Over-Consumption: 3 Ways to Break the Habit
The festive season is well underway. Every year there is the shared idea that it starts earlier and earlier, and I suspect this is partially true, and it has certainly been the case over the last two Christmases. Last year, decorative fairy lights adorned houses near ours by mid-November, bringing joy to many of us when we learnt we’d face the Christmas period in a pandemic lockdown. This year the mince pies, colourful crackers and Christmas chocolates appeared in supermarket aisles long before Halloween pumpkins were carved and fireworks lit, perhaps anticipating another Christmas lockdown.
But one thing that never seems to change is just how much we all seem to consume at this time of year. Whether food, alcohol, or gifts, many of us (myself included) are guilty of over-consuming over Christmas. But whilst our love of consuming and purchasing is heightened over the Christmas period, how many of us can claim that we don’t continue our love of buying after the festive period is over? (The New Year sales are proof enough!)
Clothes, the latest tech gadgets, new home decor to keep up with the latest trends we’ve seen on Instagram; so many of us are guilty of filling our lives with more and more things that we may desire, but may not need.
The ‘make-do-and-mend’ mentality has been completely replaced with an obsession to purchase and own ‘new’ things.
I will be the first to hold-up my hand here: I am dreadfully guilty of this. Recently, I have been desperately trying to re-organise my wardrobe as things spill out of the rails: this is not a case of poor storage. I just have too much.
The same goes for books. Sam and I are notorious bibliophiles, and we seem capable to walking into almost any type of shop and coming out with a book. We chuckle to ourselves, claiming “you can never have too many books” but it is honestly becoming a challenge finding space to store our ever-increasing collection.
More concerning than storage, however, is the horrendous impact our love of over-consumption has on the environment, and on the lives of those who are part of the supply chain that provide these objects. The ‘make-do-and-mend’ mentality has been completely replaced with an obsession to purchase and own ‘new’ things: and this increased demand has encouraged many companies to reduce production costs, cut corners, and exploit workers in order to provide us with cheaper and cheaper goods. I don’t think many of us can pretend that we’re not aware of the human and environmental cost our love of new things.
2021 is now coming to a close, and for many of us this time of year is not just about festivities, but a time to start reflecting on what we want to improve on for the coming year. For me, I will be reflecting on addressing how (and how much) I consume, and thinking of ways to tackle this in 2022.
I know it’s a hard habit to break.
Everyday we are bombarded with opportunities to purchase more – social media, email, television, and magazines are increasingly commercial space. Advertising has become more complex, and is no longer limited to the ‘ad space’: articles, blogs and films are just as likely to be funded by advertising budget as billboards. Mobile phones make it easy to be a consumer at any hour of the day or night.
So I don’t expect this to be an easy task.
Below I detail just a few of the ways I plan to tackle my over-consumption head-on for 2022.
1 - Spend More Time in the Real World
The mobile phone has brought the world to our fingertips. Shopping is no longer a physical experience of going out to the shops. We can now consume whenever we feel the impulse. We can shop first thing in the morning, on our coffee breaks, at the dinner table or out in a restaurant, whilst waiting for a train or in the doctor’s surgery.
The simplest way to challenge this over-exposure to online shopping is to reduce phone time. Make a rule to ban phones from the dinner table, and make sure you carry a book with you when you know you might be left waiting. Leave the digital temptation behind when you go for walks. Most phones now have settings that allow you to monitor (and limit) the amount of time to spend on certain apps or activities. Use them! By avoiding the temptation to purchase something when you feel the impulse, you may find that it wasn’t something you needed to buy after all.
The less you use the phone, the more you’ll be able to engage in the real world around you. Leaving the house without your phone can feel a little scary at first, but is truly liberating. Instead, take time to notice those small details on your walks (which you can enjoy without always taking a photo!), and really give friends and family the attention they deserve when you meet up for coffee.
2 - Hobbies occupy idle fingers!
Many of us are guilty of shopping when we are bored. Sometimes, the need to entertain ourselves in these idle moments is precisely why we choose to start browsing as a distraction.
As we head into 2022, I will be giving more time to pursuing hobbies to keep my mind (and fingers) focused on more productive things than online shopping! For me, these hobbies include dress-making, gardening and cooking, but fitness and exercise, gaming or art would have the same effect: anything to keep you focused on the present.
And of course, as I mentioned above, it’s always important to keep a books (or other reading) on you at all times! You never know when you may end-up stuck somewhere without something to do, and it is too easy to reach for your phone. Books (thankfully) tend not to include many adverts!
3 - Be thankful for what you have
One reason we buy new things is to replace what we already have. We have become rather fond of the idea that, because things are often cheap (usually much cheaper than they should be), they are disposable; we live in a culture that is still inherently ‘throw-away’.
Being more thoughtful about purchases allows us to evaluate what we really need, and makes us appreciate more what we already have. The next time you think you need something new, look at what you already have: do you really need another dress for that wedding? Is there not something already in your wardrobe you could already use?
As for those items that are looking a little threadbare, worn or broken: is there a way you can mend them and extend their lives? Jeans can be patched, stained clothes can be dyed a new colour, broken vases and crockery can be mended. Sashiko, the Japanese art of visible mending, embraces the imperfections of breakages and daily wears and tears: embroidered patches on jacket elbows and bold bright glue holding together a shattered vase.
Over-consumption is not going to be an easy habit to break, but after the excess of Christmas, this seems like the right time to challenge myself. So look-out for future thoughts on this goal throughout 2022.