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Thinking about consumerism and our desire for "stuff"....


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I am trying to wade through a book about consumerism. Much of it is over my head, but I can't help but consider the implications of our collective thirst for more "stuff."

 

Thus far, this book has been depressing. My husband is reading a book about the declining dollar and says it's depressing too. Remind me to avoid the Economics section of the library next time.:001_huh:

 

We haven't had television in 4 years. I don't "get" pop culture. We are not name brand shoppers. I buy used or borrow. We recycle. We drive OLD cars. Barter when possible. I wear clothes until they are worn out. For entertainment we have friends over for dinner and play our Wii (first console system since SegaMaster - 1991). My biggest annual expenses are our pool passes and the kid's karate lessons.

 

Honestly, I want for very little. My dh and I throw around the idea of traveling more and have dreams of him working less hours, but haven't been able to let go of the security of a bi-weekly paycheck. We don't want a bigger house or newer cars. Our kids don't want for much. We have no plans for the stimulus check.

 

There seems to be a world of consumers that we not a part of and don't really understand.

 

Are we that weird?

 

Well, I'm rambling here as usual. What say the hive?

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I'm finding that the longer I am out of the loop with my friends, the ones who had babies at the same time, the ones who kids are all in ps now, the less driven I am to 'keep up with the Jones'. Honestly, we live in a very wealthy area, attend a very wealthy church and we aren't very wealthy. We are very comfortable, but by no means wealthy.

 

I am honestly more content with myself, my kids, and my surroundings now than I ever have been. I see more of what is important with my kids, it's not just making sure we are doing the same things and have the same things as all of their friends.

 

That's not to say that the "I want" bug doesn't strike sometimes, but it's nowhere near as often and all too often has to do with some expensive curriculum!

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Left to my own devices, I'd be a lot more like you. I grew up completely immersed in pop culture, but I'm finding it less and less interesting as I get older.

 

Honestly, I think the whole classical education thing plays a role, too. When I'm spending so much of each day reading great stuff with my kids and re-educating myself at the same time, it's becoming harder and harder for me to switch gears back to enjoying the garbage that is on TV and at the movies. I'd rather read a book.

 

I've also made some choices as an adult that have played a role in separating me from mainstream society (vegetarian/veganism, the church I attend, homeschooling, etc.). And the fascinating thing for me has been how little I miss what I've "given up" and how each step makes the next one easier. Over the years, I've just drifter farther and farther away from mainstream normalcy.

 

I do, however, have my husband and, to some degree, my son anchoring me. My husband is the type that routinely turns on the TV when he enters the living room and spends most of his free time "watching" TV with a wireless-enabled computer open and running on his lap. And he's not interested in walking away from any of it. So, I live with one foot reluctantly in that world.

 

I am sometimes amazed, though, at just how different we are from so many folks. We do have a TV (two, in fact) with digital cable and a DVR, but I seem to be immune to most of the most popular shows. (I do like Lost, I'm afraid.) I can't tell you how many conversations that excludes me from. My son doesn't watch Sponge Bob or any of the other shows his friends watch. I get most of my news from NPR. We don't listen to pop music. It's mostly classical on the radio during the day and Broadway soundtracks when the kids are in charge of the CD player. We relatively little clothing, and when we do it's usually Target. We drive a pair of used Saturns.

 

(Full disclosure: We are planning to trade up to a Prius within a couple of years. I drive quite a lot, and we will be wanting a new car for safety's sake.)

 

Our biggest annual expenses beyond normal household stuff are our son's ballet tuition, our daughter's college expenses and season tickets to the Shakespeare theatre and the ballet.

 

So, sure, you're weird, but that's a good thing! And you're not completely alone.

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I am trying to wade through a book about consumerism. Much of it is over my head' date=' but I can't help but consider the implications of our collective thirst for more "stuff."

 

Thus far, this book has been depressing. My husband is reading a book about the declining dollar and says it's depressing too. Remind me to avoid the Economics section of the library next time.:001_huh:

 

We haven't had television in 4 years. I don't "get" pop culture. We are not name brand shoppers. I buy used or borrow. We recycle. We drive OLD cars. Barter when possible. I wear clothes until they are worn out. For entertainment we have friends over for dinner and play our Wii (first console system since SegaMaster - 1991). My biggest annual expenses are our pool passes and the kid's karate lessons.

 

Honestly, I want for very little. My dh and I throw around the idea of traveling more and have dreams of him working less hours, but haven't been able to let go of the security of a bi-weekly paycheck. We don't want a bigger house or newer cars. Our kids don't want for much. We have no plans for the stimulus check.

 

There seems to be a world of consumers that we not a part of and don't really understand.

 

Are we that weird?

 

Well, I'm rambling here as usual. What say the hive?[/quote']

 

I want for very little also. We are also not big consumers, drive used cars, shop at garage sales, etc...I just don't feel the need to buy lots of things. We do love to travel, but even our travel is fairly economical. But, if we spend money on anything, it is that.

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I have a theory that most people who are really into the consumeristic aspects of society are only minimally aware of it. I think that when people realize how they are being economically exploited and manipulated by advertising, they want less stuff almost automatically.

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I've struggled with this over the years. I grew up in an affluent suburb and we were comfortable but stretched. There were a lot of things we were unable to do because of lack of money and it showed as our area became part of the suburban sprawl. It affected my self-esteem in school because I didn't have the latest and we couldn't do a lot of the activities because it cost too much money.

 

I grew out of that a little, but then we put ds into private school for prek and Kind. All of the mommies were buying big SUV's as I paid cash for my 10 year old beater compact car. I used to sit in the pick up line at school and think I could drive under the car in front of me and they wouldn't notice because my car was so small. So I found myself getting into the whole have/have not mindset again and it was frustrating because I didn't choose to have less, our finances dictated what we had. When we started talking about homeschooling I had to consider whether it was for my son's education or just because I wanted away from that materialistic setting.

 

Homeschooling has been a blessing in that regard. My ds doesn't care about clothes or the latest anything, he isn't subject to that peer pressure. I don't feel "less than" because of it either. After 4 years of homeschooling I don't care so much.

 

I've transformed from having less not by choice to enjoying it. My home is decorated but I'm not obsessed about it anymore. We have one car and it works for us. I shop at Goodwill and enjoy their .50 sales on Sunday. I no longer think my life will be incomplete if I don't get to own a Mercedes.

 

I've just been reading a book that described the pitfalls of sharecropping in the 1930's. It reminded me a lot of the consumeristic attitude of today. Granted the sharecroppers issues had to do with life sustaining needs, but our society has made so many things "needs" that are just frivolity. I need a bigger car, a bigger house, a 1000.00 wardrobe every year, but golly now I'm burdened by debt and I'm not free. I hope that makes sense. I would have been there too, had we decided not to use credit cards years ago.

 

So I guess I'm a reformed consumer :)

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I'm going to (somehow) teach my kids a media and journalism class in high school. They are aware of how the purpose of advertising is to manipulate people into wanting and buying products, and of how malls serve a similar function (and more, I realize). They are not as aware of media biases, but they need to be so that they understand when every effort is being made to shape their opinions covertly, and so they will be able to discern which media sources they can more-or-less trust.

 

But awareness is not enough. I want them to hear it from another source.

 

Of course, people can spend their money however they like. I want my kids to be able to distinguish between wants and needs, and to realize experiences are just as important as things they want.

 

I try to keep spending in perspective. For instance, I multiply the small weekly cost of something x 52 to show them how much money it will cost in a year, and then give them examples of what that amount of money can buy.

 

That's more about managing money than spending, perhaps. But it also points out to the kids that advertising is for the purpose of making you spend your money, and getting you to spend little bits of it on a regular basis can make someone a lot of money too.

 

I think people are happier if they don't think a lot about what they want and can't have. There is a lot to be said for being content with what you have, given that your basic needs are met. Personally, I cannot do this unless I stay out of malls and refuse to watch television ads. Luckily, I hate going to the mall and I don't watch television.

 

RC

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There seems to be a world of consumers that we not a part of and don't really understand.

 

Are we that weird?

 

Well' date=' I'm rambling here as usual. What say the hive?[/quote']

 

I imagine that most of the hive is in line with your thinking. After all, this is a group of people who are willing to march to the beat of a different drummer, what with the classical homeschooling.

 

Our house is relatively low consumption. Sometimes I sigh and moan, "why can't I be more like other people?" since I'm always the neighborhood oddball, but the problem is that I just really do. not. care. about shopping for clothing or getting a manicure or what car anyone drives or whether there are weeds in my lawn (hey, they're green and I keep them neatly mown, so why spend the money on a lawn service).

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And very comfortable on the material front without the stuff that is a necessity of life for others.

 

That is really the point for most of us in this country. We have choices given our relative levels of affluence to much of the world, but not everyone views material possessions as choices. I recently read a financial column in which it was lamented that the middle class squeeze has occurred because people were acting like they were "rich" not "middle class". Certainly my generation's definitions of "necessities" were not the same as my parent's. In fact, in light of rising prices, many people are dropping the daily Starbucks, the fancy phone plans, extra cable channels, etc. Perhaps they are realizing that these things are not necessities for leading a quality life.

 

There were several books which profoundly influenced me as a college student: Limits to Growth, Small is Beautiful, The End of Affluence. Perhaps the way I was raised shaped me to be a prime target, but I have made choices in the ensuing decades which are now being touted as "environmentally friendly" (and less consumer oriented by definition).

 

I agree with Jenny's comment on the effect of Great Books. Living in the world of ideas can remove one from cultural fads.

 

Eccentric? That has always described me.

 

A terrific book that may encourage anyone who wants to walk from the consumer driven culture is Deep Economy by Bill McKibben. He calls for community based economies in which people, not stuff, matter.

 

Jane

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The older I get, the more disgusted I get with consumerism. I'll leave the working mom/sahm debate for another thread, but when I was a young mom, it seemed that many of the other young moms that I knew that were putting their dc in daycare and working full-time were doing so to gain some material thing and calling it economic necessity. I have one friend who wanted to be a sahm just until her dc reached school age, but her husband wanted an expensive boat and couldn't wait that long.

 

I actually don't mind shopping. Lately, I've been needing some new clothes for my political pursuits and have enjoyed doing some shopping. After awhile, though, it gets old. I wish I could walk into one store, get everything I need, and be done with it for a year. But, of course it doesn't work that way. Anymore, my stomach literally turns when I go into a mall anywhere near Christmas.

 

I've learned to appreciate quality over quantity. I'd rather have one great pair of shoes than 6 pairs of cheap, make my feet hurt shoes.

 

Admittedly, we went for 6 years with no TV, and now we have 4 tvs, but still don't watch all that much. Mostly we enjoy watching movies as a family. On those rare ocassions we watch regular tv, we tend to "analyze" the commercials, and my dc are beginning to understand the techniques that advertisers are using to try to get them to purchase stuff they don't need or even want.

 

P.S. *I* was the one who insisted we buy a tv. Dh used to travel a lot for his job, and one week in particular when he was out of state, my boys, who were 3 and 5, both had the chicken pox. This was several years ago, and we didn't have Internet yet, no tv, we couldn't go anywhere, and no one would come visit us. I thought I would go crazy that week! So we bought a small tv/vcr combo as soon as dh returned home.

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I have a house full of stuff. I think I was interested in accruing things when in my twenties - in "feathering my nest" so to speak; creating a home for myself. Now that I have it, I'm not interested in anything else. I don't even take care of it that well, as I don't want to be a slave to the house. So we're in and out all the time, traveling and such when we can, and even though I said the house could wait until the kids grew up, the truth is that I'm already thinking and planning other things to do with my life after they're more on their own.

 

I don't buy decorative things any longer as my house is full of them. I do sometimes pick up interesting things when we travel that I want to keep as a memento of our trip.

 

I buy cheap clothes and wear them until they're worn out. I save my older son's clothes for my younger son. We only buy new, nicer things if we really need them for some sort of special event, such as a wedding, and I can't even recall the last time that occurred.

 

I don't incur expenses for upkeep of myself, LOL, and it shows. But I'm not into the beauty game. I saw a pretty sad sight of a 50 something woman just this past week at an honor society induction for my older son. She's so full of plastic that I expected her to squeak at the joints when she moved. And she still looked 50 something..... Think of how much all that money could have helped someone, somewhere......

 

We drive old cars and tend to be careful with how we spend our money. We try not to be wasteful.

 

It seems to me that ego is driving a lot of the rampant consumerism that I see in our society. I think you have to be pretty happy with life and free of ego, or satisfied with your life and self the way it is, in order to avoid the trap of buying things to make yourself or some aspect of your life better......

 

I think that letting go of ego is part of spiritual growth and perhaps the folks who are further along in that regard are in the minority - but I think there are more of them out there than you might imagine.....

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I'm going to (somehow) teach my kids a media and journalism class in high school. They are aware of how the purpose of advertising is to manipulate people into wanting and buying products, and of how malls serve a similar function (and more, I realize). They are not as aware of media biases, but they need to be so that they understand when every effort is being made to shape their opinions covertly, and so they will be able to discern which media sources they can more-or-less trust.

 

But awareness is not enough. I want them to hear it from another source.

 

Of course, people can spend their money however they like. I want my kids to be able to distinguish between wants and needs, and to realize experiences are just as important as things they want.

 

I try to keep spending in perspective. For instance, I multiply the small weekly cost of something x 52 to show them how much money it will cost in a year, and then give them examples of what that amount of money can buy.

 

That's more about managing money than spending, perhaps. But it also points out to the kids that advertising is for the purpose of making you spend your money, and getting you to spend little bits of it on a regular basis can make someone a lot of money too.

 

I think people are happier if they don't think a lot about what they want and can't have. There is a lot to be said for being content with what you have, given that your basic needs are met. Personally, I cannot do this unless I stay out of malls and refuse to watch television ads. Luckily, I hate going to the mall and I don't watch television.

 

RC

 

Yes, advertisers are aiming at the youth and have the perfect vehicle (multiple 24/7 children's television channels). They are aiming at younger and younger children because these children have no impulse control and parents with open wallets. Have you noticed how many stores cater to children? Once trained, these children become adults with no impulse control. Thus, the advertisers have a guarenteed stream of revenue for decades. My dh and I were reflecting on how little tv advertising we were exposed to as children (limited children's programming in the 70's) and how that may have shaped our spending habits. People just 5 years younger that us seem to have different habits.

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I view consumerism as the attachment to belongings and the need for material possessions for some sort of self-fulfillment.

 

I have a feeling that many people looking at our home from the outside might view us as being into commercialism and consumerism. We live in an extremely nice neighborhood and are blessed with a wonderful home and have collected many interesting pieces from living overseas.

 

However, we are very deliberate in how we spend our money. For example, we only buy cars that we can pay for in cash, don't take loans for college tuition, etc. We live totally and completely within our means. 18 yrs ago we made the decision that mortgage would be our sole debt that we are willing to accept. We do have a large mortgage payment. :)

 

I could careless what type of car I drive (a 10 yr old 15 passenger clubwagon), what brand clothing we wear, etc. We don't make decisions based on any "outside" influence. We make decisions based on what we think is best for our family and personal needs, as well as desires.

 

I guess I differ slightly from the other posters b/c I don't think living comfortably and having things you would like to have necessarily equates with consumerism. I associate consumerism with living beyond your means because you really want something you don't need or sacrificing family time (like daycare for wants vs needs or fathers working absurd numbers of hrs per week) in order to have more of something.....whatever that something is.

 

But if I have the means to have some "nice" thing and I don't sacrifice anything to purchase it.........is that consumerism? I don't know, just asking. :)

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I think that when people realize how they are being economically exploited and manipulated by advertising, they want less stuff almost automatically.

 

YES! I fall into this category. I want to take a class to become more aware of manipulative techniques used by advertisers. I try to point out the ones I see to my 12 year old - he is SO captivated and falls right into the advertisers hands. :001_huh:

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I really hate advertising, and have made it a point to expose my children to as little of it as possible.

 

I probably take it to an extreme. I had to tell their youth minister that they could not go to the super bowl party, because I didn't want them to see the commercials.

 

The older my kids get, the happier I am that they don't live with the constant desire for just a little more. I shared before, that my son said he didn't want anything for Christmas because he was content with what he had.

 

I love that they still build forts in the woods, and make costumes out of scrap fabric.

 

For myself, when I fell the urge to buy something, I make myself go take care of what I have. If I want a bigger kitchen, I clean the one I have. If I start thinking we need another American Girl doll. I plan a tea party with the ones that we already have. The desire to spend disappears pretty quickly.

 

I have friends who think I'm insane for living the way I do, but I wouldn't change places with them. the materialistic lifestyle works for them, but it would feel empty to me.

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But if I have the means to have some "nice" thing and I don't sacrifice anything to purchase it.........is that consumerism? I don't know, just asking. :)

 

It is all relative of course. What you described is what I hope to attain. Freedom from debt and living comfortably. However, I think when a person has a comfortable income, there can be a tendency to buy too much 'stuff'. I would much prefer (as someone else said) one good pair of shoes (ok, maybe 2 pair :)) instead of 10 pairs of cheapies that clutter up my closet.

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YES! I fall into this category. I want to take a class to become more aware of manipulative techniques used by advertisers. I try to point out the ones I see to my 12 year old - he is SO captivated and falls right into the advertisers hands. :001_huh:

 

 

I recommend a book by Robert Cialdini: Influence: Science and Practice. It's research-based but written in a very interesting way. The author actually went "undercover" in a variety of sales professions to learn the tricks of the trade, and he presents them all.

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I have a certain picture in my mind of how I want my life to look like. I like things. I don't worship things, but I enjoy having stuff. That makes us different, but it doesn't make you weird. I have everything I need and most of what I want. My wants have definitely changed over the years relative to changing circumstances. When I was a single mom of three very young children, the things I wanted changed dramatically. I learned from that and I appreciate what I do have now much more than I would before that time.

:001_smile:

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I've been reading through the Betsy-Tacy stories with my 6yo dd. We got to a part where Betsy was going to a "moving picture" - the kind where it's silent and someone is playing the piano. I was telling her how in those days there were no movies or tvs and dd said, "I never watch tv either. I just read books."

 

I realized she's right. We got rid of cable and only get a very few channels on our dish, so none of the kids watch any tv anymore. I watch Lost and Desperate Housewives, and maybe a news show once or twice a week. We've simply adjusted.

 

We still have lots of "things" and I'd like to pare down more, but compared to most people......we don't have that much.

 

Living in a not-so-affluent area certainly helps. I was worried for awhile that my oldest ds's clothes weren't up to snuff when he went to school and he told me, "Mom, no one EVER talks about clothes or shoes." So my fifteen year old still wears the cheapie sneakers.

 

They are also hearing so much about the environment and pollution and recycling that they're growing up thinking that thrift is a virtue.

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rs.

 

They are also hearing so much about the environment and pollution and recycling that they're growing up thinking that thrift is a virtue.

 

You are right about thrift being a virtue but it's also a skill! I think it takes practice to be able to spot treasure amidst things that are not so much treasure. :D One of my bf's career is buying thrift items and selling them on ebay. She's good at it. I'm not.

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I guess I differ slightly from the other posters b/c I don't think living comfortably and having things you would like to have necessarily equates with consumerism.

 

I'm not sure that's what I or any of the others are saying, either. I think most of us have said outright that we are living comfortably and that we have most of the things we want.

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I'm not sure that's what I or any of the others are saying, either. I think most of us have said outright that we are living comfortably and that we have most of the things we want.

 

OK. I guess I'm hearing the words "living simply" and being "very minimalisitic" as the opposite of consumerism. I'm not sure I would qualify for either of those definitions. ;) I own way to many books.....I think we would qualify as a library!! :) We own 3 cars, one for dh and I, and one for our 18 yos, etc,etc.....

 

I think of living simply as being truly minimalistic, like wanting to take off and live like that family in the old Disney movie that builds a log house in Alaska. :) I like our disposable diapers; I like having my own car; I like my wireless laptop :) I COULD live without those things, but I really have no desire too.

 

When we were house hunting in Jan., I think I went through a house that would truly qualify as living simply. There was a bed (that's it) in each bedroom, a table in the kitchen, a sofa and chair in the family room, no pictures, no knick-knacks, no plants, nothing else. I would live that way if we had to, but would not be by choice.

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Maybe I misunderstood the op, but to me consumerism is being focused on what you have/don't have. When the kids were smaller, I would obsess about their clothes. They were babies for heaven's sake, but they had outfits that cost more than anything I owned, because that's what the people I was around were doing. We bought a big SUV when we had #3, again, because everyone was doing it. We bought a house we weren't prepared for, again, because everyone else was.

 

Now, we shop consignment and sales. The girls are cute, but no outrageously expensive clothing there. We bought a used, smallish suv for better gas mileage and lower cost. We sold our house and are renting until we can have the house we want without stretching ourselves too thin. We are choosing to be wise and aren't driven by what others are doing. We do what we WANT rather than living with the crowd. It's much more comfortable.

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My dad was an ad man for many years. I grew up around the advertising business (J. Walter Thompson, McCann Erickson, Earl Palmer Brown, and finally his own agency in Atl., BKV). I actually thought I might like to go into the ad biz, but found I wanted a family, a life! My dad was gone a lot; either traveling or working all night on a photo shoot.

 

This said, I have always had a healthy distrust of any advertising; I saw how they did it! I would say though, a couple of my dad's clients were really neat. Christian Children's Fund, Save the Children, and the Salvation Army were three he loved to work with.

 

I think like with anything; one has to take some personal responsibly for ones actions (like buying too much). Is it really the advertisers? If you don't like it, change the channel or get rid of the sources within your home (T.V., radio, etc). I'm teaching my two that happiness does not come from a store, that those things there are nice and are fun to use, but they are not what makes us who were are. Some of the most amazing folks I have met in my life, had nothing, lived in tiny homes with dirt floors, yet gave us their best food to eat, and shared the homes without hesitation. I wonder in the end what it says about us?

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OK. I guess I'm hearing the words "living simply" and being "very minimalisitic" as the opposite of consumerism. I'm not sure I would qualify for either of those definitions. ;) I own way to many books.....I think we would qualify as a library!! :) We own 3 cars, one for dh and I, and one for our 18 yos, etc,etc.....

 

Again, though, I don't see where anyone in this thread actually used those terms. What most of us were saying, as far as I can tell, is that we have stuff, and we just don't feel the need to accumulate more.

 

I like my internet, although I'm the only one in the family who's not wireless and I don't feel slighted. And, as you can probably tell from my "only one in the family" comment, we have more than one computer. In fact, currently we have one per person. The kids' get used mostly for school stuff, though, and occasional e-mail and gaming.

 

We, too, own more books than some small branch libraries, and there are knick-knacks galore on the shelves. We have stacks of board games we've acquired over the years that we never play, shelves full of videos and DVDs we don't watch. We have a whole piece of furniture devoted to storing them that takes up space in my living room.

 

We are currently renting a 1600-square-foot home. I use two of the four bedrooms (one for sleeping, one as the office/schoolroom), the living room and the kitchen. Now that she is away at college, our daughter's bedroom sits empty for months out of every year. My son's room functions primarily as a place for him to acumulate junk, store his clothing, change clothes and occasionally sleep. The two-car garage is too full of stuff we "can't get rid of" but rarely actually take out of boxes to have room to park the cars.

 

For me, I've begun to feel oppressed by the amount of stuff. I don't want to dust those knick-knacks. I don't want to worry about them getting broken when my husband's cats run through the room. I certainly don't feel the need to own more of them. And I really, really have no interest in sweeping, mopping and vacuuming 1600 square feet of flooring.

 

I have no desire to buy more clothing until what I have is worn out or no longer fits (like, if I miraculously lost weight?).

 

So, it's not that I don't have stuff, it's more than I just have no interest in acquiring more. I don't need the latest and greatest of anything, but will be content to replace what I have when it wears out. And, when I do set out to replace an item, I'll decide what to buy based on my own research into comparative prices and quality, and not because I saw a commercial that told me one brand was the best or tried to sell me an image.

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My MIL sold her house when she remarried and gave us a bunch of junk which we paid storage on for several years. Then she remarried and they had a weekend retreat that he had owned for 30 years (1000 acre cattle ranch). They sold that in an effort to downsize and sent a huge truck full of stuff to our city because they thought they would buy a smaller weekend place near us. Well, a year later he died and the stuff is still in storage. Everymonth she sends us a check to go pay the storage...It has been 7 years! Guess how much money she has spent on that storage? 10K. 10K!!!!!!!!!

 

When we bought our current house 5 years ago we took enough of her stuff out of storage to cut her stuff in half. And she has griped and complained and accussed us of stealing and all sorts of drama for 5 years!!!! It is so ridiculous. Her whole attitude about stuff and 10K in storage fees for stuff no one wants is enough to make me keep my own house cleaned out. I routinely clean out closets and drawers and make a trip to the Goodwill. It makes me feel oppressed to have too much stuff.

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I thought that I was pretty virtuous, being so frugal.

 

Then I realized that since I was over 35, no advertising was really focussed on me anymore. It is a lot easier to resist advertising of which you are not the target.

 

My frugality is hardwon and it is on principle. However, after the realization of the demographic issues, I have a lot more sympathy with those who are not.

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I'd have to say that all of my "next of kin" (parents, in-laws, siblings, nephews) are people I would describe as on board with consumerism. It's a philosophy under which both dh and I grew up. I define consumerism as the tendancy of consumers to adopt a system of consuming (food, products, services) based on perceived need. Of course, the "need" is created by advertisers and marketers who are good a manipulating our human desires. We are all consumers. But, consumerism is the belief that we need "more" than we really do.

 

From Wiki:

 

The suffix -ism denotes a distinctive system of beliefs, myth, doctrine or theory that guides a social movement, institution, class or group.

 

Certainly, I fall prey to the "ism" myself on occasion, and I wrestle with it when I see it in my children. But, for financial and environmental reasons, we generally find that we're more often just consumers than we are a part of the consumerism that we see elsewhere. Our cars are old and look it. Our clothes are relatively basic and are often second hand. We are satisfied with the simplified existence we've chosen that does not drive us toward having all the trappings of the typical American family.

 

That said, I have often wondered how much of our "philosophy" is based on economic constraints versus real commitments. Of course, we appreciate the advantages of this way of life from an environmental perspective. But, the truth is, we don't make enough money to buy new cars, new clothes, cable t.v., and all the rest. And so, I have to wonder what our lives would become if we were to win the Lottery (which, btw, we don't play). I'd love to think we wouldn't change. But, I'm not fool enough to believe that if we didn't, it would be the result of a Herculean effort.

 

 

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  • 1 month later...

I am coming in on this discussion a bit late, but as I'm a newbie, I feel the need to post my two cents.

 

Personally, I feel consumerism is based on desire - the advertisers try to instill a desire for a product. I read once somewhere that the source of all dissatisfaction in life is unmet desires. We can't be "hapy" if we have a desire for things that we don't have, whether that is food, material possesions, relationships, whatever. Since "the masses" really don't do much deep thinking anymore, they believe that these desires are a genuine need.

 

A course in journalism may help spot the techniques that advertisers use to trap us, but I honestly think that a solid course in logic would be more beneficial. Logic is not taught in the traditional schools, nor in most home schools, because most homeschooling parents were educated in the public schools and aren't familiar with it themselves (we are guilty of this ourselves). I think a return to logic as one of the foundational tenents of our homeschools would remedy some of this situation. I am beginning to undertake a serious study myself on the area of discipline. As a society, I think we Americans are an extremely undisciplined lot. I think some serious training in logic and personal discipline (or self-government if you will) would solve many of the societal ills that plague us, including mass consumerism. This is all great and fine for homeschoolers to discuss this, but the problem is nation-wide, and we are in the minority.

 

I wish we had the willpower to disconnect the cable. Financial need may dictate that soon enough. But as it is, we usually only watch a few channels that are generally "educational" in nature. We have two methods of ignoring commercials. During breaks we hit the mute button on the remote and discuss what we have watched, or just chit-chat. Even the kids do this when they watch kid's programming. We also have a dvr, so that when we are busy with life but there is a show we want to watch, we record it to the hard drive. When we are ready to watch the program, we just fast forward past all the commercials. This is just a suggestion for those who still watch t.v. I truly commend those who dont watch at all. Television is what it is, an addiction to amusement and entertainment (even in the guise as "educational programming") as opposed to constructive pursuits and I hope to be free of it someday.

 

A friend once said that "rich is just a higher class of broke." When we spend more than we make, whether that is 20k or 1 million, we will be hurting financially. Delayed gratification is a lost skill and we live in a "gotta have it now" society. Again, this falls back to logic and discipline to solve this problem, not just personally, but as a nation, perhaps even globally.

 

Sorry for the rambling.

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