Black Friday is nearly here again, and it’s a time when my inbox used to be stuffed full of temptation and special offers. Yes, I used to be a self-confessed shopaholic. I didn’t always shop and think the way I do now, it was a very gradual process to become a more conscious consumer.
Buying things made me feel good – but I eventually realised that this was only short-term. Hence the cycle of buying more and more begins, for short-term feelings of happiness and fulfilment. These of course are not real fulfilment and the only thing that lasts from is a wardrobe busting full of clothes you hardly wear, and shelves groaning under the weight of trinkets.
I’ve since discovered that a life of clutter, also clutters the mind. I’m gradually trying to reduce what I have, through selling or donating to charity. I only keep what I know I’ll use, or what actually makes me happy – the walls aren’t bare and the shelves are not empty. But I know my limits.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with buying the odd thing for your home, or your wardrobe. There’s also no need to cut out on items such as make-up and toiletries, or even the odd fun thing. But I try to keep it in check and only buy what I need and will actually use/wear. The first step is to ask yourself questions when you’re buying. And when I do buy, I like to make sure it’s doing good. Supporting a local business or small trader, ethically sourced and fairly traded. These items can be more expensive, but if you’re buying less, you’ll still be saving money anyway. As Vivienne Westwood so perfectly put it:
“Buy less. Choose well. Make it last. Quality, not quantity. Everybody’s buying far too many clothes”.
The danger of consumerism is the encouragement to buy and buy and keep acquiring goods in greater amounts. It’s easy to fall into the cycle without realising. Things that we don’t need, or even want. I avoid making impulse purchases. It’s a good idea to really think about what you need and ask yourself questions before you buy. If I see a great deal I am tempted by, I often try and leave it until 24 hours later, or at least overnight. Quite often by the next morning, I’ve either completely forgotten about it, or I realise it’s not so appealing anymore.
Countless people are working in jobs they don’t like, and buying things with this money to make them happy. Often on credit cards – things they can’t afford and don’t really need. Things which never lead to the happiness they are seeking. If freed from the desire for so many possessions, perhaps the need to work quite as many hours can be removed. I’m not suggesting you can give up work for not owning things, or to live in empty flat devoid of all charms and comforts. Maybe part time hours are the thing you dream of, and with your new streamlined lifestyle, you can attain this. Maybe…
I’d like to share one of my favourite quotes from a man who has always been a huge inspiration to me, Damon Albarn:
“What happened to the tea ladies? What happened to them? We had a completely sustainable system through the world where a nice old lady would come and make you a cup of tea and then she would wash it up and use it again. And now, the amount of polystyrene…there’s no pleasure in drinking out of plastic, and a nice china cup or mug, will last you a lifetime if you look after it. You only need one. You only need one car. You probably only need two pairs of shoes in your adult life. Unless you do an awful lot of walking…” – From Q Magazine, The 21 People Who Changed Music.
For me, this really puts it into context. Do you need 20 pair of shoes, 15 handbags and 6 pairs of jeans? Does anyone? In the past, I was probably more stressed in the morning, from having too many clothes to choose from, than from having a more capsule-like wardrobe. I try to sell, or give away things I don’t need, or recycle clothes I no longer use. Avoiding the urge to buy on a whim, to follow trends, or buy another dress, when you’ve got 10 you don’t wear.
Christmas is a tough time of year to imagine buying less, isn’t it? Well, then it’s perfect timing for this post! I think Christmas can be enjoyed more when it is stripped back to family time, to sharing and caring and making other’s happy without the trinkets of our consumer world, and over indulgence.
My mother loved Christmas time as a child, and all she ever got was some crayons and an orange. What she really enjoyed was the magic of it all. The wonder. The time spent with family. So, ask yourself, how many more random trinkets or things soon to be forgotten do your friends and family need this year? Perhaps they’d love the joy of a hand-made gift, or a membership to a museum or art gallery, tickets to see their favourite band; an adoption gift of a polar bear?
When you do buy things, make sure it’s something useful and think about whether it will be really needed and cherished. Don’t forget what I’ve mentioned already – buying locally-produced, fairly-traded, ethically made products with environmentally friendly or no packaging. There are many people (some may be friends and family) with business making things from home, who you can support.
Recycling or re-using is also a good principle to keep in mind when considering Christmas gifts. Any way you do it, you can challenge our over-consumptive lifestyle and the effects on the planet and others around the world.
As you may already know, all the products I write about are ethically sourced and produced, and I don’t feel I’m advocating consumerism by doing this. I’m trying to offer alternatives, things that are more conscious. We will all still continue to buy things, but we don’t have to go crazy, and we can change the world with simple choices.
Many ethical brands and companies are offering alternatives to Black Friday. For example, Ethical Superstore are running Food Bank Friday this year. This ‘Black Friday’ they will be donating an item directly from our stock to the Newcastle West End Foodbank with every order over £30. Plus as an extra incentive to take part, they will be giving shoppers 20% off almost everything.
Always make your purchases minimal, meaningful and mindful.
So, with Black Friday coming up and Christmas shopping already on the minds of many, bear these things in mind.
Thanks for reading! Have a wonderful week.