What does the word Consumerism conjure up for you?
→ People frantically acquiring more and more material goods?
→ Ideology that equates consumption with personal well-being?
→ Something that is economically desirable for our society?
Certainly, it is a word loaded with emotion and the ability to start an instant debate. I feel sorry for it though as I think it’s a little misunderstood…..
Like with a lot of things in life, there is no black and white answer to whether Consumerism is good or bad. After all, of course we need to consume. We need to purchase goods and services for economic and personal growth. On the other hand, it can encourage wasteful behaviour and over production, which ultimately will lead to unnecessary waste in landfill. Not to mention dissatisfaction with what we already have, lack of space and blurred priorities.
Sometimes, the more we fill the shopping basket, the emptier we feel inside (more about the negatives of instant gratification here)
As a Declutter Consultant, some assume I am anti consumerism. Whilst I’m certainly not pro consumerism, nor am I against it. Instead, I describe my stance as a supporter of Conscious Consumerism.
There are simple ways in which you can practice conscious consumerism and in turn live a clutter free, intentional, meaningful life. Ultimately, I think it can increase happiness and satisfaction. Isn’t that what life’s all about
Ask why? Before you buy
So let’s say you have been drawn to something. When we feel that pull towards a material possession, it’s important not to act solely on that impulse.
Get analytical. Really delve into your psyche and ask what you are feeling. And why.
What benefits are you hoping to gain from purchasing the item?
Will it truly improve your life in some way?
Does it fit in with the values that are authentic to you?
Consider waiting 30 days and seeing if you still feel the same way. A little boring perhaps but the best thing is that this is a win/win situation. Should you decide not take the plunge, you’ve saved yourself cash and clutter and allowed yourself freedom to add true value in the future. If you decide to go for it then you will be acquiring something that actively improves your life and your contentment.
Real Life Example: I was impressed by those Nutri Bullet ads. I mean, seriously, I absolutely wanted to juice and they are so easy to clean, plus they just look impressive don’t they? After some thought, I realised what I wanted was to eat more green vegetables. After more thought, it became clear that what I really wanted was more energy and better skin. Crucially, I was honest with myself. I was unlikely to keep up with daily juicing due to my busy schedule and I needed to stop looking for a miracle fix when it comes to diet and energy levels. So I started adding more greens to the weekly shop (spinach and kale are really cheap and versatile you know!) I started going to bed an hour earlier. The Nutri Bullet wasn’t what I needed.
Before you pay, is there another way?
So you do need this item in your life. Great! But do you have to purchase it?
Could you up-cycle something else you already own? It would be a way to transform the look and use of something that perhaps didn’t add value into something that does. Saving money and feeding your creativity would be happy by products.
Real Life Example: I needed a chalkboard for my kitchen but what I already had was a mirror that had started to tarnish and some chalk board paint. I have also turned an old computer desk into a dressing table and odd buttons into wall art. As it turns out, testing your creativity yields a huge sense of achievement and is quite addictive.
For further inspiration for this kind of thing, see my previous blog post here or look to Pinterest which has endless ideas.
Swap for your skills or superfluous.
So, you can’t dress it up any other way. This new possession is entering your home and it isn’t going to come for free. Thanks to the brilliance of the internet, there are various ways to connect with others who might wish to swap with you for mutual gain. Facebook swapping groups, skill swapping websites, swapping events and parties. Willpower and focus are key here though. Decide beforehand what you want and don’t veer from that!
Real Life Example: I truly needed a printer, no doubt about it. I connected with someone on a local group who needed a decluttering session and had a brand new printer as an unwanted gift. You can guess at the happy ending!
Consider the Presence of Pre-Loved
You’re definitely going to use cold, hard cash to purchase this item. Nothing wrong with that! So you should buy it. It will add value and meaning to your life. Know that you made the decision based on all the right reasons.
But must you buy it new?
Second hand doesn’t have to mean second rate. There are some true bargains to be had, not only in charity shops but in online local groups (the benefit here being that you can search for what you want)
Real Life Example: Honestly, I have bought so many used items for my children: pushchairs, cots, play equipment, toys, clothes. The kids themselves couldn’t have been less bothered and I found the items were often in mint condition. Three main advantages really: 1) buying second hand means in theory we are not adding to the number of items being manufactured in the world, 2) we are helping someone else out by giving them a return on their purchase and 3) Clearly, we will pay a fraction the brand new cost and in turn we create an opportunity to spend that money on someone that adds further value to our life.
Buy Cheap Buy Twice
Ok, so you need this item, you’re buying it AND you’re buying it new. Fabulous! But please don’t fall at the final hurdle. A wise friend and blogger and colour science expert once gave me the “buy cheap, buy twice” advice. It’s so true. Buying a required item cheap is often a false economy because we end up buying the item many times over.
That is not consuming consciously at all!
Plus, we spend time and probably more money replacing the item when it breaks, wears out or was simply substandard to begin with. Additionally, quality items are just more pleasant to use.
They are far more likely to bring you joy.
Actually this concept is quite hot at the moment. The website Buy Me Once is doing well and the ethos of this brand is that we should buy items that are high quality but last. Some if the items sold here even have a lifetime guarantee!
Real Life Example: I have bought wooden toys for my kids with quality in mind. Yes, they have required a higher initial financial outlay. No, they have never been regretted. I intend on increasing my repertoire of similar items over time since they seem to be built to last. One such toy has been handed down a generation and at 34 years old is still going strong.
So, to conclude…..
Be clear on your motivation. Consider alternative options. Choose well. Happy Conscious Consuming!
Thank you so much for reading.
A Tidy Mind
Ps. Do you long for an inspiring, clutter-free, organised and calm home? I’d love to work with you. Why not get in touch for a chat or book a one off session? See home decluttering and organising packages here.