Why do we feel like we need so much stuff? Why do we feel like we need to eat all the time in large quantities without knowing where the food came from? Why do we unconsciously dispose of unwanted goods without thinking about where that item may end up? The phrase “throwing something away” should be replaced with “sending my dirty, soiled items out sight so that they are someone else’s problem.” Because essentially that’s where our unwanted trash goes, somewhere else. It doesn’t disappear, even though we think it does. This idea makes us feel better and less guilty. Out of sight, out of mind.
“Overconsumption as a situation where resource use has outpaced the sustainable capacity of the ecosystem.”
The act of overconsumption has been influenced and encouraged by our culture for many years. Their ammunition has been instilling a sense of scarcity within all of us. Scarcity rests on 2 basic concepts that keep consumerism shining bright in our society.
There Is Not Enough
The scarcity mindset can also be fueled by competition and recognition. Because our society thinks that we need all sorts of pointless products to feel beautiful or wanted, most of us feel inadequate. This is due to the fact that a lot of us cannot afford the lifestyle our media encourages. Our self-worth is low. We are in fear of losing it all or even worse dying alone, if we don’t keep up with the Jones’s. So, we buy shiny new things to impress our friends, our coworkers, social media, and make us feel better about ourselves. Then, we see someone else living a “better” life, who we get jealous of. Then that new shiny thing becomes irrelevant and unwanted. The cycle begins again. Conclusively, we are made to feel like WE are not enough causing us to over-consume with the unfulfilled promise of love and stability.
“For many, comfort buys occur when people need to channel their anxieties. Shopping is a way to kill time, relieve stress and avoid boredom….So why do we shop? We are searching for excitement, looking to increase our self-worth, confidence and recognition….The result is ‘Stuffocation,’ a term coined by British cultural forecaster James Wallman. It describes a state where people’s lives are trapped in a vicious cycle of working and accumulating products in order to keep up with the pace of consumerism. This fuels the anxiety of modern life; destroying the planet while keeping us from leading more imaginative, fulfilling lives. Materialism is eating us inside out.” (ECOWATCH)
More is better
People think that by owning more, having more money, eating more they can greatly increase their happiness and unfortunately this is not the case. You know that feeling when you declutter or clean your space? It’s refreshing, sometimes even relieves a feeling of anxiety. I would always feel so disgusted and shocked by those hoarder shows. I sometimes felt a little sorry for them. They spent their lives completely obsessed with material things, that it affected their intimate relationships with others. Why are we putting more value on inanimate objects and not on other human beings? More stuff does not equate to a better life. Evidence of this is shown in those cleaning and organizing shows we seem to binge on.
More money is also not the answer. I do agree that money can equal freedom in a lot of cases. However, it starts with your own personal money goals (retirement, emergency fund, debt..) to figure out what amount is right for you and your family. Hear about all those stories of people winning the lottery? They feel amazing for the first few years, then after they spent their money on material things, are they happier? NO. All those stories of depression and suicide from the most successful people in the world doesn’t make being rich and famous desirable. Even if you yearn for just a little more money, that’s 100% normal to achieve the financial goals you have set. When the feeling of inadequacy kicks in because of it, I have to be reminded of all the things I am doing now and all of the things I already have.
This is where gratitude plays a crucial part of overconsumption. When we can manifest a sense of gratitude for the life we currently have, we can lessen our feelings of scarcity. We don’t search outside of ourselves as much for external happiness because we can find happiness within ourselves. Having a gratitude practice everyday can keep us grounded and focused on the things that are the most important in life. It can also drown out the expectations that others put on us.
So, where does self-love play into all of this? When we love and respect ourselves we don’t search for acceptance through buying products. We are confident in who we are and love ourselves in the present moment. Overconsumption does not support the idea of self-love. When we love ourselves, we can extend our love to the things around us much more easily. This means our relationships with other people and the world around us. By doing this, we do not consume as much and if we do consume it’s for the right reasons, not to compete with our fellow neighbor or appear more valuable.
What can you do?
Overconsumption and scarcity is a common theme in our society today and is wreaking havoc on our planet. By reducing what we buy, we can start to minimize our impact on our environment.
Capsule wardrobes are all the rage now, as well as buying clothings at thrift stores and second hand websites. Take advantage of this and be creative with your style! Another thing you can do is mend your clothing. Take shoes to your local cobbler and clothing to your local tailor to extend the life of your clothes.
In your home, only buying things you know that you need. Making multiple trips to the store during the week for food to avoid food going bad, which eventually leads to food waste. Keeping your decor minimal is also a great way to avoid overconsumption. When we do this, our home is easier to clean and we feel a sense of calm.
When it comes to paper, opt out of snail mail whenever possible. Most things you can get through email or with online banking. I also say no to receipts because I can just check my banking app to know what I’ve spent. I do not pick up pamphlets anymore, if I want to remember the information, I’ll usually just take a photo of it. I take a lot of my notes digitally and store everything in my iCloud on my computer. I can also share these documents easily with my husband.
Lastly, recycle and compost. When you do buy things in packaging, make sure that they are easily recyclable. Having an extra trash bin/container in your home for your recyclables is key to not just mindlessly throwing things away in a regular trash bin. Composting is another way of reducing waste. Where I live there is a food waste collection service. Check out your city/county to see if this service is available to you. If not, start a compost in your backyard! I always try to use food scraps anyway that I can. I store them in the freezer, fill a bag up, then make veggie stock. I will also chop them up and put them into soups and omelets. Get creative!
We can make a difference
There have been some amazing changes happening these past years around improving the way we take care of our environment. People are catching on to the importance behind limiting our expendable resources, because we are realizing that they are starting to diminish rapidly. Change needs to happen quickly and start-up companies are taking advantage of this opportunity to create some incredible eco-friendly options for us.
Things can change. You don’t have to change everything about your life at once, but committing to a simple, clean, and green life, you can slowly make a difference. Start with one of these options above and gradually pepper them into your life. Inspire others to do the same and start thinking about the impact of your choices.
Overconsumption is not a sustainable way of life. It not only affects the world, but it affects how we feel about ourselves. We are enough and we don’t need things to make us happy. Fully Love Yourself today and see how it impacts other parts of your life, including taking care of the planet.
Comment below with your commitment toward overconsumption for the remainder of the year or even into 2020!
My commitment is to utilize my local compost drop-off in the city of Orlando. What’s yours?