On a beautiful spring day last week, whilst waiting for my friend in my town’s Memorial Garden, I got thinking about how people are remembered.
So many of us surround ourselves with stuff and get buried in our digital devices, our worth falsely represented by what we own instead of what we do. Did these war heroes fight so that we could buy the latest iPhone and one-up our neighbours? So that we could passively fritter our lives away behind screens? Or did they lay down their lives so that we could have a future and fulfil our true potentials.
People’s eulogies are never about the things they owned or the size of their abode, but how they lived, what they accomplished, how they treated others, and who was important to them. Think about all the famous and revered people who have passed away and who you learnt about at school. Whether they were rolling in money or begging for scraps, these people are remembered in history because of what they accomplished, for better or worse.
Why then, do we continue to accumulate so much stuff, stifling our true selves and squandering our precious hours in the pursuit of acquiring more and maintaining it all? In our consumerist society of advertisements and social media, it’s no wonder we’re feeling more and more pressured to keep up with our neighbours, friends, family, and even strangers on the other side of the globe. When does it stop?
Unless you actively decide to do something about it, it won’t. And by that I mean become mindful about your consumer habits and marketing tricks that have a subtle yet powerful effect on us all. It’s not just the tailored ads on social media that mirror your buying habits, but most websites you visit.
Thankfully, most websites now offer their users a chance to uncheck targeted ads and limit what data they can use. But in a rush to view the website, most people skip this step.
Another way marketers get into your brain is via emails, so unsubscribe from marketing emails, particularly when there’s likely to be sales and promotions around holidays. I’m not perfect – I’ve been guilty many times of succumbing to a tempting sale or promotional vouchers presented to me via emails. I’m no more immune to marketing strategies than the next person, but the difference is I’m much more mindful of what I allow into my inbox and what ads websites are allowed to display. Because of minimalism, I’m also aware of what I already possess.
The most important thing of all is to be mindful whenever you go to the shops. Do you really need that ice-cream maker, or are you just buying it to satisfy a deep-seated emptiness that a friendship or hobby could fulfil instead? Think about the maintenance and space which each item will occupy and if you do make a purchase, consider removing something else less useful to you.
It’s better to avoid shopping trips as a pastime, if you can. Such trips are usually born out of boredom and a desire to socialise with friends, but there are far more intriguing places to spend your time which doesn’t necessarily involve spending money. Plus, do you really want relationships to be built on a foundation of consumerism and subconsciously comparing stuff? I didn’t think so.
When we’re feeling bored or unsatisfied with our lives, it’s easier than ever before to fill that void and get a quick buzz from a purchase at any time of the day or night. Online shopping is available 24/7, always there as a temporary salve for negative emotions and a buzz of excitement for something new. That’s why I deleted all shopping apps from my phone, and if I’m on my PC, ensure that I log out of sessions so it’s not so convenient to check it out on a whim.
I try to avoid going into shops just for a browse (unless it’s a bookshop) because if I’m going for a browse it means I’m looking for ways to procrastinate from the things which will truly move my life forwards; things like working on my book and preparing my next blog post. You see, these things require hard work and focus, but the result is a far more satisfying and long-lasting buzz than anything from a store can provide.
Reading and writing nourishes me in a way that nothing else does: I need it like I need food, and without either, I become grumpy, listless, and prone to seeking meaningless dopamine hits from other sources. What’s your passion? If you’re unsure, don’t worry; once you take control of your possessions you can start steering your own destiny.
Be mindful, stay vigilant and realise your true potential. Above all, remember: you are always more valuable than any object.
How do you want to be remembered?