Shopping for Comfort
It’s hard to quit that shopping thing. To walk out, willingly, and detach ourselves from the main principle underlying our society, rejecting the status quo and creating a new normal for ourselves. It sounds far-fetched, even radical. Is this what we’re doing when we start to embrace minimalism? To an extent, I believe it is. And I’m OK with that.
The hardest thing I find is closing my eyes, ears and mind to the relentless barrage of advertising that pervades our world. I haven’t spent a single day where I haven’t seen a logo of some kind – badges on cars labels on my clothes, posters on the train. Even when I turn my back on TV, step away from glossy magazines, advertising is there. We are exposed to up to 5000 adverts per day. That new normality, sneering at those ‘radicals’ that dare try to take a step outside.I feel like the least radical person out there. By embracing a simpler lifestyle, I was looking for peace, for a sense of self, for a life with more meaning. I didn’t want to change the world. But the more I embraced minimalism, the more I realised the consumer world had already changed me.
That advertising habit, that purchase cycle is so hard to break. When I gave up buying for a year in 2012 and 2015, I felt like an addict, having to detox from that purchase high. I still feel that now, even though I hardly ever buy new and get most items from charity or thrift stores. It’s so ingrained, so deep in our psyche, that even though I buy a fraction of what I previously bought – that second-hand purchase still excites that very same part of my brain. It comforts me. It makes me feel good. And I wonder, has being a minimalist really broken any consumer habit at all? What was my aim, especially when I started this journey?
I don’t buy a lot. I don’t buy what I don’t need. I don’t generally buy brand new. But I still get that purchase excitement, that thrill of ownership, when I get a ‘new to me’ item. So, on a lower level – I’m still right in that consumer loop. But how far do we need to take minimalism? Does it need to be about breaking that feeling? For me, does minimalism serve the purpose I want and need it to? Am I using that tool in the right way?
If I bought an item and felt nothing – no comfort, no joy – if I bought that item and it didn’t spark any feeling? I think I’d find it a sad world. Do we need to be comforted by our purchases? Or should we just view them in a wholly utilitarian light? Even buying less and re-using things – are we still the end product of an advertiser’s plan?
I feel, for me, I’m happy with how I can use minimalism to help me focus on the more meaningful parts of my life. I think and over-analyse, and I’m still not too sure that I’ve really ‘removed’ myself from anything – rather just cut down the frequency of that purchase and inevitable reward. But I’m happy with my life right now. Yes, a small part of it is still spent in the consumer loop. But a larger and larger percentage is not – and that’s the part that brings me joy, growth and inspiration, every single day.