Is Consuming Less the Answer to Creating More?

Like many of you, I have an Amazon Prime account. My heart seems to skip a beat when my doorbell rings, dropping off another brown box. I find satisfaction in my constant consumerism and perhaps you do, too, but I also experience frustration. As my condo and especially my closet get more cluttered, the more frustrated and anxious I become. I’ve discovered the satisfaction I get from buying shiny, new things is fleeting and oftentimes, disappointing.

So, this year, my new motto is consume less and create more. I’ve set a stricter budget, am writing a book, taking a painting class and yes, even bought a grown-up coloring book.

We all are consumers: of food, movies, clothes, jewelry, make-up, gas, technology, music, and TV. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this, we all have needs and we must consume in order to meet them, but over-consumption can become an unhealthy obsession if we’re not careful.

Marketers excel at their job of convincing us we need more possessions. And if you’re like me, you often fall for their tricks. We’ve been conditioned to believe the lie that the more we consume, the happier, more beautiful, more desirable we’ll become. The truth is, when we consume too much we can experience anxiety, stress and sadness, which makes our void even deeper, creating a vicious cycle.

A life of over-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 wired to contribute more than we consume.

 A life of contribution is an outward-focused life; it creates more than it takes.

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 an innate 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 by 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 and 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.

Support creators.

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.

 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 by both.

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.

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 yoga pants, sign up for a 5 or 10K with a friend. You’ll create a memory and deepen a relationship.

Are you living a life primarily characterized by consumerism or contribution? How can you consume less and create more?

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