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.