Waste not, want not

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Perspectives with Shirley Hallee

The message is clear and consistent – buy, use it for a short time…then toss. There are new styles and new colours to be had, whether it is the clothing we wear, the wheels that transport us, or our living space. We simply need to make a selection, pay for it on credit and enjoy the good life.

In recent years the search for the good life may have become a bit expensive. I noted this as I watched home renovation shows on TV. At first I was fascinated to see the changes made to a couple’s existing home in Love It, or Leave It. I also took note of the fairly high amounts paid by young couples to purchase a house - to which many thousands of dollars are shelled out for total renovations on Property Brothers.

The results are beautiful, but as I looked at the beautiful open-concept living quarters…complete with rooms of perfect new furnishings and dramatic lighting…I couldn’t help think about the debt incurred to achieve the ideal abode. By the time interest is paid on loans the good life can be quite pricey. It would seem many young adults want it all right now, and they may not be thinking about the real costs.

Years ago a friend told me of the philosophy her grandfather had imparted to her. He said, “It isn’t how much money you have…it is how you spend it.” At that time I had begun my first year of teaching and I wanted to reach a point of comfort when I finally retired. That plan required a good amount of earnings be consistently placed into savings or investment and having a mortgage free home.

Since there were also somewhat costly children to rear, my living spaces and attire required a bit of creativity…and sometimes a lot of elbow grease. I have to say I would love to have some of the kitchen cabinetry that gets tossed into the dumpster on those renovation shows.  In the meantime I can always add a fresh coat of paint to my cupboards.

This past week I noticed an interesting front-page story in The Chronicle Herald. A United Church minister, Lee Simpson, decided she would make 2014 her year to buy nothing.  She would only buy food, medications, and other necessities.  Her primary concern is the impact that over-consumption is having on the environment.

Buying less things also means there is less to store. There is less need for complicated storage systems to keep all things neat and tidy.  If a person can be nicely dressed while on a ten day trip with items from one average sized suitcase, a large walk-in closet may not be all that necessary.

I guess keeping my somewhat dated, but functional kitchen cupboards not only has saved me some dollars but has also resulted in less impact on the environment. I still get compliments on my ten-year-old classic style jacket, so it should be good for another year. My idea of the good life is easy on my pocketbook, is kind to the earth, and low on stress.


Shirley Hallee’s column appears bi-weekly in the Amherst News.


Organizations: The Chronicle Herald.A United Church, Amherst News

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