I am fairly young at this experience. But so far it has been an amazing one.
My goal for 2017 is to not purchase anything other than absolute necessities. And when I do purchase those necessities to only get them from local, sustainable, and responsible sources.
In my life so far I’ve spent A LOT of money on frivolous things – things that I never needed or sometimes even really wanted, but that I thought I did, or I thought I liked, or I thought would fill a void, or I thought would be rewarding, or I thought would be useful. And ultimately these things became just more items in my possession, usually getting lost in the vastness of my other stuff.
Shopping- in person, online, local, or not- was a sensory experience that I enjoyed as a way to make me feel good, on the surface.
Bad day? Buying something will help that. Good day? Let’s celebrate and buy something. Made a lot of money last night? Yup, I’m buying all that stuff in my ‘saved for later’ tab. Bored? Ok, I guess I can always use more facial products. Going on a workout binge? Must have a new pair of Nike’s and some yoga pants. Vacation coming up? I need at least two new swimsuits and one new dress and a new pair of shoes, right? Can’t afford to go on vacation right now? Well, at least I can afford that new sauté pan- hell yeah! Sale? Oh damn, I’m saving so much money it’s stupid to not buy it!
You get the idea… It was like this for me, all the time. And I thought it was fun, fulfilling, and freeing- “I buy what I want, when I want”- ahhh, sweet liberation!
Things changed for me at the end of last year. At the time I hadn’t been actively feeding my consumption as much as I once was, but I was still passive about it. And then I started realizing how my consumerism (not even talking mass-consumerism, just not active non-consumerism) was contributing to the economic, social, political, and environmental injustices that didn’t jibe with my own beliefs. Then, I realized that this stuff wasn’t making me happy. But rather it was all making me feel weighed down – un-free, unfulfilled, and ultimately not fun.
I started thinking that the distractions in place, the lack of health and education, the systemic racism and environmental degradation, the self-doubts and culture of comparing and contrasting each other, the idea of working to obtain money to buy things that are supposed to bring happiness and admiration from others and self-love, was all being fed and reinforced by this consumerism- creating a cycle of more chaos, injustice and consumption.
We are a targeted audience, what we see is not mistake. We see X, and we think that it will make us happy. So we work at a job that if we don’t outwardly dislike, it’s probably not what makes us feel alive and our true passion (“A salary is the bribe given to you to forget your dreams”). We do this many times in order to simply survive, but also many times to be able to buy things or do things that are superfluous. We buy X, and it’s cool and fun and exciting for a while. And then we see and covet Y. And the cycle continues. We know this. However, this process of distraction, identification, coveting, greed, and consumption is not only unfulfilling and many times soul-crushing, but all the while we are contributing to the systemic culture of degradation, unsustainability, and oppression- and this becomes a part of our identity.
So, at the beginning of this year, I personally made the choice to not buy anything other than what I absolutely need. So far this has consisted of food, toiletries, textbooks for school, rent and very basic bills. I have practiced actively telling myself “no” when I have found myself wanting something. And “no” has surprisingly turned out to be so incredibly freeing. I think this is the biggest misconception of this whole process – we think that telling ourselves “no” means missing out. We think that doing without something we want or that we think we need means we are denying ourselves something wonderful – whether it be an experience or an object. We think that “no” will make us feel poor, weak, dependent, captive, or unable to accomplish our goals… This is the biggest lie.
When I started telling myself no in this regard, and actively not purchasing, I naturally became more grateful for what I had. I appreciated everything more. I also found myself wanting to clear my mind as well as my field of vision. I found myself wanting to part with all of the things- both tangible and conceptual- that didn’t bring me joy anymore- so that someone else could enjoy them, and then hopefully let them go in the same way when the time came. And in this process, I have found that the more I am continually grateful for what I have, and the more willing I am to give and let go, and the less I purchase, the more things and experiences that I truly need have been given to me. Now that is some sweet liberation!
I’m not saying this is for everyone. I’m not saying that there isn’t something to be said for jobs that are a ‘means to an end’ at times. I’m not saying to not support responsible and passionate artisans in their craft- as many of them are truly making a change in this negative cycle of consumption. I’m not saying I will never again purchase anything except necessities. What I am saying is that personally, consciously rejecting my own consumerism has been one of the most liberating experiences of my life so far.
The journey continues.