Sunday, December 18, 2005

How not to shop. Or Why do I hate shopping so much?

There is nothing in my size and colour and the heaving crowds put me off.

My eyes get tired from looking at the range of clothes and useless items on display.

I think of the poor girl/young lady/young man/boy paid a pittance for long hours of back-breaking, fine-finger work and I can't bear to part with money that would only fund the profligate lifestyle of the (often corrupt) owner/businessman who might just happen to be at the right place at the right time, or who network with the right people, or who have the means to make donations to certain political parties, or all of the above.

There is no room in my wardrobe and until I throw out something that I have outgrown or needs replacing, I do not need another cheap jacket/blouse/skirt/pair of trousers, etc. And then only if I have the means to arrange for these to be recycled properly.

Living simply does not mean living cheaply. It means learning how to spend one's money wisely.

As an impoverished undergraduate I once bought a pair of cheap sandals. I thought I had a bargain. But the sandals broke within a day or two. We didn't have a culture of returning faulty goods in Singapore then. Mama taught me you get what you paid for (In Cantonese: yaat fun tsin, yaat fun for.) . I paid little and got little in return.

So I had to scrape together money to "invest" in a pair of expensive sandals. This pair lasted me several years.

I am often tempted to buy "cheap" these days when I do get out to the local shopping precinct. (I have to, to get to buy food.) Then I remember "cheap" comes with a price. It's either paid by myself (through goods that do not last or of poor quality), or the producer (underpaid, disadvantaged worker) or someone else in the next generation (through long-term environmental damage, see eg signpost to Boreal Forest).

"Do-gooders" say: But if you don't buy these goods, the poor, hard-up producers won't have a job.

My answer: Instead of buying useless trinkets, why not save the money to give away to charities that do make a real difference to people's lives? Give, so that young children and young people get a chance to be educated instead of work in a sweatshop, and be condemned to a life of meaningless labour that is "productive" only in theory if it only serves the purpose of assuaging our desire to own useless things.

Instead of buying another toy that a child does not need, why not save it to give away to a charity that makes a real difference to people's lives by, for example, building a well to provide drinking water?

Ultimately, the secret to living simply is to say "enough" and not "more".

Back to Organic-Ally.


Anonymous said...

I do so agree. This year we have given flocks of chickens through Farm Africa and emergency shelters via CAFOD. For harvest this year our parish bought goats for Africa. What an excellent way to spend money and know where it is going AND that it is needed. I do so dislike 'stuff' and the idea that one must buy things.
I have to confess that I get rather upset at this time of year when I see all the stuff that is on sale. Do people really need all this to celebrate Christmas? Lyds

LSP said...

Well done, Lyds. That's the spirit!

I find all this consumerism at Christmas pretty pointless. I remember having felt depressed about it in previous years.

Do people really need all this stuff?

We just put up our Christmas tree last night. Most of the decorations were made by myself and my son. Some (still in its original box) were handed down from m-i-l. This morning I found my son making streamers on his own accord, but wait, using clean jotter paper!

I set him right. Retrieved some old magazines from my green (recycling) box and he got the message. Continued to make his streamers using magazines that have been put out for recycling.

Keeps him occupied during the school hols as well!