Tag Archives: consumerism

Focus: Chocolate or Checkbooks?

Typically, the short month of February is a blur due to our focus for the perfect Valentine’s Day plans. Whether or not we are in a relationship, we succumb to the pressure of buying or planning something for someone we know. Doused in reds and pinks, we forget to realize that this is a capitalist holiday which causes us to empty our wallets on a dime.

In a relationship, both parties should love one another, and celebrate that love when it is felt. It should not be feasted upon by some day on a calendar that claims that waxy chocolates and overly priced dinner reservations will portray a perfect relationship. The US News Forum reports that annual spending for the holiday is approaching $19 billion dollars. Most of the money is typically spent between candy, flowers, and eating out. As the second biggest “Hallmark Holiday,” it is not surprising that greeting cards follow. If you’re doing it right, you shouldn’t need the stigma of the day to remind you of why you are in a relationship with someone.

Single people? They are targeting you too. You don’t need that “singles mixer” that is dragging every person you could find on Tinder out of their house, only for the venue to serve you overpriced drinks. It’s unfair to push yourself into a toxic or ill-fitting relationship to meet a “standard.” It’s easy to think that you are alone at this time of year, but think about how buying and receiving affects us as everyday consumers. Buying and receiving things makes us feel better, makes us feel like we ARE more when we HAVE more. Just think, you are saving money, saving calories, and keeping out the clutter of oversized teddy bears.

Moral of the story is, a cheaper restaurant is still as good as any restaurant. Netflix and RedBox are a lot less expensive than movie tickets, and it is just another day.

 

Written by Zoe Pierson

The Minimalism Journey

 

This would be the appropriate time to say, “all good things must come to an end.” However, the end of this monthly column does not signify the end of my journey with minimalism, and it doesn’t have to mean the end of yours.

The basics of minimalism are simple. You don’t need a book to tell you that having less stuff means less clutter. We all know the feeling of metaphorical and physical weight being lifted from our shoulders when we drop off a bag of clothes at a thrift store. Living with less means that you can focus on things that really matter. It gives you more time for family and pursuing your passions. No matter where you are financially, it gives you permission to live your best life.

This column is ending, but I hope the following things stick with you:

Decreasing the items in your wardrobe will give you more time to get ready, workout, or prepare a healthy breakfast every morning. Ultimately, it will give you more time with your family and eliminate mountains of dirty clothes in your closet and throughout your home.

Keep surfaces bare and sinks empty. Deal with clutter as it happens. This includes washing and putting dishes away after each meal, filing or recycling mail as it enters your home, and finding a place for purchases the moment they enter your door. Giving these items a home on your coffee table, counter, or dining room table may be the most short term convenient option, but you will regret it in the long run.

And, speaking of purchases, decluttering your home is only the first step. As we celebrate the holiday season, remember that in order to stick to your new minimalist goals, everything that enters your home must replace something that already exists. By making this rule, you become a more conscious consumer. You will also likely become even more appreciative of the gifts you receive because they will always have a purpose instead of finding a home at the back of your closet.

Minimalism is also about taking back your schedule and making time for things that matter. It makes you aware of the amount of time you spend on social media, watching television, and clocking in to work. When you stop spending so much on decorations and sale items that will be meaningless by January, your finances will thank you—and you may be able to adjust your work habits accordingly.

Finally, make minimalism a family goal. Instead of forcing it, however, lead the way with your own habits. Show your family that, by decluttering and being a conscious consumer, you are happier. You have more money to put towards experiences instead of electronics or toys. Show them your awareness of how detrimental consumer distractions can be has increased your potential for joy because you can appreciate what you already own.

We spend so much of this life in pursuit of happiness. The question I want to leave you with is, what if it has been right under our noses all along?

Exploring Minimalism

In July, I read an article in the New York Times titled, “The Class Politics of Decluttering.” In it, the writer argues that decluttering is only for the well-off middle class. She concludes by saying that minimalism is often a form of social shaming, encouraging those below the poverty level to do with less when they simply cannot.

In response to this argument (one I hear frequently), I would like to start an open dialogue on the topic of minimalism.

First, it is important to emphasize that I have never had the intention of socially shaming anyone through my musings. Secondly, I firmly believe that parts of minimalism—from decluttering to being a more mindful consumer—can benefit anyone, regardless of your financial circumstances.

In the New York Times article, the writer states, “For people who are not so well off, the idea of having even less is not really an option.”

With these words, I am instantly sent back decades to my first grade year and the bags of clothes I received from cousins for school. They were so obviously second to me that a group of my young peers took me aside during a lunch period to tell me that I would not be popular unless I wore better clothes. I think, “I know what social shaming is, and minimalism in and of itself does not fall in that category.”

Instead, I would argue that the same Black Friday ads the writer defends in this piece socially shame those facing financial difficulties into rushing to a big box store at 3 a.m. for “deals” on televisions (where they will undoubtedly see more shows and advertisements telling viewers if they work just a little bit longer over the holiday season, they can afford another trinket promising happiness).

In that spirit, I’m going to share a secret with you that isn’t really a secret at all.

The people in charge of these large corporations don’t care if you had to work five hours to afford a new dress at their department store. They don’t care about how many dresses you already own. They only care about selling you a temporary retail high. And, if you can’t afford full price, just pull out your credit card or wait until it hits the sales rack where, if you’re lucky, you can still purchase it at 30% off.

Telling yourself that such purchases provide lasting comfort is believing a lie you’ve been socially shamed to try until it works.

Except surrounding ourselves with objects isn’t working to distract us from the fact that we never really have enough resources to obtain the magic number of items to achieve lasting joy.

Case in point? The writer of this article says that she and her daughter were forced to downsize and move into an apartment that did not have space for “car loads of clothes, school papers, books, movies, and art work.” She describes these items as “things that I grew up with that brought me back to a time of living a care free life.”

Car loads of clothes. School papers from the childhood of an adult raising children.

I’ve been under the weight of those objects when I was forced to downsize after a career change, and the anxiety caused by this burden alone was overwhelming.

I’m not advocating that the poverty-stricken do without. I can’t speak for other minimalists, but I don’t think that is their intention either. Instead, I hope for a world where we can find comfort outside of the big box stores. I long for a time when people cancel their cable subscriptions and fill the libraries again to read—not get lost in the internet. Most importantly, I need to believe that a place exists where people can spend more time enjoying the sites around them with the people they love instead of suffering from the crippling anxiety that accompanies starting over with car loads of clothes and papers tethering them so firmly to the past that they cannot breathe in the present.

Purchasing With A Purpose

Of course, we all like to find that one gorgeous piece of jewelry or decoration for our homes, but it is important that we consciously spend our money on things that make a difference. With that in mind, check out two of our favorite product lines that are making the world a better place!

both-candlesFirst, the Starling Project by Sterling McDavid is a series of candles that can fill your home with four unique and wonderful scents. What makes this candle special is every time you light it, you are reminded of the deeper purpose behind it. Starling Candles are an entirely American made product whose sales are donated to key philanthropic organizations, like UNICEF. These donations go towards providing solar energy for communities in under-resourced countries.
According to The World Energy Outlook 2015, 1.2 billion people are without electricity. This contributes to poor hygiene and a dependence on unsustainable energy. Unsustainable energy is the leading cause of air pollution; which is a factor in over half a million infant deaths, with poor hygiene resulting in 1.4 million children deaths. Solar energy would provide energy alternatives, cleaner air, and cleaner water in turn saving those lives otherwise lost to air pollution and poor hygiene. One little candle could be the beginning of a change. This candle can make a difference and so can you.
So far The Starling Project has raised over 100,000 dollars which have all been donated to provide solar energy. For more information on how you can help, visit www.starlingproject.org.

songa_shop_bracelet_600x600_luna1-478x480_1024x1024Another awesome retailer, Songa Designs, is also doing its part in making a difference. They create high quality accessories that empower women. Songa Designs is an employer of women for women. According to their website, it is typical for women in developing countries to rely solely on their husbands for income—rendering them completely dependent. Songa Designs seeks to create jobs for these women to grant them their independence. They believes in fair wages and economic independence for all.
They have a number of different bracelets, necklaces, and baskets for sale on their website. Any purchase benefits women in developing countries find their own economic independence. They seek not perfection, but meaning and fulfillment, and their pieces are more than accessories. They are art with a greater purpose. Songa means, “The Path Forward.” Let’s walk together.
We like to buy, but now we can buy with purpose; consciously spending on things that make a difference.

Visit our Facebook page for a chance to win a candle or bracelet of your own this month! Don’t forget to pick up our October issue for more of our favorite fall items!

Written by Nicole Brobston