First, what does it mean to consume?
We consume beverages and food.
Entire houses are consumed by fire.
There’s concern over water consumption.
Sometimes people are consumed by passion.
There’s even an app for the iphone that monitors consumption.
Basically, what was consumed is now gone. It is no more.
We live in a society of consumers. That’s what we’re called. We buy, we use up, we throw away. We are inundated with marketing messages that tell us to buy, buy, buy. Every occasion becomes an excuse to buy: “Get this incredible $150 massage package for everyone on your Valentine’s list!” Jeepers, I don’t even have a Valentine’s list.
Seeing customers as “consumers” has changed the way businesses view their customers. The company exists to produce to meet the insatiable appetite of the “consumers.” It’s beneficial for a company when its customers consume—they use it up and come back for more. With built-in obsolescence, companies are practically assured future sales. And, just in case greed isn’t a naturally occuring phenomenon, the non-stop marketing messages that engender dissatisfaction feed the desire for more. Remember, you’ve got to keep up with the Jones’.
Now we practically live in a disposable society, We’ve got everything from disposable plates, cups and utinsels to disposable contact lenses. There’s disposable diapers, cameras and pens. There’s also tons of single-use items like paper towels, baggies, canned sodas and bottled water, bows and wrapping paper, hand warmers, newspapers, magazines and more, Use it up, throw it away. Come back for more. And I’m not just talking about cheap stuff, either. Do you think they recycle satellites after they’re used up?
The environment is another aspect of this issue—the excessive waste that consumers create. It’s the concern for the environment that spawned the “Reduce, Recycle, Reuse” campaign. If your interested in reducing your impact on the environment, watch “No Impact Man,” a documentary available through Netflix. For me, as a financial coach, what’s really concerning me right now is the financial waste that comes with consumerism.
This kind of financial waste has becoming so obvious that even California’s governor, Jerry Brown, has ordered cutbacks on at least some of the state’s ridiculously wasteful spending. He’s banned the purchase of new official state trinkets that agencies used to buy and use as give-aways (Jerry Brown bans official California state trinkets). I know I’ve wasted my share on useless thingies that seemed neat at the time. As my family and I have learned more about money, we have bought less. Still, I’m stuck in a house that’s jam-packed. It’s stuffed with stuff. I’m getting rid of some of it through craigslist.com and freecycle, donating it to charity and putting the worst of it in the trash. But I’ve got a long way to go as I recover from my past “hyperconsumerism.”
That’s a great term, isn’t it? Sure, we naturally consume things like food, water, clothes, gasoline, and electricity. I guess it’s hard to avoid, although some of it can be reduced (e.g. buying food with less packaging and repairing clothes instead of buying new ones. Hyperconsumerism, to me, means that consumers have taken consumerism to a whole new level. They’ve gone nuts, gobbling up way more than they need, even beyond the point of just being wasteful.
The whole idea bugs me. I’ve made enough changes in my life that I no longer identify myself as a consumer. But I still want more change. I’d like a simpler life that’s not complicated by so much “stuff.” I’m not alone in this desire. There are other people who have already set out to make this change. It’s a tiny little movement within our society. If you’d like to know more about making the shift away from being a consumer/hyperconsumer, check out the 100 Thing Challenge. His solution will seem extreme to some people. Keeping one’s personal possessions to 100 things or less will seem crazy to other people. I find it fascinating.
I’m wondering how many other people out there want to stop having so much stuff and have a simpler, more peaceful life. Let me know your thoughts.