Consume less, smile more



We all buy ‘stuff’. You know, that stuff we want but don’t really need. Once, I bought a plastic egg separator because it hadn’t yet occurred to me that I could use the egg shells to do the job. Derr right? But we all do it, buy stuff simply because it seems like a good idea at the time - we think it’ll make our lives easier… we don’t have the patience to repair… we want to look stylish… we want to occupy our two year olds with another plastic talking singing accordion thingy…

This week I consume less ‘stuff’… and get happier.

Every year an estimated $5 billion is spent on ‘stuff’ we rarely or never use, stuff we want but don’t actually need. On average, each of us generates over 2,000kg of waste every year. Around half of that gets recycled, the other half ends up in landfill. Cringe.

Consuming less is better for the environment - less resources used up, less pollution. Sure, we’ve heard that before. But there’s more. Consuming less is also better for us...

Because it makes us happy.

Yes. Truly. Many a philosopher, Buddhist, Taoist, poet and plainly happy person has said so.

Socrates proclaimed, “The secret to happiness is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less”. Lao Tzu, the founder of Taoism said, “Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realise there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you”. Spanish poet Lope de Vega said, “With a few flowers in my garden, half a dozen pictures and some books, I live without envy”.

So, I’m repairing my holey socks, making my own mayonnaise (by hand), refurbishing an old side table, and getting my head around the fact that I may not actually need another pair of clog sandals (I have three in different colours). I’m meditating instead of shopping. And in doing so, I am happier. I feel lighter, detoxed. I feel less attached to inanimate objects, more connected to the earth.


As a minimalistic exercise, I wrote a shopping list for the week, all the things I thought I needed. Then I whittled it down to the things I actually needed, and couldn’t make myself: raw food, soap, toilet paper and deodorant. Of these, I bought local or recycled as much as possible*.

Of course, there are times when you actually do need another pair of colourful clog sandals (because the ones you’ve got are broken, don’t judge). That’s when a bit of mindfulness can go a long way. To think about how far a product has travelled, how many resources went into its production, and how it will affect the environment now and in the future is a good thing. Buying local and/or ethical is a great move. Australia has many amazing, mindful producers, so finding locally made, ethically made products isn’t hard. I check out the Ethical Consumer Guide when I’m in doubt. There’s also an iphone app (of course).

I try to think of the longevity of a product also. I bought an old-fashioned stovetop whistling kettle when my electric one broke, because I knew it’ll last me a life time (and I like the patience it requires of you while you wait for the water to boil).

The simple fact is our consumption patterns have an impact on our earth. It’s time to rethink the way we live.

*As a side note, on the things I couldn’t make myself…
Yoghurt was on my list although it’s one of those things you can make yourself. But, this week I bought Blue Bay from my local farmers’ market. Also in Victoria, Meredith Farm is incredible. If you’re in NSW/QLD, Barambah Organic and Marrook Farm are equally superb. I guess I could make my own soap, but anyone who know me knows I don’t know where my limbs begin and end, so for fear of burning my skin off, I bought some. I bought handmade soap (no packaging) from my local farmers’ market. I bought recycled toilet paper (unbleached, I use Safe brand in paper packaging), and Biologika deodorant, because it’s all natural, certified organic, and made in Victoria where I live. If you’re in QLD, I’ve heard Vrindavan deodorant is excellent.

What are some clever ways you consume less? What ‘stuff’ can you do without, make yourself, buy second-hand or local, borrow?


4 comments:

  1. Love the way you handle the shopping list... WANT and then whittle it down to NEED... I need to put this one to practice! Still giving thought to what 'stuff' I can do without.

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  2. I look back at some of the things I bought in the past and wonder what I was thinking!?

    I totally agree that conuming less makes me happier.

    I've found not buying took a while to get used to. I did a few periods of not spending at all which helped me realise how little I actually needed. first we spent nothing for a week, and then we spent nothing for a month (although only made it to three weeks).

    Great post :-)

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  3. I completely agree with this. I think a long way to living a sustainable life is to be a more conscious consumer. I mean does someone really need a banana slicer?! (http://www.dailyfork.com/2009/12/useless_kitchen_gadget_521_the.php) Isn't that what a knife is for?

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  4. I love this way of thinking that is showing up more and more. I am thinking about do I need that or can I do it with something else. If I do the packaging or buy less packaging. I think recycling is the last resort. I live with a young person. He just doesnt get it. He is worried about water but he will be when there isnt enough to have water for his family and hopefully it will never come to that. How to travel with less impact on the environment. I dont want to keep myself from doing things but do it in the best way to create less impact. My husband has been rebuilding a boat. cheaper than a new one but also givng something a new life .. or reuse.. not sure but probably better than the manufacturing process. I have been learning to stand in less impact. I love riding the bus its easy gets me most places I need to go. I buy only what I need and sometimes dont buy an item I would that I dont need. more to carry..I want to keep going with my husband on this. I am sure that showing is the best way so that people see its not so hard and its fun.. more time, money.. to do what I want..

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