Rising incomes, seamless technology and cheaper labour has unsurprisingly led to us ‘buying’ more.
Fairly natural, you’d think. But is there a fine line between having enough and having too much? There is an interesting TED Talk that precisely addresses the unhappiness that arises from having ‘too much’. Who would have thought that would ever be a problem! It really is.
More clothes, more shoes, having ‘less’ or ‘enough’ is suddenly unfashionable.
We’ve now come full circle, and a lot of us are dealing with an addiction called ‘things’. We’re addicted to more of everything tangible or not. Clothes, shoes, make up, accessories, cars, gadgets, annual phone upgrades, nutritional supplements, prescription drugs, alcohol, even travel might I add? We’ve reached an almost ‘too comfortable’ stage where buying comes easy. The Amazons and Ebays are only a click away, and maybe this is causing us to dangerously over indulge whilst we sit in the comfort of our home and ‘browse’. Browse without effort, without thought, without the infrequent and special feeling that was once associated with the occasional ritual of shopping.
Are we owning things we don’t need to own and discarding things we don’t need to discard? The idea behind this article is to understand that our shopping trends, our shift towards ‘fast fashion’ and our ability to rotate our wardrobes at an alarming rate is not only impacting our mental states but the environment we live in.
Know your clothing
Polyester, which is one of the most popular textiles used in our clothing, is released in minute quantities into our water systems (and ultimately our oceans) each time we do our laundry. Polyester can be extremely harmful if consumed by marine animals, and indirectly consumed by us via the seafood we eat. Cotton, another largely used textile, is one of the most nature intensive products to produce and dye. It takes a toll on the soil it is grown on owing to the high amounts of pesticides required to grow it. This is another reason why majority of cotton is genetically modified.
Despite the awareness around this subject, sweat shops are still a reality. Developing countries are full of cramped buildings housing workers who are churning out the jeans and jumpers we wear, for the cost of a McDonalds meal a day. Not all, but most.
For popular brands to offer us the competitive prices they do, they must cut corners somewhere. A lot of them are still doing this at the very source of their supply chain, by disrespectfully over-working and oppressing the labour that ironically ensures their fashion labels reach the swanky shelves inside even swankier shopping malls. It’s okay to repeatedly wear the same set of clothes, to repeat your dresses at special occasions. In a small way, we can all do our bit to reduce the impact our shopping habits are having on the environment.
One of the best things about London is its love for the old. Vintage furniture, vintage clothing, second hand clothes, bags, the list is endless. There is so much character and quality in clothing that has stood the test of time. Embrace the second hand stores around you and soon you’ll realise, there is very little marginal satisfaction a brand new product holds over a used one. The charm of a new piece of clothing wears off in no time, and we’re left with what is most important- the utility it provides. So shop for utility, not for charm or therapy.
Is too much choice too stressful?
We are dealing with a choice paralysis today and it’s difficult to fight it. It’s difficult to genuinely prefer a store with less choice, a restaurant with a short menu, a bookstore with just two shelves of books, a dating app with only five options a day- we’re really struggling, aren’t we! Well, we don’t always need to succumb to it. The intention of entering a store and ‘browsing’ is a conscious one. So yes, there is a way out of this. Psychological analysis conducted by famous names like David Myers has concluded a strong negative correlation between too much choice and levels of happiness and satisfaction, sometimes even leading to depression.
The wave of minimalism that ironically started in New York and spread far and wide, focuses on the mere essentials. It pushes one to truly downsize and establish what they need versus what they simply want or desire. As extreme and impractical as this may sound, there is some education and wisdom to be derived from it. If we push ourselves to truly segment our belongings into ‘needs’ and ‘wants’, the latter, will almost always be heavier and larger. But should it really be larger and heavier? Ultimately, there is a certain joy in basics that we sometimes overlook. We overlook the basic for the special, but where do we stop? Because everything special will gradually become our ‘basic’ and we’ll run out. Not only will we run out, we might even feel miserable.
I am, in no way, disputing the need for ambition, innovation, increasing efficiencies, technological progression and overall betterment around us. So yes, we should come up with innovative clothing, creative food pop ups, new furniture designs and so on. The problem is not with consumption, but over-consumption. The problem is with excess. And as subjective as that is, so is ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, ‘ugly’ and ‘beautiful’. We will all have our own value systems determining our definitions, but let’s begin by thinking more about what’s too much?
About the author
Nivi Singh is a finance professional, blogger and avid traveller with a strong interest in food and environment.
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