This is a guest post by Ashley Newson, Senior at Missouri State University and Eco-Rep Coordinator.
Look at the all things you have or use in your life. Do you feel satisfied with what you have? Or do you want more? More things, more excitement, more newness, more wants deemed needs. But do any of these bring real meaning and happiness into your life?
We live in a world of consumerism where there is no escaping. Instead of evaluating what we have and what we need, we make impulse decisions based off what we want at that moment. Instead of fixing what we already have, we throw it away and buy another newer version. Instead of these items having their purpose in their use, we let them infiltrate our feelings so that shopping and buying is pleasurable. We feel satisfied when we have the new, shiny, wrapped up item fresh from the store.
And it’s not our fault we feel this way. We have been trained to make decisions based on our desires, sometimes desires that we never even knew we had to begin with. Advertisements tap into this weakness, creating a need where there wasn’t one previously. Then we go out and buy the item because we need it, because we feel like we need it. We believe the item will make our life easier, happier, sexier, better, or simpler. But often we buy it, use it a couple of times, then forget about it and move on to the next fad.
For the past six months, I have been evaluating almost every purchase I make. Before buying something new or used, I ask myself:
- Do I already own this item or one similar?
- Do I truly need this item or is it merely a want?
- Will I use it enough to justify having it in my life?
This questioning system has saved my purchasing habits and uncluttered my life. I find that having more stuff means more things to keep track of and ultimately more stress. Sometimes you have to learn when to say no to the advertisements calling you to buy, and even when to say no to free junk. Are you actually wearing all of those free sunglasses or t-shirts you took from the Whatever Fair on campus? If you are, then that’s great you are using something you have. If not, evaluate your need first and then decide before impulsively taking whatever is in front of you.
This is tough since we are taught from a young age that you should take advantage of everything you can. That’s kind of a scary thought that we are taught to exploit instead of adapt and appreciate. We are also taught that your success is shown by what you have. If you have a big, beautiful house you must be successful. We lust for the extravagance and measure our meaning by this ridiculous standard. And the worst part is that we don’t even feel happy, except for that split second after we bought it.
An alternative to this never-ending cycle of working to spend money on more stuff we don’t need, is to live simply. A simplified lifestyle doesn’t work to fill that void temporarily like consumerism does, instead it brings meaningful satisfaction in your life. You realize what you have and you appreciate those items much more. You also feel less stressed and less cluttered mentally and physically. Why worry about buying something new when you already have everything you need? Less really is more. More rewarding, more fulfilling, and more meaningful. By embracing this less lifestyle, you end up with a life full of plenty.