Catherine Gracey

Living Life, One Misadventure At A Time.

The Trap of Convenience

on October 21, 2018

If you haven’t been paying attention to the news lately, you might have missed hearing that we’ve now reached one degree Celsius of global warming and that the Paris agreement – while admirable and inspiring – hasn’t come close to producing enough policy and legal change to avert an additional degree of warming.

My family and I agreed that we might not be able to change the world, the government or big business, but what we can change are our own actions. We decided to set a goal for ourselves of becoming carbon negative. What that means is that we want to find ways to reduce our emissions as much as possible and then find ways to offset more emissions than we produce. If you’re interested in following our progress, you can read more over at the Carbon Negative Family.

We aren’t at a point where we can make big financial investments yet, so we’re looking at small behaviours that can add up. As painful as it was, one of the first things that we targeted were our convenience items. These are those little labour saving items that we couldn’t possibly do without in our time poor society.

Cutting out our little time savers began two months ago. I spent a few weeks frustrated by how much extra time the change was taking before I had the most astonishing realisation – it wasn’t actually taking extra time at all. I was noticing the time spent on new versions of old activities, and completely blind to how much time I was saving in other areas. If anything, I have more time available now than I did before we starting changing our behaviours.

Once I realised that I was time richer, I noticed another startling change: I’m not bored out of my mind any more. Instead of having one or two lengthy activities I now have a dozen quick ones. My day is more varied and I can choose between far more ways to spend my time. When my partner comes home from work and asks me what I did during the day, I actually have something to talk about.

By switching from externally produced services in the form of products to doing things ourselves, we’re becoming increasingly self-sufficient. I feel more competent to run my life however I want to, because I’ve stopped listening to all the nonsense that advertisers have been telling me for years. I’m testing their theories and I’m finding them lacking. It’s a liberating switch from being told that I, as a mere consumer, have been the one lacking all this time.

I hadn’t expected such a small number of changes to have such a big psychological change for me. What I also didn’t expect was the financial change. I’ve stopped looking at our bank account and wondering how we’re going to get to the next pay period without cutting into our savings. I’m not feeling guilty for staying home and raising our young children instead of working a paying job. Instead I’m looking at our bank account and wondering if we can buy those solar panels now that we were planning to save for over the course of a few years.

Convenience has been an ideal that I’ve held up for a long time as the standard that I should aim for. The way that I was living my life certainly was convenient…just not for me. I’ve realised that anything convenient in my life is probably a place where I’m disorganised and indulging in lazy thinking. Seeing every instance of convenience as an opportunity to think about the way I behave, to design my life rather than have it designed for me, has been invigorating. We set out with this change to help the planet, and what we’ve finally discovered is a way to help ourselves.

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