Tuesday, February 20, 2007

So we aren't the only ones wanting be less consumer or consumerless

I found a couple of sites today where it looks like people are taking consuming less, conserving more, being environmentally conscientious to the next levels - trying to find alternatives to being purchasing consumers.

I love it, because quietly that is what my husband and I have been doing for several years now, rather contrary to the mainstream of buy, buy, buy. Guess I've been a bit self conscious about it, but now that it is gaining popularity, looks like we're a bit ahead of the curve.

For us, the lifestyle change provided us with a challenge to buy less, conserve more, re-use and find creative ways to make a single income budget work for us. We were both in career employment, social work, and permanent employees of State of Washington. And the benefits include retirement, health insurance, paid vacation and sick days. That is almost becoming obsolete in these times, isn't it? So why would I leave such a job? Short story is that I broke my public service job before in leaving so I don't have retirement accumulation for consecutive unbroken service. I took out my retirement contributions so when I return to state service, my retirement begins all over again, as if I am a brand new, first time employee.

Already having that history behind me, I would have to work another 18 years to actually get retirement benefits and that has been an uncomfortable stretch for me to envision. When the U.S. military was ordered to invade Iraq in 2003, my daughter's husband was deployed, and she was left alone with their three children. A rule of employment with State service requires neutrality on discussion of politics in the workplace. I looked down that road and realized there was no way that I would or could retain neutrality on the politics of Iraq war. I believed my time would be better served trying to be 'there' for my daughter and grandchildren.

My husband and I discussed and agreed that my leaving would bring us up short on budgeting, but he is committed to my developing my artistic side (home, garden, oil painting, and such) and agreed politics of Iraq invasion or not, our coupleness was better served with me at home and him retaining the employment income. I left my employment August 2003. I do not regret doing it, and helping out where I could with my daughter and grandchildren while son-in-law was deployed to Iraq was immeasureable in terms of lost budget dollars for us. I actually became quite the military family speaking out activist against the Iraq war over the years since then, but that is a quite different blog.

We learned to give up purchasing 'things' we at first believed we couldn't afford. But over time that thinking changed to 'things' we didn't actually need but were more in the habit of buying and thinking we needed them. The challenge became trying to find ways to do more with less, live a quality lifestyle purchasing less - consuming less, live a meaningful lifestyle of choice. Now the trend is moving towards sustainable lifestyle, environmentally conscientious lifestyle, consuming less lifestyle.

Sometimes for some it is very intentional, sometimes for others it is the forced circumstances that cause lifestyle changes. However people arrive at trying to make more out of using, spending, consuming less, people arrive at various points on the continuum. I like the idea of sharing ideas, oldsters and youngsters, as my generation and the generation before me have much good 'old fashioned' learning to pass along. And the youngsters are very clever at making what is old seem very new, refreshing, charming, and they bring new information to cleanse away old information that has, in fact, become dated. They bring a 'makeover' quality with them as they embrace the consuming less, recycling, sustainable lifestyle. I find it energizing and exciting.

I think, for example, of my oldest daughter and her family, who through circumstances had a spiralling decline in income and literally have had to find their way back via the pulling up from the bootstraps method. Along that journey, though, I believe, they have found some meaningful changes in thinking that enriches their lives rather than takes away from their lives. Her experiences though, are not mine to tell, they are hers to tell in her own way, in her own time.

It would be a mistake to glorify reduced income, reduced circumstances when it can, in fact, interfere with a person or family's well being. It's not my intention to do that here, but the definitions for what is a person's or family's well being is subjective. Buying the latest gizmo is not buying happiness or reward - it is simply feeding the consumer machine and the consumer machine has had decades to develop marketing strategies designed to make consumers out of all of us from early childhood. Perhaps, along the way of this blog, I will get into more about that, but for now, it's not hard to find the information and begin learning just how much of an indoctrinated consumer we have all become.

So - with that I give you the blog I bumped into today - Compact - which has this intro
1) to go beyond recycling in trying to counteract the negative global environmental and socio-economic impacts of U.S. consumer culture, to resist global corporatism, and to support local businesses, farms, etc. -- a step, we hope, inherits the revolutionary impulse of the Mayflower Compact; 2) to reduce clutter and waste in our homes (as in trash Compact-er); 3) to simplify our lives (as in Calm-pact)

and a link there to Revernd Billy and the Church of Stop Shoppping.

I've given only a precursory glance over, but it does make me smile and capture my imagination, so I wanted to blog it here.

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