I wrote about this in one of my first posts ‘More Baby’. Talking up the ‘nesting instinct’ almost advocates spending of thousands of dollars on things babies rarely need, and that will get little use.Nothing seems to bring out consumer culture more than new babies. And there have been lots of new babies popping out around me recently.
One of the challenges to consuming less for our babies and kids is the fact that there are some really clever ideas for kids products around lately. I don’t have a young baby and my youngest son is a very tall (almost) 4 year old. But I look at products like the bumbo seat and trunki’s and know that heck, I’d be tempted if I had a little tike. They are genuinely clever ideas.
The thing is, we seem to get confused between our wants and our needs. Young mums declare that they ‘need‘ a bumbo for their 3 month old. The bumbo didn’t exist 4 years ago, so logic says it must be possible to raise children without possessing one.
On the positive side, there seems to be a fairly healthy culture of parents who buy these cool products and once they’ve finished using them (after all they have a very limited shelf life of about 9 months or less per child) pass them on to parents with younger children to use. If we can’t reduce the stuff we’re acquiring because we are so attracted by a product that we decide it’s a worthy investment, let’s at least ensure we reuse it.
By modelling the three r’s (reduce, reuse, recycle) we’re probably doing something as equally important for our kids as teaching them the other three r’s (reading, writing and arithmetic).
When I think about baby induced consumerism, I always think about one woman’s story I heard on the radio a year or so ago.
I cannot remember the name of the woman, but I think it was on ABC 702. She spoke about bringing her baby up in the country, possibly in the 1940s. She told the story of emptying out a drawer and putting a pillow in the bottom of it and using the drawer (never closed, but pulled out of the base) as a crib for her bub. It was a real turning point for me in thinking about wants and needs: for we can really make do with very little quite happily.
In real terms Australia is a wealthy country. And yet most of us go around thinking that we don’t have enough money to meet our ‘needs’. There is always another thing on our wish list. But do we really ‘need’ it to get by in life? Probably not. And I think it’s important to realise that.
I have a list of wants.
I’d really like to paint our lounge room, and paint the outside of our windows where the paint is dropping off in large flakes daily. I’d like to buy a water tank and some more solar panels. I’d love a new side gate so I could walk my bike out of it instead of wheeling it through the house every morning. I’d love to buy a few pairs of earrings I really love for my newly pierced ears (I blame my ‘thrisis’) and if I could ever find some I’d love to get a pair of delicate ballet flats, the kind that have elastic sides and look so comfy to wear (but that ain’t likely to happen anytime soon).
But I like the fact that they’re wants. They are not something I must have and have to have NOW. I’ll save for them. And maybe when the time comes, I’ll think they’re good to get. Or maybe I’ll decide I’d really rather go and take the family on a holiday instead.
It’s nice to think about needs and wants because you begin to realise what you have, instead of focussing on what you don’t have. And perhaps if we’re focussed on what we do have, we can do more to help others who genuinely don’t have.
I stumbled across the blog ‘The Everyday Minimalist’ this afternoon and this nice stream of thoughts on minimalism which kind of sums up some of the ideas I’ve had around cutting back to a more simple life.
A Minimalist’s Train of Thought
Less money spent means more money saved
More money saved means the longer you can live in financial peace and security
Financial peace and security comes from owning less
Less stuff owned means less to carry around, move or have to travel with
Less responsibility for your stuff also means less maintenance and more time
The more time you have, the more relaxed you will feel
The more relaxed you are, the less you will care about stuff
If you care less about stuff, it means you’ll care less about image
If you care less about image, you will care more about experiences and memories
If you care more about experiences and memories, you will be happier with less
If you are happier with less, you’ll never want or need for more
The less you want or need for more, the more you will feel free
What are your thoughts on distinguishing needs and wants?
And an interesting one – how do we get our children to understand needs and wants when they’re bombarded with advertising trying to get them to think they need the latest stuff?
My 6 year old is now asking for an iPhone when his parents don’t even own one! I’ve even had the tears rolling down his cheeks as I’ve told him we will definitely get him a phone when he’s in high school, and might think about it when he’s 10.
But on the promising side, I have been able to talk with him about identifying toys he no longer really uses to give away to boys and girls who don’t have many toys so they can have some special things to play with. He’s happy to engage in discussions about perhaps not ‘needing’ all the toys he has anymore. And it is lovely to see him actively putting himself in others shoes and being prepared to give to others.
So maybe the iPhone will not have the last laugh.
Image from http://www.flickr.com/photos/the-g-uk/3422469586/sizes/o/in/photostream/ with thanks to the|G|™.