Resisting IKEA, aka, Thinking about a New Economy

Aug 29

met my daughter, Lindsay, at IKEA today to get her the kitchen table she wanted for her birthday. This was my first trip to the massive retail store. IKEA is a Swedish based company. This strikes me as really being out of whack since the Swedish are not mass consumers. I think I wrote about the Swedish concept of “lagom” meaning “enough” or “just the right amount”. The store is huge and full of furniture and household goods as well as a restaurant and daycare so you can shop longer. This seems to me to be a totally un-Swedish concept. Its a totally American type shopping experience designed to keep you shopping as long as possible, complete with impulse buying stations along the way.

My daughter was surprised when I seemed nonplussed by the store. She couldn’t understand why. I told her that I was past the accumulation of stuff phase in a my life so I wasn’t as drawn to all the stuff. She and her friend, Sydney, who had come along, were still in their accumulation of stuff phase. Early in the phase I might add since they both just graduated from college.

This got me thinking about when a person crosses over from the accumulation of stuff to wanting to lighten up? I don’t think there is any magic line in the sand. Some people never come to the realization that they have enough or maybe even too much and they just keep on buying. Others, like me, may have been jolted in to the realization by this economic cycle. So I wondered if a larger number of people had decided they have enough in this economic downturn and will never return to their previous consumption levels. What will this do to the economic recovery? Will we have to reinvent our economy in to something completely different that doesn’t rely on massive consumerism?

I have been moving along the line toward thinking I have too much stuff ever since my husband’s and my mother both died in early 2006. We each brought home a truck load of things on top of all the stuff we already have of our own. Just 15 years ago we lived in a tiny 900 square foot house and all our stuff fit just fine. Now we have multiples of that space and we have boxes and stacks of stuff all over the place. Over the past five years I have gradually gotten to a state where I can begin to let go of the things that were my mothers. Do I really need her 3 sets of dishes and 25 cake pans? How about 8 different colored napkins and matching placemats? Do I need 5 vegetable peelers? 30 framed prints that I will never hang on my walls because they don’t fit my taste? What about all the tools in the garage that were my Dads. Wouldn’t I be just fine with two screw drivers and one hammer and a hand drill? I think so. As I move along this spectrum I am starting to set aside items for my MEGA garage sale that I am going to have in September. It should be interesting. I’ve had garage sales before but its been a while. I used to find myself taking things back in to the house during the sale when I felt a pang of attachment. I have vowed not to do that this time. I am really going to down size. I’ve got about 4 weeks to go room by room and really whittle things down.

The trick after that will be not to reacquire more goods. I wonder if I can be successful at this. Today at IKEA I bought a tray, some boxes and some tupperware type containers. Did I really need them?

Where will the economy go if we all suddenly realize we are a lot happier without having all this stuff we have to move around, dust, watch over and care about? Can we have an economic engine driven by something else? If so what would that be? I read the book “The Great Reset – How New Ways of Living and Working Drive Post-Crash Prosperity” a few months back. It goes in depth in to how the economy is being shaken up by this. It talks about how the economy is changing now like it did during the industrial revolution and this is going to create great upheaval in the demographics of our cities and how we all live. I am not sure I agree with it all but I did find it interesting.

What do you think?

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