During my travels this past week, we spent a lot of time discussing the consequences and perils of overconsumption, not only on the planet but on our psyches.
When traveling through a country like Nicaragua, you are surrounded are locals eeking out a living in whatever way they can, subject to inferior, if any, education and jobs. Life is not easy, yet the people are so happy and content.
The contrast between our lives and their’s becomes quite apparent. And since I’ve gotten back, I haven’t stopped thinking about my own consumption habits and how complicated our lives have become because of the things we are constantly amassing.
I live in the most affluent of times, and with that I live in a gigantic bubble of the stuff I buy and hold on to.
As a result, I find myself suffocated, suffocated by possessions. Every day there is something else I want, something else I need. A new bag, a new gadget, a new pair of shoes. Hardly a week goes by without a box arriving from Amazon addressed to me, with yet another item I convince myself I can’t live without.
But it’s not just about the things that I own now, it’s about the things that I will purchase in the future. I own so much more than lots of people, yet I will still manage to find a reason to keep buying more. When I’m stressed, I’ll surf the web in the hopes of finding a product that can soothe me by creating the illusion of a convenient life. Every wedding will mean a new dress, every trip will mean a new suitcase, every season a new wardrobe. And while I own these things for convenience or esteem, the more I have of it the worse I feel about myself.
The same carries over to our digital “possessions.” We obsess over maintaining constant documentation of the things we do or see, largely through photos, videos, statuses and screenshots. We no longer rely on our memories to remind us of where we’ve been or what we’ve felt. As a co-worker put it, we used to come home from an experience and tell a story. Now we come home and tell others to check our FB/Instagram/Twitter updates, to see our curated, manipulated, and carefully filtered snippets of a story.
And at the end of the day we are left with thousands upon thousands of digitized items we store across our iCloud, Dropbox, and social media accounts.
The problem is that our live’s become cheapened when they are so documented.
In the past, photographs were valuable. Who doesn’t cherish that rare photo of our grandparents as kids? In the future, our live’s will have been documented in such utter detail, unlike ever seen before in history, yet who will be interested if there is such an overwhelming excess of it?
The minimalist movement has gained traction simply because more and more people are feeling sick from the burden of their possessions.
Maybe that’s why I want to travel. When I travel, I live simply. I take only what I need, spend only what I have. Like they say “out of sight is out of mind.” Away from home, away from my things, I forget they even exist.
So I wonder:
How do I live minimalistically without compromising my desire to look and feel good, especially while living in a world where looks determine success and possessions mean power? And furthermore, how do I expand that to my digital life and social media?
I haven’t quite figured it out, but I am going to try to live a more minimalistic life. It won’t be easy for me, as I am as materialistic as they come. And I might never even get there entirely. But at the end of the day, I’d rather spend money on experiences I want to remember rather than money on things I want to forget I own.
Let the purge begin!