Buying things

While cruising around the blogs of friends the other day, I read Beth Dopp’s reading list with great interest.  Thanks for including my In Celebration of Simplicity, Beth – much appreciated!

Intrigued by one of her favourites from her reading of 2011, No Impact Man by Colin Beavan, I went across to Amazon and read what I could of the Look Inside preview.  Brilliant!  Funny, inspiring, thought-provoking, hard-hitting.  I am reading it now on my Kindle.

That brings me to a crossroads, a question place.  Part of my 365 adventure is getting rid of 2 things for every new thing I acquire (even if that’s donated by another member of the household from their chuck-out).  So when I bought 3 fleece sweaters (I wear these constantly) from Lands' End UK in their big January sale, I duly donated 6 garments from my closet to a charity caring for children with cancer, and those garments won’t appear in the 365 blogged items.


Though that does indeed keep down my level of possessions, I think it would be more frugal and environmentally responsible if I slow right down on acquisition of new things – especially mass-produced new things probably made in sweat-shops.  I did check out the manufacturing ethics of Lands' End, and was pleased to read on their website that their manufacturing partners use no child or forced labour, and pay fair wages – even so reading “made in Cambodia” on the label stops their reassurances laying my suspicions entirely to rest.  

Part of my New Year resolutions and mindset behind the 365 adventure is to remember the human and cherish the Earth; so though in a moment of absentmindedness I did order those fleeces and will be pleased to have them (they certainly contribute to living with very low winter heating as we do), in general I will be trying to cut right back on the shopping and ensuring that the purchases I do make are for the most part hand-made, local (or fairly traded in from overseas) and sourced from small family businesses.

But I hadn’t given any thought to Kindle purchases.  I guess though they help keep the house de-cluttered, there is such a thing as electronic clutter too.  So I will investigate my memory sticks and consign 2 large files to the bin to balance the clutter-scales again after buying Colin Beavan’s No Impact Man.

I am not in favour of simply stopping buying things, though.  My daughters are musicians and craftspeople, I am a writer and the Badger is a publisher.  We know all too well that being able to continue to fulfil what is truly vocational for us, not merely commercial, depends on sales of a viable level as well as frugality at home.  If no-one buys my books, only borrows them, then the book I have waiting for a yea-or-nay at the publisher (and depending on the sales of the ones already contracted) will never see the light of day.  That would be a pity because it was written not as a money-spinner but as a way of making available to the imagination of the reader some scriptural truths very health-giving for our society.  So I believe in buying books that have something worthwhile to say.  And I believe in supporting honest, responsible business enterprise.  It’s just the greedy consumer-fest I think needs reigning in, and the irresponsible over-creation of packaging and worthless knick-knacks.


365 Day 9 (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, see here)

 Last year our church had a fund-raising drive to pay for installing new toilets. 

When I was a child at primary school, we changed to decimal currency, so that shillings, half-crowns, sixpences and florins all vanished from our lives.  Up until that point, a penny was written 1d – an abbreviation of 1 denarius.  It changed to 1p (one penny) and shrank its value from one twentieth to one hundredth of a pound in a single deft move.

If you wish to use the public toilets in, say, London Charing Cross railway station today, I believe the going rate to get in through the automated turnstile is 30p.

When I was a child there would be no turnstile at the entrance, but each of the doors to the individual stalls in the public toilets would be opened by inserting a coin into the slot – 1d, a penny.  Hence, “spending a penny” was the euphemism of choice in polite society for temporarily vanishing into the bathroom to empty one’s bladder.

So it was that someone at St Johns came up with the idea of “Save a penny to spend a penny”, and asked us all to save our small loose change – the coppers, the 1p and 2p coins – to support the fundraising drive.

This struck me as something our household could comfortably do, so I pressed into service for silver 5p pieces an old hummus carton and for the coppers a bucket that had once held meringues bought to share with a cup of tea by our friends Erik Kuilenberg and Carien Bloema on their family visit with their children Ben, Huub and Jolijt last summer.

I cut slots in the lids like real money boxes, and we started saving.

In my somewhat OCD manner, I felt reluctant to part with the accumulated loot until the tubs were actually full.  The toilets were built, blessed, up and running before our containers reached the half-way mark.  But still we plodded on.  This week it occurred to me – you know what?  The time has gone.  So I put the tubs out for recycling, and took the stash of mini-loot up to the coin-star machine at the supermarket, which yielded £12.82 that I duly added to the regular collection at church last Sunday.