Tiny House, Tiny Living, The Tiny Life.

Posts Tagged consumerism

The Religion Of Stuff

It occurred to me the other day that consumerism has reached a level of socially ingrained fanaticism. This isn’t by accident, marketers have gotten us here on purpose.  For many of us or those we know, we simply lust after ______ consumer good.  It pervades our country, politics, social interactions, and economics.

Here is the definition of consumerism:

A social and economic order that is based on the systematic creation and fostering of a desire to purchase goods and services in ever greater amounts.

The entire premise of consumerism is that we must consume, but more importantly we must do so at a constantly growing rate.  This seems to be at odds in a finite world, but many people don’t concern themselves with it.  I wanted to break down this word a bit more, because the ending –ism struck me as interesting, it was something I never considered before really, what does –ism really mean?

Looking up the definition of the ending –ism I found these four possible meanings:

  • a political belief or religion based on a particular principle or the ideas
  • the action or process of doing something
  • illness caused by too much of something
  • the practice of treating people unfairly because of something

If you think about political issues or stances on religion you will quick notice they are really contentious issues.  They often define a line which many fight over.  You find that many people choose friends, business partners, and other large decisions on the parameters of their political and religious stances. One of the largest lines is to consume or not.  Think about it, essentially there is a hard line drawn that many don’t cross, but those who do are subject to great social pressure!  Essentially society discriminates against those who don’t consume.  Don’t buy lots of clothes, you don’t get a job or a date.  Don’t feel the need to buy things when what you have is working just fine or even, you don’t want a huge house; you are seen as cheap, lazy, poor, etc.

I had to simply laugh when I looked at the third bullet point, an illness cause by too much of something, the irony of that when considering consumerism is astounding.  What if we really could get people to treat this behavior like a disease?

It certainly is interesting the implication of this word, how it has such a tight hold on us and defends itself through strong social pressures.

It All Goes Back In The Box

Our good friend Michael over at TinyHouseDesign.com posted this great video on his Facebook page and it just really hit home on some really key truths.  I have talked about how when you downsize to a Tiny House, you actually gain.  You gain freedom from debt, you gain time, you gain deeper relationships, you gain insights to what is important.

How To Get Started: A Practical Guide Part 4

Now many of you who are looking to actually live in a Tiny House have some level of awareness of this cultural phenomenon we know as consumerism.  It essentially functions by creating social pressures to buy more stuff, our culture has an instilled mentality that we need more stuff to be happy.

The more stuff, the more happiness right?  Wrong.  Studies have actually shown that the purchase of stuff gives us a quick high, but ultimately leaves us even more unhappy.  Buying more stuff means we need to work more to pay for it, we incur more debt.  All of these things bring stress, give us less time to relax, time away from family and friends and when we do have free time, we are hounded by collection agencies.   When we move into a Tiny House, we need to reduce the amount of things we need to fit in, this actually reduces stress, focuses us on what is important and create greater value for what little we do have.

I encourage you to have some time set aside to do some introspection.  During that time consider what you have purchased over the last month using receipts and a spreadsheet.   I have seen it a million times, people who don’t track it, don’t realize how bad the problem is.  This is a pretty well document phenomenon.  Studies have shown that when people track things, they typically spend 1/3 less, just by tracking it!

It has taken me a long time to really weed through my subconscious to get to a point where I can realize when these deep rooted influences are pushing me to buy something.  I have been on this journey now for 2 years and still am struggling with it.  I do intentionally strike a balance between separation of consumer culture and still staying generally socially acceptable.  Clothing for example is a big societal function, fashions and trends drive us to buy more and I think many have a hard time breaking this cycle.

Now it is true, men’s clothing is easier to do this with, but I still believe anyone can do it.  My clothes literally can fit in a big suitcase, all of them.  I own 1 suit, 3 pairs of pants, 2 shorts, 10 shirts, 15 undershirts, 30 pairs of socks, 30 pairs of underwear, 3 work shirts, 3 shirt that get dirty, 2 pajama pants, a hat, rain jacket, winter jacket, one pair of dress shoes, one pair of running shoes, and one pair of garden shoes.   I have also worked to be able to work from home or a job that I can dress casually, this drastically reduces the amount of clothes and limits social pressures.

So today start looking at what you have spent, take some time to think about how these cultural norms influence you behavior and check out the story of stuff to help understand these mechanisms.

Story Of Stuff – Interview

A long time ago I talked about a really nice video called “The Story Of Stuff”  I put it at the bottom here, but I recently found an interview with her that I wanted to share.  The interview is with Stephen Colbert, who for those of you who don’t know of him, is a comedian who does a news show; so his interview tend to be a little ridiculous, but she gets her point across nicely.

Systems of Sharing About to Revolutionize Consumerism

Page 112