When it Breaks…

I was out at … a persons house…Who shall remain anonymous, not that they ever read this, but you know ethics an all!

I picked up her (whoooo now you know it’s a female!) coffee cup and said simply, “This is a nice cup”.
She responded, “Nahh, I am looking for a new set”
I held the cup innocently up in the air and inspected it from all angles,
“But it’s not leaking or broken.” I remarked.
She looked at me with her head on an angle for a few seconds taking in my meaning.
“No, I’m bored with them and when I’m bored I just go out and get new stuff”
“But they still work, why replace something when it aint broke?” I pushed further.
“I told you, it’s just what I do. I shop for new things when the old ones bore me”

I thought to myself, (not judgmentally mind you – I do the same thing), doesn’t that just summarize much of our consumer mentality. You don’t shop out of need (well sometimes we do, you have to eat!) you shop because it makes you feel good, you shop because you are bored. We shop because we have had that same mug for a year, slept under the same sheets for a season, worn those same jeans for 2 years. Nothing is wrong with any of it minus being a season out of fashion.
We have a massive industry in the western world that revolves around replacing things just because the shop/the industry says, “It’s time to replace”. They are never so blatant. They just bring out new catelogues, new ads that make the couches and curtains and coffee tables all look so nice alongside the even wider TV. They say things like “THIS SEASON, you too could dine around this stunning new suite”.
and, “Don’t let last seasons fashions spoil your television watching, pamper yourself with this stunning new leather suite from …”

We become victims of the seasonal society. All of a sudden I discover you don’t buy curtains and lounges for a lifetime, or at least half a lifetime anymore than you choose a house or a community to live in for most of your life. We live temporal lives with temporal things, in temporal communities.
You replace when you feel like it, and marketers will dictate (subtly) your feelings, they tell you that you are dissatisfied.

We no longer throw out our couch when they are old and collapsed (after repairing it 3 times and upholstering it twice). Nope, we throw it out when “Hardly Normal” brings out a new season catalogue. And I mean – THROW IT OUT – have you seen the great stuff being put out on bulk rubbish these days? People make a good living just following around the suburban bulk rubbish pick up all over the metro area collecting good stuff and selling it in the Quokka!

I want a new beanie…simple enough.
A have 4 beanies. All very out of fashion – very. The one I wore for my walk today was the trendiest one of them all, but it still roles up around the edges, not like these new ones that have no seam, they just pull straight down…BUT every time I go to buy a new one I think to myself, “I have not lost my beanies, they don’t have holes in them, so why am I buying a new one?”

I love gadgets.
I would buy a new phone very year if I could, they just keep bringing them out, and I want them all!
When my battery broke a few months ago on my old phone, the thought of getting it fixed never passed my mind. In fact I knew exactly what I was replacing it with before the thing broke. I was willing this thing to break so I could justify buying a new one. I even tried to get a new one before the old one died…but I chickened out.

So many decisions I make are based on feeling like a new one, being told buy someone or some ad on TV that this jacket or pair of shoes or TV or couch or toaster or bed set is better than the one I have at the moment.

It is a conspiracy you know. Well kind of. It’s all to do with economy. If we all buy lots, we create a demand, which creates more jobs and more demand for more things and more people get paid better and are told to spend their money on more things which creates a demand for more production hence more jobs and more people having more money and…you get my drift!
It seems good…but it is not. Our happiness ends up being about having work…money…things.
As much as I though The Pursuit of Happiness was a nice movie, I thought the underlying theme was get a job, a good one, so you can have money, when you have money your wife will love you, your family with be better and life will be sweet, not sure that it true. Happiness is a massive industry, there is even a happiness foundation!

It is true that the trajectory we in our nation (and even in our state here in WA with all the wealth here at the moment from the mining boom), are heading on is not a ‘Happy’ one.
Buying stuff just because we are bored is a vicious cycle.
I am not saying we should not have money or things.
I am just suggesting that we need to be thinking deeper about what is brining us the ‘happy’ feelings on the inside. We should think a bit deeper about why we need to buy the new coffee mugs, why are we ‘bored’ with a coffee mug, it’s a functional object for goodness sake and it is still fulfilling its function….am I too pragmatic in this?
The amount of ‘stuff’ we are pouring into landfill is starting to get beyond stupid! People now have 2 massive bins to fill up in our street. Does anyone remember a day when we used to have just one little tin bin and the rubbish man would lift it up on his shoulder and run after the truck? Just imagine a man running down your street with two full sized wheelie bins on his shoulder! We are throwing out MUCH more now.

Lets reduce, reuse and recycle

Reduce
Avoid waste — look for ways of producing and using goods that stop waste being generated.
Reduce waste — choose products that can be used productively, recycled in your area, and have minimal packaging.

Re-use
Re-use containers, packaging or waste products.

Recycle
Recycle waste material into useable products.

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13 thoughts on “When it Breaks…

  1. Beanies.

    Hmmmm.

    People need these – if you have old one there are plenty of people on the streets of Perth who would LOVE them. Plus if you learn to knit you can make your own very stylish beanies each season with minimal guilt – you are just trialing them before passing them on to someone who needs them.

    Ahhhhh consumer justification – very easy.

  2. You messin’ with me about my beanies? I have one from the Warrburton Tigers Football team from central Australia you know!

  3. If u find good stuff in your hard rubbish collection send it our way. No one in our suburb throws out good stuff because we can’t afford to! (Yes, I confess, I’ve looked- much 2 my husband’s horror but he’s nearly converted).

  4. Hopped over from Rodney’s blog
    Most people buy new stuff or change their old stuff to get a temporary “rush”…a “feel good” feeling which lasts as long as their next purchase.

  5. I observe that most people buy new stuff to experience the “rush” or “feel good ” feelings which last as long as their next purchase…

  6. well said scott.
    these consumer choices seem to be innocent – after all, doesn’t everyone do it. But, it’s actually this that’s killing the planet. It’s our waste, our consumption, our desire for more and better. bring on the simple revolution!

  7. This is one of the best posts on consumerism I’ve seen yet and it definitely challenges me personally on some of the practices that I automatically do.

    Just one bone I have to pick with you is why the sarcasm about the woman at the start of your post. Maybe there’s an inside joke that I’m not privy to but on this public post, it makes you sound quite self-righteous.

  8. Hi Lance, not sure where the sacasm is. Do you mean the bit that is in brackets and says (Whooo now you know its a woman) ? If this is the bit then it is not sarasm, just my silly humour, like as if knowing it’s a woman narrows it significantly enough for someone to guess who my intentionally anonymous person was.
    Other than that, I don’t see any sarcasm, only a genuine story being told…I hope it’s not self righteous. Do you mean the cup-holding it up in the air? That was genuine, it was my first reaction to look for a break or disfunction.

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