the consumption

Tiny fashion - all second hand or locally made

tiny fashion – all second hand or locally made (minus the boots)

Once upon a time, shopping was my primary form of entertainment. I would wander the mall with a twenty dollar bill and see how many items I could purchase just for the thrill of a deal. When I moved to university as a freshmen I owned 30 skirts. I have been a t-shirt and jeans girl since childhood. But I accumulated 30 too good of a deal to pass up skirts and packed them all the way across New England and into Canada. I’m not sure I wore even a third of them before they were donated to a campus clothing swap. I’ve reformed since then into something of an anti-consumer fanatic and now shopping is something that must be endured. (Unless it’s a thrift store. I love a good second hand hunt.)

As we’ve following a meandering path to minimalism, a natural Hierarchy of Acquiring has developed in our house.

When “0. just don’t” doesn’t apply, we move on…

  1. borrow – If it’s a one time use item or we want to try before purchasing, we first ask friends to borrow it. A close second to this is rent. This winter Matt has both borrowed and rented a snowboard to try two different options. We’re considering how seriously we want to get into the lifestyle in the next few years as Rhys grows and this has given him great information as he looks ahead to potentially buying his own gear.
  2. shop second hand first – my greatest goal is to take our money out of the first cycle of consumerism. Avoiding new purchases means our dollars are not telling manufactures to make more for a greater demand. It also gives a second life to many cast offs that are still nearly new. As a side benefit, we save a significant amount of money shopping second hand.
  3. support small businesses – When I’m looking for tangible gifts, my first stop is local small businesses. I look for places that have sustainable, conscientious manufacturing practices and that are contributing to our local economy. This is also our general practice for eating out and purchasing food – support local farmers, drink local beer.
  4. purchase quality items that will last – Occasionally we do buy new items from big box stores. We research the item and chose a model that will meet all of our needs, even if it means saving up before purchasing.

Other considerations we make when acquiring new items:

  1. where will the item live in our home? – I have one drawer and approximately 9″ of hanging space for my clothing. If I buy a new item of clothing it is likely that something else has to leave. We don’t necessarily impose a number cap on items, but we do have space limits. Before something new enters our house we choose where it will be stored.
  2. what does the end of life look like for this item? – Can it be easily recycled? Will it have life left in it when I no longer need it and how will I find it a new home? If it’s dead, what recycling options are available?

Mindful consumerism is a habit we’ve had to work at over time. Running to a store to fill our needs is easy. Pausing, evaluating, and finding other sources is harder. It’s a journey toward a countercultural mindset to say: I have enough and I have a responsibility to live lightly on the earth.

This post was written for inclusion in the March collection of the Small Family Homes Blog Community. Read below for more writings on living small from our community of writers. Check back next month for a new topic and posts in the series and follow our community board on Pinterest for the latest small homes and family minimalism pins!

Little Bungalow– “Questionable Purchases” : I have one habit that helps me avoid buyer’s remorse (most of the time).

Fourth & West– “The Consumption” : Where to go when you have to buy.

A Life Shift– “What We Bring Back to Hong Kong From Canada” : With limited storage space in our Hong Kong flat (and luggage weight limits!) here’s a list of what we try to purchase in North America when we are back for a visit.


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