In keeping with my recent thoughts on minimalism, I have a few more I’d like to share.
The latest is on my philosophy towards buying more stuff.
In my opinion, so many very relevant issues could be snuffed out by one simple action, and that’s the cessation of buying useless shit. I think we are so far beyond buying what is actually necessary that we lack a reference point on which to calibrate our purchases. For most people, need is now a concept that applies to everything from food to the iPhone 6.
Full disclosure- I have an iPhone (two actually- one is for work), and my aim in writing this isn’t to lecture. I live a pretty normal looking life, by all accounts. I don’t wear tie-dye on a regular basis, I have a wardrobe full of clothes, and will never suffer for lack of owning something I really need.
I think though, that if we can take a look back and examine the effects of our maniacal consumerism, so many pertinent 21st-century issues would be far diminished, if not eradicated.
The increasing size of our landfills: Increasing landfill size isn’t a bad thing just because they take up space. Far from it. The effects include the toxins leached from our waste ending up back in our water, our air, even our food. Electronic waste ends up in countries like India, where entire towns are built on the refuse of old Playstations and flip phones. Not only do we not think about the effects of our purchases, but we don’t even have to look at them. Our waste is conveniently offshored. Boom. Sorted.
The exploitation of third-world countries due to unethically produced goods. If I don’t buy a $4 top from Kmart, that’s one less top purchased that was produced in a sweatshop. If this action was repeated across goods and stores, that’s less demand for said produced goods. That’s one (or one thousand) less tops that Kmart is then going to buy from a factory in China where, among other significant issues, worker safety standards are appalling and most likely involve child labour.
Keep in mind the cumulative effects of that top not needing to be shipped via air, the most pollutant-rife type of transportation.
The natural resources needed to produce, manufacturer and transport any given product. It’s really encouraging to see companies examining and changing the way they produce goods; migrating to more sustainable methods and using more environmentally viable sources. However, an ethically made, fair trade bamboo-cotton top is a. Probably going to cost me $80, and B. Still going to end up in a landfill at some point in time. Solution: Don’t buy the top. Use what already exists, either in my closet or a thrift store.
The waste associated with excessive packaging. Plastic bags/plastic tags/plastic packaging/plastic everything –> plastic world –> floating trash mass the size of a small country. Also: bumping into floating items while snorkelling in Bali and finding that it’s not an exciting fish as you first suspected, but just another plastic bottle. Major buzzkill.
Debt. Idea: Instead of buying something cheaper, just don’t buy it at all! FInd something you already own that can serve as a substitute or borrow/make your own.
The general unhappiness that so often accompanies materialism. Whether it’s a correlation or causation I’m not sure (probably both), but it’s pretty clear that owning more does not result in more longterm happiness. Repeated studies have consistently shown that more money does not equate more happiness, as is the case with owning more things. I know there are certain things that make me really happy, such as my instruments, my bike, nice bedsheets… But this happiness doesn’t increase with volume. It has to do with my specific relationship with that item, and buying more of them isn’t going to increase my satisfaction any more than buying ten burgers fills me any more than the necessary one.
Not sure whether or not to buy the blue or green candle? The solution is simple: Don’t buy it.
Which jeans look better on you- stonewashed or acid rinse? Unless they’re from a thrift shop, or the ones you have actually don’t fit, don’t buy them.
Don’t have anything to wear? Of course you do. Throw a scarf over an old outfit and enjoy the feeling that you’ve just outsmarted hundreds of multinational companies that wanted to convince you otherwise.
I know that this way of thinking is foreign to many, many people, but rather than this being a fringe, hippie-type mentality I think it’s so essential that everyday people start to examine the impact of what we buy. Regardless of your political or environmental beliefs, consuming fewer goods makes sense on every level: financially, emotionally, environmentally.
I don’t consider this a radical way of thinking. My personal approach is to significantly consider the effects of what I choose to consume, and I think it’s a practice that just makes sense. I don’t have to live in a drab, colourless existence in order to responsibly manage my closet. Conversely, I find that buying things is more satisfying as a result because I’m only getting what I know I need and will actually use.
Where possible, I will most likely choose not to buy what is facing me at that given moment. I make what I can, buy second-hand as often as possible, and will almost never buy something on impulse. If I have to buy it new, it will be a purchase that’s considered for weeks.
Maybe you’re not a subscriber to the above-listed reasons. Even if cleaning up the planet isn’t high on your to-do list, surely living more meaningfully with less external baggage is? It is to me.