Monday, June 14, 2010

Pulling Off The Consumer Grid

Garage Sale season is here! Jules gets slightly excited when he sees the first real sign of the year declaring a yard or estate sale. He has an ever-so-tiny obsession with perusing other peoples unwanted stuff. I cannot blame him considering it has completely obliterated our need to shop anywhere else. Most every Saturday and Sunday there is a detour from wherever we are going to head for a yard sale. And, why not? Most of our household items, clothes, tools, gear and other awesome stuff have come directly from local Estate sales. One better, they are cheap and going to be throw away.

One of the unforseen things which has happened in our quest for self sufficiency is our pulling off the consumer grid. Before this, I wouldn't have really known anything about the consumer grid. Even now, that is just the name I have given it; whether there is another name I do not know. By consumer grid, I mean shopping at The Store. Not one specific store, but just shopping at any store in general. We do not feel that shopping is inherently bad, more that the way the United States approaches shopping (evaluation of GDP as all things important) is insidious, malicious, and down right evil.

The GDP, or Gross Domestic Product, is how the United States measures the economy and thus, our status as a nation. The idea was adopted in 1991. (Before that status and progress were measured by various other factors like unemployment, the price of a dollar globally, inflation, etc.) In definition Gross Domestic Product looks like this:

The total market value of all final goods and services produced in a country in a given year, equal to total consumer, investment, and government spending, plus the value of exports, minus the value of imports.

Basically, the GDP covers all money changing hands in our nation. In a perfect world, you would record you garage sale earnings on your taxes (because we all do that) and eBay earnings (every one of us declares those as well) and any of the under-the-table work (that none of us ever participate in) because money is changing hands. The more times a dollar changes hands, the higher the GDP. So if my dollar goes through 3 people when I buy a pair of shoes (a cut to the big box store, then a cut to the distributor, and finally to the company) it is much better than if it goes directly to the company itself. Specialization, middle men, big box stores, and a loss of all traceability from source is what results. This is an admittedly, massively oversimplified explanation.

In the United States, growth in GDP is all that matters. More money needs to keep changing hands. This concept disturbs both Jules and I enormously. If the entire status of our nation and our progress is hinged on how much more people are spending, then why would anyone conserve anything? (Economists will even admit the fastest way to grow GDP is during crisis - HOW CREEPY IS THAT!)

We finally asked ourselves, "Why not just find the source?" Amazingly, it wasn't that hard.
The best part has been watching our sense of urgency, our stress level, and our concept of need changing. You cannot urgently go pick something up from a garage sale. You cannot rush by the farm on the way home from work and then speed home with an insta-dinner. Rhubarb just isn't going to be around in August and Strawberries aren't going to appear in January. Often, going to the source is not one stop shopping. There is patience and waiting involved, and in that time you realize there isn't much you really need like you thought. Community life and living are deliberate acts of slowing down, paring down, and evaluating.

To some not knowing where you "stuff" comes from isn't an issue, but to others they may have never considered it before. A year ago, we sure hadn't thought about our stuff or what it did to our lives. Amazingly, it was everything we were trying to fill the house with that was creating the void in the first place.

4 thoughts:

babbaapril said...

Oversimplification can be very dangerous. History is fraught with examples of really bad things happening because the general populous bought into an oversimplified idea. Do we as a nation care too much about our 'stuff'? No question, we do. Are cutting down on consumer spending and ramping up savings good ideas? You bet. Is buying other people's unwanted but still good stuff a great way to conserve resources? Absolutely. But I think national economics is an incredibly complex set of interacting principles. What we really need to do as a nation is to think about the impact our actions and national policies are having on the rest of the world and get in synch.

Karen Sue said...

Don't know if this comment is a yes vote or a no...hmmm...

Anyway, I've been hopping about a bit here and wondered how you are learning guitar...lesson by a person or self teaching...thinking of checking out youtube and finding a guitar...maybe you could check out the garage sales for one!!

Karen Sue said...

ok, I meant the comment before mine on oversimplification. Yeah, my sister was worried I'd stop shaving my pits and legs when I started to read Mother Earth News. Sometimes simple is good, very good. And I KNOW that if you don't look at not buying stuff as a punishment or like a diet, you can accept it and it's just OK with you.

Granola Girl said...

hehehe, I think I shave more now that I read Mother Earth News than I ever did before :)

The guitar answer has a few parts. My first guitar was given to me for Christmas by my mom years ago. It was a classical guitar though, and I have really small hands so it was hard to play.

The guitar I now own, has a much smaller neck and I purchased from a resale shop. An old co-workers, father owned a resale music store and he gave me a deal on my guitar.

The guitar lessons came for free from my best friend Alex. He has played guitar since he was 9, opened for clubs, and somehow just understands the music in a way I never well. He showed me how to do various chords, read tab, and find the strum pattern. Now, I'm just bumbling my way through applying those things :)

YouTube is AWESOME! It helped me learn so many knitting stitches! Getting a MP3 of the song you are wanting to play and listening over and over works really well too. You can stop it and replay just a section so that you can learn the song section by section.

Jules now has a banjo he is trying to learn. It isn't going quite as well as he wants it to :)

Post a Comment

Template by:

Free Blog Templates