I walked into Target this holiday season, only to grab a few toiletries, and oh boy, was I instantly overwhelmed! All I could see, for as long as the aisles went, was junk— Christmastime illuminates how material things have a stronghold in our lives.
If you’ve ever moved, you never realize how much stuff you have until it’s causing you acute anxiety, throwing it into boxes, only to schlep it to your new abode and shove it away in yet another closet.
We like stuff, though. Let’s take a Facebook ad, for example: it catches your eye, and somewhere deep in your reptile brain, you decide that you NEED it. From the genesis of having that desire, to the research and comparisons leading up to the purchase, we feel so good when we swipe our credit card, walk out of the store with a fresh box of whatever it is— or even come home to packages delivered by Amazon. The dopamine rush is addictive!
And I am so guilty. I love things. My materialism addiction goes beyond my Taurean proclivities and back to my socio-economic status: suburban white middle class midwestern millennial. Your character is not judged upon what you do but what you have. It means you are successful, down to every bell and whistle on your car to the sheets you slip into every night. People have made entire careers on peddling exactly what they use in daily life— it’s called being an influencer. Through the use of social media, we survey and assess what the “cool” people are using, because—obviously—if I use that, I’ll be cool, too. (Plot twist: I’m already cool.)
The lie of consumerism is one of hope— the ad agencies, the marketers, the product promoters, they’re all conspiring on you. That one thing? It’s going to change your life. It’s going to make everything better, pat you on the back, and instantly throw your life into a new trajectory of success and prosperity. That fresh meal subscription, that gym membership, the new iPhone with all the apps to make you a more productive, well-adapted person: it’s all a lie. They prey on you, planting the seed that your life is a sham without this, that it is lacking now without this thing; you’re going to look back on your life later and wonder how you ever survived without it! Lies. Sure, products work. But it all starts with you. That’s where the cycle ends, though, and the buck stops— with you.
The realization that YOU are the only thing YOU need to become the best version of YOURSELF will break their bank. As we move into the New Year, I’m being realistic about minimalism. Not only is having less a simplification of an already hectic life, but it incorporates sustainability for our very sick earth that we continue to neglect. Sometimes, less is more.
That one thing won’t fix you. Only you can use those tools to fix yourself. And it’s up to you how and when to use those tools.
Soundtrack: Britney Spears – Gimme More