Worth and convenience

Modern western lifestyles are underpinned by a notion of convenience. We’re told how much we want things to be quick and easy, but how often do we stop to do any real cost-benefit analysis? The cost of our convenience increasingly includes environmental disaster, which will be highly inconvenient for all of us. So, I thought I’d explore some of those convenience stories and see what else might be said about them. If you have specific needs that put you in a different relationship with these issues, that’s a different matter.

It is convenient to do big shopping trips and stock up on food and it is not convenient to buy food every day, or every few days as used to be the way of it. Of course, to do this you need a car to bring the stockpile home and you need a fridge and freezer for storage. You’ll probably buy things you don’t use and that will go off because the longer term your shopping is, the harder it is to get this exactly right. All of this will cost you money, requires energy (fuel, and electricity) and the maintenance of costly items (fridge, freezer, car).

It is more convenient to buy ready-made food than make it yourself. This of course increases the amount of packaging you’ll have to recycle or throw away. Ready-made food is often bland and predictable, and not always that great nutritionally. It reinforces the idea that we have to be on the go all the time and shouldn’t expect to have time or energy for basic self-care. Making and sharing food can be a pleasure and does not have to be a chore, but if you’re run off your feet, it may be too much. Maybe not being run off our feet would be more convenient.

It is more convenient to buy ready-made clothes. Of course it takes time and skill to make your own clothes, and it costs a lot to have someone with time and skill make clothes for you. The convenience means we mostly wear clothes that don’t quite fit, that are bland and make us look like everyone else. Alongside this we’ve lost a lot of repairing skills so for many people, small damage can make a garment unwearable, which also has a cost.

Cheap disposable things are convenient. Except that they aren’t, because you keep having to deploy time, effort and money replacing them. They cost more in the long term than things that last longer. They break down and leave you missing kit you wanted or needed. They let you down.

It is more convenient to drive everywhere. Except the freedom of the open road is often the freedom to sit in queues, suffering immense frustration and breathing in pollution. Sometimes it is faster to walk or cycle, and it’s often a good deal more pleasant. The convenience of personal transport needs weighing against the cost of noise and air pollution, jammed roads, the cost of the car, and the environmental damage. Dying prematurely from car-related air pollution is not something any of us find convenient.

Flopping out in front of the television is convenient for relaxing at the end of your working day. And here they get you with adverts and images of how your home should look and yet more pressure to buy stuff. Convenient, low effort entertainment robs us of real human interactions, and all that we might find emotionally sustaining. We end up bored, lonely and unfulfilled.

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

8 responses to “Worth and convenience

  • Barney Rubble

    Gee I could write a book on this topic

  • Joe

    I agree with much of what you say here, however I’ve two points I’d like to make;
    1. Making your own clothes. As you point out this requires a lot of skill. I don’t think everyone would be able to do this. Some people just don’t “get” some things. For me it’s maths. I can’t math without a calculator, even for things most people would thing is simple. As such, I think many would still be wearing pre-made clothes, but I grant you there would probably be more originality in them.

    2. The “tv after work” thing I think is changing. With services like Netflix I don’t think people just vege infront of the telly anymore, but rather watch things they are interested in. My wife and I will usually watch an episode of something after work, but that then leads to conversation on what we thought of it, where we think it’ll go etc. It’s not just crappy TV to zone out to.

    Another point I’d make is that I think much of this, especially those that people do due to not having enough time, could be overcome if Western society was not so obsessed with a “full” work day/ week. It’s been proven time and again that many English-speaking countries work too long hours and too much of the week, but yet we continue to do it. Several countries and businesses have found 4-day work weeks INCREASE productivity, not lower it. We literally work TOO hard, and that’s supported by research, yet nothing has been done to change it by the majority of governments.

  • Barney Rubble

    A lot of it shouldn’t be a votes getting thing for either side of politics. Discussion, budgets, policy for sustainable living should exist irrespective of political parties. It is like a lot of infrastructure. All the people – regardless of beliefs – get cheated when basic human rights and standards become voting issues

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