With the first day of temperatures above freezing for what seems like an eternity, it seemed like a good idea to do a bit of tidying around the house. Now I had always considered myself to be the sort of person who didn't gather too much 'stuff', a theory which bit the dust when I moved house eighteen months ago, and needed a rather large skip to dispose of the detritus of my life.
It is amazing just how much stuff the average person gathers in the course of a lifetime. Given the falling price of household goods over the past two decades, it is easier to buy a replacement than to repair the old item or, worse still, buy something that you see in a sale because it is cheap and you probably need one. We tend to forget what we actually have, due to relative plenty, and you could argue that this has been a factor in the consumer-led boom that ran into the sand last year.
We are often the same with food. We buy food, put it away and forget about it. Supermarkets tempt us with offers and we end up buying things that we hadn't actually needed. I'm as guilty as anyone. As a single male, I quite often impulse shopped, ending up with fresh food that ended up in my recycling bin, dry goods that went past their use by date, and frozen food that sustained freezer burn, and I'm not much better married. In financial and environmental terms, it's a bit of an indulgence. Worse still, my indiscipline means that I need to waste time making shopping trips for small amounts of stuff when I could be doing something more useful - and believe me, I could use the time.
My wardrobes are the same. I tend to keep things that I've outgrown, in the optimistic expectation that I might lose some of the weight I've put on over the years. As a result, I have drawers full of clothes that I don't use, and find it hard to locate the clothes that fit. The temptation is to go out and buy more, rather than get good use out of those that I've already spent good money on.
My parents, and the generations before them, didn't have access to such a vast array of cheap 'stuff'. They tended to get more use out of what they had, and saved the remainder for a rainy day. Perhaps we need to rediscover that sense of living within our means as a way of changing the consumer-led culture that has led to unprecedented levels of personal debt, and the resultant financial vulnerability of so many in our communities.