Too much stuff

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1950 to 2012 — The Consumer Generations



Both of my sons' mountains of lovely plastic birthday presents (many of which they will hardly ever use), a visit to Weaver Hall museum in Northwich with a class of 4 and 5 year olds and a daily game where my children make a den out of a bunch of blankets and cushions have all got me thinking about consumerism and how needlessly cluttered our lives have become over the last 4 generations or so.

At Weaver Hall, it was incredible to see how toys hardly changed over a period of 800 years. The children played with a 150 year old wooden hobby horse (basically a carved log attached to a broom handle) at the museum. My sons play with their hobby horses every week. Children 80 years ago had just as much fun with a fraction of the toys children have these days.
In the 50's and 60's we found we could make more stuff cheaply from plastic, we failed to ask the fundamental question of whether we should. I don't want to deprive my children of things they love playing with, but we have a dining room full of plastic stuff that they hardly ever touch. They spend more time outside and inside using twigs, brooms, cushions, blankets and their imaginations. They want a membership to the aquarium for the second Christmas in a row instead of lots of stuff.

Last autumn's Tarvin School exhibition showcased implements and tools which were used in the past, and can still be used today. We have so many gadgets that run on electricity — its almost ridiculous! The exhibition and Weaver Hall museum were a reminder of how we can do things just as quickly without a plug. My son remembers the trip a year on, in great detail. A reminder that children appreciate experiences much more than toys.

On a positive note; The advent of Smart Phones, and tablet computers is enabling us to be more connected with fewer plastic devices and to have less paper than ever before. I'm not paperless yet, but we are moving closer!

Finally, I thought of my future as a pensioner in a world where over 50's will outnumber under 50's by 2 to 1, the working population won't be able to pay for our care and there will be water and fuel shortages. I think my solution when the time comes will be to downsize dramatically and live in a house boat (or something a fraction of the size of my current home). What will I do with all my stuff? — come to think of it, why have I got so much stuff? I've started a big purge, they call it de-cluttering don't they? Go through everything in a room, and if you haven't used it for 4 years, give it away or sell it! Actually, I'm giving most of it to Save the Family at Cotton Hall farm *. 50 per cent of my kitchen utensils can be replaced with a single medium sized sharp knife, a fork, a spoon and a pair of decent scissors!


I'm rather looking forward to my de-cluttered, peaceful, retirement, aboard my little log fueled narrowboat writing, reading a book, talking to friends or watching TV on my trusty Ipad! (the boat will of course have solar panels)!

*Save the Family helps families who have lost their home. Based at Cotton Hall Farm just 2 miles from Tarvin..
Editor's note:- Fiona Miles is proprietor of Tarvin based creative writing & sustainability advice business RedHotandGreen, she is an adoptive mum, Secretary of Tarvin Environment Group and volunteers at Tarvin Woodlands and Primary School.