Why I stopped buying things


I just saw today that they have demolished a beautiful house at the end of the street I grew up on and it makes me so sad, because I just know that whatever replaces it will be nowhere near as lovely – and hardly likely to be there almost 100 years later.

It’s not that I’m against progress, or improvement – quite the opposite – but I am against the thoughtless destruction of good design and craftsmanship.

It got me thinking about what else we are too quick to replace in our lives. Clothes, shoes and bags, for starters. Umbrellas. Storage solutions. Kids’ toys. Furniture. Gifts. Buying too much, choosing poor quality, having too much and then throwing things away is costing not only us money and the earth resources, but also moving us away from integrity.

When we don’t opt for quality, we don’t invest in our decisions, so we are less likely to stand behind them. “Oh that top’s got a pull, I’ll just chuck it, I was never that happy with the colour anyway but it was on sale, so…” Etcetera. If we’d saved up, and considered, researched and pondered and ogled and revisited the same expensive, well-cut and classic wool trousers for some time before finally going back to buy them, spending a few days’ salary on them, getting them carefully altered to our specifications, then we would certainly seek to repair them when the button finally fell off the back pocket. And we might – perhaps, quite possibly – be a little more motivated to fit back into them when we found ourselves on the other side of our ideal weight. Because I love the pants enough. And thereby, I love myself enough to make it worth my while.

Occasionally, of course, the things that we do pay a premium for and research carefully and think about critically before buying will still let us down – but undoubtedly less often.

It’s not always easy – or desirable – to overthink every decision. Sometimes, we just need something for right now and the idea of spending less so it can matter less is liberating. Especially for people with children who are constantly growing and changing and looking for new and feeling the pressure of their peers, it’s a big ask to resist purchases, to be the one who says “no”, to tirelessly research and consider and invest in every small purchasing decision.

And sometimes, it doesn’t matter. But overall, we will all be a little richer (well, except for those companies making subpar products) if we:

  • Buy less
  • Buy better, meaning:
    • support craftsmanship over price
    • buy for the “true love” of the thing
  • Learn to make, or find people who can
  • Try to repair, or find people who can
  • Don’t succumb to envy
  • Appreciate what we’ve already got.

(P.S. I haven’t stopped buying things from the Oxford Brush Company, pictured above. And I won’t. It’s got the good stuff.)

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