As Lee Camp says, the sheep have good excuses for falling in line. People allow TV commercials tell them how to live their lives. It’s not that the commercials directly tell you what to do, but that when you think that you need to buy things you don’t need, you have committed yourself to a series of bad choices, often including a job you work for the money only.
I enjoyed looking at this series of photos of Swedish students showing their modest amounts of possessions. I know that I’m no longer a student, and I do have children who have their own collections of things, but I do aspire to have a more portable existence. If I were to move to a small space, the most obvious problem is that I have thousands of paper books, many of them with my hand-written notes inside. If only there were an efficient way to scan all of those pages, to shrink all of them to the size of an external hard drive.
Another problem is that I have a workshop full of tools. Last night, I reached into some spare parts and fixed the furnace, so I’m weary of giving away even the boxes of odds and ends, much less the tools that I use to repair things at the house. And what would I do with my musical instruments? I have several guitars, as well as a PA and (once again) boxes of music.
Then again, I sometimes imagine the house being destroyed by fire–we all escape with nothing at all, but I do have backup hard drives off-site with all of my writings, photos, movies, financial paperwork. It would be a disaster, of course, but in this thought experiment it would also be an opportunity to rebuild my collection of possession leaner and meaner.
Annie Leonard (“The Story of Stuff”) urges us to stay home on Black Friday, offering us some stunning images in this one-minute video:
What else is there to do? Fifty years ago, people would have thought you were an idiot to even ask this question.
Although I have NEVER shopped on Black Friday, I signed Annie Leonard’s Pledge.
Michael Norton points to the difficulties of winning the lottery, then suggests that there are ways to use money to buy happiness. One trick is to spend money on others, especially others with significant needs. His conclusion: “If you think money can’t buy happiness, you’re not spending it right.”
Our family vacuum cleaner had seen better days. Like most things that break these days, it wasn’t that old; my wife and I bought it less than five years ago. Thus, the frustration and an opportunity. We were aware that there was a vacuum repair store less than a mile from our house, and we decided to see whether we could save our vacuum.
Upon entering, we spoke to “Dan,” who has been running his vacuum repair shop for fifty years. He is a affable fellow with a small shop filled with more than 50 used vacuum cleaners. After a quick test of our machine, Dan announced that $40 would get our old vacuum working again. That would have been much less than $200, the price we would pay for a new vacuum cleaner. But for $100 and our vacuum as a trade-in, we could upgrade to a significantly better “commercial vacuum” that someone else had traded-in and which Dan had already repaired. My wife and I decided to upgrade, and we are now happy with our powerful “new” vacuum (not so powerful that it sucks up pets and children, but quite powerful).
It occurred to me that this is an unusual way of doing business in modern America. As Annie Leonard explains so well in “The Story of Stuff,” most things that are manufactured these days are designed for a single use (including immense amounts of packaging). My family makes regular use of other kinds of re-sell-it shops, including Goodwill, Salvation Army and private garage sales. But how nice, to also be able to make use of a store for fixes things in order to keep them out of the landfill, especially when these things are expensive household appliances. Perhaps a vacuum cleaner is about as cheap as appliance can be while it is still expensive enough to make it worthwhile to offer a repair shop. At least, I don’t remember seeing any smaller appliance repair shops; a look on the Internet tells me that such shops do exist, however.
Dan had more than a few noticeably old (repaired) vacuums for sale, a sight that made me think of the phrase “planned obsolescence.” I do think society would be better off with fewer big box purchases and more repair shops. And since Dan was such a competent and friendly fellow, I’ll mention that he is an avid bowler who recently bowled his second 300 game.