On Consumerism

I went out this weekend and spent an unreasonable amount of money on things I don’t really need.
This seems to be an ‘after pay day’ symptom of mine, where I think well, I’ve just got paid and I deserve to treat myself, after all the hard month’s work I have done. So I pay my bills, buy some stuff I want, but don’t really need, although at the time I convince myself that I do really need it – and these are classic pieces of good quality and I will wear them forever (here I go again..) and then I’m left with just about enough to get me to the next pay day.
I often see some of my friends and family who are good at not spending their money on wasteful stuff and instead save up for meaningful things – like houses, cars, memorable holidays and experiences.
To be honest, if I didn’t go shopping for a year I’d probably have enough to wear, not probably, definitely. Although my philosophy in buying clothes is to spend more money, but buy good quality classic pieces, which I do usually wear until they fall apart, but it still does feel a bit wasteful, when I should be saving up for other things, or just saving something up in general.
I recently read an article somewhere, where it was suggested, that instead of having lots of clothes that don’t go together; we should buy a few key pieces that can be combined together for a capsule wardrobe. The recommended number of pieces ranged from about 24 to 35 (excluding underwear, socks and shoes). I would love to be able to do this and it has provided an excuse for me to keep buying expensive ‘key pieces’ for my new capsule wardrobe and convincing myself that it will save me money in the long run, but I think only time will tell with this one.
Another reason why I have been able to do this is because I have recently got a proper full time job and which enables me to enjoy the benefits of a regular full time salary. However, this has also lead to the realisation that if I earn more money, I buy more expensive stuff and end up being broke by the end of the month anyway, just as I was before. After talking to some of my friends, this seems to be the case with them also. They get a larger salary, so get a bigger flat, nicer car and buy designer instead of high-street and then end up in a similar situation.
Who can we blame for this? Ourselves, the consumerist culture, or that we live in or London? The answer is probably the combination of all of these factors.  I find that as long as I don’t go near the shops I am quite happy going without buying something. But as soon as I venture outside and see all those beautiful things – I just must have them. I must! London is amazing for shopping and if you love buying new clothes or new (and old) of anything, it is full of temptation.

I have a friend who used to be just as unashamedly consumerist as I am, but has recently turned very eco, to a level which I admire, but could not replicate. She buys all her stuff in second hand shops, in order to recycle. While I do admit that there are often bargains to be had in these shops, I can’t imagine doing the same.  I would be more up for buying ‘green’ clothes made from organic cotton (pesticides from non-organic cotton can harm the workers that farm it) and where the workers that have made the garments get a fair wage. Which means not buying cheap clothes from cheap shops. However, a hefty price tag is not always a guarantee that the workers got paid a fair wage for their work, but one can only hope for this to be the case, and it is another good excuse to buy expensive clothes!
When I was at university, I remember our teacher told us in an anthropology lesson, that there is a remote society somewhere, which was studied by some anthropologist (can’t remember the name of it) where people live in mud huts and have only a few worldly possessions, but they are happy, because they believe that they have everything they need – food, shelter and enough to get by on in general. I remember this stuck in my mind and continues to fascinate me whenever I think about it.
A while ago, I read an article in the Guardian about a guy who gave up cash for a year as an experiment to see if it was possible. He got a used caravan someone was throwing away for free and started volunteering at a local organic farm in exchange for a place to park his caravan and some food. He met all his needs by creating systems for heating (wood), cooking (outside on a  stove of some kind), electricity (solar panels), bathing (outside, or a solar shower), etc. You can read his story here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/nov/09/mark-boyle-money
He is now also working on a new project – setting up an entire village where it will be possible to live without cash.  http://www.justfortheloveofit.org/blog-4870~big-moneyless-village-and-living-news?PHPSESSID=1a0ce1aa9b2adac412d2f985a2796414
When I read about his experience, I am motivated to also pursue a much simpler life. Perhaps not live completely without money, but live on less money and less waste and spend the surplus money I do have on positive projects, rather than material goods. Perhaps that will happen one day, when I move out of London. In the meantime, I will continue to strive to produce as least waste as possible here in the city (which provides me with another justification to buy less, but more expensive clothes, although the key word here is ‘less’) and live as ecologically as possible at the moment. 

About Maia

My name is Maia, I live in London, UK, and I originally come from the Czech Republic. Maia's World is my blog where I write about life in general, personal development, and about ideas, beliefs and discoveries on how to live a fuller life.
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