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Maria Soxbo, editorial no 4.

This year, we have invited the renowned and award-winning journalist and author Maria Soxbo to work with us to raise the issue of sustainability in a modern and interesting manner. We believe that raising awareness is the first step, because awareness matures into thought patterns and actions that become more long-term. Through Maria’s words on the this subject, we hope to reach people’s thoughts and actions.

To own or be owned

There are people who can fit everything they own into a suitcase. And there are people who, despite owning both a house and a summer house, need to rent a storage space downtown for everything that does not fit within their four – or eight – walls. It is estimated that the average American owns 300 000 items and that the average American home has tripled in size in the last 50 years. And yet, one in every ten American needs to rent extra storage space.

Of course this is not only an American phenomenon, most people who live in developed countries own more things than they really need. It has been calculated that during a lifetime we will spend 3 680 hours – 153 days – looking for our things. We loose track of nine things every day.

Maria Soxbo is a journalist, author and co-founder of Klimatklubben

When our needs are satisfied, our desires take over – we treat ourselves, shop for bargains, upgrade and splurge. But everything has a price, not just in dollars and emissions, but also in time.
Our stuff needs to be cared for, stored and organized. We spend several hours buying things, or worst yet, paying off the debts that we acquired in order to buy them.

At this point, there are probably many of us who feel as if it is our stuff that owns us rather than the other way around. We clear out, throw away and clear out some more, but the steady stream of things seem never ending.
Eventually all pendulums must swing in the other direction and by now we have swung it so far in the direction of over-consumption that the pendulum will swing back with great force. What happens then?

Two new economies have already emerged from this. Through the first – share-economy – we can make our 300 000 belongings available to other people. We can rent out tools, tents and cross-country skates to someone who only needs them for a day or two.

We still need a place to store them, but at least we can supplement the extra square-meters with the revenue from the rental. The second economy makes the first one possible. Supply-economy is based on the fact that more and more people are satisfied with only having access to things when needed.

So I am either the neighbor who owns a drill and rents it out, or I am the neighbor who declines buying one seeing that there is one available for rent three houses down. On average a drill is only used 18 minutes during its lifetime. We could easily share it.

This way of thinking is of course not new. Many who live in apartments have access to a laundry room rather than owning a laundry machine. We borrow books at the library and rent both cars and homes when on vacation. We already know the art of handling having access without owning, it is just strange to consider it the norm. We also know that sometimes the whole point is to experience something rather than owning it.

That is why we queue up to get a glimpse of the Mona Lisa at the Louvre or enjoy something so temporary as a sunset. Not everything exists in unlimited supply, and we are generally quite OK with that. We just need to remember to think the same way about the things that we glimpse on Instagram, see in store windows, or confronted with in advertisements.

It is not only the haute couture-creation that we should admire at a distance, we can also do so with the fast fashion-dress. Future smart solutions demand that we let our thoughts wander a bit further than they are used to. And perhaps we should be discussing ownership in relation to other things altogether. Like time!

More and more people want a job with flexible hours, or to work less and live more. And if the goal is to own your time, it seems pretty silly to spend 153 days of your life in a constant search for lost possessions.

Maria Soxbo is a journalist, author and co-founder of Klimatklubben. She switched from being an interior design blogger to become a greenfluencer, seeking to inspire more people to see the benefits of living sustainably. She is convinced that most of us would feel better by living a life within the boundaries of the planet rather than at the limits of our income and mental health, as in the treadmill of a society we live in. Together with Emma Sundh she also runs the podcast Plan B which focuses on the good life after the transition. On her own and together with others, Maria has written a total of six books about the climate and sustainability, and in 2021 she was 25th on the list of Sweden’s 101 biggest sustainability influencers.