Thursday, July 27, 2006

Waste, junk, consumerism, excess, moving house, and why collecting junk is like running the government

I will shortly be moving house. Therefore, it is an opportunity to reassess my wardrobe, throw away junk and otherwise slim down my list of possessions.

This is an extraordinarily difficult task. Apart from the impulse purchases, all the junk items I've accumulated over my life were bought for a purpose. Therefore, even stuff that hasn't been used for a year is hard to part with.... "but I might need it again! It would be a waste to bin it only to have to buy it again".

There are several issues here:

  • Some people regard it as in someway wrong to bin things that they don't need but which work

    • But.... they're not valuable enough to sell in any efficient manner

    • So... perhaps they should be given away... but to who? Who wants a six year old answering machine?

  • Gifts are difficult - it feels wrong to dispose of things that others have gifted to you

  • It seems wasteful to part with items that you may need again

There are various solutions to these problems.

  • eBay lowers the costs of marketing your unwanted items to a large number of people but there are transaction costs, fulfilment is a pain (you have to post all the junk) and there is a non-zero time cost in doing it

  • Companies such as flogit4u will do all the hard work for you but there is a minimum value for items they will take

  • Charity shops will take a lot of stuff but dumping junk on them is probably not something they would appreciate.

  • The "Freecycle" movement looks interesting. Thanks Chris

The solution I have come up with, therefore, is multi-faceted.

  • I will fill small boxes with items I no longer need and put the box as a whole on eBay. The first such box is here.

  • I will give unwanted clothes to charity

  • I will bin the rest

  • I was very tempted by freecycle but I couldn't risk the extra stress of having to coordinate multiple deliveries and collections while I was in the middle of moving house.

I can't help thinking that bundling my items will result in a lower price than had I sold them separately. But the thought of having to list and post individual phone chargers and telephone cables and alarm clocks leaves me cold. Far better for someone with more time to buy the box and make a profit by remarketing the contents separately. If you're such a person, buy this box!

At the end of this thought process, however, I have reached a depressing conclusion: the same process that results in massive piles of junk "that I might just need" is precisely the process that results in ever more regulation, bureaucracy, unnecessary governmental intervention, obscure laws and other unwarranted expansion by the state: it's very easy to acquire new stuff but very, very hard to get rid of it. Accordingly, my house move has only served to confirm my suspicion that governments should be forced to justify at length and to a high standard any new invasion of our lives before they do it. It's too late once they've done it!

No comments: