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Twelve years ago I began to question my consumeristic lifestyle–I began to wonder how it affected my life, the planet, and my dreams. I recognized that if I ran the race as I was I would have piles of stuff, have taken several vacations (I would be paying for on credit), be a caretaker for a home that I owned less than five-percent of, have loads of worry and very little true wealth and happiness. So I dropped out (in a sense). I stopped buying stuff! I needed a break from the constant stream of things that I was bringing into my life. I needed to have some room to really recognize what my true needs and wants were. This not so astonishing thought process began when I realized I had more debt than I could afford. I needed to climb out of the dark well of indebtedness I had fallen deeply into. So I cut up the credit cards, walked away from the ped-mall, and got to work…but, like in any modern day fairy tale the dark nemesis was always lurking behind every corner…in this case he came clothed as a L.L. Bean catalog…but that is another story.
Opportunities to buy are everywhere. Well-meaning friends, family members, and coworkers often offer opportunities to spend. Commercials, popup ads, magazines, and billboards throw desire at you constantly, and when you’ve been in the habit of spending at whim it is hard to break this spell. The first thing I did was always try to recognize what the advertisement was trying to sell me and how the marketer was trying to play on my emotions to make the sell. If I had to think like a marketer, their advertisements became less seductive. Additionally, I made visual charts that showed my debt–how many dollars I had to earn to climb out of it and how many life hours that would take. At times this charting was depressing–but it worked to keep me focused–as the debt on the chart grew smaller my motivation grew bigger. Lastly, I limited my exposure to ads. I watched less television, read fewer magazines, etc. But sometimes…I wanted to shop and so I had to take action…here is a sampling of some of my action steps.
Five Things to do in five minutes to prevent you from shopping–
1. Rearrange furniture – Sometimes we shop because we desire to change our lives and so the simple act of moving a chair, potted plant, or a picture can trick our brains into the mindset that something substantial has changed for us. It works–try it!
2. Shake the cobwebs off an old article of clothing – Pull out a clothing article you never or rarely wear and create an assemble using this piece. When we shop we often desire something new (different). Make an old piece a new piece and wear it that day or the next!
3. Use the “good” dishes – Find an item that rarely gets used because it is designated for special days, and pull it out. A good set of dishes, jewelry, a spectacular pair of shoes can be used more than once a year, and they can often make a less than great day into a fabulous one. Often we shop when we are blue and this may relieve your blues. For me it was a special set of antique candlesticks–these candlesticks added elegance and sparkle to my evening and made me feel better about sticking to my goals.
4. “Buy” free resources – Grabbing an electronic book from the library, Amazon.com (yes Amazon has loads of free electronic books) or listening to a free book on librivox.org is a great way to feel as though your are “shopping” without pulling out your wallet. Even more, a good book will draw your mind elsewhere while you’re learning to live happily with less.
5. Give a gift to someone else – Write a letter, find something you no longer need that a friend will treasure, drop a treat (picked flowers, a cookie, an orange, a special quote that inspires you) on your neighbor’s door. Consumerism drives our society into often “selfish” thinking. We may find ourselves thinking of only our own wants. Pushing wants aside and thinking of others can become the best medicine for forgetting yourself and your desire to buy. Plus, you just might make somebody’s day.
The complexities of why we shop are too much for this blog to handle (at least for today). The desire to pull back no spending is often a valiant one. It takes time and patience to create this new thinking and new habit when consuming, but it is possible! Be extremely patient with yourself. Slowly you will see that you can walk away from the intoxication of buying more of what you don’t need and that is beautiful freedom.