Consumerism

Consumerism. That’s a word that gets thrown around pretty frequently and fashionably these days. And in an unpretentious manner, I feel it a great thing that we’re talking about it. Mass-production, monopolisation, advertising, and the endless quest for the next best thing. All of these create the ideal formula for a culture of mass-consumerism.

If we feel something is missing in our lives – a state all to familiar to most of us – one of the easiest ways to temporarily overcome that is to buy something to try to fill the void. There’s eating too, which is a weakness for many people, but generally speaking shopping is the major culprit. Retail therapy, anyone?

Whether it’s a gadget, a pair of shoes or an extra cushion for the bed, there’s always one more thing we’re led to believe will make our lives more complete. Complete and happier. But how often is this really the case? Think about your own experience. How many times have you tricked yourself into thinking that if you just buy that one thing, you’ll feel content? What do you find actually happens? Once you buy that one thing, you want another and then another. The cycle is vicious and never-ending.

What is it that we’re trying to achieve with all these purchases? Ultimately it is happiness, although the exact aspect we’re going for varies for each of us.

If I consume I’ll be worthy

Depending on how we were raised, some of us struggle in life with self-worth. Eternal perfectionists, we feel we’re never good enough. We’re never whole enough. One extra purchase to embellish our person or our surroundings offers the juicy hope that we can go in the direction we want. We fool ourselves into believing that one more item will improve us.

The reality is that this will never be the case. No amount of material goods is going to satiate your poor inner child’s habitual belief that he or she is not good enough. No item adds to or depletes you of value. You are good enough exactly as you are.

One of the most unavoidable and detrimental ways of basking in a lack of self-worth is through comparing yourself to others. In this digital day and age and it being rarer and rarer to be truly off the beaten-track, we are bombarded with everyone’s ‘best side’. Everyone’s attributes are flaunted and their flaws disguised. It’s no wonder so many of us consistently do not feel good enough!

If I consume I’ll find purpose

This is a pretty common one too. So many of us walk into adulthood or leave university feeling hopeless. We settle into jobs that don’t fuel our passions. Before long we feel defeated entirely. It’s easy to settle into a trap of feeling sorry for yourself. It’s so easy to accept a miserable shell-of-yourself existence. You live for the weekends and repeatedly suppress your hopes and dreams with drinking and drug use. It’s simply too painful to live wide-eyed and fully aware of how wrong a path you’re on and how impossible getting onto the right one feels.

Aside from suppressing your emotions with drugs and alcohol, there is the temporary high from buying. Clothes, cars, bigger houses, jewellery, the latest phone; all of these things offer a momentary welcome relief. However, ultimately they clog our environment and further emphasise the gaping void inside each of us.

Purpose is not found at the mall. Purpose comes from getting to know yourself fully, forming meaningful relationships with others and focussing on what feels good. If that is buying a particular item to  allow you to live your purpose then of course that’s a wonderful thing. But buying for the sake of buying is not.

Meaningful Consumerism

Open your eyes and you will see that the sales are permanent, there is always a deal on somewhere and there is no need to succumb to the urgency of ‘BUY IT NOW!’ that retailers and advertisers aim to bestow upon you. Purchases should be well-thought-out, meaningful and without the air of impulse.

When you buy an item, you are supporting all aspects of the industry that got that item within your grasp. That’s the ethos of the individual or team who dreamed the idea, the people who worked to make it come to fruition, the stockist and so on and so forth.

Something that I have grown rather passionate about is this idea of ‘fast fashion’ and how many of us are totally oblivious to where our clothes come from. We see an item within our price range and purchase it. But we don’t really think about how long it’ll last, who made it for us, what environmental impact it has had. And that’s sad.

I discovered the idea of a capsule wardrobe a while back and found it utterly brilliant. A capsule and slow fashion are synonymous to me. Creating a capsule is a process of bringing consciousness into your wardrobe. Less is more. Quality over quantity. Ethics over greed. Check out this post here, written a while ago for how I created a capsule wardrobe from Cladwell’s excellent ‘Capsules’.

There are so many areas of my life that I want to transform to something more ethical; living more harmoniously with the planet. Consumerism on a mass-scale for toxic reasons is so not the one. Funding large-scale corporations who rate how much profit they make higher than their environmental impact is not something I believe in and I am committed to supporting sustainable industry entirely.

 

Photo: Flickr

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It’ll be a long time before Sphynx ever becomes a fashion blog, that’s for sure, but part of my quest to kill the consumer aspect of myself has been to explore and embrace the ‘capsule wardrobe’ idea.

‘Capsule wardrobe’ is one of those terms that I’ve heard thrown around by those craving minimalism in their lives. Until now, I’d never taken any interest in it. I’ve always taken ‘capsule’ to be alternate for ‘boring and uniform’, which for a girl who gravitates towards interesting fabrics, textures and designs has assumed to be far too restrictive to be enjoyable.

New Year, new challenge and all that jazz, I decided to throw what I thought I knew to the wind and try it out. The steps I took are below. I used Cladwell’s Capsule system.

cladwell

  1. Get everything out of your wardrobe, drawers and laundry basket and put it in one big pile. Then, give your storage spaces a really good clean.
  2. Make two piles: the first is things that you love and wear all the time; the second is everything else. Move Pile 2 out of sight for now.
  3. Hang up/fold the items in Pile 1, putting strictly seasonal items into storage, ready to be brought out when needed when the next season rolls around.
  4. Take a look at what is left in your wardrobe. It actually looks pretty good, doesn’t it? Suddenly you start realising you have loads of things to wear, that you actually like. Funny isn’t it; you get rid of loads of items and are left with so much more wear-appeal.
  5. Suddenly, your personal style can be seen; it isn’t drowning amongst items that no longer fit but hold sentimental value, things you bought in the sale because they were ‘such a great deal’ only to have the tag still hanging on a year later, and things that simply don’t make you feel great. Pay attention to the pieces you kept, including the colours, textures, fabrics, patterns and shapes. You love all the items you kept; what about them ‘wows’ you? How do they make you feel? You can take some time and make some notes about this to get those things ingrained, or take to Pinterest and create a wardrobe board, if that takes your fancy. The point of this is to learn what you actually like. Get to know yourself.
  6. Think about your lifestyle. It is no good keeping clothes that you don’t wear because you don’t live a certain lifestyle. If you work from home, invest in comfortable loungewear; if you walk everywhere, invest in practical footwear. This is a vital step in designing a capsule that works for you. You need pieces that work with all the weekly activities you engage in, including work and free time. Be honest with yourself about how your time is allocated; if you only go on a night out once a month but spend most of your week working from home, your wardrobe should mostly consist of well-designed, comfortable basics with a nice dress or two thrown in; not vice versa.
  7. Once you know what you like and have got your head around how you spend your time, you can think about your shopping list. You will need to add in some interchangeable items to help ‘glue’ together the other pieces in your closet. What pieces are you missing? Some of these things you might be able to salvage from your Pile 2; the others will have to go on your Shopping List.
  8. Now that you have your shopping list, you can have fun with it, but this time you’ll be taking a different approach as you hit the mall; you will be shopping with intention. Buy the pieces you need to create a completed capsule wardrobe for that season. If you buy well, the pieces will last you for years to come.
  9. Every new season you can reassess your capsule, putting away items that are no longer suitable with the change in weather. You can also pull out items that have been in storage and think about a few additions you may want to add. This is the only time you do your shop throughout the year; once at the start of each season with the intention of creating a slightly tweaked capsule for where you are at that point in your life and the year.

 

The idea is that your wardrobe is always filled exlusively with things that you love – no half-assed garb in sight. The idea is that you invest in pieces that are well-made and built to last; made by people who were paid fairly and treated humanely for creating your garments. The idea is that you are fulfilled with what you have, rather than feeling the need to buy, buy, buy. You wear everything you own; everything has a purpose.

We are constantly bombarded with sales and marketing ploys that tell us we won’t be happy until we buy yet another item. Just like the fast food industry, we have a fast fashion industry, and it simply won’t do.

We are destroying our planet with our insatiable need to acquire more and it will not end unless we decide to climb to higher ground and see our behaviour for what it is: greedy. We are constantly trying to get more for less, at any expense, and aren’t finding ourselves any happier. What we are actually finding is we have cluttered homes and minds, which is certainly not conducive to bettering ourselves.

Have a think about it. Create a capsule and get on track to decluttering your home in 2016. Opening up the doors to a wardrobe filled only with pieces that flatter you and give you confidence puts you in a very good position to be successful at whatever you set your mind to.