A Simple Life

by Alexandra

In many of my posts, I make mention of my quest to live simply and without excessive regard for worldly concerns. In our Westernized culture, though, we’re taught that the more money we make, the better we are, because more money means we can buy more stuff, and more stuff means we have more for ourselves, and the more we have for ourselves means that we have a heightened level of ‘greatness.’ Obviously none of us want to live that way, with pride and prejudices based off our “stuff,” but it’s so easy to fall into that mindset whether we outwardly show it or not.

But, think of it this way:  imagine that this marble in my hand (I found it in the wood chips at a local park) is the world, and I, as a materialistic everyday American, am (metaphorically) holding it. The reason I am holding it is because I like “stuff” a lot, and I keep buying more and more stuff. But in order for Anthropologie to sell me my “stuff,” they must buy the “stuff” from a manufacturer, who bought the materials from other vendors, who either mined it from the earth or imported it from the third-world cotton pickers. However, the process of turning raw cotton into an overpriced designer top requires so much more time, money, and energy than would otherwise be needed if I a) made the top myself (yeah, right) b) bought it at a discount store (same environmental impact) or c) bought it from a resale shop.

Shipping cotton fluff from Brazil (where it is grown) to China (where it is processed) requires a horrifying amount of oil. I don’t mean to be political or anything, but think of the extensive national agreements required for the Middle East to sell oil to Brazil so China can buy, process and resell cotton to Americans. (Read more here) It’s pretty ridiculous. This is precisely why I don’t like politics, oil, or thinking about the many ways I kill the planet by buying a tee-shirt.

In any case, one of the main reasons I try to limit my purchases of material goods is because of the extensive environmental impact, but it’s not the only reason.

Behold: May 7th, 2011, my first independent “power-tools endeavor,” which made for a somewhat terrifying experience. But, woodshop woes aside, it was an amazing evening. I spent five hours with one of my best friends and my wonderful father, building a table out of slightly rotten wood that had been weathering on our driveway since we built our deck back in 2007. It was, more or less, making something new out of something old.

I wasn’t dressed up, I wasn’t manicured, I wasn’t showing off my brand-spanking new “X, Y or Z.” By vogue standards, I was nothing more than a failed member of a high-target advertising group. But I was having fun spending time with my friends and family — no money involved, no new stuff involved, no wasted fuel.

Defying materialism is a difficult concept to comprehend, and there’s so much more to it than reducing an environmental impact. Understanding comes slowly and habits take quite a bit of time to form. Take baby steps.