How much is enough?

I've been doing some delayed spring cleaning lately and found myself marveling at the sheer volume of stuff I am either giving away, recycling or simply trashing. This list includes a gas dryer that probably needs some minor work that would end up costing more than the dryer is worth. Ditto for my old over-range microwave and dishwasher. I'm also getting rid of a full-size stroller (used twice), two car seats, a playpen (used once), a kid backpack (great for hiking until the kid passes out and invariably slumps to one side), a high chair, a crib and eight baby gates.

To be fair, I did get plenty of use out of such items as the high chair, baby gates, car seats and appliances. I am also sure that some people get plenty of use out of the items I hardly used. That still leaves me with one fundamental question: How much is enough? When does the legitimate need for sales and profit become sales and profit for its own sake? The human animal is wired to hoard because we evolved in an environment of scarcity that rendered anyone foolish for not taking advantage of the occasional windfall. But what happens when the party just keeps on going?

Why should appliances be built to simply give out after a few years? Why not greatly reduce waste by building them to last and making spare parts both affordable and plentiful? Many of the people involved in selling these items could probably make a better and healthier living by repairing these items. Think of the natural resources we could save by eliminating planned obsolescence!

Since when do we truly need full-size strollers, baby monitors, diaper warmers, portable pens, gates, bassinets, or any of the myriad devices that some would have us believe are indispensable? Give me a cheap folding stroller (fits in my trunk), dutch doors (instant gate!), etc., any day. We survived and thrived for millions of years without all this stuff and it's ludicrous to think that all of these items are essential today.

How about the food we eat? Fat was a rare commodity when we hunted our dinner because wild meat tends to be extremely lean. The concentrated calories and proteins in meat made it a prized delicacy when available (which wasn't too often). Concentrated salt, a critical electrolyte, was also in short supply as was the quick boost available from sweets. We evolved a taste for these items because they represented a quick leg up from the normally lean pickings. We also learned to gorge ourselves when nature provided the occasional bonanza. Most of our diet was fairly low on the food chain and none of it was processed.

Fast forward to today where food is deliberately manipulated to appeal to our Paleolithic cravings. Don't believe me? Check out a steak next time you visit the store. All that marbling (embedded fat) is anything but natural. We fatten cows, pigs and other animals, which makes them less healthy, which in turn makes us less healthy. Check out the sugar and sodium content of some of your favorite foods. The results may surprise you. Even more absurd, sugar has been largely replaced by high-fructose corn syrup &

a nutritionally void substance that has no business in the human digestive system. Even more absurd, corn and corn derivates have infiltrated our entire food supply, greatly reducing available nutritional variety.

When did marketing and sales stop being about serving legitimate needs and become about making the quick buck? When did the buying public surrender the almost unlimited power of the purse to every outstretched hand, to the point that we mortgage our own futures in the form of debt because we just have to own the latest and greatest gizmo that will probably end up in a storage locker or landfill? Speaking of storage lockers, their number is burgeoning &

proof that we own too much stuff. When did we as a society decide that it's "cheaper" to buy junk often than to "pay more" to buy quality once?

All of this leads to the following question: How much is enough? Put another way, where is that elusive "sweet spot" on the continuum between not being able to buy or sell anything and outright greed that harms the very people it relies on to live?

I am a marketer to my core and an ardent champion of business and commerce. I love helping entrepreneurs boost sales and profits by growing their customer bases and getting their existing customers to buy more. I also know about the "dark side of the force" that leads to consumption for its own sake. What I'm struggling with is knowing where the balance lies.

I urge all of my readers to sell quality. Show your customers how spending more now can yield tremendous savings in the future. Stand by what you sell and make repairs a truly viable option. Don't sell junk, edible or otherwise. Educate your customers and you may just be setting yourself up for vastly increased profits while helping make this world a better place.

Hey, I can dream, can't I?

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