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Plague of Consumption

Posted by karmakazi , 24 August 2012 · 369 views

In the many shows I've watched and discussions I've had about hoarding, it seems there is a component to the phenomenon that rarely comes up.  For the last century, we've been programed to be consumers.  Consumers have great potential to become hoarders.

How many advertisements have you seen in your life that suggested you "can't just have one" or "collect them all!"  Millions of people operate under the assumption that consuming and collecting items is both normal and expected by society.

Can we really blame a woman who has hundreds of pairs of shoes and matching handbags, after seeing the magazines made for women?  What about a man who has hundreds of tools, numerous cars and tons of projects?  These are the things that are advertised to us on a daily basis, as if they are "the way" people live their lives.  It's in every branch of the media, not just commercials and advertisements.  Unfortunately, these shows and commercials often do not teach people about extracting the excess stuff from their lives... it only pushes the idea of buying new things as often as possible.

Many children grew up in a world where their homes were not necessarily hoarded, but where collecting things was not only normal but desirable and something to be proud of.  Managing to find a unique thing for the collection... or a bunch of things, and making the collection bigger and bigger becomes bragging rights.

Somewhere along the line, we decided our homes were supposed to be some sort of museum to the things that we love, having them proudly displayed on shelves or on walls, proclaiming to the world "who we think we are".
I was one of those children.  Every member of my family had their own "special" collection (though frankly most people had multiple collections) and everyone else bought them gifts that would add to that collection.  I believe I was the first person in my family to begin to refuse gifts (asking for cash instead), and I was looked at as weird for it.  Why on earth would I not want to participate in exchanging of gifts?

In my family, that gift exchange wasn't just finding something a person would like and giving it to them, exchanging gifts is one of the few ways my family tries to express love for one another.  The other is food.  If you love someone, you buy them things and you make them food.  Spending time together is not something that happens much, getting to know each other beyond shallow surface depth doesn't happen much either.  My family has no idea what goes on in my life and barely reacted during some major events in my life.  I don't have any heartache over it... this is just how it has always been.

I suppose that when I said I didn't want to exchange gifts any longer, to them it was as if I had said I didn't love them any more or didn't want to be a part of the family.  Neither of those things are true, I'd much rather spend time having fun with them (I never get invited to game nights any more) and I'd rather they not buy me things that I'm going to end up donating or throwing away... it's a waste of their money and time shopping and they don't seem to grasp that gifts do not make me feel loved.  If anything, it makes me feel that they're throwing money at me rather than having to interact with me.

That... well ok I do have some heartache over that.

Anyway, We are taught by television, books, magazines and other media that buying things is normal, good for the economy and necessary for happiness.  You can't look good, be smart or stay in touch with people unless you spend lots of money.  You can't fall in love, get married or have kids without spending lots of money.  You can't even get sick or die without spending lots of money.  Everything in our society depends upon each person spending more money than they earn, and there are only two places all of the stuff that they buy can go.... into a home or into a dumpster.

Either it goes to their home, or it gets donated or gifted to someone else's home, or it goes in the trash.  Ultimately, every item that we've consumed over the years will end up in the trash, one way or another.  Saving things from the trash is only a temporary layover.

Next time you're in a store, stop and take a look around you.  Understand that 99% of the merchandise, packaging and even the shelves and signage in that building will all be in a dump some day.  If we're lucky, much of it will be recycled a few times before ending up in a dump.  Nonetheless, know that every shiny new thing in that store is destined to become trash, though the journey to that point varies.

Before buying, consider the journey it is going to experience before it becomes trash.  How well loved will it be, in the long run?  Will you likely have it more than a year?  Will you be bored with it or have forgotten about it within a month?  Do you like it because of its purpose or is it just the form and colors that you admire?  (I'm very guilty of wanting to buy something just because I like the color... ugh!)

We desperately need impulse buying to become a thing of the past.  Every single purchase should be carefully considered because each time an item is purchased, it is a signal to the manufacturer to make more crap!  A person might think there is no harm in buying something they may not use and ultimately donating or throwing it away, but this is simply not true.  Every item we purchase carries with it a burden, and we must take the time to consider that burden before we purchase the item.  If it has a use that outweighs the burden on ourselves and the planet, and we are likely to use it for years to come, then it is a reasonable purchase.

Otherwise... it should be left in the store.

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