Disposability and Parenting - (cool) progeny

I just moved across the country. That’s right, Baltimore.  I am now a west coaster. It’s not too sad. It’s sunny and only about 68 here now. But this article really isn’t about a weather report. Moving from a lovely Baltimore row-home, complete with basement and third bedroom, to a 4-room apartment required some lifestyle editing. My husband was gleeful since he loves to cut back on material things. I was simply stressed about getting rid of enough stuff prior to the movers coming. So we did the donations and sold things on craigslist (related: (cool) progeny’s guide to upcycling and recycling). Mission accomplished. Then we got out here, without our truckful of stuff and proceeded to buy more new things at Target. Sigh.

Not suprisingly,  I’ve been contemplating this notion of disposability a lot lately. I think that our recent “disposing” was almost entirely a good thing. We tried not to throw things away and it cleared some clutter from our lives. The problem that I have with this notion is more related to our panting after the next new, big thing. Advertisers are especially good at appealing to kids about the next fun thing that they need to have.

How many parents have listened to plea after desperate plea for the new  {insert: lego set, computer game, bath time doll, Disney princess, or in my brother’s case, headphones, etc)}. Parents get to watch the looks of sheer joy as their children as presented with the coveted item. Yes! And in some cases, these precious gifts are loved and cared for for a long time. In many other cases, what was new last week is old hat this week. Sigh again.

We currently find ourselves in a new era of disposability. iTunes and the app store give us 99¢ choices to use and then move on from. This tiny investment is so negligible to us that we feel no remorse in ignoring the app that two weeks ago we were obsessed with. Kids learn from us, but often  generalize this notion to things that aren’t so easy to delete from our home screens.

It can be seen in other ways, too:

“You don’t like that dinner? Would you like something different?”

“I thought you liked that toy… Well we’ll be headed to the store this weekend, so you can pick a new one.”

“Just throw it away if you don’t want it.”

By focusing on getting rid of things or replacing them with something new, we forget the fact that many of the things that we “had to have” and then don’t need anymore end up cluttering our lives — not to mention cluttering up landfills.

Maybe this surge of interest has something to do with my new home. They don’t give out plastic bags here and if you want a paper bag to take with you, you have to pay 10¢. There is a specific move to cut down on disposable items.

So I try to keep in mind the less is more philosophy in more ways than one. When we have a lot, we might lose track of or forget about all of the things that we own. Maybe focusing on a few important items will help keep those things in our consciousness, making them well-loved, respected … and not nearly as disposable.