Thursday, January 5, 2012

Why I Stopped Shopping

Years ago, I liked to shop. I would hit the malls or shopping districts a few times a week, always bringing home lots of cool stuff. My tiny studio apartment quickly became overloaded with all of these things that I thought I should own. For me, consumption was about trying to make myself feel better, to get a bit of happiness in a very unhappy life. I was working a job I disliked and I tried to assuage that frustration with clothes, books, movies and trinkets.It didn't work.

I am now an active anti-consumerist. I rarely buy things, and when I do, I consider whether it's needed or even really wanted. This aversion to buying stuff has enriched my life in many ways.

1. I save money. I used to spend a couple hundred dollars a week on things that I didn't use. That's over $10,000 a year. Instead of the money being spent on things that clutter my home, the money goes into savings for goals that really matter to me, like traveling, paying off debt, retirement, and buying a house.

2. My home feels better when it's clean. It's hard to keep a clean house when there's a lot of stuff.

3. I have more time. I am no longer spending time at the stores, so I have time to read, paint, hike, bike or go to concerts.

4. I have the option of working less. People commonly assume that the more you work, the more you can spend, but it's really the reverse. The more you spend, the more you have to work. By reducing my mindless consumption, I can work fewer hours each week and spend more time doing things that bring me pleasure. Alternately, I can work the same number of hours and bank the excess money and retire early.

5. I can spend ethically. I can spend my money at local places and support my community. I can buy organic produce or shop at farmers markets. I also refuse to buy anything from companies that don't live up to my high standards in the areas of environmental responsibility and worker wages/respect.

6. I save money on housing. The more stuff you have, the bigger your house needs to be (and the bigger your house is, the more stuff you'll be tempted to buy). Since I am no longer bringing "stuff" into my house, and am constantly looking for things that I no longer need to keep, I can get away with living in a smaller apartment or house. This saves hundreds of dollars just in rent/mortgage each month, and additionally saves on heating, decorating, property taxes and electricity.

7. I can have better things. Since I'm no longer buying for the sake of buying, I make sure I really want or need something before I buy it. Rather than having a dozen pairs of black dress shoes, I have one pair that fits well, is comfortable and that I get compliments on frequently. Rather than having an entire room filled with my books, many of which I will never read, I have a collection on topics I'm fascinated by and favorite authors. I read or reference all of my books often.

8. I can spend higher quality time with friends. I used to go shopping as my main social outlet. Of course, as soon as we walked in the stores, my friends and I would split into different directions. Now I can enjoy concerts, exercise, crafting and talking with friends.

9. I have more control over myself. Shopping is a lot like chocolate, alcohol or tobacco. It's not necessarily bad, but addiction can take hold and ruin your life. Just watch Hoarders. They feel that they can't stop shopping, even though they feel guilty when their kids can't sleep in their own beds or they can't get to the bathroom because of all the stuff. When I stopped mindlessly shopping, I regained control over myself. I still go to the stores occasionally, but I decide rationally what I need and what doesn't deserve a place in my home. I am in control.

10. I can really be happy. Even good stuff is never enough to fill the aching void. Eventually, I had to stop trying to fix my problems with shopping and figure out how to really be happy. Happiness isn't found at the mall or the mega box store. It's found out here.

Some inspiration and information on anti-consumerism:

George Carlin on "Stuff"

Reverend Billy and the Church of Life After Shopping (one of my personal heroes)

Shared on:

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  1. I agree with all of your points and try to live the same way (and have always loved that rant of George Carlins). Great essay.

  2. I'm totally on the same page. My frugalism started because my finances were so tight, but now I do it because I enjoy it. My whole life feels cleaner.

  3. We started out in a 300 sq. ft studio and now live in a 900 sq. ft apartment. The only furniture we've added since the move was a dining room table, 2 bookshelves, and a fold-away bed for guests. Everything else, including the tiny couch we found, is the same. We have a lot of wide open spaces, but it is really nice I think. We have a dog and 3 cats, and the space allows them to run around and play. If we could get a smaller place with a yard I'd be just as happy.

    For us, the biggest financial burden is debt. My husband went to a very expensive school, so learning to do without is something we just had to do. Right now we don't always have the financial opportunities to buy 100% organic food, but for everything else we try to make it, get it for free, buy it used or buy it ethically. Even on our take home pay after debt we can make those choices.

    One thing I would like to do is cut down on buying books. I am a huge Star Wars geek and get a huge satisfaction from owning those books - even if I've read them! Most major libraries have the full collection. Since we might be moving to Portland in a few weeks, I think it's time I sell them and let go of that last bit of me that is tied down to stuff.

  4. Nice! Just had a yard sale - could probably stand to have another:) You hit the nail on the head with #4.
    Great post.


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