The consumer trap

I know I said I was going to review that book today, but I decided to finish it first. Sorry. I promise the review will be forthcoming.

For now, let’s talk about consumerism. We are raised thinking that we should want things to make life easier and we should get them as soon as we want them. Damn the price or the debt, we should have them right now. I was raised that way, too. Over the past year or so I have taken a hard look at my life and realized that right now isn’t always best. And gathering more and more stuff only makes you dissatisfied with what you have.

Let me explain. I love kitchen gadgets. I want one of everything. Until recently, I bought one of everything I wanted. I would put it on the credit card if I didn’t have the money right then for the top of the line product. In consequence, I have things that I haven’t used in over a year. I have things that I used once and didn’t like. They are taking up space in my kitchen, cluttering the counters and cabinets. I actually set up a bookshelf in the kitchen next to the refrigerator to hold small appliances. For the longest time, all I could think was, “I wish we had a bigger kitchen with more cabinets and counter space!” While I still wish that in my weaker moments, I am starting to realize that I haven’t used several of those small appliances in quite a while. Now, there are some that I haven’t used recently that I’m not going to get rid of. My Kitchenaid mixer is staying – that thing’s a workhorse and I will use it again. Same with my blender. Once I start cooking again, I will start using all of those things again. They stayed in use when I cooked. However, there are several small appliances that I just don’t use. Off they go.

Getting rid of the things I don’t or won’t use clears space. With each thing I get rid of, I get a little less stressed. I have shelves that are clean and many of the flat surfaces in the house are cleaner. Instead of wishing I had more space, I am realizing that I have plenty of space if I only keep the things that I’m going to use. As I clean I am finding things that I’d forgotten I had: extra bottles of laundry detergent, cans of vegetables that hid behind cereal boxes in the pantry, a stash of candy from last year. It’s ridiculous. I’m starting to realize how much of a consumer I really am.

While I can’t blame myself for not knowing better when I was younger, I know better now. The trick is actually changing. As I’ve admitted, I fell back into my consumer ways in the last several months. I’m climbing out of the hole I dug, but I’m not out yet. I refuse to feel bad about backsliding though. Everyone does it sometimes and it’s natural and part of the process of changing for good. Even in my backslide I was trying to be green and thrifty, I just got blind to how I was going about it. I still shut off lights all over the house and kept the thermostat adjusted, but I was spending to save effort and that’s not helpful. I was negating all my other efforts.

Consumerism is something that we were all raised with. It’s difficult to change it, it’s taken me quite a long time and I’m not there yet, but it’s worth it. More money, more space, and more contentment. You are not constantly wishing for more space or a bigger house to house all of your stuff. You begin to realize that the only things you need are those that you use and, for those, there is usually plenty of space. Your house is no longer cluttered and stressful once you get rid of all (or even some of) the dead weight. It’s a great feeling. I may never be a minimalist, but I have always seen the appeal.

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2 Responses to The consumer trap

  1. But I am old enough to have NOT been raised that way. Credit was hard to get, well into my young adulthood. Having to wait, and save, for things seemed like a pain, but normal. However, it did mean you might have changed your mind before you had enough money for a thing, and so didn’t regret buying it on impulse. And it meant that _things_ had more individual significance. It was easier to find gifts for other people, because they didn’t have too much credit either…. No, I’m not advocating a return to the so-called Good Old Days, just noting a positive aspect.

    • I am definitely a child of my generation. I’m a Gen-Xer. We were advertised to like crazy and our parents were generally successful enough to give us all the things they didn’t have growing up. We came onto the world stage spoiled and expecting to get what we wanted when we wanted it. Credit was easy to get and the Joneses that we were trying to keep up with were our parents. A recipe for disaster. We got into major debt and didn’t know how to get out of it. We’re getting better though. The Recession taught us some thrift, just like it the Depression taught our grandparents major thrift. We’re starting to understand that there are more important things than money.

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