I like stuff.
I like to buy pretty things, wear pretty things, decorate my house in pretty things and dream of someday owning lots of expensive, nice things. I spend tons of energy lusting after, searching for, and investing time in getting stuff I want but don’t need. I have Amazon Prime account – enough said. My heart seems to skip a beat when that doorbell rings, dropping off another brown box. I find satisfaction in my constant consumerism.The reality, however, is the satisfaction I get from buying shiny, new things is fleeting and oftentimes, disappointing.
We all are consumers: of food, movies, clothes, jewelry, make-up, gas, technology, music, and TV.
However, we’ve been conditioned by marketers to believe the lie that the more we consume, the happier, more beautiful, more desirable we’ll become.
A life of consumption is self-centered; it takes more than it gives. A life of contribution is an outward-focused life; it creates more than it takes. I believe we have been created and called to contribute more than we consume.
While it’s okay and necessary to be a consumer, we have also been made to create. We’ve been designed to create ideas, art, music, poetry, crafts, movements and companies. Our materialistic culture convinces that we need to consume, while what we really need is to create. I believe each of us have a God-given desire to create or to add value to the world around us. So we are all creators of some kind – some of us with words, others with art, some with clothing or food.
Here’s the thing: In the end I believe our life will be characterized by contribution or consumerism, by one or the other, but not both.
If you feel worn out from the barrage of messages urging you to consume more, I encourage you to take a step back and mindfully entertain the possibility of living a simpler and more creative life. If you’re up for the journey here are some tips:
Be a creator first, a consumer second
Try a new ratio – try to create more than you consume. Cook more food and eat out less. Brew your own coffee rather than visiting a coffee shop everyday. Focus on refining your wardrobe rather than growing it. Often it’s our boredom that leads us to shop or consume things we don’t really need. Focus on spending that energy elsewhere.
Keep your eye out for talented creators — for conscious clothing designers, poets, painters and authors. Invest in their work. By doing so you are supporting the arts, craftsmanship and people who are positively contributing to our society. Attend a homespun market or check out Etsy.
Be a conscious consumer
Before you buy something, take the time to learn where and how it was made. Shop ethically as often as you can. My friend Abigail recently started a resource called Freestate to help consumers do just that. Also check out the blog Conscious Closets for ethical fashion inspiration.
Instead of collecting things, create experiences
According to research, we’ll be happier and experience more satisfaction if we spend our money on experiences, rather than things. So instead of buying another pair of Lululemon yoga pants, sign up for a 5 of 10K with a friend. You’ll create a memory and deepen a relationship.
Are you living a life primarily characterized by consumerism or contribution?