Minimalism vs Conspicuous Consumption

The Rant

Have you ever looked around your house and thought to yourself, “why on earth do I have so much stuff?” You have things you haven’t used in years. Ornaments and decorations cluttering up the walls and shelves, cupboards full of clothing, too many creams and lotions and potions to count, cosmetics, everything just sitting there taking up space. It’s a pain point and drain of energy because you need to work your butt off to keep some form of order among the mess.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll find yourself frustrated with having to continually put stuff away and sift through all that junk to find whatever you’re looking for. At some point, you have to be honest with yourself and admit that you don’t need half of the things that you have. Most of the things that you own, and I can promise you this, are causing you more heartache than joy. Constantly cleaning up the mess is taking away valuable time you could have spent doing something constructive.

Predators and Prey

It’s not really our fault if you think about it. We live in a consumerist world with companies always trying to sell us stuff that we don’t need. Companies try to convince us that we need these things, through devious marketing techniques and by continually pushing their ads in our face wherever you go. Advertisements everywhere; buy this, buy that, subscribe here and it will make you happy, your life will never be the same. What a load of garbage.

Most of these things we’ve been convinced that we need in actual fact don’t contribute anything positive to our lives. They have simply been created to line the pockets of the corporate hotshots. The companies selling you these things have, for the most part, no interest in your well-being. They never set out to bring value to your life, and in all honesty most of the time they will end up costing you dearly. Putting you in debt when you are convinced that you need to live above your means to be happy because you have been convinced that you need to own all these things to be satisfied.

Enter Minimalism

For this reason, I’m very intrigued by people who live minimalistic lives. People who seek to have the minimum amount of physical positions required to get them through the day. Today I think this type of lifestyle has many benefits from having greater financial freedom, a less cluttered house, and in turn a less cluttered mind.

The question I ask myself though, is how many people actually realize that they are being taken advantage of? And how many of those people choose to either live with it or make a change? Surely people must realize that the culprits and companies and product manufacturers are all taking advantage of our weaknesses and desires? So then why is it that not many people choose to live minimalistic lives, where they cut themselves free from these bonds? Is it all to keep up appearances, or are they afraid of letting go of the material possessions in fear that they will feel somehow empty and void without them? I understand that there must be some level of anxiety in letting go of your possessions; I used to be a pack-rat, saving all the strangest things, telling myself that maybe tomorrow or the week after I’d really need this thing. It was horrible.

At the risk of sounding cliche, one day, something clicked inside my mind. It was as though a switch just flipped and I no longer had this obligation to keep everything. Boxes upon boxes of things left out the door that day, and that night when I got into bed, I had a sudden rush of regret thinking of all my possessions. I’d never see them again. I went to sleep, and the following morning, the feeling had passed, like dust in the wind. I felt freer than ever, and my life was so much less cluttered.

A Lifestyle

I still have a lot of junk that I need to sort out, but whenever I find a box of stuff that was packed away, I think to myself, “do I really need this?” Most often the not the answer is no, and I let it go out the door. It seems simple in theory; a little change in behavior can have a great impact on your life. Most major changes in your life are the result of a compounding effect of tiny little changes you decide to make throughout your day-to-day life. At the end of the year, you’ll find yourself better than you were before.

I urge you to really consider moving to a more minimalistic lifestyle. Let go of the things you don’t need and stop spending your money on things that aren’t investing in your future. Next time you are faced with an advertisement for a product that seems so compelling and interesting, and you want to buy it, think for a moment “is this really going to bring value to me?” Remember that most companies are there to make a profit at the cost of the consumer, and no I’m not saying all products and services are bad, but it’s highly subjective whether or not the product or service is right for you.

The Research

After saying all these terrible things and perhaps derailing from the subject a bit, I reckon some facts might aid my plight. I was sure that I had a solid understanding of the idea of conspicuous consumption, but my confidence in my competence dwindled with each article and thesis I read. There’s much more to it than you might initially care to admit. So, what are the reasons for conspicuous consumption? Here is a list of some.

External Reasons

  • Social Status
  • Cultural Norms
  • Social Belonging

Social Status

Social status is quite possibly the one that stands out most prominently. We see it everywhere around us. Conspicuous consumption is a way for people to attain and sustain their social status in a capitalist society. The more expensive and fancy things you own, the more wealthy you appear to be, the higher you will rank in the social status ring. It’s a fight club where combatants are constantly scrambling to out-do their opponent. People even go as far as camping outside retail stores so that they can be first in line to purchase the latest and greatest product. Yes, you with the iPhone.

Cultural Norms

Culture is generally defined as a group of people who share a set of beliefs, values, behaviors, and inclinations. When I think of the word “culture” I immediately see pictures in my mind comparing oriental and western cultures. Oriental cultures with bright and flashy clothing, ancient festivals and traditions, mindful living… Western cultures with people living showmanship-style lives, superficial and materialistic, and always chasing fads. However, some research suggests that western cultures are less bothered with material possession than eastern cultures. At the time of writing this article I have not yet found any solid proof to back this hypothesis, but I think it’s worth mentioning that there is a possibility you might not have your upbringing and culture to blame for your copious spending habits.

Social Belonging

This is one teenagers will most likely be correlated with. Feeling the need to own material items in order to be in with the crowd or accepted by the community. You might stand out as weird for not having a TV in your house and nobody will ever come visit you. You might be shunned by your upper-class friends for not driving the latest Mercedes. We accumulate and spend in order to belong. Material possession has become an inseparable companion to feeling connected and having a sense of belonging. It’s a weakness prayed on by so many companies out there; our human need for connection. We are social animals after all.

How does this change my life?

They say that with knowledge comes power. If you can take a step back from your life and analyse things normally taken for granted you can gain insight on how you can take charge to become a more content soul. Take a minute to look around and see all the things you own, things your bought for the reasons listed above, that bring no real value to your life. I’m not saying to sell your PlayStation, or to own only one set of clothes, but minimizing on the amount of junk that you have will bring a lightness to your heart. It will clear out space in your home as well as your mind and wallet. Perhaps if you stop, or even just slow down, on your conspicuous consumption you can save up enough money to take a proper holiday next year.

Conclusion

  • Keep the things that bring true joy to your heart.
  • Get rid of the rest.
  • Don’t buy out of habit.
  • Don’t buy what you don’t need.
  • Save that money instead.
“Know yourself and you will know what to change.”

Love,

Angelique

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