There’s a post that’s been rattling around in my brain for a year or two on this topic, but for some reason, I’ve never sat down to type it up.
(It’s sort of funny that after reading a book about how money can buy happiness if spent properly, I am now reading a book about how happiness comes from not being so tied to money.)
Anyway, the other night I came across a paragraph in Saved that was exactly what I’ve been thinking about. It’s like Hewitt was in my brain or something.
Here’s what he said:
“We speak of materialism as if it were something bad and even sinful, but sometimes I wonder if we have it all wrong. Maybe what we need isn’t less materialism, but more, to the point that we actually respect and even revere our material goods, rather than see them as disposable and constantly begging to be upgraded.”
A thousand times, yes.
I know sometimes people chuckle at the delight I find in something as small as a stainless steel ladle, (or a funnel, for that matter) but I hope my enthusiasm is an example of the right sort of materialism.
I had an old, junky, plastic ladle which was at the end of its life, and instead of buying a cheap replacement (which would need to be replaced again), I researched the options and bought a slightly expensive ladle that should be around until I die, and which may possibly still be in use after that.
(Future great-grandchildren: I’ve got you covered on the ladle front, ‘kay?)
One issue in our flooded-with-cheap-goods culture is that we pretty much can have anything we want at any time. I think this easy access to Stuff causes us to value our Stuff less.
Though I suppose this is something of a chicken/egg scenario, because I’m not sure if cheap Stuff makes us value it less, or if we value Stuff less when it’s super cheap, but no matter how you slice it, it’s an unfortunate situation.
I don’t know how to solve the cultural problem at large, but I think if we bought fewer items, with less frequency and more thought, we’d really be on to something.
Again, Hewitt said what I’ve been thinking:
“Of course, it doesn’t help that disposability is purposefully engineered into the overwhelming majority of the products offered to us. To seek out true quality requires the determination to look beyond the convenient venues of big box retailers and online mass merchants; needless to say, it also demands a willingness to pay for the upgraded materials and craftsmanship such quality demands.”
Sometimes people are a wee bit surprised that I frequently recommend products that are on the pricey side of things, but I think this meshes very well with my commitment to frugality and with my desire to reduce my trash output.
I would much rather pay up front for a quality item than “save” money by buying a cheaply made item that will have to be replaced and thrown away.
Interestingly enough, I think that shopping this way gives me more happiness bang for my buck. Sure, I don’t buy new things all the time, but the things I do buy are well-made, beautiful things that are a joy to own and use.
(Disposable items are kind of ugly, after all.)
(Incidentally, the authors of Happy Money shared that we enjoy things more when they don’t happen all the time and when we have to wait for them. Want to enjoy shopping more? Do it less often.)
You know, I wonder if maybe the key is switching from consumerism to a more mindful materialism.
It’s good food for thought, and if the rest of Saved is as good as this first part, I’m going to be sad when the book ends.