I don’t do well with clutter. Clutter in my environment creates clutter in my mind, and my mine is already busy enough without that added burden.
Yes! Magazine’s most recent issue focuses on just how much is enough. Today I want to take that a step further and ask the question, “when is less, more?”
We live in a consumerist society, no doubt about it. And, admittedly, I have contributed to the problem. I’ve been known to buy too many clothes, throw out too much food, pick up that impulse buy on my way through the checkout line. But here’s the thing. When I’m mindful of my purchases, conscious of buying too much, I buy less and feel much more at peace.
A culture of consumerism has been growing since the industrial revolution, in the 1700s. The rise of factories meant the availability of goods on a mass scale. But it wasn’t until the 1920s that consumerism really took off. Unprecedented prosperity, new innovations and the growth of the advertising industry, along with the expansion of credit all led to the scramble to buy more. With so many new products available, Americans were eager to get their hands on them.
Then the Great Depression hit, and most Americans could only afford the bare necessities. Consumerism was at a standstill. World War II led to increased production, pulling us out of the Depression. Jobs were plentiful, wages higher and Americans were anxious to spend again. We wanted newer-better-more, and we had the spending power to get it. Fast forward, and you can see how increased income, credit card availability, fast fashion (and other “fasts”) and technological advances that make purchasing as easy as pressing “BUY” have all contributed to where we’re at today. It’s really a fascinating topic, this rise of consumerism. If you want to know more from a book that provides the facts without judgment, check out “Empire of Things : How we became a world of consumers,” from your local library.
I’m not suggesting to anyone that they should stop buying. You do you. What I am suggesting is to practice mindful buying. Before you hit the “buy” button or approach the check out line, take a deep breath and ask yourself why you’re buying it. Look at the big picture and ask the hard questions: Will this improve my life? How will it impact the environment? Do I already own something that will serve the same purpose? How often will I use it and can I borrow it instead? Can I afford it?
As I have found, having “just enough” can be liberating. And it’s been well-documented that buying more equates to a drop in happiness levels. When we substitute “stuff” for the true sources of happiness such as friends, family, serving others and community, we find ourselves on the losing end. If you want another good read, this time why and how, check your local library for “The Day the World Stops Shopping: How Ending Consumerism Saves the Environment and Ourselves.”
Now then, in the interest of full disclosure, here are some areas in my own life that I’m working on, or especially proud of:
A cluttered refrigerator makes me a little nuts, and yet here I am again. So, I used this article as a catalyst to get the fridge in order. When my refrigerator is ordered, I find I waste less food, so it’s a win-win. Plan your meals for the week and buy only enough perishable food as you need. And take a look at your portions to see if they’re in line with what you need to stay healthy.
Did you know the average American woman spends $1800-$4800 on clothing each year? That surprised the heck out of me, I didn’t expect it to be that high. And while I don’t spend anywhere near even the lower end, I go through times when I am on a bit of a binge, despite the fact that I have a closet already stuffed full. Even though I know that fewer clothes mean few decisions to be made and thus a simpler life. Which is really what I’m striving for. So … the annual cleaning out of the closet begins. AND … I have given myself a new challenge for next year. In 2022, I will set aside $500 for new clothes. Whatever I have left at the end of the year goes to an environmental cause. I will feel better donating the money, I know that, so I’m willing to bet there are no new clothes in 2022 for me.
About a year ago, Tim and I were able to pay off our mortgage. Oh Happy Day! To many people that means moving up to a larger house. Not so here, in fact if we were to ever sell this one, it would be to move to a smaller one. How much space do two people need?
I work at home, so there’s not a lot we can do to reduce in this area. We already leave the air conditioning off until it hits 85 degrees inside. The heat doesn’t get turned on until it’s 66 degrees inside. The only thing that I can work on changing is my propensity towards long-ish, hot showers. It’s one of my few guilty pleasures, so probably not.
Tim and I purchased a new car this year. I don’t recommend that often, but in our case it was a no-brainer. We traded in our SUV that I purchased new in 2008 and that had almost 200,000 miles. It got about 19 mpg. We purchased a new Honda Insight hybrid. It gets about 50 mpg. Unfortunately I travel by air more than I would like. Most of it is business travel, and will change as my business changes.
Again, I like my long hot showers, so there’s that. In addition, we put in Jason’s Garden this year, and getting plants established does take time and water. I’m hoping next year is better. I was surprised to learn that a minimum of 13 gallons daily per person is all that’s necessary. In the U.S., we use about 82 gallons daily per person and I’m embarrassed to admit that I’m probably closer to that number.
Working less is good for you health, both mental and physical. I find that I’m more productive when I keep my daily hours around six or so. Of course working from home I think helps as well, so my guess is, I’m as productive as I would be with a full work day, and a lot more happy. The other thing I strive for is to not work on the weekends, so if you happen to email me on a Saturday or Sunday you might not get an immediate response.
While this is far from a complete list, you get the idea. So, simplify your life with the idea that less is more … less stress, more happiness. Challenge yourself and report back!