Are we ruled by our "stuff"?

[deleted account] ( 25 moms have responded )

This article quotes a study that shows that British children are victims of consumerism. It doesn't compare to the US or Australia, but is it the same in those countries?

Do you think you are a slave to your stuff?

See below...


LONDON: British parents are trapping their children in a cycle of ''compulsive consumerism'' by showering them with toys and designer labels instead of spending time with them, a United Nations report has found.

The UNICEF report warns that materialism has come to dominate family life in Britain as parents ''pointlessly'' amass goods for their children to compensate for their long working hours. While parents said they felt compelled into buying more, children said spending time with their families made them happier.

UNICEF suggested the obsession with consumer goods was one of the underlying causes of the riots and widespread looting which gripped the country last month.

It called for the government to ban advertising aimed at children less than 12 years, and to encourage parents to work fewer hours and spend more time at home.

The study, which was jointly funded by the Department for Education, was commissioned after an earlier UNICEF report ranked Britain as the worst country in the industrialised world to be a child. It prompted the Prime Minister, David Cameron, to coin the expression ''broken Britain'' and fuelled calls for family-friendly policies.

In the study, researchers asked hundreds of children in Britain, Sweden and Spain about their ideas of happiness and success. They found children in Sweden and Spain were significantly happier. In those countries, family time was prioritised and people felt less pressure to own material goods, the study found.

Parents in Britain work longer hours and are simply ''too tired'' to play with their children.

Families across Britain, irrespective of social class or race, are less likely to spend time, eat or play games with their children, who are often left to their own devices.

The report's author Dr Agnes Nairn said: ''Parents in the UK almost seemed to be locked into a system of consumption which they knew was pointless but they found hard to resist.''

Telegraph, London

25 Comments

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Amie - posted on 09/16/2011

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Well we can't really give our kids any more of our time. I`m a SAHM and my husband works a 5 days on/5 days off schedule. We spend a lot more time with them than a lot of families we know. I know our kids wouldn't change it because they've stated before that they feel bad for their friends who don`t get to see their dads as often as ours get to see theirs.



We also have a lot of stuff. We have a huge house. Multiple vehicles. We do because we can. It's convenient for us. We could live in a smaller house, we could live with just one vehicle but as long as we have the disposable income to support our life - we're not changing.



Our kids have a lot but they're well rounded kids. They each have a t.v. in their room. Our youngest two have a DVD player, our older two have that as well as a game system in their room. They spend, maybe, 2 hours per week in there actually using that stuff. It's there though and they have it because they wanted it and earned it. Another interesting lesson that came from this was understanding money. Not just knowing but understanding. Some things have age restrictions (sort of). Our oldest wants a cell phone, not a smart phone - a cell phone. We are also rural so it's something we've been thinking about. Especially with her joining activities at school on top of the ones she does away from school. That child likes to be busy. =/



Now back to this "ruled by our stuff" aspect. I think it is possible. If you are living outside your means, if you are "keeping up with the jones", etc. Then yes, you are being ruled by stuff. That is damaging not only to the person but the family, if there is one.



We have things because we can afford them. When we couldn't afford them, we didn't have them. I would sell it if needed but right now, we are in a position where we don't need to struggle for anything. So we will continue to live this way. I don't feel bad about it. It's easy to judge others when you are not there to see what's really going on.



I've seen people look at me shocked when they learn what my children have, then they look at my kids and wonder how come they're not brats. I'm still a parent, I still have some high expectations of them that I help them achieve. More does not equal brat. They are spoiled (by some people's standards) but they are not brats.

[deleted account]

Re trying to avoid buying STUFF for your kids and as presents for others - we often give "event" type gifts. I mean the present is that you do something special with them eg going out somewhere special like the zoo or the beach or for a bushwalk with friends. For other kids birthday presents we sometimes say "we'll take you out to the movies and/or you can stay the night at our place" - kids reallly like that better than being given a plastic toy.

[deleted account]

Its a hard thing to not be ruled by shopping and stuff. It stimulates the same area of the brain that hunting and gathering does. Its like a primitive instinct people can not always control.

Sherri - posted on 09/15/2011

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I can't speak for other households in the US. However, I am a SAHM with my kids every moment they are not in school. My kids only get gifts on birthdays, Easter and Christmas and even then we do not have a ton of money so they certainly aren't showered in them.



My kids do get designer labels but they cost the same as the store brands so not really spending more because it is a label. I just find the quality is a thousand times better and holds up.



We also can not be pack rats as we have 5 people in a 600' house and another on the way. So we have zero room for clutter and things we don't need.



My motto is we may have less than some but have more than most. We live in a very affluent community and it is hard sometimes when the kids see all their friends have.

Caitlin - posted on 09/15/2011

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WAY too much stuff here.. Most of it was either gfts or second hand stuff handed down when I had the kids. I would have a ton less stuff if my hubby wasn't a pack rat. Since we're packing up the house now, i'm making him go through stuff and throw it out (or pack it up to donate, depending on what it is). We have SO much crap piled up in the basement most of it[the basement] isn't even usefull to us anymore!

[deleted account]

I am bombarded with christmas...Brads family literally bought gabby thousands of dollars worth of stuff. For a one year old! I left half of it in boxes and donated it. The only thing she uses is the baby stroller and doll.

Minnie - posted on 09/15/2011

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Jenny we've never 'done' Christmas. We put up a tree and that's it. The girls LOVE it. Oh and family get togethers. But we don't buy presents. In our opinion, gifts should be a surprise because we love someone at any time, and not expected.

[deleted account]

4 months ago, i abandoned my entire apartment and took two bags of clothes. One for me one for Gabby. I brought my laptop as well. I couldn't stand the place where i was living. Since then I have been trying to use the bare minimum. My family comes to my house and tells me about stuff "i need" when they are here. Like a mirror or a clock...sorry but i don't need it or i would have it. Its just convenient for you when your here. People keep giving me stuff to "fix the place up" but i like it how it is.

Becky - posted on 09/15/2011

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My kids would probably barely notice if I got rid of over half their toys, as long as I didn't get rid of their cars. They spend more time playing with the tongs, whisks and whatnot from my kitchen than with their toys! Zach just had his second birthday and the majority of his presents this year were art supplies, books, and puzzles. I was very happy about that.
One thing they don't have is electronics though. They have a Tag Jr. and some books, but that's it. No leap pads, no DS, no video game system. Well, I have a Wii, but we haven't played it once since we moved over a year ago and I'm in no big hurry to teach the boys how to play it. I let them watch videos on my computer sometimes - Cars Toons clips on You Tube or something, but even though Cole is 3 1/2 and could probably do it, I haven't even taught him to play kids games on the computer yet. I prefer to just not introduce them to that stuff, and then hopefully, it'll be a while before they start asking me for it!

Jenny - posted on 09/15/2011

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I want to get back to what is real and what is important. Our love of stuff is literally killing us. All the crap that goes into making it is very hard on our environment. Then we get it and before we know it it is causing us stress on how to get rid of it. I'm constantly battling new stuff coming into the house. I don't need it and I don't want it.



Needless to say, my kids are lacking in the electronics deperatment, we have 1 TV in the house although it is a 52" flat screen with full surround. We bought speakers first because music is very important in our home. I am seriously consdiering boycotting Chrstmas this year. I'm done with consumeristic bullshit.

Rosie - posted on 09/15/2011

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stuff accumulates in my house too. it's very irritating to me. i honestly don't know what to get my kids for christmas or birthdays BUT stuff.
my husband and i aren't stuff people thank god. we don't get into fads of elecronics and what not. we were one of the last people we know to get cellphones, and i'm thinking of getting rid of mine and buying a prepay to use occasionally. we don't want a blueray player, or an iphone or ipod, or any of those fancy tablet things i see on the tv. i would like a nook, but that's for my personal quest to use less paper, and gas in the world, lol.
there's a song i love by jack johnson, and it's lyrics have spoken to me a bit. "i've been losing lots of keys lately, i dont' know what that means, but maybe i'd be better off with things that can't be locked at all." i think he may be on to something there...

Lucy - posted on 09/15/2011

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Well, as many of you know we sold a whole bunch of our "stuff" (car, house etc) so that I could be a SAHM. We now have very little money or material stuff, but are happier as a family than we have ever been. That answers the question for me!



I'm not saying that everyone should be a SAHM, just in case I kick off that old argument accidentally, I know plenty of working parents who have a similar set of priorities. I just feel that we have been freed up by our lack of "stuff" and enjoy the time we have together now.



I guess I might feel the pressure a little more when my kids are teens though ...

Lady Heather - posted on 09/15/2011

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So true Mary, Freja's favourite toy right now is homemade playdough. Flour, salt, oil, water, cream of tartar and a little colouring. We make it together so that's fun. She'll play with that forever. I gave her my cookie cutters to use because I only use them at Christmas time so she makes all sorts of shapes with them.

I am not looking forward to teenagers. Haha. But yeah, if your teen saves up and buys something, well...that's good. I would actually love for my kid to save up and buy a phone on their own. That's a good learning experience and they will probably have more respect for the item if they know the work that went in to getting it.

Amanda - posted on 09/15/2011

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I have to admit my older children have their own tvs, but they EARNED them, and can lose them at any time (and they are crappy 15 year old tvs or older). My 13 year old does own a Itouch and a blackberry, both of which she has bought with her OWN money, which she earned from her job, or christmas present money from other family members. All the items my children have earned.



My husband and I have to work hard for our items so why not children also. My children dont get everything they want, they get a present at birthdays, as well as christmas (few more then about 4-5). Before all birthdays and christmas my children also have to clean out their rooms and get rid of all stuff they no longer use to make room for the new stuff.



Now if only I could get the pack rat hubby to clean out his crap!! Though I went into garage today, and OMG I almost had a heart attack, seems hes CLEANED it and got rid of stuff. So proud of the 35 year old finally learning you dont have to keep everything you have or find!

Minnie - posted on 09/15/2011

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We're minimalist. The girls' toys consist of blocks, art supplies and animal figurines. It's up to them to use their imagination to expand upon that.

ME - posted on 09/15/2011

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My parents are ruled by their stuff (to the point of destroying relationships), I feel sorry for them, and I am determined to never allow it to happen to me or my children.

Mary - posted on 09/15/2011

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The saddest part is, I don't think parents realize what a waste a lot of it is - especially with little ones.

About a month ago, I hit up the dollar bin at Target, and bought a bag of tinsely pom-poms, and small, multi-colored foam blocks. I spent a grand total of 4 bucks on this purchase. We dumped them all in a big basket, and it is by far, her favorite "toy". She does a variety of things with it, from building little towers, paths and fences, to sorting out the pom-poms by color and creating families, with the biggest pom-pom being the mommy, and the smaller ones "her" babies. She will choose this (or the colored pasta we made, or those $2.00 tub of waterbeads) over more pricey, conventional toys any day, at any time.

[deleted account]

Yeah Susanne - when your kids are little you can sort of pick their friends by picking the adults YOU like. We went awayfor a weekend with 7 families earlier this year and none of them had brought a DS or any kind of electronic toy. All those parents (who are my friends) believed that kids should play in the water and run around and ride bikes and not be staring at screens all day long. But when you have teenagers I imagine you have no more control over who they hang out with and the friends might be the most materialistic kids in the world. Scary thought!

[deleted account]

Its bloody hard especially as they get to teens to not buy them what they want. You want them to fit in, be liked and not be bullied. My oldest is nealy 13 every other week its can i have a blackberry? Can i have an Iphone? Drives me nuts but Im resisting so far but all those parents who just give in and buy their kids top of the range phones and all the other crap they dont need are making my life hell lol. If I hear but Josh and Max have one one more time Im going to go slap their parents for buying them every damn thing.

Tracey - posted on 09/15/2011

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Having worked in a toy shop there are a heck of a lot of brats around who whine nonstop about having the latest toy. At Christmas parents go mad buying the must have toy which will probably be forgotten or in the bin by the end of January. I know shop workers who have had a fractured collar bone breaking up a fight between parents over power rangers, had broken ribs scuffling over Tracy Island, been offered bribes of $500 & $2000, crates of whisky / brandy over Toy Story toys, offering to work for free for a month to get a game system. It's over priced bits of plastic that no-one needs.
Parents need to learn what's important and how to say No.

Becky - posted on 09/14/2011

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We have too much stuff. My basement looks like Toys R Us threw up in it. I have stuff in my closet and in trunks that I haven't looked at in years. I'm not a horder or anything, but I do have trouble throwing sentimental crap out. And I'm lazy. I mean to get organized and get rid of stuff and just never get around to it. It really is a problem. It feels almost oppressive sometimes. And what's worse is that my husband is kind of materialistic - he has the bigger is better mentality - and while I'm not that way, I do love to shop, especially for my kids. So we keep accumulating more. I think I need to go on one of those TV shows where they just come in and throw away all your stuff! (only partially kidding!)
I don't work though, so I don't buy my kids stuff to make up for not being able to spend time with them. If anything, it's because we were pretty poor when I was growing up, and although we never went without, we didn't have all the newest and best stuff either. So I think maybe in a way, I'm compensating a bit for that. Plus, I just love buying kids' clothes! I could clothe 3 times as many children as we have with the kids' clothes we have! At least I bought 99% of them second hand!

Lady Heather - posted on 09/14/2011

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I think a lot of people are but we're not in this house. I don't like lots of crap to come into the house because I'm not good at getting rid of it and I hate clutter. We just have the stuff we use all the time here. Not a lot of gadgets. There's one tv, one Wii that we don't use for much but Netflix, and two laptops (one is for my husband's job). My kid would be sadly mistaken if she ever thought her room was going to turn into media land. No way will she ever have her own tv. I don't have my own tv so why should my kid have one? Ha.

It's definitely a problem though. Even just the amount of money some of my friends spend on clothes for their toddlers is crazy. And I know these people don't even make the kind of money we do so how are they paying for it? Weird.

I do spend money on my daughter and buy her things, but it tends to be more for stuff we can do together. Like I get us crafting stuff so we can do our little projects. And I don't go into the poorhouse so we can have paint and paper.

[deleted account]

Stuff sucks. ;) We have less stuff than probably anyone else I know and I STILL think we have too much. We are quite simple on our stuff though.

[deleted account]

I agree with the article from an Aussie perspective. I think a lot of people spend too much money on their kids' stuff. Some have to work more days to pay for all the unneccesary spending (including the costs of a overly huge house), and I think that's very sad.

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