Political thinker and writer Henry David Thoreau said: “It is preoccupation with possessions, more than anything else, that prevents us from living freely and nobly.”1 In this day and age, no truer words have been uttered as advertising has led to wasteful consumption and the shackling cycle of consumerism and wastefulness.
Our wasteful lifestyle has only brought debt, the pressure to keep up with the trends, envy, dissatisfaction, the uncontrollable desire to attain more material possessions and so on. But has it brought real happiness? That is an important question that all of us must take time to reflect on and answer.
As we start 2017, it is important to think about how to lead a better life, for ourselves, the greater society and the environment. If only each one of us starts to change even just a little bit and makes an effort to fight back against excessive consumerism, we will surely make a dent.
So how do we start? Here are a few suggestions on how you can remove the shackles of materialism and embrace a minimalist lifestyle:
Change your mindset.
A transformation in outlook is important in order to do away with a wasteful lifestyle. Always remember that material things do not equate to happiness. We do not need a new car, a fancy dress, the latest kitchen tool etc. in order to be happy. Equating happiness with material possessions is a creation of the capitalist economy we live in. Be content with what you have and shop based on what you require or what constitutes your basic necessities.
Ask yourself: Do you really need to buy that gas-guzzler luxury car? Do you need to get the latest smartphones and tablets when the previous version will suffice? If not, then refrain from buying them. The environment will thank you for not adding to more carbon footprints. Instead of buying a car, try taking public transport. If possible, walk to school or to work. It will keep you healthy and the planet in better shape.
Focus on experiences.
Instead of material things, why not splurge on experiences? Warm hugs can be freely given and will definitely be well-received. It will go a long way to fostering bonds and strengthening relationships. Instead of buying gifts for loved ones, organize picnics, spend time with them, make a conscious effort to connect with them. A commitment to help around the house, listen to your friend’s sorrows or watch your son’s football games will go a long way as compared to any material things. As they say, presence is more important than presents.
Make a conscious effort to tune out advertising.
Remember that the goal of advertising is to sell. It is paid communication by a company to lure you to buy their products and continue with your wasteful lifestyle. Tune them out. This will oftentimes be a challenge as advertising and promotional culture permeate daily life. However, a conscious decision to stay away from it goes a long way. When faced with a conundrum, always ask the question “what do I need” instead of “what do I want.”
Be responsible, practice ethical consumption.
If you need to shop, make sure that what you are buying does not add more harm to the environment. Patronize ethical brands, do not use plastics, use environmentally-friendly leather alternatives. Invest on items that will last longer and will not end up in landfills.
Re-use and recycle.
Before throwing out items, always check if these can still be re-used or recycled. That sweater that doesn’t fit you anymore may possibly fit your daughter or your niece. If not, you can always give it to someone who needs it. Those soy sauce bottles can be cleaned up and re-used as flower vases. Those mayonnaise jars can store jams, pens and small items. Before recycling, before dumping, consider whether an item can be re-used.
Get family and friends to support your lifestyle shift.
A shift to a minimalist and sustainable lifestyle is more meaningful if you get family and friends to do it with you. That way, you can share tips and resources and work towards completing goals together. Plus, it will also mean lesser carbon footprints for the environment.
This 2017 is a critical time in terms of ensuring sustainability and warding off the effects of climate change. If we do away with excessive consumerism, wasteful consumption and the promotional culture that affects our daily lives, we can contribute in our own little way to making this world a better and wonderful place for the next generation.
Cheers to a happy new year!
- Young, S. no date. How to Avoid Being Enslaved by Consumerism. Lifehack.org. Available at: http://www.lifehack.org/articles/featured/how-to-avoid-being-enslaved-by-consumerism.html. ↩