Our modern economies are designed to rely on constant consumption. If people are not constantly buying stuff, the economy goes down. I would actually call this a primitive economy: one that relies on extraction and overproduction, and a steady supply of willing buyers.
What brought this to my mind today was noticing how a cake of soap that’s been sitting in a cup on my front porch for a couple of years still isn’t used up, although I use it often to wash my hands and feet (with collected rainwater) before walking indoors.
And inside the utility closet which contains towels, batteries, lightbulbs, and other everyday supplies, there is a bag containing about 10 bars of soap that have been gifted to me over the years, or came to me via decluttering gigs. I definitely have enough soap to supply an entire household through the zombie apocalypse and beyond, unless zombies eat soap.
Ditto paper and envelopes. Granted I could be writing letters a lot more diligently than I have been. And today I sit out to start remedying that. But, I have enough writing-paper probably to last a lifetime.
Same with art paper. And thread, fabric.
Stuff just doesn’t get used up that quickly. I mean sure, some stuff like toilet paper does (unless you happen to be one of the growing number of us who use a bidet and toilet-cloth).
I start to really beat myself up over this, but realize the problem lies pretty far upstream of us, and all we can do is try our best to not accumulate more stuff in categories where we already have a surplus. I can also search more diligently to find people who have immediate need for some of my surplus stuff. Although, to be honest, a lot of the stuff I have was inherited from people who were trying to get rid of their stuff. These days, there seem to be a lot of people out there who are in the same boat trying to get rid of stuff they’re not using or likely to use.
Of course I understand this is a first-world problem. (Oh, except wait (added about an hour later as it belatedly occurred to me): In this case what starts as a “first-world problem” shows up downstream in a much nastier, more toxic way in the less-privileged countries. For example, the Atacama desert in Chile has become a major dumping ground for the world’s discarded clothing. Much of it never worn. And many cities and beaches are overrun by plastic waste generated by the United States.)
On a positive note: I could finally get around to doing what I’ve been saying I’m going to do, which is put together a group of people who want to play and make things and enjoy using our supplies together. Maybe it’ll happen this year, maybe even this month!
Also on a positive note: I have ended up finding steady use for my box of 5000 staples, which looks to be several decades old. (I purchased that box of staples — and the beautiful, sturdy, turqouise-enamel-painted steel old-school stapler — from a thrift shop or yard sale, can’t remember which, a few years back.) I still may not use up those staples in my lifetime, but it looks like maybe I’ve used a couple hundred at least.