Buying Less

Mrs Smith chose, actively, not to invest in aspects of modern technology. Preferring instead to continue the old ways of doing things for so long as they remained functional, both practically and in terms of meeting her needs. This attitude doesn’t, by any stretch of the imagination, mean that she was completely against all of the many developments in technology that occurred during her lifetime.

She invested in the advancements which she saw as practical or useful to her everyday life, either making something significantly easier or doing something she wouldn’t otherwise be capable of. Electricity was first installed in the cottage in the 1930s, less than 10 years after she bought the property, this addition (early for rural Lincolnshire) gave her the light she needed to continue working and entertaining into the evenings and allowed her to make the most of practical time saving gadgets. A great example of this is the electric wash boiler that she had installed in the 1940s, much larger than the boiler in the range it was able to produce a greater volume of hot water in a shorter time. Taking some of the hard work out of Mrs Smith’s wash days.

The most ‘modern’ and ‘luxurious’ piece of technology Mrs Smith owned was a television, a small 1970s portable unit which she moved between the kitchen and her bedroom to meet her viewing needs. Visitors often find the television to be an unexpected discovering in a cottage which looks as if little has changed since the 1930s, yet it is a good example of Mrs Smith’s relationship with technology. Ever since the mass ownership of TV sets Mrs Smith was visiting friends most evenings to enjoy a wide variety of programmes, after over 10 years of ‘borrowing’ from friends it was realised that this box of technology was a necessity within her home meeting a need for entertainment which could not otherwise be met.

In our present age of climate change and resource scarcity Mrs Smith’s attitudes to consumption provide a gentle and realistic framework to help us all do better. We have put together 3 questions Mrs Smith might have considered when looking to buy a new item, questions which ask you to consider your genuine need for an item encouraging you to buy less without missing out.

These questions, inspired by Mrs Smith’s ethos, are not going to apply to every situation. They are designed to help you be more mindful about about the items you own, like Mrs Smith was.

Can I continue without this product?

A simple, and very straight to the point, start. Give yourself time to make do without, you will quickly realise if the item is a need or a want. For example Mrs Smith never invested in a fridge because her pantry met her food storage needs without any further input.

Can the item be borrowed?

There are some items which you simply don’t use very often. Rather than buying Mrs Smith would have looked to her local community to see if the item could be borrowed from friends and neighbors to complete jobs around the house. In todays world powertools, lawnmowers, and breadmakers are great examples of items which are generally not used everyday and could be shared by multiple households, through family or neighborhood links, saving everyone involved space and money.

A commercial example of this can be found in London at the Library of Things where people can rent the items they need, saving space within homes and reducing their personal impact on the planet.

Developing a borrowing network can be a challenge but if you start with local friends and family word of mouth will allow a rich network to grow, and with social media it is easier than ever for this network to communicate, plan, and share.

Can I repair this item?

Obviously, this question only really applies to faulty or broken items. Repair would have been Mrs Smith’s first port of call and in Navenby’s past there would have been several businesses which specialised in the repair of technology.

In todays world repair is not always possible. Many cheaply produced items cannot be easily repaired and some items, such as mobile phones or computers, have an almost planned obsolescence. However, with some online research you might be surprised by the number of things you can get repaired locally.