Is consumerism consuming you?

Even though I’m rocking the stay-at-home mom status these days, I try not to fall into many of the usual daytime-at-home ruts. I spend a lot of time with my baby, of course. But now that she is starting to have a little bit of a routine, I also try to do grown-up things, too. I work out. I read. I write (well, I’m working on finding time to write, anyway). And aside from becoming a fan of The Price is Right (seriously, it’s awesome) I stay away from daytime TV. It’s not hard to do because most of it is total crap, and not in a fun Price is Right kinda way.

But hey, everyone has days when they just want to veg out, especially if you just dealt with a screaming infant for an hour or two. So today, while the little girl slept I decided to watch a little Oprah. So often, her show is about something so horrible I just can’t stand it (did she really need to get the molester’s side of pedophilia?). I know she’s trying to educate in a sensational kind of way, but still, I don’t need more macabre in my life. But today’s show (which was probably a rerun) was about how to save money and she had a good half the episode on Freegans.

Freeganism is a movement by people who wish to opt-out of consumerism. Typically, they spend little to no money on things they own, use and eat (yes, eat) by going dumpster-diving. That was damn interesting and it got me thinking. Now, I’m not about to adopt a Freegan lifestyle. I’m not against it, it’s just not for me. Mainly because I’m a germaphobe and because garbage stinks. But the idea of opting out, or at least questioning consumerism is one I’m interested in.

When we were working on my baby’s nursery, this question came up a lot for me. We had to clean out a room in our house, which had been a home office/junk room, to make it into a nursery. As boxes and boxes and boxes and … more boxes came out of that room, my husband and I quickly realized we not only had way too much stuff but we had way too much stuff that we had no place for in our home or our lives. I can’t tell you how much stuff we simply had not even known was in there. How’s that for time and dollars wasted? And when we ran out of room in the garage and other rooms to put things, I was sort of sick with myself. We were faced with getting a storage space (paying to store things we don’t even need!!) or donating it. We did the latter. And it cut to the bone sometimes to see some of the perfectly good, brand-new or near-new items (some with tags still on them) sitting in the donation pile. My husband picked up two matching lamp shades and said, “Oh, but I like these.” And I just looked at him and said, “I know. But we’ve never used them. We have more lamp shades than lamps and we have nowhere to store them. It’s ridiculous.” And that was the end of that conversation. There was no point in arguing the merit of continuing to hang on to something only to store it and not even use it!

The thing is, I’m not alone. I’m not even a wealthy woman (I’m a writer, so you know I’m not swimming in money!) and I was over-run by stuff. How much stuff are you ferreting away for no particular reason?

And now it’s gotten even worse with the birth of my new baby. I cannot even come close to explaining the avalanche of things she has! And very little of it was purchased by me or my husband. I can rest easy that she is well provided for by so many loving family members and friends, but still, it’s been kind of absurd. How many onesies does a newborn who prefers to be naked really need? I can tell you this much, she’s worn about 8-10 onesies and she got about 25. Add to that the fact that she’s grown from 8 lbs, 13 oz. at birth 2 months ago to now being around 12 pounds (or, bursting out of the newborn sizes and into the next one up) and you have boxes of brand new clothes that have never been worn! (Don’t worry, I’m donating them.) Same with baby furniture — luckily we got her swing, bouncer and bassinet for free from friends. But it was weird to box up that bassinet a couple weeks ago (because she’s grown out of it). It was used once before us, but even factoring that in it has maybe been used a total of two months’ time by two babies! She also has not one, not two but four hand-made baby quilts and we live in the desert. (Granted, they will be keepsakes, but still.) And there’s only more to come!

While Freeganism and things like No Impact Man might be a little extreme for me, I can’t deny the allure of not just less decadence but an actual, honest examination of what stuff means to my life, to me.  Do I own my things or do they own me? Does my desire to get actually create some of the stresses and concerns I have in my life. I want to work to live not live to work and if I have to work that much harder to keep getting more stuff, well, it’s not going the right direction.

I want to set a good example for my daughter. But I also want to live a less encumbered life. There’s a freedom in abandoning the stuff you thought you needed.

3 thoughts on “Is consumerism consuming you?

  1. I’ve literally had to repeatedly stop myself from buying clothes for Lyla. I have also had to talk my mother in law down from the ‘I’m in the mood to spend $100 on clothes for Lyla’ ledge.
    We’ve now shifted to toys.
    I was just thinking today I have piles of Lyla’s stuff that she’s outgrown that I need to get rid of and soon will have a whole drawer full of six month stuff she will be too big for as well as a bassinet (previously used) while the rest I’m going to store for baby no. 2.
    I have actually had a hard time finding someplace to donate baby stuff to here. I’m going to keep trying and I am going to try harder not to buy as much clothing for Lyla for fall and winter. She has way too much. Waaaay too much.
    First, we need to clean out our home office. Oy vey.
    Yes, let’s cut back. I dig it.

    • The baby stuff situation is a whole new frontier of material orgy because you have grandparents and others involved. My 2-mo-old has a 5-drawer dresser and it is FULL! (My hubby and I have only bought a handful of clothing items.) Newborn, 3mo, 6mo, 9mo and toddler clothes, too! And when I mention that it’s out of control, Grandma says, “But it makes me happy.” So now my baby has too much stuff because stuff is an expression of love and generosity. It’s kinda crazy! Meanwhile, there are babies at shelters (locals should check out Safe Nest’s website). People with nothing. Perfectly good things in the garbage. I have to stop before my head explodes.

  2. It’s maddening! Right now, most of my stuff is in storage because I think we’re going to have another baby in a few years. But, I gave the majority of the gently used clothes away to friends or donated. (I only kept my most favorite, precious, extra special things.) Nate’s 2 and a half now, and the insanity has passed. He does get a new toy or book with every family visit, but it’s been manageable. But, because his grandparents don’t see him all the time, they always think he’s way bigger than he actually is. So, I have a little collection of stuff in his closet that won’t fit him til Kindergarten. Also, a SNOWSUIT. It’s black and blue, and I think it’s a size 2T. If either of you can use it or know someone who might, let me know. Because, really, he’ll never wear it. (It’s a hand me down from an East Coast relative.)

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