Saturday, January 09, 2010

Thoughts on Consumption

I headed out to a huge new mega mall that was recently built just outside the city with two friends this morning.  I had Christmas money and a government tax cheque to burn, and it turns out that all of the city locations of my favorite store ship their clearance items to the new mega store in the new mega mall.  In the interests of getting the most for money, that was where I went.

I was glad, when I woke up, to have those plans for today.  I've been incredibly unsettled the last few days, and this morning I was tired of the constant wrestling.  I wanted to laugh and be with friends, and forget for a little while.  And that's what I did.

I shopped.  I tried buying happyness.  Not really I guess, but sometimes new things help to shift my mood - mostly I think it's probably that being out with friends helps with that.

I rarely buy in large quantities.  I rarely have large quantities of guilt-free, budget exempt money to do large quantity shopping.  Today I shopped in large quantities, thanks to the gifts from some family members at Christmas, and the convenient arrival of a GST refund cheque last night.

To be honest, while I'm pleased with my purchases (three tops, a bracelet, three pairs of jeans), their versatility (will work for work or play - well except the jeans, and even those will work on Fridays), and the fact that all of them suit me well and really did have that little bit of personal "wow" that is the only thing that will convince me to buy clothes these days, I felt a little sick spending all of that money at once.  I couldn't help thinking what I could have done with that money.  About starving children, and others in need.  It's an odd sort of wrestle - my work wardrobe did need a bit of help, and my jeans were old and ratty and no longer fit properly (thanks to the changes in weight due to health problems the last few years.)  I need to dress to a certain standard of professionalism for work, and the all of the clothes I bought were marked down, and are high quality items that should last quite some time.  I certainly won't be buying clothes again anytime soon, and I've purged and repurged my wardrobe over the last few weeks and months (including a few more items today.)  But despite the fact that I know that my purchases weren't irresponsible, and that I turned down several other deals that I would have found irresistible in the past, I still felt a little sick.

It was some combination of my own spending, and the simply massive size of consumption and selfishness that a mall of that scale represents that made me sick, I think.  It definitely won't be a place I visit regularly, if, for no other reason than it takes a good forty minutes to drive to from my home, and there is a mall that I can walk to within twenty minutes from where I live with most of the same stores, just not big and new and flashy.  (I'm trying not to even think of the environmental impact, and the huge fight over water rights that went on with the building of this mall.)  I rarely react to my own spending, partly because I know I now budget and spend carefully and wisely (and because I'm paying the debt accrued from times of not budgeting and spending carefully and wisely).  I'm as guilty as anyone of being a consumer, and over purchasing (the list of unread books I've purchased is now nearly 150 titles long - a list I hope to pare down this year), but more and more I find myself drawn to simplicity.  Thinking thoughts like "I like that, but I've been existing just fine without it.  I sure don't need it now."  Something about the immense size - a lingerie shop nearly as large as a department store in a regular mall - 6 different "zoned" decorating schemes, that sort of thing just made me cringe.  It made me cringe enough that rather than heading to pick up take out of some sort for my lunch and supper for today (a fairly regular occurrence for me on weekends, and one I look forward to - treating myself to some favorites after a week of cooking), I came home and pulled meat out of the freezer for my supper, and heated up a delicious frozen Italian wedding soup for my lunch.

There was actually one item at the mall that I nearly purchased but didn't.  A jewellry rack of sorts.  I've been hunting for a way to display my multiple dangly earrings so that I can easily find them and wear them more consistently.  I loved this item, but there were a few things I would change about it.  Instead of purchasing, consuming, and making do with something that wasn't quite righ, just for the sake of having it, I took a photo of it with my cell phone, and headed to my parent's house after completing another errand near their home.  Turns out that I rightly guessed that this was something my dad could help me make quite easily with his welding tools.  So, I'll get something more suited to my needs, get to spend time with my dad, and, who knows, maybe I'll even get him to teach me basic welding - that'd be a cool skill to add to my list!

And now, I'm home, I've put my purchases away in my closet (well, except for one pair of jeans, which I put on).  I know I spent wisely, and yet... 

I think this is going to be a year of simplifying even further.  Of paring down.  Of evaluating my own consumer habits.  Of a quest to be "greener", healthier, less selfish, and less of a consumer.  Less demanding of instant gratification, and more willing to wait and work for my satisfaction.  It's going to be a unique year.  I'll give it that!