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Why Not . . . Consume Less?

July 4, 2013

by Shannon Ables
Portland writer
The Simply Luxurious Life

With the personal storage business ballooning into a $22 billion industry, television shows that entertain viewers with the mystery of what is behind the rolling metal door and incessant advertisers vying for our attention at every turn to buy the latest product, if we desire to live a life of minimalism, it is a never ending exercise in saying no.

So why do we feel the urge to buy our way to happiness? Why do we need to collect, devour and charge our way through life?

Upon traveling to Europe last year, it was a sense of relief to not be continually bombarded with ads at every turn. Perhaps it was because I knew limitedly the French language, but almost immediately upon landing back on American soil, the ads were unrelenting and taking a breath to catch a thought of my own between one thirty second ad to the next was a conscious task.

Now I will give advertisers their due. They have studied and researched their targeted audience. They have come to understand with precision how to attract the eye of the consumer, but when we understand their goal, their bias, we can then make the decision of whether or not to ignore, turn off or turn away from their pleadings so that we put ourselves back in control.

Ultimately choosing to consume less, puts us in the driver’s seat, rather than the world that is swirling around us.  It is the primary premise of living a simply luxurious life that we be selective about what we bring into our lives so as not to be drowning in unnecessary excess that reduces our ability to enjoy the life we want to live.

In a recent study by UCLA of 32 middle-class Los Angeles families, they discovered that the stress hormones of every single mother spiked during the instances in which they were dealing with their belongings (source).

With the goal of reducing stress, creating a more enjoyable and quality rather than quantity focused life, one’s approach is to begin to consume less.

Today I’ve gathered a list of areas in which consuming less may indeed allow us to live more fulfilling and contentedly. Have a look:

1. Clothing

As someone who loves to express myself through my style, I am not advocating against shopping as a whole, but rather suggesting that we shop smarter. Purchasing fewer, but better quality items reducing the amount of shopping we do, reduces the many trips to donate unused clothes to secondhand stores and helps support better working environments in clothing factories around the world.

2. Fossil Fuels

While not everyone has the luxury of being able to forgo their vehicle for public transportation, it is interesting to note that fewer and fewer teenagers are seeking their drivers’ license than in decades past (source). Why? The glorification of the American dream to include a mobile piece of steel has been stunted by the expense and ability to communicate via technology no matter where one lives.

Now the reduction of face to face interaction is not something to applaud, but the reality of it is teenagers can communicate quite simply without picking their best friend up to go cruising in today’s post modern age.

However on the plus side, as we consume less of the earth’s resources, we help care for a planet that is rich is beauty, offerings and inspiration.

3. Food

Did you know that the National Resources Defense Council found that 40% of food purchased by Americans finds its way eventually to the trash? (source) Similar to fossil fuels, consuming less helps the planet and the animals which reside on its soil, but on an individual level, by focusing on eating quality food, we satiate our appetites in a manner that doesn’t require us to eat in excess, thereby helping our waistlines and longevity.

4. Television

With the many mechanisms to assist in avoiding advertisement viewing (DVR, etc), television viewing has become more and more viewer friendly – and I would argue has created a longer list of well-written programs. Knowing that we can also cancel our cable connection in lieu of viewing online for lower prices, it is ever more plausible to be very selective about when and what we watch.

5. Social Media

As a blogger, while fully appreciating the reach social media affords me to share ideas and meet readers from around the globe, I am also aware that there is such a thing as too much. One of social media’s primary goals was to connect people, but it is important to self-assess regularly to determine if we are using it to connect or keep our distance and boundaries up which prevents us from forging deep, lasting connections.

6. Space

Earlier this year, a post that sparked great conversation amongst readers focused on the idea of living in a smaller home (click here to read). It begged the question, why does the average American household (2.6 people) need 2,480 square feet to live their life? With more space, one is often more propelled to fill it up with . . . stuff – unnecessary stuff. Which means more money being spent, more stuff to tend to, increased stress and more energy being used to heat or cool the residence. Less can be surprisingly more fulfilling, refreshingly less stressful and ultimately more in line with a life lived to be luxurious, but not bulging at the seams distracting the beautiful life we have created.

7. Gadgets

Technology has produced amazing gadgets, helpful aids and organizational tools with the goal of simplifying our lives, but when do the gadgets begin to deflate one’s quality of life? When they reduce the ability to form quality relationships, blossom into our best selves and truly appreciate the world around us. Similar to social media, while the intended purpose is to assist and improve, if we allow gadgets to become enablers, preventing us from effectively learning, growing, connecting and being compassionate towards one another, then we need to put the gadgets down, or at least pick up fewer than we are used to.

Living well doesn’t have to involve excessive, in fact, most of the time it requires that we don’t live with excess. By choosing to consume less in many areas of our lives, we surprisingly fuel more opportunities to present themselves that may not have been previously available.

Let’s get the conversation started. In what areas of your life do you consume less and have come discovered that it is enhancing the quality of your life? Comment below or on Facebook.

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