My world is changing. After so many years of being under a spell, I no longer identify myself as a consumer.
I buy next to nothing except food and a regular coffee (for which I bring my own container). I am not feeding the demand for more manufacturing. Sometimes when I walk down the street and don’t enter any stores or visit stores but don’t buy anything, I feel unAmerican. I have been taught that my value as a citizen is in my procurement of endless and worthless baubles, symbols of my desire to help the country grow and thrive. Without me, my monetary contribution, my dedication to buying more stuff so as to need a bigger house… society will collapse.
Without the citizen consumer, our nation will need to start measuring its health in a different way. Some nations are turning to happiness indexes that measure the satisfaction and quality of life of their citizens. Let me tell you, being a consumer does not lead to happiness. It leads to debt and stress. It leads to a constant struggle to get more and work more.
It has been an adjustment to change my perspective. One thing that helped was moving to an apartment that was right-sized for just me. I have plenty of space for my belongings but no space to continue accumulating things. When I see something I like in a store, it’s easy to say, “I don’t have room for that.” Because I don’t. I also don’t have room for more possessions in my mind or my schedule, two places they have been known to take up space.
In all honesty, I have everything I need. Furthermore, I like spending my money on experiences – things that educate me and create lasting memories. The less stuff I have to spend money on, the less time I’ll need to spend working, and the more money I’ll have to spend on travel. That works for me.
It’s easy to feel guilty about not spending. Believe me, I want to support local stores and artists. It’s really hard to think about not doing that. I try to buy gifts locally when I can, but there are only so many gifts you can buy.
I can see that this trend is catching on because retail stores are being replaced with restaurants and coffee shops – places people go to have experiences with other people. Shopping, once as American a sport as baseball, is falling out of favor with the growing number of people who are feeling the emptiness they get from it. We’re learning that we can’t shop our way to happiness. On the contrary, we can assuredly shop our way to UN-happiness.
I’m still working through my feelings of guilt about no longer being a consumer, but I hope the world will catch up with me soon and let me know that it’s OK to abstain. It’s hard when everyone is selling something and you don’t want to offend anyone or hurt their feelings. It’s nothing personal; I just don’t need much stuff in my life.