What if there was no alternative?

A few weeks ago, my colleague was sharing her experiences of living in Malawi. Having gotten used to the slower pace of life in rural Africa, on her return to the UK she found herself wondering what everyone did to keep themselves busy all the time. “It’s amazing how much time people spend just dealing with their stuff,” she said.

When I then thought about how I was planning to spend my weekend I realised, not only does stuff cost time, stuff costs money. And the more stuff you have, the more money you feel compelled to spend. Even if intuitively you think it should be the other way around.

Bits of my iPhone 3GS are slowly breaking. I didn’t really mind the screen cracking, or the side button breaking. But recently, although it docks well enough to charge, it has stopped connecting to my speakers. My response to this: I either need to get a new phone or a new set of speakers. Maybe some that connect vis bluetooth to avoid this problem in the future. Or perhaps I should buy a new ipod, one that will dock into the existing speakers and be less bulky then my phone to carry when running.

But the thing is, if I didn’t have the phone or the speakers in the first place, I wouldn’t “need” anything new.

I thought about what I would do if I lived in a Malawian village. I wouldn’t be able to pop down the road to Argos to pick up a new ipod to solve my problem. I would just use my headphones. Hang on, I could just use my headphones.

Then it dawned on me: often we think we need things because we can get them. Because they’re accessible. But what if there was no alternative?

I there was no alternative, we might:

  • Fix holes in our clothes rather than buying new ones.
  • Finish reading one book before moving onto another.
  • Cook using the vegetables that feel slightly soft, but will taste perfectly fine once cooked.
  • Drive a car until it can no longer be repaired, rather than until you get bored of it.
  • Keep our natural hair colour, or like how our faces look make up free.
  • Use a phone until it falls apart, rather than accept automatic upgrades.
  • Run without listening to music.
  • Talk to people face to face, rather than via social media.
  • Be content with what we have, instead of striving for more.
  • Go to sleep when it gets dark, and wake up when it gets light.

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