Stuff — Less is More

It doesn’t make sense economically or environmentally to use resources and materials to manufacture, transport, use, and dispose of stuff we don’t really need. After completing spring cleaning and donating our family’s excess stuff last fall, I thought about all the stuff we still had and how to minimize acquiring more stuff. A phrase from a college architecture class came to mind that became my motto.

“Less is More”

—Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (architect)

Shopping — Less is Less

Shopping CartsThe less one shops, the less likely one is to buy. I enjoy shopping just as much as the next person and have done my fair share over the years. Like many others, I eagerly embraced online shopping. But my favorite place to shop is still a brick and mortar bookstore. Mail order catalogues from companies I have never heard of arrive unsolicited in my mailbox along with a few from companies I do buy from. The American marketing machine is very powerful and I had to learn new shopping strategies in order to try to live up to my new motto of less is more.

Mail Order Catalogues

  • Interesting how I didn’t need a new t-shirt or shoes or thingamajig until I saw it in a catalogue. My strategy is to recycle mail order catalogues without looking at them. 
  • Better yet, request to be removed from catalog mailing lists.

Online Retailer E-mail Lists and Notices

  • Don’t subscribe or unsubscribe from e-mail notices about new products and sales. If I need something, I can always go to the retailer website.
  • Avoid browsing retailer “recommendations”. If one didn’t think of it oneself one probably doesn’t need it.

Habits to Break or not Acquire in the First Place

  • Think twice before going window shopping. I generally shop when I need to buy something but I am not totally immune to the “impulse buy” urge. I admit to shopping for fun or to see what’s new. Not going in the store (including virtual ones) in the first place is a good strategy for me.
  • Buy ButtonBeware the credit card. Sliding a credit card through the machine at the check out stand is so easy. Many online retailers make it even easier by storing credit card information and offering “1-click” purchasing.
  • Be cautious of coupons, special offers, and sales. One doesn’t really save any money if one buys something one doesn’t need just because it was on sale.
  • Shopping for emotional reasons can result in unneeded purchases and credit card debt. “When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping” and “retail therapy”, are phrases probably coined by the America marketers to get us to buy more stuff.

A Beginning

My less is more approach to shopping does not mean I haven’t bought anything or acquired more stuff, but at least now I think twice before buying something.

I enjoy buying things for other people. Perhaps that is a way of justifying shopping, by saying to myself, “it’s a gift”. 

We still have a lot of stuff, but at least we’re acquiring less stuff and at a slower pace. It’s a beginning…

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Author: Linda Poppenheimer

Linda researches and writes about environmental topics to share information and to spark conversation. Her mission is to live more lightly on Earth and to persuade everyone else to do the same.

3 thoughts on “Stuff — Less is More”

  1. Catalog browsing has become a habit for me and in the past several years I have bought more clothing via catalogs than in a brick and mortar store. I do favor one or two catalogs and try to limit my purchases from these catalogs when they offer free shipping (unfortunately not on returns), 20% off, etc. Of course, the merchants are clever enough to send coupons for $20 off if you are a “good” customer/consumer.

    My procedure is to finger through the catalogs I prefer, turn down the corner on a page that has an item I might like and then set the catalog aside for several days. I then return to the catalog and often I change my mind and out goes the catalog. Sooooooo I don’t always purchase afterall.

  2. When I buy something online I specifically request that they send no catalogs and do not share my information with others. This has significantly reduced the volume of catalogs I receive.

  3. That is a good point. Paying attention to account settings can reduce e-mail and catalog “junk” mail. Thanks for the tip.

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