Not just a “No Junk Mail” sign

Getting a “No Junk Mail” sign has changed my life. Seriously.

We recently moved into our newly built house, in a residential area, from a rental on the cusp of an industrial area. In our old house, we didn’t get junk mail; it seems it wasn’t worth sending someone walking down the street mostly inhabited by mechanics, metal work shops, and scrap yards. I had mostly forgotten about the plague that is junk mail, until I received our first delivery. And then our second. And then our third.

It seemed we were getting junk mail delivered twice or three times a week; enough to fill up our letterbox and make receiving our actual mail impossible. Every few days I would bring the catalogues inside, and put them on the counter, where they would eventually be moved to the table, ocassionally flicked through, and chucked in the recycling bin.

Our inside recycling bin was filling up with catalogues, constantly needing to be emptied, and our table and benches were full of marketing materials. These catalogues can’t be composted, it’s questionable whether they are all recyclable, and in our house, they are an entirely unnecessary burden.

You see, the biggest issue with junk mail in our house isn’t the letterbox being full, or the recycling bin overflowing (although it pains me that materials with no use to me were being immediately thrown into the overloaded and under performing recycling system), it was the power of marketing. I thought to myself, it might be fun to flick through a catalogue every now and then with my coffee, to get storage ideas or find the best priced grocery items for the week. In reality, all it did was make me want things I didn’t want before.

I’m an intelligent woman, and I know that I don’t actually need a vegetable slicer that cuts them into different shapes. But if that was in a catalogue I’m flicking through, at a discounted price, you better believe my brain would deceive me and I’d envision myself as the pretty blonde woman in the photo slicing my vegetables into stars and love hearts.

Wow, [insert name of cheap homewards store] has futon bed/couches on sale! I bet we could use one of those!

Yes, inner voice who is teaming up with capitalism and consumerism, you’re right. We could use that for the spare room.

But we do not need it.

It’s not just that we don’t need all these things, but we especially don’t need them all new. In our house, we don’t consider new to be better. We don’t consider new to always be worth it. We don’t consider mass manufactured to be ideal, and we certainly don’t consider our lives to be lacking. But this is what junk mail serves to do; it invades your home, piling up to remind you that this home is not enough. The things and the stuff that your life moves around; they’re not new enough, not shiny enough, and not modern enough.

I’ve recently read Growing up Wild by Alexia and Duncan Barrable. This book is a two-part exploration of the importance of kids (and adults) spending time in nature. Part 1 reviews the scientific literature in favour of consistent exposure to nature, in relation to mental and physical well-being as well as character formation. The second part details the “Year Outside” challenge Alexia took on; to get her family outside for 30 minutes a day for 365 days. The theory and the practical together like this shows just how much stuff we, and our kids, don’t need to flourish. Barrable explores some literature and personal experience on children’s relationships to toys. It turns out, the more toys a child has available, the less deeply they engage with the toys, their peers, and the environment they’re in.

We pick out toys carefully; often bought from Opshops, open ended with no predetermined way to “play”, and not overwhelmingly loud or obnoxious. It’s not always easy, mind you! We (I) have bought toys that look cool that are developmentally behind where our son is at. I’ve bought toys that catch my eye at playgroup or that a friend has, regretting it later. But what makes it easier, is that faithful “No Junk Mail” sign.

No more catalogues telling me I don’t have enough stuff for my baby to throw away in favour of a stick. No more catalogues telling me my family isn’t stylish enough for the upcoming season.

That little metal plaque has done wonders for our home. If you don’t have one, I highly recommend it. Take aaneasy step towards being happier with what you have; you won’t regret it.

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