Saturday, October 07, 2006

Disposable II

It looks like I'm not the only one concerned about the disposable mentality of our culture. MK from Ganap! has put this bug in my ear. Interesting remarks by artistists, artisans, and regular consumer folk.

After reading chapter 4: Filling our lives with things, from "Temptations Women Face", I have been thinking more on this topic. As a general rule, I have pretty much given up on mall shopping, unless I need something from a specific store only found in the mall (or I want to see something I saw online in person), because years ago I discovered that the mall shopping mentality breeds discontentment. I'm not much of a shopper anyway. But I've noticed that my kids lives are being filled with junk. Junky toys and crappy gadgets. When M and I first started our family we wanted to keep a simple toy policy: nothing that makes noises, requires batteries, or is associated with a television show. We instead provided our boys with blocks and other wooden toys and lots of books...but the junk started rolling in around K's 3rd birthday. The thing is, they love their junky stuff. L collects it in bags and totes it all over the house. Dumping and refilling is a daily ritual for her.

The real problem I'm finding is in maintaining balance. How to appreciate what we have, to enjoy it, take care of it, and not constantly wish for more, bigger, better things. To see and enjoy cool toys or beautifully made home goods (or fabrics *sigh*) and not feel the nagging urge to possess them. I'm trying to instill the concept of giving with my children. When the toys seem to get to be too much, or when they say they are bored, I know it's time to whittle down our collection. Sometimes I box up stuff and put it out of sight for a while, but other times we just give it all away. One concept I agreed with that author Mary Ellen Ashcroft brings out in chapter 4, was about how giving (not selling) helps to promote contentment. She writes, " Giving shatters our sense that what we have is our own. Generosity flows out, greed pulls in."

But another approach is to just resist the urge to by cheap crappy stuff in the first place. Dollar stores and "Mart" stores prey on our desire for lots of stuff for very few dollars. I admit that one of my sons' favorite toys came from the Dollar Tree. It's a set of plastic tropical frogs. They haven't broken (they are nearly indestructible) and they use them in so many kinds of play, even painting them with their own designs. But for the most part that kind of stuff doesn't last a week, let alone a day, and what does that teach our children? It was easier saying no to stupid, impulse buys like these when I wasn't a single mom. But now (as I assume is the case for M, by all the junk the kids bring home with them) it is harder to say no, because somewhere deep inside I think I can make up for their loss of a father with buying them stuff.