The why behind the things

When I was about eight years old two things happened that would forever change my life. First, my parents went bankrupt when a failed business venture my father had invested in went belly up. At or around the same time, my mother read a book about the back to the land movement, and my parents decided to move from the suburbs of Brandon Manitoba to a tiny little island off the coast of British Columbia. This island had 300 regular residents, gravel roads, no power and no running water. When we were packing for this move I noticed my parents packing away ALL of our electrical appliances and equipment and putting them in the “not coming with us pile”. When I asked why we were getting rid of such essential items my mother simply said “we won’t be needing these where we’re going”.  I remember a feeling of dread and knew that where ever we were going couldn’t possibly be a good place if we couldn’t take our television with us.

When I read another blog post by a colleague of mine at work about how simple her childhood kitchen was and how the only electrical kitchen gadget her family had was a toaster, it reminded me what truly simple living is. Living without electricity really simplifies things in the electrical gadgets department and demonstrates that you really can do without the electrification of all tasks. I started a mental count of all the kitchen gadgets I had accumulated over the last few years after reading her post and could easily count over a dozen. The picture in this post gives  you an idea of what I am talking about.

Reducing this kitchen gadgetry collection is definitely a priority in this simplification project and as we were sorting through these gadgets this weekend, deciding what was necessary and what wasn’t, I was reflecting on why I had amassed so many of them. I have read quite a bit lately on how a lot of consumption habits are emotional in nature, filling a gap or want that is different from an actual “need” for the product itself.  In this case I can see now that my “collection” of kitchen gadgets is likely a response to what felt like an involuntary austere lifestyle as a child that I never really “got” .

Sometimes getting to the emotional core of our consumption patterns can make all the difference because it’s not the individual one off choices we make that make the biggest difference but the changes in patterns of consumption over the long term that have the greatest impact. In the book Your Money or Your Life which I am thoroughly enjoying currently and highly recommend, the authors talk about how most of us have a type of thing we purchase that we just can’t help buying when we see it. We keep buying them even when we don’t need them, when we already have ten of them, when we can’t afford them, when we should be buying something else and every time we see one we have to at least stop and take a look to consider buying one. This attachment to a category of material purchase becomes a pattern of consumption that provides ongoing short term happiness moments shortly after purchase that dissipate quicker and quicker each time. They are purchases we take for granted and rarely question. “Kitchen gadgets” is clearly a category of mine.

For me identifying my years of homesteading on a gulf island as a child (without truly understanding or internalizing the goals of such a lifestyle) was key to understanding and identifying the electrical gadgets theme as a consumption pattern. Now not only will I be able to trim the gadgets from my kitchen, I’ll also be able to be more conscious when the urge to buy another one comes to the surface in the future.

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