An older guy I work with occasionally puzzles over why there are so many storage facilities, and when they became necessary. As far as he can recall—and he’s not so old his memory has totally failed him—storage lockers didn’t exist when he was younger. What happened?
Seems like people bought a lot of stuff. More stuff than they need. More stuff than they have room for.
Seems like when we need or want something, our first instinct is to buy it. There are, however, alternatives, like bartering, sharing, renting, and other less expensive and wasteful ways to have the use of what you need without having to pay the full cost. And without having to rent a storage locker when you’re not using it.
Enter “unshopping.” Instead of constantly buying new products, unshoppers find other ways to get what they need. Here are a few tips on how to get started:
1. Use your networks to find what you need
Even if you don’t know your neighbors, you can connect with people in your area through the Freecycle Network, a non-profit movement that claims more than 5,000 groups and almost 9,000,000 users worldwide. Users can search their town or county and check postings to see if their “want” matches another person’s “offer.” You might find items that you won’t use for a lifetime, like a car seat or moving boxes. You can also find used appliances, like vacuum cleaners or humidifiers. By distributing these goods for free, the Freecycle Network provides a valuable service at no cost to you and keeps about 500 tons a day out of landfills.
2. Be neighborly and Share Some Sugar
Think about how much you could save by sharing those once-in-a-while items, like a drill or a GPS. Sites like Share Some Sugar provide a list of resources that can help a person borrow, barter, and rent items within their community. For example, you can share cars, rides, and bikes. You can rent textbooks, toys, and even a designer handbag. Need a hedge trimmer, shovel, ladder, or lawn mower? Borrow it! That way, you don’t have to buy an expensive item that will sit unused most of the time. This collaborative approach is another way to save money and limit clutter in your home.
3. Shop for a good cause
Carrotmob is a nonprofit organization that encourages people to “vote with their money.” People agree to spend money on a particular business in exchange for that business’s agreement to take positive action. So far, there have been over 200 campaigns in 20 countries. Each campaign targets a different issue—like social justice, fair trade, or health—but most of them focus on sustainability and energy. For example, in Hawaii, supporters agreed to spend money at a local wine store if the store used 80% of the profits to retrofit the building’s energy system. Currently, Carrotmob is planning a campaign in Boulder, Colorado, for the end of April. If consumers spend a total of $2,500 at a sandwich shop, the store will use the revenues for energy efficient upgrades.
The psychological literature today makes it clear than many of us define ourselves by what we wear or what we own. Loyalty to trustworthy brands can make sense. But unshopping defines individuals by the things they choose not to buy. It may represent a return of frugality and resourcefulness - notable virtues in that they let you keep your money in the bank!