Anti-consumerism 101

We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, militarism and economic exploitation are incapable of being conquered. A nation can flounder as readily in the face of moral and spiritual bankruptcy as it can through financial bankruptcy.
~Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Anti-consumerism is the belief that what we own does not make us who we are, nor does it make us happy. It’s not about buying nothing at all, rather, it’s about buying a few quality items that are worthwhile. It’s about finding alternatives to consumption. Libraries, thrift shops, rentals. Buying or getting things for free from other individuals. Making gifts instead of buying them.

In the end, anti-consumerism is about using less. Using less so there’s no debt, using less so you can work fewer hours or pay fewer taxes.

For Christmas this year, I’m making truffles for my family, except my niece, who is getting board books I picked up at Half-Price Books. I told them to get me a few things I needed…there’s nothing anymore that I really want. Even my extended family has moved away from gift-giving at Christmas.

I’ll admit that becoming anti-consumerist was an easy move for me. I’ve never been one for conspicuous consumption. I’ve always been frugal and never had the problems with credit cards that plague so many others. But when I was younger, I tended to pack rat. I kept everything of sentimental value. Even now, that’s still my biggest hurdle.

But even anti-consumerism doesn’t have to go to an extreme. You don’t have to purge down to only enough clothing to last you a week. Or two. In fact, you don’t have to purge at all. Just spend less on items you don’t foresee yourself using every day. If your existing phone works fine, do you really need an iPhone? Do you really need a new car? Can you get that book at the library?

Anti-consumerism can even cover things that aren’t bought. Plastic bags. Self-checkout lanes in grocery stores…I still do use them, they are pretty convenient, but I try not to. That’s one less person the grocery store needs to hire. One less job. One less face-to-face interaction in my day. I’m not a machine. I don’t wish to live in a world where I have no other human interaction. I deposit my checks at the teller, instead of at the ATM (that’s also my paranoia talking.) I don’t print out postage online and then have the postal service pick it up…I take it to the post office. I refuse to use the automated phone menus a lot of companies insist on thrusting into my ear.

So much of our day is consumed by consumption. Working to make the money, spending the money. We forget that the best things in life are free and that just because you spent money on it doesn’t guarantee that you’ll enjoy it or that it was even any use in the first place.

3 Responses to “Anti-consumerism 101”

  1. Dargon Says:

    Loved this one. In summery, stop buying shit you aren’t going to use.

    Of course, in my usual rain on the parade manner, we run into the problem of the American economy being built upon consumerism. With the exceptions of a few fields, most shops rely on people buying stupid shit, and thus most employment relies on people buying stupid shit. It’s an economy prone to feedback loops. If people buy stupid shit, we can hire more people, who can in turn go buy more stupid shit…. Problem is the reverse is true as well, and much more problematic. People stop buying stupid shit, stores can’t afford to keep all their employees, people get let go, can’t afford stupid shit (or even premium shit at times), and thus don’t buy stupid shit, stores take even more profit hits…and that’s what’s going on right now. Anyhow, getting off that tangent.

    I was raised in the middle middle class, rather comfortable, getting shit that you might need because it was at a good price was common. And much like you, I kept all sorts of useless shit due to “sentimental value.” The falling out with my parents was a blessing in terms of getting rid of shit. I still have too much stuff, but I’m much better at getting rid of it.

    Still, I must agree with the overall sentiment. Stuff does not bring you happiness.

    • There’s a theory that says anti-consumerism won’t kill the economy because while people will stop buying as much shit, they’ll probably end up spending more on the shit they *do* buy. Granted, going from point A to point B is probably going to fuck shit up anyway.

      I’m still of the mind that telling someone to shop in order to “help the economy” is bullshit. If the economy is failing, there’s a good reason it’s failing and trying to prop it up isn’t going to help matters. The economy exists to serve us, not us it. Same for the government, but people tend to forget these things.

      • Dargon Says:

        I fully agree that telling people to buy shit to prop up the economy is crap. In my opinion, once a recession is hit, it is best to save, that way the useless and poorly run industries die (this includes banks, airlines, and auto manufacturers), the well run and need based industries survive, then when it recovers, it is stronger, less deadweight. There will be collateral (I was among it this time), but the end result will be far better.

        Sadly, today’s bailout culture not only perpetuates, but rewards poor business practices.

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