July 29, 2014

7 Things to Love About Quitting Consumerism. ~ Rachel Smith


Last week my newly engaged colleague bought her first house.

She told me she’d be happy when they had a new kitchen and bathroom, a bigger dining table, a larger TV, a four-wheel drive and a trailer tent.

There’s plenty of research and endless books on the pursuit of happiness and none of them suggest shopping or buying as the answer. That’s why this year I’m undertaking a lifestyle choice and an experiment: I’m buying nothing new or second hand for a whole year.

This ‘journey’ has not been without error. I tried it last year and lasted until the end of April. Last year I saw buying nothing as a hardship filled with doom and gloom. Like a year of punishment. This year a year without buying (with the exception of food and essential toiletries) is seen as an awesome opportunity, an adventure and a whole new way of life—and I’m loving it!

I don’t have that much authority on the subject of anti-consumerism but my wisdom and the seven things I love about quitting buying is this:

1. You use up everything that you already have

I’m using up what I already have. I used to travel a lot. I discovered 20 five gram tubes of high brand toothpaste lurking in the back of the bathroom cupboard, so I’m using them up now, not saving them for ‘later.’ Psychotherapist Stelios Kiosses, who works with extreme hoarders, says there’s a little bit of hoarder in all of us and even I questioned my sanity when I counted 84 bars of hotel soap.

FYI I always used the soap during my hotel stay and then wrapped them up and brought them home ‘cos I knew the hotel cleaners would just throw the soap away— and that’s a complete waste of a bar of soap. Now I am using them all up, rather than buying shower gel!

2. You make better use of your existing assets

I’m making better of use of my existing assets. I’m no Imelda Marcos but like most western women, if I’m honest, I only wear 50% of the clothes that I own. So I got ‘them’ all out  –  the entire contents of my wardrobe that is – I looked, pondered, sorted, re-arranged and put it all back and now I’m wearing them all this year. And the things I really don’t like. Well, I’m having Clothes Swapping Parties with my friends

3. You swap and share

I like sharing. A book “Who stole my mojo” I had wanted to read for ages turned up on the share shelf at my block of flats. I read it, I gave it back and now I’m swapping and sharing the books I already own with neighbours, friends and colleagues. Like Rachel Botsman says “we don’t need to own a drill we just want a hole in the wall”.

4. You have more time

I’ve got more time—and cash—to spend on awesome days out at the beach or horse riding. I’ve learned that lots of people spend a lot of time managing their stuff and it seems they’re desperate to share their pain. My friend Julie told me how she spent her entire  weekend moving the stuff she doesn’t use from one side of her garage to the other. My bestie Sarah emailed with tales of finally clearing out ‘under the stairs’ whilst my colleague Jodie tells me it’s her family’s lifelong ambition to ‘sort out and downsize all their junk’

5. You value what you have

I’ve learned to really value what I have. When I was growing up I only got new things on birthdays and at Christmas. I got second hand clothes from older cousins and neighbours (that was exciting and cool!). I got my first job two weeks after my 13th birthday. I worked hard and saved even harder. I made lists of what I wanted and when I had enough saved, and only then, did that item become mine. Now credit cards, debit cards, pay pass and instant credit means anyone and everyone can have everything right now. The saving, the wanting and the waiting has gone—we get what we want when we want it whether we want or need it or not.

6. You really want what you are waiting for

We don’t need much ‘stuff’ to be happy. My sister Louise always laughs—I’ve always been a bit frugal—because I’ve lived my life writing down what I want to buy on a ’3 month waiting list’. If I still wanted and needed said item when the 3 months passed I’d buy the item. 9 times out of 10 I no longer wanted or needed it. This ‘no buying’ experiment has really reinforced that we need very little to be happy. I’ve learnt that if I wait one whole year for something, I really will want it.

7. You can inspire others

We can set a trend and inspire others. What I’ve learned most is that you need just one person to get out there and be brave and try some new to inspire many others. What was once seen by colleagues as a ‘crazy’ and ‘alternative’ venture is now encouraging people to buy less, save more and think about that they want and need.

And, if I succeed this year—and I’m determined I will—I’m writing a book and developing an e-business with a 12 week on-line ‘no buying’ support program

What could you buy less of?

Could you give up buying for a month?

Could you use up things you have before buying more?


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Editor: Renée Picard

Photo: m.a.r.c. at Flickr 

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gail Aug 26, 2014 3:54pm

An inspiring article

Sabine Aug 3, 2014 9:37am

First, love your article. Great job and thank you for putting yourself out there and being honest. (with yourself and your readers)
Second, first world problems – to be sure – but who said it's any easier to curb our "brain washed habits" nontheless.
At least you have clarity about the whole thing.
Third, I've been trying this "experiment" also and let me tell you….it's harder than most would think. Especially when you make a good living and you have income to spend. The little voice creeps up constantly saying "you'd be happier if you had this…." (fill in blank with useless or dupicate item).
After my 7th month of this "project of self-discovery" I've come to feel quite guilty when I purchase anything I actually even really need.
Where will this end for me? Who knows.
But good luck and ignore the nay-sayers….you're on to something good here.

amphibi1yogini Aug 2, 2014 9:36pm

Well, back when Pier 1 used to be hippy-dippy and quite boho, and not the middle-of-the-road decor-intensive stop on the way somewhere south of Bed, Bath and Beyond that they are today, they'd sold a little burlap mesh sack that you could put tiny pieces of old soap in (provided the soap pieces were in the pre-scum stage) … yeah, kind of like shower gel (with a little imagination)…

It's more a sort of voluntary simplicity–for some of us not-so-voluntary. And American. for sure ..

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Rachel Smith

Rachel Smith is an author, blogger, transport planning consultant and speaker. She builds and helps implement programs to cut traffic congestion to make cities more liveable. She loves working with highly motivated City Leaders who need results and want their town/city to be a great place to live, work and play. Her first book ‘Cutting It Now – Traffic Congestion. 7 steps for City Leaders to cut traffic congestion and make their city liveable’ (working title) is due for release in November 2014. In the last 14 years Rachel has spoken at more than 200 conferences/events around the world, been hand-picked to partner high profile brands including BMW and the Guggenheim, had her work showcased on BBC TV & Radio, ABC Radio, Disney Channel, SBS Cycling Central and in the Economist, been part of the international BMW Guggenheim Lab in New York, Berlin and Mumbai and done2 TED talks. To solve these problems of traffic congestion Rachel provides diagnostic tools, seminars, on-line programs and site specific technical advice to make non-car travel part of everyone’s daily life.