Recently, we went to visit my parents with Baby Theo (and his bottles and diaper bag) in tow– a regular occurrence now that we live much closer to them. When it was time to feed Theo, my Mom took the bottle out of the fridge and pulled out the same pot she uses every time to heat the bottles to the correct temperature.
“You know,” she said to me, “This pot is the same pot I used for your bottles when you were a baby.”
“Wait, hold up. Mom, this pot is basically 40 years old and still being used??”
“Yup!” she said. “And it’s being used for your child now.”
My mind was completely blown. Here was my Mom, using the same pot she had used for almost 40 years. Meanwhile, my husband Will and I had probably replaced our pots at least three times in the 11 years we’ve been married.
Why is that? Why is my Mom able to use her pot for almost 4 decades, while we’ve had to replace ours every few years??
Here are three reasons why our material possessions aren’t lasting as long, and we are buying things more frequently:
1) Production priorities have shifted.
In her article “Your Stuff is Actually Worse Now: How the Cult of Consumerism Ushered in an Era of Badly Made Products,” Izzie Ramirez explains that when designing a product, designers have to take into account three aspects of the design: appearance (it looks good), functionality (it works the way it’s supposed to), and manufacturability (it’s able to be produced). In the past, a balance between all three was attempted. Now, the priorities have changed:
Design has shifted more toward manufacturability and appearance than functionality, when it should be a balance of all three. Arguably, it’s nearly impossible for corporations to avoid participating in the trend cycle as long as consumers have an appetite for more — whether it’s a predilection for cooler clothing or whatever new incremental yet buzzy technology just came out. At the same time, the blame does not lie on consumers’ shoulders; corporations are responsible for creating and stoking the “new and more is better” culture we have today.Izzie Ramirez, “Your Stuff is Actually Worse Now”
In other words, the ability to make things faster and more cheaply has become more important than the product actually lasting or functioning the way it’s supposed to.
And because we have been urged by consumer culture to keep buying newer things, there is a vicious consumerism cycle in which we constantly buy things that are getting made more and more quickly and cheaply.
The result? Shoddy merchandise and cluttered living spaces. But we can choose to live differently.
2) Consumer culture has encouraged us to focus on quantity over quality.
As mentioned in #1, we are in a constant consumer cycle in which things are getting made cheaply and quickly, yet we are encouraged to keep buying these goods because it turns a profit. So, the cycle is perpetuated– we keep buying, and manufacturers continue to find ways to cut corners and produce goods faster and for less money, even when production costs are higher than they were previously. This means that, unless the cycle is broken, our stuff will continue to get worse over time.
But we can break this consumerism cycle.
3) Reusing something and/or buying gently used things isn’t typically considered.
Because consumer culture urges us to continue buying and consuming, other options aren’t immediately apparent. We are often able to reuse something by fixing or mending it. Buying something gently used rather than new can be an option as well, or even borrowing when a certain product is needed for a short time.
In the past, before I was a Christian minimalist, I thought buying or using something previously used was shameful or gross. Now, my family and I use previously used goods regularly, especially with Theo. For example: he’s going to grow out of his clothes in a couple of months anyway, so why should I always buy new clothes for him? Previously used baby clothes make up 95% of his wardrobe right now.
Want to live differently and break the vicious consumerism cycle?
Here are some ways we can be more intentional with reducing our purchases and living more minimally:
- Pay attention to quality goods, and whenever financially possible, buy small amounts of quality goods instead of buying a large amount of low-quality goods. Purchasing a smaller amount of quality products, rather than buying a lot of low-quality products, will serve us well for a longer amount of time, and reduce waste.
- Reuse, buy gently used goods, and borrow whenever possible. It’s easy to default to buying new products, since that is what we are urged to do by consumer culture. But we can reuse and borrow, or buy previously used goods instead.
- Consider the environmental impact of our purchases, and how God has called us to take care of God’s creation. Continuing to buy and consume at the levels that we currently do has already taken a toll on our earth. Buying and consuming more minimally is better for our planet, and for our health.
- Advocate for fair wages and better treatment for those who produce our goods. When a company’s priorities are producing products as cheaply and as quickly as possible, the wages and treatment of employees worsen exponentially. Advocate for a living wage and de-normalizing overwork, long hours, and hazardous work environments.
Turn my heart to your decrees and not to selfish gain.Psalm 119:36
We are called by God to live into the abundant life Jesus came to give us (John 10:10) rather than the destructive abundance that beckons to us by consumer culture.
With God’s help, we can break the vicious consumerism cycle and use quality goods that function correctly. We can purchase from companies that aim to balance functionality, appearance, and manufacturability. We can buy less. We can prioritize quality over quantity. And we can reuse, borrow, and utilize previously used products.
How is God calling you to buy less and focus on God more?
Did you like this post? Check out the Christian Minimalism book!