? September 5, 2014 at 9:18 am

I’m not typically surprised by the onslaught of negative and/ or insinuative comments here —considering my audience —but for a seemingly progressive female (based on your other comments) this one is a head scratcher. Way to be one of the good ole boys.If you think the story is crap – say so. Everyone else does. No need to make things up while doing so.

Smirks September 2, 2014 at 2:47 pm

I don’t see how anyone could break the $500 mark unless they are college students having to buy textbooks (and even then, come on, buy used books online when applicable). Seriously, even if you factor in a $100 graphing calculator and a new backpack, it shouldn’t even be close.

Children don’t need iPads or whatever other bull. At most I could see a cheap (less than $100) e-reader, which we should do, and get rid of printed textbooks altogether. That doesn’t mean giving a child a $300 device that is capable of being stolen or accessing less-than-educational material.

Are teachers really requesting this crap? Or are they just “suggesting” it? Or are they not mentioning it whatsoever and parents are buying it up under whatever silly notion? I wonder.

At any rate, I’d love to see a teacher fail a student because they didn’t buy an overpriced tablet.

Not Exaggerating September 2, 2014 at 2:52 pm

Three Principals in my family and numerous teachers. Any teacher supervised by them distributing such a list would have some serious splainin’ to do.

And I can’t imagine a reason good enough for acceptance.

CorruptionInColumbia September 2, 2014 at 2:48 pm

I remember when “back to school” meant a new whoopee cushion and a new bottle of rubber cement (to make fake boogers with). Good times.

LunchLady September 2, 2014 at 4:22 pm

Apparently real boogers are a popular alternative to Mooshell’s disgusting school lunch program.

SCBlues September 2, 2014 at 6:50 pm

Are we allowed to say “boogers” on FITSNews?

E Norma Scok September 2, 2014 at 3:18 pm

School is back in?

Who knew. We already had a lot of traffic; thats about all it means to me.

Henry David Thoreau September 2, 2014 at 3:22 pm

The beginning of school is a time of great anxiety for many families and children. $80 backpacks, donation requests start again, teacher wish lists, the cool clothes, etc., etc.

My hat is off to you for focusing on this. While we have tried to teach our children to be frugal the grandparents (trying to out-do one another) are the ones who usually need to be re-educated.

On a final note along the lines of the 1000 sq ft home, I grew up in a family of 6 with one bathroom. At least it was indoors. As soon to be empty-nesters we are contemplating downsizing from 2100 sq ft. My older brother, on the other hand, is in the process of scaling up from 2500 to 3500 sq ft. and his kids have long been gone. Scratching my head.

“We don’t have things, things have us”.

E Norma Scok September 2, 2014 at 3:27 pm

I remember my HP-48GX. 64K or RAM and could do triple integrals as well as most of my circuits homework–with diagrams! I think i gave $350 for it.

Was also useful for figuring car and house payments.

Stymie Yelodog September 2, 2014 at 7:44 pm

My HP-11C is still going strong. I got it to replace my HP-35, which was bought in ’72 for $395.

The Colonel September 2, 2014 at 9:26 pm

TI-85, got me through the Engineers Officers Advanced Course in 1992 and still going strong though now I use an app called Calculator Ultimate for Kindle Fire more often than not.

Yep! September 3, 2014 at 1:43 am

The TI’s were so expensive feature wise to Casio’s…I used a Casio for 1/3 of the price in the early 90’s for college Calculus.

I always likes that the TI’s used the old Zilog processor that was in the TRS-80, Commodore 64 & a host of other dawn of computing era machines…but they just couldn’t come in price/feature wise for some reason in the early 90’s.

The Colonel September 3, 2014 at 6:26 pm

Ah but you couldn’t hack your Casio like we could our TIs. I had a “flow solution” program that one of my classmates had written that got me through drainage and a cubic calculator that got me through plastics.

JadedInCola September 2, 2014 at 3:52 pm

One measure you can take is NOT getting involved with a crazy woman with an entitlement complex who has no concept of money management or budgeting.

SCBlues September 2, 2014 at 4:56 pm

Yes – Miss Madonna knew what she was talking about . . .

“Material Girl”

Some boys kiss me, some boys hug me
I think they’re O.K.
If they don’t give me proper credit
I just walk away

They can beg and they can plead
But they can’t see the light, that’s right
‘Cause the boy with the cold hard cash
Is always Mister Right, ’cause we are


Living in a material world
And I am a material girl
You know that we are living in a material world
And I am a material girl

Some boys romance, some boys slow dance
That’s all right with me
If they can’t raise my interest then I
Have to let them be

Some boys try and some boys lie but
I don’t let them play
Only boys who save their pennies
Make my rainy day, ’cause they are


Living in a material world (material)
Living in a material world

Boys may come and boys may go
And that’s all right you see
Experience has made me rich
And now they’re after me, ’cause everybody’s


A material, a material, a material, a material world

Living in a material world (material)
Living in a material world
[repeat and fade]

New Gym,Yes! Free pencils, No! September 2, 2014 at 5:55 pm

I tell kids soliciting dollars on the street for their school activities that I’m not interested in donating all the time.

I say it plainly(but courteously) and see if they respond beyond moving on to the next person.

Now and then one will get the courage to ask why, and I explain to them that I get taxed quite a bit for schools yet see that the local high schools get new buildings, gyms, theaters, administrators getting a nice salary and a host of other things that make it very obvious that the basics of schooling, like paper & pencils for example, rank very low on their priority list-so I disagree with how they spend the money and as such they need to make do with what the administrators and educators have prioritized.

I’d say the reception to the explanation goes very well. It’s an actual education for them.

If it was me and I ran a school I’d prioritize paper & pencils over these extravagant purchases. But I suppose if they send little Johnny home to the parents saying “You haven’t equipped Johnny properly” they pretty much have the parents over the proverbial barrel. It’s a form of further extortion really.

Maybe if I was such a parent, that also had free time to waste on government teaching bureaucrats I might suggest he squat in the new auditorium until he finds some pencils on the floor there.

Charity goes to vice September 2, 2014 at 7:58 pm

i have a camera and just don’t open the door. Fuck em

ReElect Nikki September 2, 2014 at 9:04 pm

You’re a real hero!

Thank God for you and Nikki Haley,

Bible Thumper September 2, 2014 at 7:46 pm

Liz, you may have a credibility problem.
1. How many pairs of shoes do you have.? _________
brown wedges ________
Blue flats _________
2. How many pocketbooks/purses do you have? ________
3. How often do you eat out per week? _________
4. How often do you bring home prepared meals? ________
5. What percentage of your purchases are on a credit card? ______
6. Do you use disposable diapers or cloth? _______
7. Did you use formula instead or breastfeed? ________
8. How much of the unessasary

Crooner September 3, 2014 at 3:27 pm

You’re way hotter in the picture with the kid than in your byline shot.

????????? September 3, 2014 at 7:56 pm

thank you…I think :)

Same ol' Same ol' September 4, 2014 at 2:13 pm

Now THAT’s a cute little girl in the picture.
Hell, we were so po when my kids were in school we couldn’t afford to pay attention.
1st world problems, for sure.


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