The recession has spawned a thrift/simplicity movement that has been in the news a lot lately and also is something I have been feeling at home. There are three parts to this discussion so I am going to number them.
“Amid weak job and housing markets, consumers are saving more and spending less than they have in decades, and industry professionals expect that trend to continue. Consumers saved 6.4 percent of their after-tax income in June, according to a new government report. Before the recession, the rate was 1 to 2 percent for many years. In June, consumer spending and personal incomes were essentially flat compared with May, suggesting that the American economy, as dependent as it is on shoppers opening their wallets and purses, isn’t likely to rebound anytime soon.”
“On the bright side, the practices that consumers have adopted in response to the economic crisis ultimately could — as a raft of new research suggests — make them happier. New studies of consumption and happiness show, for instance, that people are happier when they spend money on experiences instead of material objects, when they relish what they plan to buy long before they buy it, and when they stop trying to outdo the Joneses. …”
“Current research suggests that, unlike consumption of material goods, spending on leisure and services typically strengthens social bonds, which in turn helps amplify happiness. (Academics are already in broad agreement that there is a strong correlation between the quality of people’s relationships and their happiness; hence, anything that promotes stronger social bonds has a good chance of making us feel all warm and fuzzy.)”
2. On Tuesday, the host of Whole Living on Martha Steward radio was discussing a movement asking people to throw out 50 things (or I guess donate where appropriate).
3. Both of these discussions struck a chord with me. We are definitely worried about money and have cut back tremendously. We have also been purging and simplifying, but there seems to be some contradiction though in the thrift and simplicity movements.
People are buying less because they have less money (or are wary to spend the money they have) and are reusing what they have. Yet we are encouraging people to reduce possessions as well. Here’s an example:
On the home front, I have been going through kids’ rooms gathering up clothes too small to hand down to Lilina. (We’ve also been giving away almost all the baby stuff and boxes full of toys.)
I posted on Facebook that I was overwhelmed working on Lilina’s room because she had hand-me downs from her older brother and sister for like 4 sizes worth of clothes that she will eventually wear.
A friend wrote back that she completely understood that feeling as she had hand-me downs from about five cousins. She knew her sons would wear the things (it would save them money in the long run and reuse the clothes) but she felt like it was a lot to sort and store.
Another friend wrote back – purge, purge, purge. Even if you were giving away stuff your child could use at some point in the future. And that just seems contradictory to me. If you give clothes away that you could use in a year or three then you will just have to buy again. (I guess it depends on your storage capability and your patience to sort the clothes.)
OK so here are my questions:
Are you finding that you are spending much more consciously? Are you saving and anticipating? Are you spending more on experience and less on things? Do you think, as the article says, that experiences together increase the family bond and make you happier?
Could you only have 100 possessions? Would it be hard for you to give up 50 things? Could you go home and do it right now? (If you do, send me a photo to firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to post photos of people giving stuff away.)
Is there value to only having 100 (or a limited number) of possessions? How many do you think you have now? How about your family over all?
Do you see the contradiction I see between thrift (saving and reusing) and simplifying – getting rid of stuff? Are you holding onto bunches of old clothes for the next one down? How/where are you storing? How are you keeping organized? Is it worth saving them?