Combating Mindless Consumerism for Those of Us Who Love Tools
Updated: Dec 18, 2019
I love working with my hands and it seems that there are an endless array of new tools that I can purchase and wield to do just about anything. The problem is that I find myself craving new tools almost for the sake of acquisition. I think everyone has a favorite type of thing that they find themselves collecting. It could be clothing, technology, art etc. There is nothing wrong with having passions that include material objects, the problem is when the costs and the space consumed outweighs the benefits to your life.
By this time it is obvious to most that we have been programmed from a young age to be consumers, and many people have turned to the philosophy of minimalism to combat these weird urges.
My first foray into minimalism was the audio version of the international best selling sensation "The Life Changing Magic of Tidying up", which went a long way in helping my wife and I to de-clutter in a major way and reassess our relationship with stuff. Although an excellent book for anyone, I personally found many aspects of that book to be targeted toward urban dwellers, particularly affluent women, with large wardrobes but not alot of tools or implements of trade. It is for that reason that I found myself forming my own philosophy when it came to the tools in my home shop. At the time I read that book I was an aspiring woodworker and rather than get rid of most of my woodworking tools as I had done with my clothing (I now only have 5 changes of clothes total, down from about 50), I got rid all of my hobby clutter that was unrelated to woodworking. I tore down all of the dividing walls in my basement and made a 1000 square foot neat working space where a musty and indecisive storage space had previously been. I was able to do this because I came to realize that the stuff I had been storing had no real value or meaning to my life.
That all of us will soon be gone from this earth is a powerful reason to live in the now and to narrow and hone your interests in certain ways. My wife, who is an excellent artist, agreed to get rid of many of her art supplies like the giant potters wheel and kiln she had, or the boxes and boxes of printmaking equipment she had to purchase from college. Her interests have narrowed to the creation of handcrafted herbal products like incense and tinctures, and the narrowing of that scope actually helps her engage more fully in those activities.
I still find myself constantly tempted by new tools, and for anyone interested in any type of craft there is an infinite amount of expensive stuff that purports to make you better or faster at what you do. I think it is important simply to consider one's priorities, the space a new object will take up, it's care, and how useful it will actually be before acquiring new things. The adage that "our stuff owns us" is increasingly true in the age of cheap overseas manufacture. To have a small set of simple quality tools should be the goal.
As someone who takes pride in being able to fix things I find myself wanting to save nuts, bolts, screws, little metal and plastic parts etc related to all sorts of things. I recently came to the understanding that this is a rediculous practice in an age where you can go to a local store and pick up this stuff for cheap. Additionally, you can save this stuff in hopes that you will need exactly that in the future, but that rarely turns out to be the case. More often you are screwing a drywall screw where a deck screw should have gone etc.
Mindfulness is the key to combatting the urges that all of us have to consume and acquire. With tools or anything else there is much to be gained from stepping back and reassessing what it is you are trying to accomplish.