Things That Have Gone – 23

I said that I’d probably still manage to get rid of a few more items! Well it amounts to a cardigan and a pair of shoes sold on eBay, 2 bags of clothes returned to their original owners and 2 books sold on Amazon Marketplace.

Yet more things that weren’t actually needed! I expect the odd item will still sell on eBay in the coming months, as I have a handful left listed.

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More Truth about the Frugalwoods!

https://www.theguardian.com/money/2018/mar/08/how-to-retire-early-frugal-spending?CMP=fb_gu

I just thought I’d add this recent Guardian article on The Frugalwoods for your amusement. The truth is that they did not retire at 32, but they both still work (albeit mostly online from home). Sure, they may have abandoned the city for the countryside, but their so-called ‘Living the simple life’ would not be possible without a high-speed internet connection. So please don’t believe the hype.

Oh, it also helps that they both earn ridiculous amounts of money from their jobs (upcoming blog post giving more detail on that). I don’t disagree that they may have decided to stop embracing consumer culture, like many of us have. But once again I just want to warn people who might think they can emulate them.

They may think that they are only spending money on the very ‘basest’ of items. But I love this from the comments section:

       “Food, our mortgage, gas for the car, electricity, an internet connection, toilet paper. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, 2018”.

Whilst I’m glad that only spending on these things helped them to realise their mindless consumption. I think plenty of people in the World would consider the essentials to be food, water, shelter, warmth and rest. They probably don’t realise how Westernised their basics are.

Obviously you can read the article, but I think the comments are hilarious and really call out the truth behind some of the lies! But most of all, I’m still curious as to how they can claim not to be reliant on a salary from a job. Anyway, here’s a selection of my favourites and it’s nice to see I’m not the only one thinking this way:

“Reading the comments has saved me from reading the article. Thank you one and all”.

“Such a small, modest house they have too! I think the book should be called the The Smugwoods: Our transformational journey from city work slaves to rural phoneys who live very far away from everyone, only because we are so annoying”.

“I’m staggered by the fact that you think that living frugally in this way is exceptional. Having to make many of the ‘savings’ you describe in this article is just normal life for many people – and many are worse off than that…”

“I’m too frugalized to buy this ridiculous book”.

“And according to the article it only took them three years. 2014: decided to be frugal. 2018: Retired (!), own 66 acres and a house, book published”.

“Dear Liz (frugalized your name), Will you accept my well thumbed copy of The Bonfire of the Vanities in exchange for Meet the Frugalwoods?”

 

The Concept of Commodification

More musings from the Story of Stuff book:

Because we spend so much of our time chasing after money, to buy stuff that we don’t need, that promises us the world but delivers none of it – our communities are suffering. We spend so much time on the above, that we’re not available to be present and useful amongst our local community. This feeds our discontent and unhappiness because people in our local community could meet our need for relationship. We can have our emotional needs met by having a chat with a neighbour. We can have logistical needs met, by a neighbour bringing us a meal, babysitting, dog-walking, offering a lift or taking in our mail whilst we’re away.

Ironically, all of these things have now been commodified in our consumerist society and are available to buy from strangers, at a price! Probably most people don’t even know their neighbours these days, since all they do is go to work early and arrive home late. They are too busy, too stressed, time-poor and over-scheduled. No wonder we have increasing amounts of isolated elderly, or even depressed and overweight adults and children in our society. And the solution is really so simple!

If you’re a systems thinker, than you might liken this phenomenon to a negative feedback loop. A problem or problems, that cause an effect that only serves to add to the original problem. We now have to work harder, to pay for the kinds of service that friends and neighbours used to provide for free. This only serves to add to our stress levels and lack of time. So you can see how the downward spiral continues!

More Musings on the Story of Stuff – Branding & Marketing

As I said yesterday, I’m currently reading this book:

Today, in the chapter on distribution I struck upon something horrifying. I guess I sort of knew this already, but seeing it in black and white is even more shocking. I’m sure we all know that most companies out there don’t actually make the stuff they sell, but they buy it in and have unknown manufacturers make it for them. We’ve seen this so much in the clothing industry where brands like H&M and Primark have clothes made up in India and take no responsibility for the working practices of those in their supply chain. This is all part of these companies plans to cut costs, basically by abdicating responsibility.

This efficiency driven, cost-cutting is pervasive. Companies don’t make the stuff they sell, they simply brand it. Apple don’t make computers, but they sure as heck have created a brand that people crave. H&M don’t make clothes, Nike doesn’t make trainers. They all simply buy the garments and items from producers, or the parts to assemble them and often not even from the same factory, but from multiple producers. It’s quite possible that one factory churns out the exact same product for multiple retailers.

So really, let’s face it – it’s often not the item we are buying, but we’ve been sold on the brand. The founder of Nike even admitted that the company once saw themselves as production oriented, but that they now understand their most important function is to market the product. So guess where they put all their money? Advertising. And often this advertising isn’t even for a specific product, it’s all about the image they want to associate with their brand. Nike aren’t selling your trainers, they are selling you a fashion statement that in this climate will probably be outdated in a mere 2 weeks!

Biomimicry

I’m currently reading this book: The Story of Stuff. How Our Obsession with Stuff is Trashing the Planet, Our Communities, and Our Health – and a Vision for Change by Annie Leonard.

I’m ashamed to say that I picked it up in a charity shop about 4 years ago, started to read it, stopped and then it went back on the shelf for years! Let’s just say it’s quite heavy going and American-centric, but there are a lot of relevant points to anyone, living anywhere in the world.

Today, I was interested to learn of the concept of ‘biomimicry‘. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard that term used and described in this particular way before. But I wanted to make a note of it for future reference. Biomimicry is apparently a trend in modern design, in which designs are influenced by nature.

There is even an organisation called the Biomimicry Institute which has noticed that “nature, imaginative by necessity, has already solved many of the problems we are grappling with. Animals, plants, and microbes are the consummate engineers. They have found what works, what is appropriate, and most important, what lasts here on earth. This is the real news of biomimicry: After 3.8 billion years of research and development, failures are fossils, and what surrounds us is the secret to survival.

Biomimicry experts have identified the following list of core principles in how nature functions:

  1. runs on sunlight and uses only the energy it needs
  2. uses a water-based chemistry
  3. fits form to function
  4. recycles everything
  5. rewards cooperation
  6. banks on diversity
  7. demands local expertise
  8. curbs excesses from within
  9. taps the power of limits

So, the art and science of biomimicry takes these principles and figures out how to make human technologies, infrastructure, and products that adhere to them as well.

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Some examples given in the book, are that the peacock’s brilliant feathers are not created through pigment, but through shape. They have many layers that allow light to bounce off them in different ways, which translate as colour to the naked eye. I had to Google this a bit further, it’s known as ‘structural colouration’ and was first discovered by Robert Hooke and Isaac Newton (2 English scientists). It describes microscopically structured surfaces, fine enough to interfere with invisible light (sometimes in combination with pigments). So, peacock feathers are actually pigmented brown, as you can see when you turn them over. But it’s their microscopic structure that makes them reflect blue, green and turquoise light and they are often iridescent. Butterflies also use this ‘technique’. Perhaps this could avoid the need for toxic dyes to be created, if we could harness a similar technique?

mother_of_pearl_by_fallout99-d6ms7zq

Mother of pearl is created in cold, salt water – a substance twice as strong as ceramic. Perhaps we could eliminate the use of fossil fuels, in heating kilns to make ceramics? Maybe we could learn to extract metals from cold water?

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The threads that hold a mussel shell to a rock naturally dissolve after 2 years. Perhaps we could study this and learn to create compostable packaging? (I think this one is starting to occur, approx 10 years after the book was written).

I’m not a product designer, but I did once study art. I think it’s fascinating to look at the natural world more closely, even if I was just doing it for beauty’s sake. I would have no idea how to create the intricacies of a leaf, for example, with veins running through it to carry water and nutrients, or cells that contained chlorophyll and knew how to grow, and goodness else knows whatever else goes on in there! But I bet there are scientists who could begin to work on these dilemmas. Perhaps artists could work with scientists to create truly beautiful, functional designs that remained harmless to us and our planet?

It seems to me that there is more to being a designer than just knowing about technology, or engineering, or science. Everything in the natural world seems to hold some innate beauty within it too. I can’t help but come back to the Christian ideas of intelligent design or things being created by someone far cleverer than us. Perhaps the plants and animals haven’t found out what works by trial and error over time? Perhaps they were designed that way from the outset? By someone who already knew the delicate balance of the earth’s chemistry and systems? It’s an interesting thought isn’t it?

How I made over £2,800 selling my stuff!

You may remember that about a year ago, I wrote a post telling you how I’d made over £800 selling every day items on eBay. Well, here I am a year down the line and spurred on by my initial success – I just kept selling stuff over the course of a year. I’m here to tell you that I have an extra £2,800 back in my bank account (before deductions like postage, fees etc).

Nothing I sold was extraordinary, as you have been able to track through my series of posts entitled ‘things that have gone this week’, where I’ve tried to keep some kind of record. I just logged each item in a ledger book, out of pure interest – I do this with all my moneysaving exploits and it allows me to keep a reasonably accurate log of how much money I’d saved. In-case you’re interested, since 2012 I have an extra £34,340 in my bank accounts through my combined money saving exploits – as documented right here!

I guess I’d just encourage every one to really look hard at what they’ve got lurking in their cupboards and question whether they really need it. Clothing is a weakness of mine and makes up a huge proportion of what I’ve let go – probably 80% But gone also are books, DVDs, shoes, household items, jewellery, technology and craft items. It just shows as well that these things can be sold at the right price, if they are in good condition. I’ve also donated bag fulls of items which aren’t listed in my ledger and I have no objection to charities benefitting from things I no longer want and/or need. However, that £2,800 is very welcome back in my bank also as we’re on a pretty fixed income which is going to decrease from now on as I will not be working due to having a baby.

My primary motivation with this session of decluttering was to a) clear space so that the baby could have their own room and b) get some cash so that we could afford to buy the things that baby needed. We were never looking to buy it all brand new, for so many reasons but even so we have needed to spend £1,300 on items for the new arrival. Some of that was made up by vouchers from sites like Swagbucks, Valued Opinions and Pinecone etc. But as you can see, my decluttering has left us with some spare to buy the things that will inevitably be required over the coming months and years.

So it’s over and out from me, for now on the decluttering front as I literally don’t have any more to sell or get rid of right now. But I will certainly be selling things the baby grows out of in due course!