Austerity is a dirty word. It conjures up images of poverty, of the Great Depression of the1930s and Greek-style bailouts. But what if we could reclaim austerity? What if we could reclaim austerity to encompass individual empowerment, economizing and self-sufficiency?
If we could reclaim austerity to embody empowerment we would be able to bypass the consumer market and remake the meaning of homemaking, one that has not been defined by consumerism.
I am not calling for a Greek-type bailout in which pensions are radically cut. That would unnecessarily hurt the poor. Rather, I am advocating for a radical form of homemaking in which we reuse, reuse, reduce and reject. Austerity means doing it ourselves. It means making and doing and sewing and growing. It means remaking the meaning of home and homemaking and moving away from advertised images of shiny and new, built-in obsolescence, and unsustainability.
Consumerism encourages conformity; austerity necessitates individuality and individual solutions.
Self-sufficiency, neo-pioneering and homesteading are all mediums that encourage making do and doing without. They encourage you to do it yourself or go without. Above all austerity and self-sufficiency encourage you to improvise and rather than compromise.
Consumerism and materialism – a life made on a series of mass consumer choices – is primarily about compromising on quality. But surely, I hear you ask, isn’t austerity at odds with quality because austerity is all about making do? Not necessarily. When you make it or grow it yourself you get to be the quality controller. You decide on what and how much you produce. You decide on the quality of the products you make.
An ethic of personal austerity affords us the opportunity to step back from the consumer market to get what we really want rather than what marketers and advertisers tell us we want.
Reusing and repurposing and economizing and simplifying are the keys to self-sufficiency. Austerity doesn’t have to mean a lack of colour and baked beans for dinner. What I am suggesting is that we think hard before we buy and ask whether we can make it better ourselves?
Austerity need not be the dirty word that modern capitalism has labelled it. We can reclaim it for our own purposes.