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3 new ways to think about consumption
Giving Amazon the finger, and other ponderings.
A topical little quote I found on The Internet to get your juices flowing for this week’s issue (is that gross? I’m talking brain juice, people!):
Forget sales — everything is 100% off if you don’t buy it.
As I dig into my deepest thoughts and feelings about Stuff and how I’m living my life, I’ve had a few “aha” moments that might be helpful to share.
The push to consume is EVERYWHERE.
Capitalistic consumption has always been a feature of American life. I remember returning to the US after spending 3 months in South America backpacking as a teenager. I returned around Christmas time and remember feeling like I had entered a war zone with all the advertisements and commercialism around Christmas. It was a full assault on my senses, and deeply alienating after the peace of living a simpler life for 3 months. And this was in 2001, before the internet and iPhones took over our lives!
Once Instagram entered the picture in 2012 I felt singlehandedly responsible for the rise of ads…I could not resist them and clicked and bought way more than I needed. I’m such a sucker for well-targeted marketing.
Having babies, which started for me in 2016, turbocharges the marketing rapid-fire. Did you know that for every challenge you encounter as a new mom, there is a PRODUCT to solve it? Sleep, peace, and a happy baby is always one more purchase away.
And then last week I got this email recently which really drove the point home:
This is my credit card company emailing me to remind me that I COULD be spending more money, and they’re just here with a helpful reminder that I need to take advantage of my “purchasing power.” What the actual hell?!?
I don’t really see a good way out of this, other than to shield yourself as much as possible from advertising (goodbye, social media!) and to really ponder each and every purchase you make. Which leads me to….
Pretend you live in a world without Amazon or overseas factories.
This is my new game to rewire my brain to stop consuming so much. Whenever I run into a problem and reach for my phone to find a product to fix it, I pause and think “what did people do in the 1950s (or even in my own lifetime, the 1980s) to solve this sort of thing?” They didn’t have Amazon and endless cheap goods.
Two recent such non-product solutions:
My toothpaste tube drives me nuts when it gets low. I hate having to squeeze and roll it, only for it to unroll. I started looking on Amazon for an old fashioned toothpaste squeezer type product and then realized this was ridiculous. And the solve? A paper clip!
My toddler’s bedroom door has a large gap at the bottom, and we want to make her room as dark as possible for nap times. Again, I started thinking about some product to put under the door, but managed to redirect myself to use what I already own. Enter: rubber bands around a bath mat! Totally adequate!
In conclusion: Constraints are great for innovation, and don’t be above creating false constraints.
Another obvious solution is to stop buying from Amazon altogether. I did cancel my Prime membership early in COVID after seeing a fleet of Amazon trucks parade through my city, launching me into a weeklong depression. But then I had a baby in 2021 and just did not have the bandwidth to go out shopping for everything I needed. Yes, I’m weak but maybe I’ll give this another shot soon.
Give your stuff a good life.
This is a weird one, but something I’ve been thinking about a LOT lately.
I recently helped a woman organize her closet and enormous clothes collection. She said she loved clothes. But I kept finding brand new designer clothes rumpled on the floor, with the tags still on. It occurred to me that she actually probably loved *shopping* rather than clothes, or else she wouldn’t treat her clothes that way. A fine but important distinction.
Anyhow, I digress. I’m going to save this third point for its own post because I have a lot more to say. Stay tuned for next week’s issue where I explore giving my Stuff the best life possible, and more!
Do you have any non-product-buying hacks that make your life better? How do you avoid rampant consumerism?
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