There’s a shop near me in London called Poundland. It does what it says on the tin, offering a plethora of plastic for one hundred pennies or less. Truth be told, you can get pretty much everything you need from Poundland, from batteries to lightbulbs, chocolate to washing-up liquid, clothing to DVDs and books.
It’s a cheap and cheerful formula that has resonated with cash-strapped consumers in the UK, with group sales surging 25 per cent over the all important festive period last year, as price conscious punters stocked up on 24.5 million Christmas cards, 10,000 miles of wrapping paper, four million Toblerones and three million boxes of Maltesers. The company forecasts turnover is to reach £1bn (€1.19bn) by 2014.
Poundland clearly makes perfect sense in a world flooded by quick fix products and disposable possessions. I’ve made a fair few purchases there myself. But recently I’ve been suffering from possession fatigue, worn down by the phantasmagoria of stuff that is my flat.
I don’t know if it’s a worrying sign of an upset work-life balance, but I seem to now spend my life editing. It has become more than a day job – it now informs my approach to my possessions, my activities, even my friends and contacts. In a world of clutter and noise, I’ve started to realise that less may indeed be more.
Humans think through things – we always have. Since that first early ancestor’s thumb squeezed a clay pot on some ancient plain in the Fertile Crescent, threaded an amber bead by the Danube, or slung on an animal pelt to protect against an impending ice age, that messy web of objects that we surround ourselves with and survive through has become something like an extended body.
What does it mean if this extended body is made of cheap plastic though? If you are what you eat, in biological terms, then you are what you consume too. In a world where luxury has been devalued by a logo obsessed consumer that doesn’t much care where or how things are made, we may have lost sight of the person behind the product.
Times are changing of course, and as the rapacious markets of Asia and South America grow ever more sophisticated, this first wave of logo-fuelled consumption is giving way to a quieter, more considered consumption based on craft and quality.
And so I’ve decided to start looking after my extended body in the same way as I try to look after my physical body, and buy a little less, but buy what matters.