Back in elementary school in the 90s we were taught to “Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle.” The most that program did was teach kids what went into the garbage bin and what went into the recycling bin. It took another 20 years for the topic to ever come up again. In fact, the first adult discussion I ever had about consumption was in a science fiction class at university. While we read Brave New World we talked about how the society of that world promoted discarding anything that was damaged (it’s already sort of fuzzy).
I wish this topic came up more. When it comes to small changes that could have a big impact on happiness and quality of life, more mindfulness concerning the things we buy and use would help. First, it would help us appreciate everything we have more. Secondly, it would help us make better decisions.
A Story from Japan
My friends at the Mjolk, a furniture store in the Junction took a trip to Japan last winter. While there they visited with an older designer who talked about well made products, and about how long anything you buy should last.
“We shared a very inspirational conversation about the longevity of a well made product. Professor Oda pulled out a scarf and a pair of leather gloves that he has personally owned for over 40 years. He held up his scarf and told me that when he was younger he purchased this wool scarf that was well beyond his salary, it took him a very long time to be able to afford it, but he purchased it with the intention of having it for at least 25 years. That he said is the magic number, if you can’t pick a product up and say confidently that this product will serve you well for a minimum of 25 years, it is not a good purchase.” – Asahikawa day 3 – part 2 – KITKA Design Toronto
The Same Thing With Technology
We replace our phones and upgrade our computers even though they can do everything we need them to. In these cases, we’ve already purchased a product that will last us for years, we just have a problem and perceive them in the wrong way.
Because we aren’t mindful when we buy and use these products, we think about them in the wrong way and see them commodities to replace every two to three years.
We go from being completely satisfied with what we have, up until the moment something new comes out. Even if we’ve always been content, we suddenly become aware of a painful desire to upgrade. Unfortunately we’re not aware of being content the entire time we’re fine with what we have, and it’s only when we want something that we become aware of that uncomfortable feeling.
Once we want something, we get really good at justifying why we need it, and visualizing how it will make our lives better. If it’s a new computer we’re able to visualize being more productive, and more successful. We can picture the art we’d make, and the essays we’d write. These are all fantasies and in these cases we’re imagining what we think will make us happy.
The next time you go through something like this, realize that you already know what you need to do. The desire for the new thing and the fantasies you create are both forms of procrastination.
The Two Purchasing Problems
There are two different problems that exist:
- Buying something cheap.
- Buying something you don’t need.
There solution to these two problems is to be mindful when you buy, and be mindful when you use.