I have had enough!

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I feel as if I am caught between two completely opposing worlds at the moment. One makes total sense to me, and the other, I just cannot fathom for the life of me.

On the sensible side (to me anyway) is the zero waste/minimalism/vegan movement. I am reconnecting with this lifestyle on a more consistent basis, as it’s something I have always enjoyed being part of and I tend to hover between being on the outskirts and fully immersed. From an environmental, financial, ecological, compassionate and common sense perspective, I feel this approach is the key to our survival as a species and the survival of our planet. I also appreciate that we can take tiny steps or full lifestyle overhauls and anywhere in between is perfectly ok, as tiny tweaks all add up over time and everything we do or don’t do has an impact.

On the other side, let me call it madness, because this is my blog – is the current wave of panic that seems to be clogging my newsfeed about what to buy for people for Christmas. First let me say that when my kids were little I was guilty of going a little overboard and if I had my time again I most likely would do things differently, but even with my definition of overboard it does not compare to the current things I am seeing online. My personal preference has always been hand crafted, small business owned, and unique gifts and for the most part I do quite well with this.

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I know that people often want to buy and do the best for their children and families for Christmas, however what I am seeing this last six months on Facebook is an overwhelming sense of the NEED to purchase so many things. All the time.

The reason it has come to my attention is that I offer a service called Afterpay on some of my products and as part of that I am in some of the Afterpay groups on Facebook. Afterpay is a way of buying products on an interest free basis and paying them off over a few fortnights. It helps many people who may not otherwise be able to afford things, and the intention is sound I am sure, and I have certainly got a set of clients I may not otherwise have attracted. However on these pages my news feed is often full of constant posts about ‘needing’ to buy something to cheer them selves up, or who have almost paid off their existing purchases and want to buy things to take their limit back to its maximum again.

There is also a palpable sense of desperation from some parents who NEED to find a particular toy for their children for Christmas and frantic shout outs to find these toys, and people paying often exorbitant amounts to get these toys and products. I have seen countless, probably in the hundreds of posts of people bordering on hysterical when their items purchased online are not in stock and they are refunded their money. I have seen so many people bordering on despair when their orders don’t arrive in days because they “NEED” them. I also see sellers in other groups being continuously hounded, harassed and publicly shamed in forums when items don’t arrive in a day or two, as it’s an urgent purchase.

Sorry, none of this is urgent. None of it. Never will be.

Posts like this appear many times a day “Who has ordered from Big W (or almost every other online store in existence) and how long did it take for your order to come?” “I urgently need all items unicorn/princess/Disney/rainbow/whatever the latest trend is”. “I urgently need ………” My son/daughter has finally told me she wants ….. for Christmas – HELP!”

The two that get literally hundreds of comments at the moment are LOL Big Surprise and Hatchimals. Both are incredibly expensive and in the case of LOL Big Surprise it’s basically a plastic ball full of plastic bits and pieces and junk. I have also heard that Hatchimals are basically ignored after a day or so. These sell for around $100. There was one woman in a state of utter panic the other day as she wasn’t able to determine if she had bought the right Hatchimal as her daughter ONLY wanted a certain colour.

I have seen posts where people list all of the things they have bought for the children and asking other parents if they think they have bought enough.

I could go on and on and on. And on.

It makes me feel sick at the thought of the waste, plastic, crap, consumerism and money spent on things that don’t matter. They don’t matter at all. I don’t know what the solution is but I do know that the solution lies with us, and only us.

I want to bury my head in the sand and pretend our consumer obsessed society will improve in time and I love all of the advocates for zero waste movements sharing ways we can live more consciously and intentionally but sadly they are being drowned out by the loud, plastic, garish brightly coloured trinkets that will ultimately make their way to landfill, to sit in large piles, swill in our oceans and be there for generations to come.

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It’s time for us to wake the fuck up and realise what’s important.

People. Connection. Love. Clean water. Peace. Compassion. Our beloved Gaia. Oceans. Wildlife. Nature. Listening. Family. Friends. Quality time. Friendship. Kindness. Gratitude. Health.

These things are important and I think they qualify as being NEEDED and URGENT.

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One man’s trash is NOT always another man’s treasure

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Oh I don’t know where to start with this one. So I’ll start at the beginning. My husband is from Ghana as my regular readers know. When we lived in Ghana we started a self-funded charity named for the joining of the two of us; Aussieghana Relief. We’ve always done small projects from the heart, funded from our own pockets and we’ve been happy with what we’ve achieved to date.

When we returned to Australia in 2011 we started sending containers of goods to Ghana, a combination of business and charity. The cost of shipping from here to there is $7000 and clearing at customs in Ghana is more than double that, so we need to supplement the charity with some form of income to make it work.

Anyhoo….when we started doing this, we did a shout out for items that people were no longer using. We always used the phrase “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” and we’ve been blessed with kind and generous donations of furniture, clothing, toys and many other useful items.

So, in addition to this, we often get donations of large quantities and we’ve always had the view that we will take it all, and if some can’t be used, then we will forward on, donate or trash as appropriate. When we made this offer, we figured people would still use common sense and generosity. Oh how wrong I was. Since when was another man’s treasure torn and dirty underwear, broken and used make up containers, stained and filthy bed linen and broken bits of everything possible under the sun? Just because people are in need, doesn’t make them any less worthy of nice things. Oh…breathe, Rae-Anne, breathe.

However sadly this isn’t exclusive to us and our little project. Our major charities in Australia are burdened daily with the excesses of our over-consuming culture. People dump everything in charity bins, I’d like to think with the intention that they reach those most in need, but the reality is quite different. Some charities have had to cease taking donations, or outsourcing the collection and distribution as it costs some of them in excess of $1,000,000 a year to dispose of the “donations” that we place in their bins and out front of their premises. Yes you read that right. I have it direct from the sources, and more than one of them. The stuff we dump is a continuous issue for them. It’s costing more than they can afford and it’s unfair.

So what happens when you donate to a charity bin? Well, good quality things are always welcomed, and are either used or sold in the shops to support their endeavours. The crap, the junk, the stuff we can’t be bothered taking responsibility for? It becomes their problem, their very expensive problem. Once my husband and I were given the opportunity to sort through a massive pile of these so called donations. About an hour into it I began to feel so much anger and disappointment in humanity. The rubbish and yes I use this word correctly, rubbish that people put into these bins is an absolute disgrace.

So how to stop this? First of all it begins with the consumer. Let’s stop buying crap, let’s buy things that last. Take a minute to think twice before bringing something into your home. I love the approach of the non-consumer advocate; use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without. Now this is obviously more achievable for some than others, but it’s a good principle to consider when purchasing “stuff”. Be mindful before handing over your cash/plastic – do you really need it?

Next, if we need to dispose of something, let’s take responsibility for our own stuff. Recycle if possible and if not, dispose of appropriately, either in our weekly rubbish collection, or if it’s too much, which is too often the case, order a hard rubbish collection or pay to have it taken away or put it in the dump.

For us, we are currently dealing with a full forty foot container of donations that we can’t use. It’s a time consuming and expensive exercise, as we load up our trailer one massive load of rubbish at a time, but one we wear as we keep in mind the small differences our work makes to others.

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Our current project – cleaning out this container, it’s overwhelming but we will get there

When it comes to donating. I love my husband’s approach. Whenever we send things to Ghana, either in a container or ourselves, when we go, he goes through his belongings and I’ve heard him say more than once “I really like this, so I’m going to give it to someone”. It took me a while to get my head around it, as we are so used to donating when something no longer serves us, we tire of it, or it’s worn out. He has on many occasions asked me if I would like to give certain things to family members and I now no longer say “oh I like this” or “I’m still wearing it”. As he so wisely says, why not let somebody enjoy this as much as I do.

So next time you donate, ask yourself, would someone else love this too? Or is it time for me responsibly dispose of it.

Charities, the environment and your conscience will be cleaner and better for it.

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