In this age of hustle and bustle, it can be difficult to make time for oneself and have fulfilling experiences. Because it is often easier and more accessible than taking time off work for a vacation, or saying no to social obligations and having a quiet evening to yourself, people often turn to material items to feel they are treating themselves. But is this a reasonable approach?
There are a growing number of people who would argue against this lifestyle that many of us have quite literally bought into. So how does one break away from the cycle that seems to be at the center of society?
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Examine your spending. Become more conscious about your purchases. Does the product actually add to your life? Does it increase your happiness or improve your health? What are its ecological and societal impacts?
You may find that you tend to impulse buy during periods of stress, or that the manufacturing practices of some of your favorite brands make you uncomfortable. Examining your consuming habits can change how often you make purchases or the types of companies to whom you want to give your money. Where and what you spend your money on should make you feel good and add something to your life. If it doesn’t, your money is likely better off elsewhere.
We all have at least a handful of household items that we don’t use. If you can’t remember the last time you wore a piece of clothing, its time it left your closet. If you have unopened cosmetics, toiletry items, etc. that you haven’t used for a few months, it may be time to hand them off to a friend or relative before they expire and end up in a landfill.
Try posting items on your city’s Freecycle page, or nicer items on Facebook for friends to call dibs on. Letting go should mean recycling, donating, or reusing. The process of downsizing your material life to expand your personal growth should be respectful of the earth. Avoid simply throwing away items if possible.
Set Goals and Make Plans
I find myself spending less on material goods when I have planned adventures for myself. If I know I need to save for an upcoming experience, I am far less likely to buy goods I don’t need. By planning trips or setting goals for yourself related to your finances, you will fine tune your spending to meet your needs. Studies have significantly shown that experiences increase happiness where material goods do not.
If you find that it is difficult to take the time off for adventures, ask yourself: am I working to live, or living to work? Are you working and shopping, without leaving yourself any financial freedom?
Keep The Good Stuff
If you have certain items that you really like, keep them! As long as it is something you use, it has a place in your home. Reduce your wardrobe to items you frequently wear, and enjoy wearing them! If you have a piece you love but it just doesn’t fit quite right, consider taking it to a tailor rather than buying a whole new product. Donate any cookware and storage items in your kitchen you don’t use.
Having less means having what you like and maintaining what you have. Be mindful you are not putting emotional attachment into products you do not use; I’m facing down a pile of t-shirts in my closet from a college job I loved, but that I don’t have a reason wear at this point in my life. Instead of adding to my life, they are just taking up space! Make sure every item has a place, but remember that every place does not need an item.
While you detach from your clutter, you may find freedom in reducing your consumption. Rather than spending your day off at the mall, you can catch up with a friend or have time to sleep in with your partner. You may also find yourself suddenly realizing the consumer culture that has infiltrated our daily lives: impersonal conversations about frivolous items a person wants, or someone deciding if a product accurately portrays their sense of being.
Your Being Lies In What You Do, Not What You Own
Reducing your ownership and consumption has profound impacts. While some would turn up their nose at my 260-square foot apartment that I share with my boyfriend and my cat, I could never imagine not having the financial freedom to travel the world as I do now. As I try to reduce my impact on the environment and make healthier choices for myself, I naturally gravitate towards local businesses and am more engaged with my community. Giving up material attachments is not a punishment, but rather a weight that is lifted.
“Love people, use things. The opposite never works“- The Minimalists
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