“We need to remember that the work of our time is bigger than climate change. We need to be setting our sights higher and deeper. What we’re really talking about, if we’re honest with ourselves, is transforming everything about the way we live on this planet.” Rebecca Tarbotton, Executive Director of the Rainforest Action Network from 1973-2012.
It’s Spring – the time of year when I get the urge to purge. I go through every closet and make keep, toss, and donate piles and wonder how I accumulated so much stuff. There are 2 schools of thought on this subject. One is the “more is more” espoused in Never Stop to Think… Do I Have a Place for This? by Mary Randolph Carter, a self-confessed magpie. But the junk she picks up at flea markets and antique shops and artfully arranges is so darn charming.
Home décor eye candy is cleverly displayed in Style and Simplicity which argues that there is a place for carefully curated ephemera to help us “live each moment as beautifully as we possibly can.”
At the other end is of the spectrum is A Bunch of Pretty Things I Did Not Buy, a graphic memoir by Sarah Lazarovich. She illustrates and catalogues items that she coveted but refused to buy based on the shopper’s philosophy, “Buy clothes. Not too many. Mostly quality.”, as well as a “Buyerarchy of Needs”.
Time magazine recently examined “The Joy of Less” and claims that 75% of garages in America are so full that homeowners can’t park their cars inside. A whole subculture of experts have mushroomed around this acquisitiveness – self storage rental, downsizing and organizing consultants, and junk removal companies. A wildly successful book by Marie Kondo called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up responds to this urge to purge. According to Time her name has now “become a verb: To Kondo your sock drawer.”
These thoughts intrigue me especially after reading This Changes Everything by Naomi Klein, an investigation into the climate change crisis precipitated by capitalism. Klein urges us to “consume less – right away” and look at “changing how much energy we actually use: how often we drive, how often we fly, whether our food has to be flown to get to us, whether the goods we buy are built to last, how large our homes are.”
Is there a happy medium between austere minimalism and overconsumption? Start by considering small steps to limit purchases. Why not have a swap party as a way to socialize with friends, make a change, and save the planet? Everything from clothing to toy and book swaps will help you feel lighter and end up with something new to you for zero dollars. And don’t forget – your local library is the best place to borrow rather than buy resources such as books, magazines, DVDs, and videogames.