Shopping and Sad


We live in a semi-rural area which is about 30 minutes drive to the Sunshine Coast.

Today we braved the retail chaos which is becoming more pronounced as each year goes by. Early January is a particularly crazy time as we combine post-Christmas sales, back-to-school preparations and the inevitable holidaymakers. I think this year is worse than usual as more people are around as they are not travelling further afield.

This was our shopping list:

Roll of chicken wire – to fence a dog run for our puppy
Screws for attaching metal sheeting – to complete one side of the dog run
Galvanised pipe and connections – to make a hanging rail for the laundry
Small saddle brackets – to attach gate for dog run
9V battery – replacement for smoke alarm
Prescription medications – essential
Toaster – a replacement as the previous one has ceased to operate
Pet medication – essential

The list was thought out, planned and could hardly be described as frivolous. Since it is a 70km round trip we try to make sure that we make the journey worthwhile. We did not spend any longer than necessary and were home in under 3 hours despite the busy carparking areas and heavy traffic in every direction.

This is the hanging rail assembled. It needs to be painted and then installed.

So, why am I sad?

I think it was witnessing the overwhelming amount of stock in every shop we passed and the hordes of shoppers buying more and more stuff. Is it to replace an item, as with our toaster? Perhaps but I am more than mildly sceptical of that reason for more than a very small percentage of purchases.

The passion for decluttering in recent years and resultant overflowing charity shops leads me to think that many of today’s purchases or the goods they are replacing will be charity shop stock in a matter of months.

Many items, including clothes, electronics and household goods can be purchased cheaply and we do not value or care for them but almost regard them as disposable. When they break, are superseded by a new model or are simply no longer the ‘flavour of the month’ we toss them aside. Many of these discarded consumer items end up in landfill but to salve our consciousness we drop them at the charity shop. Unfortunately, a significant proportion still ends up in landfill and takes up time, effort and resources of those who volunteers to assist the various charities.

Everywhere you turn there are empty shops and businesses. Online shopping continues to gather pace. Are we buying more stuff because it is so easy to click a few buttons and it turns up on our doorstep in a matter of days? Is the lack of effort or consideration required making us shop more?

There is plenty of discussion amongst marketers on how to make sure that people continue to buy more and more stuff so that retailers and businesses can continue to increase their profits. At what cost?

We are drowning in our stuff and killing the planet in our quest to have more and more. I feel like something has to change and soon.

My personal action is to try not to waste anything, use what we have, source items secondhand where possible and be mindful that we have ‘enough’.

I wrote this post just over 6 years ago. There is a link to an interesting short video which is worth watching.

Isolationism or Self-Reliance


I have seen the following text and similar being shared in various posts on Facebook over a number of weeks.

Two can play that game China
Threaten our economy
All products from China will be left on the shelf !
Who’s With Me

However, there never seems to be any commentary from the person sharing the post as to how they actually propose to achieve this goal of not buying products that are made in China.

I believe that wherever possible we should be buying food produced in Australia.  Fresh and unprocessed food are generally the best nutritional option.  Additionally, packaged food may be produced in Australia but presented in packaging from China or elsewhere.  It is highly unlikely that you would be able identify where the packaging was sourced.

Food is not the only thing that most of us buy.  There are clothes, shoes, homewares and hardware supplies.  When was the last time that you checked where your purchase was manufactured?  Does it matter?

In my opinion, it is more important to be a conscious consumer generally rather than targeting goods from one particular country.  Buy only what you need (not want), understand what is ‘enough’, care for and repair what you have and source pre-loved items where possible as ways of stepping away from over-consumption.

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Over-consumption means that we are drowning in ‘stuff’ that is cheaply mass-produced in countries such as, but not exclusively, China.  Become a conscious consumer and you will immediately significantly reduce the products you are buying from China.

Your thoughts?

Meaning of Materialistic

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I read an interesting question online today.

How do you become less materialistic?

The first thing to do is to define the word ‘materialistic’.  I resorted to the dictionary and this is what I came up with.

Materialistic – excessively concerned with physical comforts or the acquisition of wealth and material possessions, rather than with spiritual, intellectual, or cultural values.  

I think that sums it up quite nicely.

So, how is a materialistic attitude determined?  Nature, nurture, genetics, stage of life?

I am sure that at least some of our attitude towards possessions stems from how we were brought up and the attitude of our parents.

Additionally, most of us go through what I would regard as an acquisitive phase during early adulthood as we set up a household which is independent from our childhood home.  During this period there are often children added to the family and along with that comes additional possessions.

At the other end of the scale there are those of us who no longer have children at home and are perhaps already retired or soon to be so.  Many of us are looking to remove clutter from our lives.

However, I think a materialistic attitude is more than simply having lots of stuff.  To me it means that a person places more emphasis on material possessions than values.

I cannot get enough of this video which is brilliant.

Christmas is Coming


I know that the year is rolling by and before we know it Christmas will be upon us.  In fact I read this comment on a discussion forum a couple of days ago,

“Everyone is so busy and it will get even busier as it gets closer to Xmas… which I haven’t planned anything….”

This got me thinking as to why everything has to be busy in the lead-up to Christmas.  I love Christmas for the joy of being able to share the day with my family, especially the grandchildren.  I do not enjoy the commercialism of it nor the endless round of parties, celebrations and gift-giving.  The associated stress and pressure is simply not worth it.

Christmas Shopping

I try to switch off to most advertising at any time but I find it particularly insidious at this time of the year.  Every conceivable type of business is exhorting us to buy their goods so that they can be delivered by Christmas.  Worse still, are the offers of no repayments until the New Year etc, etc.  Just remember that everything has to be paid for at sometime and do you really want to be paying for Christmas at this time next year?

Like many other aspects of our life, we have managed to eliminate a lot of unnecessary Christmas festivities and focus on what is important to us.

This year we will be keeping it simple.

Neither The Duke nor I attend any work functions.
The Duke and I will go to a local festive gathering.  It is an opportunity to socialise with our neighbours and is hosted by a different family each year.  Everybody brings their own drinks and a plate of food to share.
We will take our grand-daughters to see the Christmas lights in our area. I want to take them to a carol service at the local church.
We will spend 5 days at the beach with family.
Christmas lunch will be at my sister’s place with extended family.
Gift giving for the family will focus on experiences and/or consumable gifts.

Over the next 6 weeks I will share some of the things you can do and make in the lead-up to Christmas which are memorable but relatively easy on the budget.  Please share any special ideas from your family.

In the meantime, here is a photo I took yesterday when I went to Caloundra to meet some friends for lunch.  I am hoping for some similarly spectacular weather when we spend some time there at Christmas.

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March to a Different Drum


I was reading the Down to Earth blog  last week and Rhonda actually re-visited an earlier post from 2009 about how to start out living simply.  You can read it here.   In it she speaks about making your own choices rather than following a specific prescription for living simply.

The idea of being an individual and not slavishly following others really resonated with me.

It constantly astounds me how people are influenced by fashion and trends. It is not necessarily just about clothes but encompasses style of houses, interior decorating, colours and so much more.

Magazines are not generally part of my reading material, but occasionally I will flick through one when I am waiting for an appointment at the doctor or dentist.  The constant, subtle pressure to conform and consume jumps out from every page.  It is not only the advertisements but the articles with titles such as, “Gray is the New Black” which insinuates that you can’t possibly wear the black trousers you bought last year.

Everywhere you turn there is evidence of what is ‘in’ and heaven help you, if you actually consider breaking the mould.  Several years ago we were re-building our kitchen and we decided to have a look at some display homes to get some current ideas as it was many years since we had looked at what was available in kitchen design.  We headed to a display village of new homes – I think there were about 40 homes and we looked at the kitchens in at least half of these.  I was totally disillusioned as they all featured the same basic layout with the kitchen as part of an open-plan living area divided by a long work bench which often contained the sink.  The drawers all had over-sized rectangular handles with minimal variation and the decor was universally a bland grey/mocha palette.

People make fun of the 1970’s lime green benchtops which were ‘in’.  In fact, if you want lime green laminate or any other colour of the rainbow, you can get it in 2012.  However, you need to be prepared to do your own research and choosing by going to the suppliers rather than going to a ‘one-stop shop’ where you will be presented with a range which is really just a selection of variations of the current trend.

Whatever the product, idea, attitude or philosophy, do not feel obliged to follow the crowd.  Be an individual, buck the trend and make your own decisions about you and how you want to live your life.  It does not have to be based on the latest colours, mobile phone or gadget.

Do you swim against the consumerist tide and make decisions about how you live your life in an independent manner?

Get Me Out of Here!


I now know why I live where I live and do not trawl the shopping malls for ‘entertainment’.

This morning we dropped some things off to Missy and then headed off to Paddington Hardware and found these handles.

We had to order some more of the larger ones as they only had 2 in stock.

This is the project for which we need the handles.

Here are the small jewellery drawers that go on top and the supports for the mirror.

The Duke has started stripping the brown paint off the drawers so you can see the silky oak timber.  Here is the mirror.

The Duke then mowed Belle’s yard and our final stop was Westfield Chermside, a large shopping mall not far from Belle’s place.

I am not keen on shopping malls but I had a specific plan.  I wanted to go to the Early Learning Centre to buy a wooden puzzle as part of Izz’s birthday gift.  We could not find a park so The Duke dropped me off and I thought I would just quickly duck in and get what I needed.

As I got to the bottom of the travelator I turned into the main mall and was confronted by wall to wall people.  It looked like the week before Christmas.  According to the media there is a downturn in consumer spending, so were all these people window-shopping?

I battled the crowds and eventually reached my destination.  It is no longer called the Early Learning Centre but Kids Central and there is nowhere near the selection of toys and games available that there were previously.  I found this puzzle which was $15.  Unfortunately, like almost everything else these days, it was made in China.

I have heard various retailers whinging about the rise of online shopping and how it is eating into sales and profits in traditional retail outlets.  Other perceived issues include opening hours and the value of A$.  I don’t know about other people but the crowds and inconvenience would drive me straight to online shopping.

My experience this morning reminded me that I would be better off searching the internet or trying to find wooden toy craftsmen in the local area.

If you are interested in the issue of ever-increasing consumption and consumerism and have not read Affluenza it is definitely worth a read.  It will open your eyes.

I am very pleased to be home again, in the relative peace and quiet of our rural acreage.  I just sighed with relief that we made it out of the mayhem.

Birthday Brunch

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Today is Missy’s 25th birthday.  My, how time flies.  We have had a lovely day – brunch at Five Sisters Cafe in South Brisbane.  What a fabulous little gem, tucked away between Melbourne Street and Fish Lane.  If you are in the area please take the time to pop in.  The food was delightful and the coffee fantastic (according to the coffee drinkers).  We were made welcome by friendly staff and it is child-friendly in the true sense of the word.

Later we went to Indooroopilly Shopping Centre, a large suburban shopping mall, in order to buy Missy a birthday present.  We had promised her would give her a camera and we also got a Gorillapod.  The Gorillapod is the niftiest little invention I have seen.  Although the shopping expedition was successful in terms of finding what we were looking for I found the tide of people ‘trawling the mall’ more than a little overwhelming.  As Missy described it, the “rampant, mindless consumerism” is quite sickening.  When I see people buying so much ‘stuff’, I really feel as though I am swimming against the tide.  But I will continue to swim.

The Duke and I rarely go to large shopping precincts these days as we simply have very little need.  When we do it is a quick visit with a list of exactly what we need and we are in and out as quickly as possible.  Our shopping is mostly small, local independent shops or markets.

Today was particularly interesting in that our brunch was a small, family-run niche business which was in stark contrast to the mass-market, ‘more is better’ mentality of the shopping mall.

I think I am much happier poking around the op shops and markets in our country town and surrounds.