‘Free yourself from the tyranny of objects.’
So instructs the Kazimir Malevich quote turned Manic Street Preachers lyric that has been going round and round my head of late. I have been trying, to free myself. With mixed results.
Since the start of this year we have been making a concerted effort to cut down on the amount of stuff that comes into our house and the amount of money that leaves our bank account. We called it Operation Frugality (Actually that’s a lie, I called it Operation Frugality, because I am a giant loser and like the drama.)
And it’s tougher than I anticipated, to stop spending money. To stop impulse purchasing pretty things and to plan well enough in advance that you don’t need to pick stuff up as a matter of convenience, be it coffee or sandwiches or a forgotten umbrella. Buying stuff is not only habitual, but often enjoyable, (well of course, our entire society is built on a bedrock of capitalism, which wouldn’t work half as well if everybody stopped, y’know, capitalising).
We have made changes though: A drastically slashed weekly food budget, homemade toiletries and cleaning products, fewer items popped idly in the shopping basket and paid for with plastic so it’s as if you never paid at all. Our new loft sits almost devoid of furniture because I can barely summon the energy to search and search and spend money on the perfect thing to put the piles of clothes into. They do no harm on the floor. The kettle whose lid no longer opens still boils water, the freezer keeps making a weird beeping noise, but it keeps things frozen. We’d rather go out for dinner than fix electrical appliances, although I sat on my phone last week and the screen is now so shattered it gives my thumbs splinters, so may need to reprioritise. Damn my lack of insurance!
In the midst of all this trying to cut down, I bought (yes, the irony doesn’t escape me), All You Need Is Less by Madeliene Somerville, or Sweet Madeleiene to readers of her excellent blog. Then I leant it to a friend to read and bought another copy for a friend’s birthday. It’s that kind of book. And if you too get excited by reducing your consumption, making your own toothpaste and composting in urban settings (like, everyone yes?) then you should buy it too.
Easily the best thing about All You Need Is Less is that it is funny. Self deprecating, knowing and very, very funny, (there is an anecdote about freezing compost that had me in tears). Madeleine is not sitting up on her judgey, judgey Eco pedestal telling you how to live your life, she is just giving you some dead simple ways to get one over on the man and be kind to the planet. Under Madeleine’s instruction I have stopped forgetting my reusable bags when I go shopping, switched our takeaway of choice to one that doesn’t use plastic containers, started carrying coffee round in jam jars and taken a bath in diluted vinegar, just kidding (not kidding!).
Plus it is just really, really cool to have followed someone on Tumblr for years, and then watch them make the leap to bonafide author. Incredible, life affirming stuff right there.
I have always been an Eco nerd. I jumped on the cloth nappy band wagon faster than I could get pregnant (which was pretty damn fast, let me tell you), but to make this extended stay at home Mum gig work and to survive on one income, I need to go beyond buying products that are environmentally friendly and work on the reducing side of the deal. In other words: not buying that shit in the first place, as opposed to buying it and then upcycling it into a jaunty hat. Madeliene’s book, which focuses on ‘reducing’, really resonated with me and had me making notes because there were just so many ‘I must do that!’ moments.
So whether you can afford to buy it at your local independent bookstore, or if you kinda have to suck up the evil and get it on Amazon, whether you can locate it at your library, or if you have a friend that you can pilfer it from, get your hands on a copy of All You Need Is Less. And then kick back with your coconut oil and apple cider vinegar and grate yourself some soap. For the planet yeah?