I’m wondering whether the US knows how to do anything in moderation. I’ve temporarily relocated to an RV where I’ll be living for a couple of months. As with all tiny house living, my 100 sq ft of living area mean space is critical.
My cabinets are plentiful, and I have a large closet, but I still have to think carefully about what I purchase. This morning, I placed my first grocery order and realized it’s next to impossible to get containers of condiments, dishwashing soap, and butter in the amounts I need them. Travel size is a bit too small for my length of stay, and regular sizes are waaaay too big.
This time, I was shopping at an average chain supermarket where I expect to find a variety of brands and all the basics. If I had chosen a wholesale club, the packaging would be even larger. I could have picked a specialty market with expensive brands in smaller containers, but then I’d have to pay more for everything or shop at multiple stores.
It seems crazy to me that we can have acres and acres of ground covered by supermarkets and lack right size options in popular brands that reduce waste and require less cabinet space. I understand the efficiency and economy of buying more, but if that creates waste on the back end, those are diminished.
I don’t know why this surprises me. We are a culture of excess living in an era of increase.
Following an energy crisis in the 1970s, we didn’t abandon the SUV or ever larger pickup trucks, we shook off our initial panic and filled the roads with them.
Over the past 20 years, our bagels have grown from 3 inches to 6 inches and 140 calories to 350 calories. Even turkey sandwiches have doubled in calories.
The average American employee spends more hours at work than workers in Japan, the UK, and Germany at an average of 37.5 hours per week. And that average is lower than the hours put in by many of my acquaintances for whom a 60-hour work week is not uncommon.
It has become a sign of good parenting for children to be enrolled in multiple organized extracurricular activities. Without moderation, this leaves little time for sitting still, experiencing the wonder of a sunset, or lying in the grass watching the clouds.
And we don’t just purchase larger grocery items. Our closets are filled. My grandmother had two or three Sunday dresses, one pair of pants for lawn and garden work, and a couple of casual dresses. She didn’t own 5 pairs of shoes, much less 15. I packed more clothes in my RV than my grandmother owned, and it is a tiny fraction of what I have.
I even have two TVs. TWO in just over 100 sq. ft. I wouldn’t call that moderation. And I haven’t even turned them on. Clearly, I don’t need one, much less two. And yet, the multiples are considered a selling point.
The more I look around, the more I observe excess. And it has momentum. There’s a push toward more, longer, faster, bigger. Minimalism pushes back but is not winning the culture war in the US.
Surrounding ourselves by excess, doesn’t seem to make us more content. It just leaves me wondering why we don’t do anything in moderation.