The American society is structured around the American Dream. We all want the house with the white picket fence, an apple pie in the oven, a perfect day job and 2.5 children. Those commodities translate stability, comfort, love, and wealth – who doesn’t want that? Unfortunately, our desires have been warped by industries and media so that we are constantly in a state of “want” and we never acheive satisfation. This is good if you are selling goods. This is not so good if you are constantly wanting things and never feel content with what you have or where you are.
We need to put a spoke in the wheels of our industry by saying “STOP! We don’t need more things!” for there to be real change in the world, and there’s only one way to do that: to actually stop buying things. Life cannot be structured around buying things we don’t need, going out to eat, or spending money at bowling or the movies or restaurants or on anything that makes us feel like powerful consumers. Everyone has a wish list on his or her mind, only to be replaced with another wish list when that one gets fulfilled. We are in a never-ending race with the industry, and they are winning at our expense.
This is bad for the world because our resources are being depleted to cater to our consumerist needs. If there were less ‘needs’ and ‘wants’ out there, the Earth wouldn’t have to produce so many goods or deal with so much trash. There is such a thing as “finite resources” – that means that petroleum, metals, land, even water are all limited and wll eventually run out. Instead of using them to buy and sell what we don’t need, we should save them for the things we absolutely can’t live without. As Benjamin Franklin said, already in the 18th century, “Buy what thou hast no need of, and ere long they shalt sell thy necessaries.” Back then, he was talking about the possbility of an individual running into debt to keep up with the purchases of spices, satins and silver or other fashionable items at the time. But now, the meaning of that quote is much more global and urgent. We indeed have to stop buying what we have no need of to avoid suffering from the lack of necessities, and the only way to do that is change our consumerist mentality.
Here’s what you can do to stop shopping in its tracks and help save the world from further damage:
- Ask yourself if you really need an item before you buy it.
- Don’t plan outings around shopping.
- Don’t go shopping “just in case I see something”.
- Don’t window shop. That’s helping to create the desire of wanting things.
- Don’t go shopping if there’s not a particular item that you want to buy and you’ve already decided that you need to buy it.
- Before you buy something, see if you can reuse items or fix what you already own.
- Buy a used item instead of a new one.
- Enjoy life by making time for other non-consumerist areas: parks, libraries, and museums are some great ideas.
- Make spending time with people your priority, not objects.
- If you do need to buy something, try to buy local.
Life can be fun, wealthy, satisfying, loving, comforting and stable without having an excess of material objects. All you need is to do is be a loving person, content with what you have, and creative about spending your time, money, and energy.
” ‘Tis easier to suppress the first desire, than to satisfy all that follow it.” -Benjamin Franklin, in Poor Richard’s Almanac