The fifties and the early sixties brought with it a new era. The seeds were sown of a family life made easier by a series of technological advances unimaginable even a decade before. Initially the affluent household was the major target. The more budget-restricted or budget-wise households could not keep up with this rush of wonderful objects that promised so much. A number of opportunist financial companies were quick to jump on the wagon. They offered a range of credit arrangements, the most popular of which being the ‘buy now, pay in installments’ option which is interesting in itself as it eventually lead to the birth of our ‘flexible friends’, the credit cards.These new financial possibilities contributed significantly to the changing of the attitudes towards debts ( socially frowned upon ). Credits were not debts. Not having the money did not mean you had to go without anymore.
Most effectively and accurately labelled as time-saving devices, many an electrical appliance, large and small, found its way into our homes. These devices not only saved time but required significantly less, in some cases almost none, of the previous human effort. We were saving our energy and our time to do other more useful and fulfilling things. A revolution was taking place. We were being freed from a range of boring, tedious and strenuous chores. This was surely heaven-sent not only for a small percentage (then) of working women juggling a job and a home but also for the majority of women who seemed to be trapped in a vicious circle of work, more work and then some more work at home. Men were equally awarded although in other areas of interest. Keep in mind that the division of labour at home was very much gender based back then. Women had their chores and men had theirs, the contribution of the former vastly outweighing the contribution of the latter. With technology lives were somewhat liberated in particular those of women ready for the big wide world outside. There were careers to be had, goals to be attained.
The products became more and more available and affordable. It was the commence of the new lifestyle.
And now … decades after? The list of technological ‘must-haves’ have increased exponentially. We are still buying those life changing appliances that once came into our homes so unexpectedly. Buying them over and over again. There is always the latest model… the one with more applications… the quicker, lighter, more powerful version..more dependable one.. it was a bargain one…the one that matches the colour scheme of the kitchen, wallpaper or whatever… the one that all our friends or our neighbours seem to have. ‘Keeping up with the Joneses’ has a lot to answer for… ( I have had a ‘penny dropping moment’ just now.It has just occurred to me that a certain reality show of a certain family must have had its title derived from this idiom. How fitting! ) Surely our major concern is no longer keeping up with the Jonesses.
Self imposed restrictions to gadget consumerism ( I saw the light as I was moving house a few years back) has done wonders to my budget and to my home. My kitchen is clutter free. I save time and space. I don’t have to go through numerous tin openers to decide which one to use. When an appliance completes its lifespan it gets replaced. I ignore the endless advertisements telling me how wonderful my life would be if I had that new funky fuchsia fridge…the vacuum cleaner that does not forgive a minuscule speck of dust that might be luring in between the strips of flooring in my sitting room. This is not self-deprivation. It is common sense. After all I have a functional vacuum cleaner and a pretty good fridge already.
In general, there seems to be a wave of sensibility as far as consumerism is concerned despite appearances. We are more aware of the concept of strategic marketing. No wonder they want to find out so much about us and use the information to modify their tactics so as to tempt and lure us.
How we react is up to us. For me its all about prioritising and knowing that I don’t need to own ‘this and that’ available to me to buy to be happy.
So instead of purchasing that Polka Dot toaster ( with matching kettle no less) that would look so lovely in my kitchen and toast ten slices of bread (!) in one go, I shall go and watch the Oscar nominated film showing at the cinema. I might even use my mismatched toaster and kettle to have a cup of tea and a slice of toast before I do.