A Life Less Throwaway is a manual for how to shift focus from the materialism of our consumer society to a life of meaning, purpose, and connection. It’s thought-provoking, funny, and full of practical steps. Tara Button presents a vision of mindful curation, which, while overlapping with the goals of minimalism, does not need to result in a minimalist home to be successful.
Button worked in the advertising industry for ten years, and she gives us a peek behind the scenes, showing how marketing shapes our desires in ways we might not realize. As an example, they filmed children enjoying a treat, but the commercial secretly used the competing brand because the kids were spitting out the one they were supposed to be advertising. Another example would be the notion of a diamond engagement ring, which was invented by a diamond company. I wonder what would happen if someone started advertising engagement tacos instead?
Research and statistics back up many of Button’s points. Something I found interesting was that the longer people spend getting ready, the more negative they feel about their appearance. Advertisers harp on this dissatisfaction to convince us that we need to buy clothes, accessories, and beauty treatments. Probably we would enjoy our lives more if we instead focused on other qualities, such as our friendships. This is where A Life Less Throwaway stands out, by offering tangible ways to disrupt these marketing messages and remember our true purpose.
An area where most households can benefit from A Life Less Throwaway is by editing their clothes closets. There is quite a bit of material here. Button points out that the average woman buys sixty-seven articles of clothing a year, while in 1930 the average woman owned only nine outfits. The book includes worksheets on how to choose a personal style and weed out garments that don’t suit that look. It also has reasons why someone might want to keep something that isn’t being used, such as that someone complimented it one day. These are very relatable chapters!
A Life Less Throwaway has some great ideas for teaching kids to be less materialistic, also. One example was to have them write advertisements for the fun toys they already own and then act them out. Another exercise that kids might find funny is to look at an ad with a celebrity showcasing a product, and then swap that person out for another famous person you don’t like as much. This is introduced as a mental visualization, but it could be done with art supplies or software, just saying. The concept of the ‘unwish’ list is also very useful, and something I’ve done myself.
Following the principles of A Life Less Throwaway can lead to greater life satisfaction, better friendships, more savings, happier holidays, and less housework. I can attest to that because a lot of these ideas are a natural outgrowth of a frugal, minimalist lifestyle. In general, adding more shopping means more debt, more housework, less free time, and more quarrels. If we aren’t recreationally shopping, then what are we doing with our time? Button’s book is a solid choice as a handbook for a better, more meaningful life, A Life Less Throwaway indeed.
“Overbuying habits are often linked to low self-worth.”
“We look forward to experiences more than to buying material things because they create happiness even when they’re not happening.”
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.