by Lexie Greer
I don’t know who the Joneses are, but I’m breaking up with them.
I am tired of trying to keep up, of being made to feel inadequate, of being told that I am not enough.
So I’m embarking on an experiment; care to join me?
Over the past few years I have continually reflected on the excessive promotion of consumerism in our culture. Everywhere I turn I can feel the allure: television commercials, magazine advertisements, pop-up ads on social media, random catalogs that show up in my mailbox, decorated store fronts, and the list goes on.
“Retail therapy” is often joked about, but it is no laughing matter.
In indirect (and direct) ways I am told that who I am is insufficient; I don’t have the right car, the right kitchen, the right hair, the right jeans, and so on. I am told that if only I had this newfangled product I would be happy, beautiful, content, successful.
Over the years of falling for this propaganda repeatedly, I have come to know it as a vicious and dangerous lie.
As a humane educator, I also know that it extremely harmful to myself, to other humans, to nonhuman animals, and to the Earth in myriad ways. From resource depletion to habitat destruction to emotional and physical trauma, I am guilty of participating in and promoting a system that feeds off of cruelty.
Every increased possession loads us with new weariness. ~ John Ruskin
I like to think of this system of hyper-consumerism as being controlled by a mighty few who live high up in a colossal mansion, who watch over the masses, who drum their fingers together and laugh wicked laughs as we fall for their devious ploys.
But I know better than that. Having observed consumerism for the past few years with curiosity and critical thinking, I know that this cycle begins and ends with me.
There is no evil warlord, no mysterious potion being pumped into the water system, no genetic mutation that leaves me incapacitated and unable to choose otherwise. Now don’t get me wrong, I am very aware of the multi-billion dollar advertising industry that works to manipulate my senses and prey on my insecurities; but at the end of the day, I am still the one who chooses to participate.
I am stepping back from the magnetic pull. I am tired of running, of trying to keep up, of trying to fit into a fantasy that is always just out of reach.
I am pulling back the curtain to reveal that the wizard is an illusion perpetuated by me, by us.
And so, I’m done.
As the New Year rolls in I will be embarking on a journey of not participating in this absurd merry-go-round of consumption.
In 2016 I will not purchase anything new or anything that is not absolutely needed, even if it is used.
Use it up. Wear it out. Make do. Go without.
This last year I did attempt to buy nothing new. My downfall was that my sole motivation was to save money. That’s not a bad reason, but when the going got tough, it wasn’t enough to keep me afloat.
I also allowed myself to shop “used” (thrift stores, consignment shops, antique stores, yard sales, Ebay, etc.) with abandon. If it was used, I could purchase it.
Looking back I realize that this was a less-than-solutionary approach to ending the consumerism mindset prevalent in our culture. Seeing the True Price of my consumerist ways; connecting what I purchase to my emotional and physical well-being, and to human rights, animal protection, and environmental stewardship; seeing the bigger, interconnected global web — those are reasons that stay in my heart, and the ones I believe will keep me grounded as I work to let go of this habituated mindset.
So will you join me?
Here are some guidelines I’ve created for myself:
- Buy nothing new (except consumables: food, toiletries, cleaning ingredients).
- Only buy items that are truly necessary (even if they are used).
- If something breaks, fix it.
- Borrow from a friend or neighbor before purchasing used.
- Buy services, experiences, and thrifted and handmade items for gifts.
- Opt out of all catalogs and emails from unnecessary companies.
- Keep a “Caring Consumer Card” with me at all times.
And as this is not a new concept, here are a few blogs I have found to help along the way:
In a few months I’ll be sharing how things are going. Stay tuned for an update!
Image via n.karim/Flickr.