How To Live With Less In A Consumer Culture

Daily Thoughts

We are all consumers in one way or another. Whether that may be in materials, books, films, art, food, electricity, water, social media, news, internet, advertisements and so forth. How much and how often we consume things over another varies depending on our behaviour, habits, lifestyle and interests. The power of marketing and advertising is immense as it creates the illusion of needing more. The need for intimacy and meaning in our lives is often clouded by the illusion that we need more stuff to be happy. When I browse thrift stores in an ocean of clothes, the reality sinks in that there is a vicious cycle of the production, consumption and disposal of clothes.

I strive to live by the philosophy and mentality that less is more. As we live in a consumer culture, we are encouraged to buy more, even when we have more than enough. Advertising sells us a lifestyle, status, and identity. In terms of clothing, it is one of the top polluters in the world. If we consume less, we also lessen our carbon footprint, and we contribute less waste towards the earth. However, the power of advertising covers it with the glamour of a certain lifestyle. But, the truth is, we don’t need a lot to be happy.

Fill your spaces with love and purpose. Living with less means only having materials that will be used for years to come. Advertising tells us that we are lacking in our lives and that we need to fill our spaces with materials to feel a sense of fulfilment. However, many of us have more than we need.

Buy good quality materials. Purchasing good quality clothing gives it longevity. Many things can last a long time. As I mentioned above, there are many second hand clothing that are good quality. But, the fast fashion industry is constantly moving in and out with trends that are having a heavy impact on the environment.

Money and materials cannot buy true happiness. Consumer culture means that we spend so much on material items that don’t bring us long term happiness. We live in a capitalist system that rewards us for our perceived efforts and productivity. Yet, the definition of success tells us that we are always in need of more. Living with less reminds us of what’s important.

Borrow more books. I must say that if I had my own house, I’d love to be able to fill it up with shelves of books. However, as someone who is always moving suitcases to somewhere every year or so, the library has been a blessing. I remember having to donate dozens of books over the years as they can take up a significant amount of space.

Saving money. If you are saving up for something, whether that be a car or a house, you can save money from the smallest things. For example, if you like to drink a cup of coffee everyday. You could start making your own at home everyday, and perhaps in one year you could save 365 x $3.50 = $1,277.50.

Do it for yourself and for the planet. Consumerism really costs the Earth. The more we buy, the more that is disposed of, and the more rubbish we create in the world. An example would be consuming less meat and dairy. Where we spend our money is essentially who we are supporting.

Living with less is not only in materials. In a consumer culture, we are told we need more friends, more money, more travel and more things. The focus is on having a better future, but it’s important to embrace the present and be grateful for everything you have. Advertising focuses too much on ourselves, whereas long term happiness focuses on aspects such as helping others and forming strong relationships.

What is my intention for buying this? I used to have handbags that end up only getting worn a few times during the year, whereas my black handbag would be worn every day. My trainers and school backpack are worn almost every single day. Minimalism may not be for everyone, but it really helps in having a clearer mind and appreciating what you already have.

What are some of your tips for buying less?

I highly recommend reading the article A Helpful Guide to Overcoming Consumerism

Art by Alessandra De Cristofaro

A Minimalists Journey In Fashion And Lifestyle

Fashion

If we go back in time, I was 14 when I started my first job at a cafe, and this meant taking responsibility for buying some of my own things. As a country girl, we would go into the city 2-4 times a month. I remember feeling satisfied with being able to buy my own clothes that I’d worked for. In my first year of uni in 2013, I would buy several items each month, and at the end of the year they were either left in the wardrobe or only worn 2-3 times. This taught me a lesson on choosing wisely, spending your money on clothing that will last and embracing your personal style. Over the years, I noticed the only pieces of clothing that I never threw away were predominantly my black clothes.

Our wardrobes should be filled with clothing that we will wear and make use of. In the book L’art de la Simplicité, it talks about how the things we own should have a purpose. This is why it’s important to purchase things that are good quality, long lasting and reflects who you are, in order to be useful. Minimalism doesn’t mean that you need to have the style of only wearing black, white and grey, because well, everyone has a different style. It simply means simplifying your life, not just in clothing materials, but in your lifestyle, relationships, mindset and so on. Decluttering is beneficial in the mind as well as our surroundings, as it sets free unnecessary thoughts and allows a clearer mind.

I think it’s important to mention that minimalism doesn’t mean that you only have seven items in your wardrobe, that you wear for each day of the week. It’s a reminder that we don’t need a lot in order to be happy in our lives, and that we should embrace the things we have. Therefore, you create a sense of satisfaction that isn’t attached to materials, and you have an appreciation for what you do have. It gives a sense of cleanliness and keeps your lifestyle simple, creating a space with less stress. Creating a habit of buying things of good quality means you spend wisely and am more thoughtful about what you’ll realistically use or wear for the next several years.

For fashion lovers, you should embrace your personal style, because it means you don’t buy something impulsively or for instant gratification. I remember in my teenage years, I used to buy things that in the end were not worn anymore because they didn’t completely connect with who I am. Now, I tend to buy from secondhand stores, choose more carefully or only purchase things that reflect my style. Minimalism in Fashion also ties into our lifestyle and the way we live. We live in a society that often feeds off of our fears and insecurities to make a profit, and unfortunately, we are used to this. However, the materials we own shouldn’t be a reflection of our self-worth.

Minimalism lessened my anxiety in my everyday life and made my lifestyle far more comfortable and far more stress-free. Life felt much more meaningful and enjoyable once I let go of toxic friendships, bad habits, unhealthy thinking and letting go of items that I had an emotional attachment to, but didn’t hold any value or use in my life. In The Minimalists, it says Minimalism is the thing that gets us past the things so we can make room for life’s most important things—which actually aren’t things at all.