Even when you think you know a lot about a topic, maybe you’ve even read a big book or two, everyday life and its practicalities can bring surprises and new perspectives. At least that’s what happened for me, when I recently moved.
Behind me I have a great interest in sustainability and a master thesis on sustainable consumption, and these interests have brought me to Önling. But make no mistake, apparently that doesn’t mean I have this subject “all figured out”….
A few months ago, my husband was offered a dream job in the other end of the country. Amazing news, however, it meant that we had to pack our good things, ourselves and our little son and move west more urgently and with less time to prepare the move, than one could have wished for. Whatever, we are just the three of us and moving from a 2-bedroom apartment, we can’t have that many things – Surely, I can pack it down over a few evenings when I have tugged the little one into bed, then we load it all on a trailer and off we go… Is the thing I should never have said….
"Surely, I can pack it down over a few evenings…
Is the thing I should never have said…."
Because WOW, how badly had I misjudged the amount of stuff that can be hidden away in drawers, closets, boxes and basements! It all starts quite smoothly packing the everyday things that you know you need. One might even start to think “this is going well, now I think we only need a few things here and there”. But from then on, I encountered a series of “Oh, I had completely forgot about this one”, and “ah, that is funny I haven’t seen this in a while”, until I reached the point of “Oh no, do we have that too, what do we need that for…?”.
”...'I definitely don’t buy anything that I don’t need'.
But which are the things we purchase that we don’t need?”
And this is where reality and passed theory by a mile, and I suddenly gained a new perspective on consumer culture, overconsumption and sustainable consumption, that all my studies couldn’t give me. Reading about the resource constraints we are facing, and the huge piles of waste we are producing, it is easy to think that such overconsumption is ridiculous and thoughtless, and “I definitely don’t buy anything that I don’t need”. But which are the things we purchase that we don’t need? Because we don’t purchase stuff if we know from the start that we don’t need it, right?
All the things we had piled up in our drawers were things, that we at some point had purchased because we thought we needed them, or added to our wish list for Christmas because we felt certain they would make life easier or more fun. In reality we might have just fallen in love with an illusion, created by a crafty marketing department, while reality is often different…
"Same as many of us have our favorite clothes, ... I also have
my favorite mugs that I always drink my tea from, etc. "
Önling is based on the belief that women used 20% of their clothes 80% of the time. Moving showed me, that this might not only be true for clothes, but maybe actually for everything we own. Same as many of us have our favorite clothes, I at least have a favorite cook book that I usually go to for inspiration, and my favorite mugs that I always drink my tea from, etc. etc. And then a lot of things where I think “I really ought to use this”, but when face with the choice never choose.
"When we moved, ... I was confronted with all the things I own,
but that I don’t really need and could comfortably live without."
When we moved, all these things were taken out in daylight and I was confronted with all the things I own, but that I don’t really need and could comfortably live without. This taught me a lot about which things I have come to love, and which things I have never really used – knowledge that I can hopefully use from now on to only purchase things that I will really come to use, and thereby save money as well as the scarce resource of our planet, from products that will end up in the back of the closet.
My new approach to making my consumption more sustainable is to put every purchase to the test “are you sure that in a few years, this product has earned to right to take up room and time when moving out?”. If after this test I am still not sure if I really need it, I will try to borrow, rent or purchase it second hand, at least to test I if really need it. Hopefully this way I can spend room and money on the things that really make me happy, and avoid thinking “Oh no, why do we have this thing” next time we are going to move.
Tennae Rix Kristensen, Webmaster at Önling