Having recently survived the festive season, I witnessed with growing alarm (perhaps moreso than other years) the inordinate amount of cheap plastic rubbish that people purchase to celebrate the holidays.
And I’m not talking about the cheap plastic utilitarian rubbish that lasts a few days or weeks or months then promptly loses whatever mojo it may have had only to end up broken, lost or otherwise beaten into the submission of landfill.
No, I’m talking about the cheap plastic do-nothing junk known as “novelties”. From plastic “wobbly-dogs” that do nothing other than bob their heads when you nudge them, to plastic frogs that ribbet when you walk through the door; from plastic buddhas to inane wall decorations that scream cheap and nasty…what is this fascination that people have with spending their money on items they do not need and that will barely see the New Year, let along extend through a life well lived?
Why do humans feel compelled to surround themselves with junk? Some say it’s because they can’t afford to buy quality. Personally, I don’t buy that excuse for a moment. Indeed, I recently had a conversation with someone who asserted that the proliferation of cheap discount stores within Australia is testimony to the wealth of this nation and its people – that people who have money to waste on cheap junk are wealthy without even realising it (wealthy, certainly, in contrast to those people who don’t have the option to spend their hard earned dollars at the local discount department shop).
I also disagree that quality always costs money. Novelties aside (frankly I don’t see the purpose in these consumables – surely there are better ways to amuse ourselves), there’s little stopping people these days from sourcing quality products second-hand – whether through online second-hand stores or charity shops on the street.
Let me offer some personal examples. I am fortunate to live a good life surrounded by beautiful and functional items, the vast majority of which I have acquired second-hand. This includes a room-size Persian carpet made of 100% New Zealand wool that I purchased online for $100. The same rug brand new was priced at $3500! My lovely rug is in perfect condition, no flaws or stains. And like so many second-hand items, the rug comes with a story: The owners were a recently married middle-aged couple whose combined household items now had to be halved. The rug had to go and so they put it up for auction. When I went to collect the rug, I learned that I’d won the auction having outbid the owners of a nearby bordello.
I’ve also purchased major items of furniture second-hand – from a large recycled timber table no longer needed by the family whose kids had now left home, to an old mahony display hutch formerly owned by rather scary neo-Nazis. My second-hand Briggs & Stratton lawn mower is a bit rough around the edges but it starts every time and does a ripper job on the grass without raising a sweat.
The list goes on…but the point remains the same. You don’t need to spend a fortune to get what you need. And you certainly don’t need to waste your time or money on something new that’s made of poor materials and produced through a highly dubious production process. It might be cheap across the counter, but the costs of such junk are astronomical – environmentally and socially, in particular.
A much better option is to keep clear of the discount stores, I reckon. New and cheap is seldom, if ever, the best way to go, not least because there’s already enough “stuff” in the world to go around.
So next time you’re thinking of buying something cheap and new, pause for a moment, jump online, ask your mates, and suss out whether you can lay your hands on a much better product, second-hand, ready for a new owner to take it home.
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