Children grow up so fast. My Spanish aunt and I were discussing just this, when my cute one-year-old cousin dropped food on her shirt. Suddenly, we switched to discussing the daily struggles of doing laundry and how it’s difficult to have enough clothes for a toddler. With this, she introduced me to a very interesting, though foreign, idea.
To my surprise, she told me that because of these challenges, they don’t always buy new clothes for the toddler. Rather, she borrows clothes from her local circle. In my very Indian mindset, I felt offended. “But aunty, isn’t that a little unwanted? Can’t we instead buy her less but new clothes?,” I retaliated.
Empathetically, she showed me this ‘Recent Mothers’ WhatsApp group that she is a part of. These mothers have met each other at local hospitals, gyms or through friends of friends. Their children are only 1-2 years apart from each other. This way, they can share books, clothes, toys and other re-usable items till they lose their shelf-life. She told me that they have built a small community of their own where they come together for different activities. One of these activities is wrapping clothes that their children have outgrown and giving them to another mother, whose child is usually a little younger than their own.
It suddenly made so much sense to me. These mothers begin sharing more than clothes itself. They enter this chapter of motherhood together and truly become each other’s confidants. In fact, I could now observe why my aunt would pick toys, clothes and other items which are of more inclusive colours and patterns for my cousin. This is simply because she was not just buying it for her child, but for other kids too. The most obvious greatness of this practice is the effective attempt at reducing wastage.
Equating this trend in the Indian society, I realised that here, trends change as fast as children grow. And we soon lose interest in our mobile phones, clothes, stationary, books and almost everything.
In fact, though I would call myself a minimalist, I, too, have fallen for various marketing gimmicks. One of them was for my eyeglasses. Within just 5-6 years of turning a four-eyed person, I have started changing my pair of glasses pair every year. And not because they were worn out, but because I wanted to try a different trend. Each time I would change a frame, I would try out a new feature like UV protection, Blue light protection, scratch-free glasses and what not.
And one day, I thought how people who do not need eyeglasses do not need any of these features either, and they actually have the healthiest eyes. So, I shunned all my fascination for the spectacle world and decided that next time, I would merely go for an ordinary frame with absolutely no extra feature for my glasses.
But then, none of the glasses I was using were as worn out. So, I tried getting our local optic store to take my older specs for an exchange value against my new pair of glasses. And he just bluntly denied it. He said, “Sorry madam, we don’t take old glasses.” Defeated, I came back home, and my mother refreshed my memory of the Indian mindset. She explained how “if he were to take my old pair of glasses, news would spread that he gives old glasses at the cost of new ones. And this store is not a brand, it’s advertisement is usually just through word of mouth.”
From a world of poverty, to merely-enough, enough, and now more-than-enough, we are consequentially headed to wastage. And I believe it is time to pause and think.
I understand that it is almost impossible to advocate for a classic definition of minimalism in a world where advertisements clog our perception of what we actually need or don’t need. But in a more modern definition, we can practically reduce instances when we would whimsically buy products that fundamentally had the same functionality. Similarly, we must also be more willing to re-use older and recycled/refurbished goods that have not exhausted their entire shelf-life. Such a shift of mindset will go a long way to recover our already ailing and weeping planet.
But like my spectacle story, one customer is helpless, unless businesses don’t promote this trend. And for them to invest in such a trend, a major shift of mindset must occur among the target audience. I believe it is crucial for each business to not stop after the mere sale of their product but must also be willing to expand their services to responsibly take back what was left by the customer.
This model is not new. In fact, we already buy bigger products on an exchange offer, but I think we must expand this to a much wider set of goods. Like clothes, toys, accessories and food too. Businesses will also equally benefit from this model because it will enhance research and development, and boost the goodwill of the company in turn for responsibly conducting business. Lastly, no business suffers from an extra source of money-making.