A Minimalist's Top Seven Strategies for Avoiding Consumerism
Advertising infiltrates almost every aspect of our lives. The noise of consumerism seems impossible to avoid. I’ve implemented these SEVEN strategies to minimize the effects of the material world.
1. Limit exposure to commercials by limiting TV viewing.
Thankfully, My Person and I are loyal viewers of just a few TV series. Most of these we can purchase individual subscriptions to. I’m fine waiting an extra day for an episode to be released on iTunes or Amazon when it means I do not have to watch commercials. And in some cases, like Downton Abbey, my subscription allows me to watch the entire season as soon as PBS releases the DVD, which occurs well before the last episode airs.
We also use our public library often for DVDs of documentaries and movies. We each have a library account, so I can use one to stack up popular movies that may take a few months to rotate through the holds. The other is used for items that are readily available.
Up until a few months ago, we did not subscribe to cable. However, with the constant flux in Presidential politics this election year, we decided to get a basic package so we could easily watch the debates, analysis, and coverage from multiple perspectives.
We use the mute button a lot.
2. Limit temptations by avoiding superfluous shopping.
We rarely go to the mall. We may go to one of the older, less crowded malls to see a movie about two or three times a year. We prefer to watch movies at the local art house venue The Loft. They bring in unique selections and host screenings with special guests.
Once a week, we grocery shop and stop in at the library. Our routine usually takes less than two hours because we stay focused on what we need.
For years, I made the mistake of waking up early on Saturday morning, so I could hit Target first and then grocery shop. Oftentimes, I'd stop in at Pier 1 Imports, Barnes & Noble, or CostPlus Warehouse just for fun. I don’t even want to think about how much money I wasted on stuff I didn’t need.
My mail box was regularly filled with catalogs as well. And I'd waste time paging through them. Thankfully, the USPS no longer forwards catalogs unless you request that service. After a few moves, I've ducked all of my catalog subscriptions.
No more wasteful spending!
I use Evernote to keep a six-month supply list. Toothpaste, paper towels, deodorant, cleaning supplies, and so much more. I order, mostly through Amazon Prime, and have those various necessities delivered.
By shopping for as much as possible online, and avoiding as many physical stores as possible, our weekends are restored.
3. Shop for birthday and special occasion gifts year-round.
I know. I just said that My Person and I don’t go out to shop, except for groceries. And that’s true about 85% of the time.
We do attend special events, conventions, festivals. We travel. We like stopping in at local businesses to see their unique and local offerings. I don’t want every gift that we give to come from corporate America.
When I find an adorable t-shirt, regional book, or fun gag gift, I’ll buy the item and tuck it away for future gift giving. When I find a local wine I enjoy on vacation, I’ll buy multiple bottles for housewarming gifts.
I’ve found some great artists on Etsy who make beautiful handmade cards. One of my favorite shops is A Paper Affaire because Holly constantly updates her card collection. I check her site every few months to see if I want to put in an order. With my little box of cards handy, I’m ready for just about any occasion.
4. Resist the urge to spend gift cards right away.
As a teacher, one of the most common thank you gifts I’ll receive is a gift card. Since personal tastes may vary greatly, gift cards are certainly my preferred gift.
If I receive a gift card for a store where I never shop, I trade with other teachers. There are gift card swapping websites as well, but so far I’ve always been able to trade with someone.
I keep my gift cards in a stash. My Person adds his in as well. Since most gift cards no longer expire, I can hold on to them until I actually need something.
5. Monitor your email subscriptions and guard your inbox.
I allow very few commercial emails into my inbox. Too many big name stores abuse their email subscription list. I don’t need an email every day for weeks on end about the same sale.
I’m a book lover, so the one commercial email that I allow into my inbox every day is the Kindle Daily Deal. Through Amazon’s daily sale, I’ve discovered some new authors, and I buy a few new ebooks every year. Since it takes thirty seconds for me to assess the daily offerings, I find this email helpful.
Several local businesses have my email. The art gallery down the street sends me a weekly update. Every few months I hear about a new event at the Farmer’s Market. Nothing spammy. As soon as a business starts repeatedly harassing me, I unsubscribe.
Bottom line? Decide how much time you want to spend scrolling through emails. Then vigorously unsubscribe from any lists that are not adding value to your life.
6. Choose carefully how you spend your time.
If you’re constantly attached to a mobile device, more than likely you’re exposing yourself to consumer messaging. I think most people who are looking to downscale their exposure to advertising and consumer-driven culture accept that they must limit their use of social media and intrusive technology.
However, you may have to evaluate other aspects of your life as well.
If you have materialistic friends whose pursuit of the more and the new & improved truly clashes with your minimalistic sensibilities, then you may want to re-evaluate that friendship. Instead of spending time with that person every week, maybe you see them once a month.
Modifying your social structure with certain people is also useful. A group of teacher friends I had years ago would go out for drinks, an occasional movie, and even road trips. As a group, we worked well together. Individually, I realized I didn’t necessarily have much in common with all of the parties.
I remember sitting through a dinner with one of those teacher friends and realizing that she talked a lot about reality TV. When she started sharing how financially irresponsible she was, I determined that I should probably just spend time with her while with the larger group. One-on-one was awkward.
I’ve actually phased out some people when I realized I wasn’t really friends with them. When I evaluated the relationship, I had to admit that we didn’t have anything in common. Or we no longer had anything in common. People do change. They move. New relationships or careers influence them. As someone who has phased out people and who’s been phased out herself, I’m okay with that process.
Why shouldn’t we maximize how we spend our time?
7. Question not only every purchase, but anything you bring into your space.
Why anything? Because free isn’t necessarily a great thing.
I lost count of the number of tote bags I used to own. They were mostly freebies I had received from promotional campaigns, school publishers, and employers. I had tote bags in every closet, in my classroom, and in my car.
Throw a logo on a water bottle, mug, or beverage cozy and give that puppy away. Chip clips, calendars, magnets, and key rings are also popular freebies. How many do you really need?
Before I bring anything into our environment, I consider the same basic questions:
- Do we really need this thing?
- Could we borrow this thing instead?
- Could we use something else we already own to make do instead?
- Where will we store this thing?
- What else could we use this thing for?
- Could we replace something old or obsolete with this thing?
What strategies do you use to avoid consumerism? Please let me know in the comments below. And if you found this post helpful, please share it with your friends.