We’ve all heard people who lament the fact that they received a raise at work but don’t have any more money after paying their bills. As a consumer society we are programmed to adjust our spending to match our ability to pay for goods and don’t realize where the extra money is going. We are anything but conscious consumers.
This same concept also relates to how we use the natural resources at our disposal. Take for instance a car. Back when gas was one dollar per gallon a good friend told me she wished gas was priced between five and ten dollars a gallon. I was aghast! At those prices I wouldn’t be able to travel any more. I’d even have to cut back on some of the local driving I did.
Yet she was right. The higher the cost of gasoline has risen the less people drive. Overall demand for gasoline has fallen in the US since the price rose to three dollars and beyond, yet every time the price at the pump falls by a dollar people start to drive more. They have learned to budget for the higher prices but instead of saving the difference when the price falls they see a surplus in their budget and they spend it on more gasoline to drive more. Old habits die hard.
After adopting a minimalist lifestyle I notice things I didn’t before. I notice how obsessed people are about talking about their latest shopping trip and the bargains they found. I notice the amount of garbage sitting at the curb each week for pickup and wonder how much money went to purchase all that waste (trash). I was recently watching a movie where a family moves to a new house. I was struck not by the house itself but the stacked boxes in every room that took over each space, and there were a lot of rooms in that new house. I was so distracted wondering how a family of three could have that many boxes that I missed a good portion of the story.
A conscious minimalist is a person who not only pared down their belongings to just those that make life a joy to live without any excess but one who has developed the habit of questioning the need to bring more into their lives.
I made a choice myself. I had the option of building a small house to call home or purchasing an old home that needed a bit of love. In the end, while I had in my mind the layout of my dream home the extra use of resources needed to build far outweighed what the repairs, many which could use second hand materials, needed in an existing house.
For some the underlying motivation to become conscious about their belongings will be financial, for others it may be a deep concern for the planet. Either way once we begin to question our assumptions about needs and wants and act on the answers we find we will be helping the planet.
“If we were all minimalists instead of conspicuous consumers, there would be less demand on the world’s resources and we’d have a smaller, less berserk economy. We’d be less likely to harm the only planet we’ll ever have, and the super-rich would have fewer ways to exploit us.”
―Robert Wringham, Escape Everything! Escape from Work, escape from Consumerism, Escape from Despair