I got 99 problems and mindless consumerism caused all of them

Last winter I went to see my grandmother who lives in a tiny village in the south of Austria. I was telling her about my month long roadtrip through the US last year. She listened attentively and at one point took a deep breath and said “It is crazy how different your life is from mine. When I was your age travelling like you do or buying the things that you have would have just not been possible.” (Note: my grandmother grew up during the aftermath of World War II) I swallowed. I felt silly. I know my nan had no intention to make me feel bad, but she had a point. I asked her what it was like. When she started university at the age of 18 she shared a dorm with another girl. The room was small and modest. They couldn’t bring a lot of things. And because the winters in Austria can get very cold they had to bring all of their winter clothing to keep them warm.

“It took me five minutes to put all my things in my wardrobe. 
And when I looked over to her I could see that she had five jumpers. I had two. 
She must be rich, I thought.”

This really hit me. And I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I tried to remember how many jumpers I had at home. I didn’t even know. Of course this was a different time. Owning five jumpers was considered a luxury. But we are so used to be living in this world of abundance we don’t even give it a second thought. You want a new pair of jeans? You can go get it the same day. You also don’t actually have to leave your house. You can have it delivered to your door within 24 hours. And if you buy two you get the second pair half price. And did we mention that if you sign up to our newsletter we’ll give you 20% off your next order too?

And should you decide you don’t want it anymore after 3 months of wearing it, that’s okay too. Just get rid of it. Put it in the bin and forget about it. 
We have been raised to be guilt free consumers and “ignorance is bliss” is our mantra. Ignoring the fact that our mindless consumption contributes to the pollution of the planet and exploitation of others while at the same time not really making us any happier. The responsibility of taking care of our things and disposing of them appropriately after they’ve served their purpose has been taken away from us entirely. The current life cycle of a product today usually looks like this: Purchase, Use, Discard. And this is where we need to step in. It is easy to blame companies for not producing in a sustainable and ethical way. Or shout ‘Planned obsolescence!’ when your printer breaks and tossing it before trying to figure out if you could possibly repair it.

Rant over. Here’s the good news.

You can do something about the throw away economy. Every single day in fact. You can choose to not participate in mindless consumerism and make more informed and conscious decisions what you buy and who you buy from. Think of buying things as casting votes. Every time you buy something ethically and sustainably made or choose to repair that pair of jeans instead of getting a new one you cast a vote. A vote towards a more sustainable way of living. Here are 3 things to keep in mind when you think about buying something:

Be ruthless
Only buy what you really need. Be honest with yourself. (Note to self: You don’t need a fifth Lululemon sports bra.) Think twice before you buy something. It helps to take a note of something you’d like to buy and then wait for at least 24 hours. If you still think you absolutely need it, then go ahead and buy it. And if you do choose high quality over quantity.

The joy of less
Embrace simplicity. It has been scientifically proven that owning less actually makes you happier. Why? Because humans are bad at multi tasking and just the sight of clutter actually uses up mental resources that could be used otherwise. More things means more to think about. We all know it’s hard to get rid of things but start small, get rid of one thing per day. Start with the desk your sitting at right now.

Stop owning, start sharing
Did you know that you can rent your clothes? And I mean your day to day clothes not just a fancy cocktail dress. Say whaaat? Kleiderei is a monthly subscription box that sends new clothes to your door every month. You wear them and send them back when you don’t like them anymore. How cool is that? Unfortunately this is only available in Germany at the moment but you can start by lending and borrowing things yourself. Start with a circle of friends, within your family or your neighbours. Check out The library of things for inspiration.

Here at We Are Silverfish we are trying to change the mindset around the way we think about the things we own. We spotlight companies and products that contribute to a more circular economy. We support brands that offer life long guarantees and repair services for their products. We want to inspire you to take care of the things that you own and love and get rid of the ones that you don’t. If this sounds like something you’re interested in and would like to be a part of, follow our journey on Instagram or sign up to stay informed.